A note from Kelly King: I’m sitting at my desk at home, and this morning I realized I have eight new books waiting for my attention. As leaders, we should always be ready to read God’s Word first and also be willing to learn from others who can challenge, inspire, and move us forward in our spiritual journeys. In today’s article, Casey Merrifield shares some of her favorites that you may want to check out over the holidays.
Wondering what books to add to your reading list for 2019? What about a Bible study to get your heart and mind focused on Who and what matters most? The following books have had a significant impact on me in this last year. Becoming a leader worth following means being a leader worth growing. Each of the books listed below have challenged me as a leader, pointed out areas that needed growth, and given me perspective on how to live faithfully before the Lord and others.
Letters to the Church by Francis Chan (2018)
If you have enjoyed Chan’s writing and teaching at any time, you will not want to miss this book. Reflecting on 30 years of ministry, Chan takes you through his ministry missteps and a recent renewal to understand the church as God intended. He unveils his awakening to the pure, unbridled mandates of Scripture he overlooked in the early years of ministry when it was easy to “copy others” or just do “what you want or what others want” (p. 170).
His journey to rediscover God’s meaning of church and what makes it “successful” led to a reorienting of what matters most for the called people of God. He returns to the simple, but foundational call to “the sacred.” He is reminded that calling people to the Holy One is more than getting people’s attention, but rather it’s establishing a community of believers that understand the sacredness of their God and His love and care for them as a sacred people (chapter 2).
Out of the passages of Scripture that speak to this “sacred” relationship, Chan rediscovers the heartbeat of discipleship, where biblical community and service (over information intake) transforms men and women (chapters 4 & 5). Where dying to self is the mark of any Christ-follower with the full expectation of sacrificial living and suffering that comes to those living differently than the culture (chapters 6 & 7). Where love and humility mark pastoral leadership known by the way they yield to the Spirit. Where their commitment to discipleship is more about multiplying leaders across the body of Christ as they faithfully model and train men and women to live missional lives (chapter 6). When faithfully equipped, Chan argues that the people of God, including children and youth, will be unleashed to bring gospel-centered hope to a broken world because of the ongoing work of God’s Spirit in them (chapter 8). Read it to be reminded. Read it to rediscover. Read it to renew your heart to God’s idea of this sacred family called church.
100X Leader: How to Become Someone Worth Following by Jeremie Kubicek & Steve Cockram (release date: March 2019)
I had a chance to read the unedited copy of this before its release coming in March of 2019, and this is one that needs to be in the hands of every leader from the marketplace to ministry. It is truly transformational in that it serves as a mirror into the life of the leader desiring to leave a lasting legacy. As Sherpas in this leadership journey, Kubicek and Cockram offer simple and practical tools that help leaders “climb their Mt. Everest” and learn what it takes to lead others up that mountain. This mountain-climbing adventure is about becoming a 100X leader: 100 meaning 100% transformation to becoming a healthy leader and X meaning intentionally multiplying it in others’ lives.
Highlighted in this adventure are practical tools that help leaders “know what it’s like to be on the other side of themselves” through key self-awareness tools, giving them an objective language that will create opportunities for them to grow healthy cultures. At the heart of a healthy culture are leaders who “liberate.” Liberating leaders calibrate support and challenge in a way that not only empowers people to grow and be their best, but also gives them the opportunity to do so. Kubicek and Cockram unpack this idea of what it means to liberate in every circle of influence, starting with self and family and continuing to teams, organizations, and the community.
The beauty of this book is that it is practical, easy to read, and even enjoyable. You will be learning from men who not only write great material, but live what they teach. Kubicek and Cockram often say, “you cannot give away that which you do not possess.” They are examples to this (I have experienced it firsthand), and are actively living as liberators to everyone they meet. Strap on your climbing gear, and journey with them up this mountain. The tools you will gather prepare you to be a 100X Leader. You will have what it takes to become a leader worth following, build leaders worth following, and lead organizations that people want to join.
Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry (2018)
If you don’t know Jackie Hill Perry, this book will introduce you to a woman whose heart and life was dramatically changed by the love of a Holy God. In this book she shares her story of coming to faith in Christ at the age of 19, where she was not only set free by God’s love, but she came to grips with the truth that His love is always better than the sin that so easily entangles us. She not only shares the beauty of God’s love in her story, she is honest about her day-to-day struggle to choose God’s Word over the self-preservation that became a natural response to hurts she experienced in her childhood.
Though her particular battle with sin was succumbing to same-sex attraction, Perry highlights the sin that is true of any heart that has yet to understand the fullness of God’s love—unbelief. The depth of truth she shares in her story is the depth of truth that helps any of us live according to the Spirit of God. The woman who discipled her after she came to faith in Christ regularly modeled and taught her that the response to unbelief is not just knowing about God, but knowing God. “She faithfully turned Scripture loose to capture and strangle it (unbelief) into submission to a higher will than her own” (p. 98).
She concludes the book with very practical resources that help us love and minister to the same-sex attracted Christian, born-again men and women who have repented of their sins, and though often still tempted are seeking to live by the Spirit of God. Perry highlights the importance of one’s identity and how it shapes a person’s life. She points us all, including the same-sex attracted believer, to the cross and our call to the crucified life (p. 168). “The crucified life is the life set on enduring until the end when once and for all, the cross is replaced with a crown” (p. 169).
Come and See: Everything You Ever Wanted in the One Place You Would Never Look by Todd Wagner (2017)
I was eager to read this book since I spent six years journeying my faith with the people called Watermark. Wagner, the lead pastor to this church, wrote to chronicle the work of God he had seen in the lives of people who are committed to letting the Word of God transform them daily, rather than the oft-observed experience where being a “Christian” has little effect on how one lives his or her life. Full of biblical reference, this book helps the reader see how a faithful people of God understand and live intentionally to a faithful and good God.
In an effort to reawaken a biblical understanding of who God is and what it means to follow Him, Wagner explains why there are so many unchurched, de-churched, dead-churched, and unmoved people largely unaffected by weekly religious gatherings. In essence, he says we are calling people “to give lip service to a book to which they should instead surrender their lives” (p. 114). This hearty challenge is met with Scriptural evidence of what it means to practice biblical community, where transformation and peace-making are essential to a healthy body of believers (chapter 14). It’s where brokenness and sin are met with authentic care and concern, which includes applying God’s truth to all areas of life, and the full understanding that we are all in need of grace (chapter 15 & 16). With so much more to undergird this ecclesiological foundation, Wagner is essentially calling the church to the “beauty, sufficiency, perfection, and life-giving goodness of the gospel of Jesus” (p. 11).
I wondered if this book would depict what I experienced in my time there, and it did. Over and over, I saw lives transformed. And it wasn’t something I just observed; I was also changed as God’s Word through me became more powerful than just His words on my lips. If Chan’s book is a reminder to rediscover what the church should be in the 21st century, this one highlights the faithful practice of living it.
No Other Gods: The Unrivaled Pursuit of Christ by Kelly Minter (2017)
With 2 Kings 17:33 as the backdrop to this study, Minter dives in to the tension every believer faces like the nations of old where “they feared the Lord but also served their own gods.” This study was such a reminder of what a real pursuit of Christ is, and that it’s not the settling of activity for God that diminishes the goodness of Him and satisfaction life in Him brings.
Essential to this pursuit, Minter helps us identify the difference between our “professed god” (who we say is our God) and our “functional god,” the thing or person we actually give our time and attention to (p. 15). True in any believer’s life is that we often give our hearts to good things that are not inherently sinful, but our desire for those things becomes too much. Be it position, power, material wealth, children, or a spouse, none of these are “capable of satisfying our deepest longings,” and yet they are often “mercilessly holding us captive” (p. 17).
If you find yourself in a place of inadequacy or dissatisfaction in any area of life: self, family, work, or relationships, this study is for you. This will certainly help you begin to identify areas that, though good, are holding you back from experiencing the peace and satisfaction met only in the One who is the Giver of those good things.
The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer (2015)
This one is not a new release, but if you haven’t been through this study, it’s a must for this year. The reason I know this is because relationships are difficult, life is full of pressure, and there is at least one circumstance in your life creating conflict for you. If none of this is true in your life, you are living in a hole isolated from the sinful people that make up our world, including you. But, since you know there is something of this nature in your world, you need to get into this study and see how Shirer communicates God’s strategy for helping you overcome the messy parts of life.
Whether it’s an emotional struggle or physical struggle, the strategy to be an overcomer is not fought in the flesh, but rather in the Spirit with the armor that God has clearly given us to use. As Shirer helps us understand the power given to us in the armor Paul writes about to the Ephesians, she asks pertinent questions that help us identify our struggle and the lie that often keeps us trapped. As we begin identifying the lies keeping us from peace, she gives us a practical strategy using “actionable intel” (a place to process scriptural insights from the week) to help us fight victoriously with the “weapons” God has given us as believers.
If you need to find peace in difficult relationships or circumstances, don’t miss this study. It will make you think strategically and honestly about areas where the enemy may be getting a foothold. It will absolutely give you the tools and truth you need to let God work in and through you to experience His power regardless of how bleak your situation seems.
Everything Summed Up: Overcoming Differences and Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself by Rachel Lovingood (2018)
In a polarized society that often pits believers and unbelievers against one another, Lovingood helps us think about how to faithfully engage lost people with the love of Christ, as well as how to love the new believer in their journey of Him. Everything Summed Up is the most practical, yet helpful resource I have seen to date that helps us be equipped to love people who think like those in a post-Christian society. The book is written in the form of reminders, since intentional living always requires reminders of what matters most and how to do it well.
Lovingood reminds us that God has called us to build relationships (even the ones that are difficult) with those in our sphere of influence. But in order to establish influence, our character and authenticity matter because the world “quickly rejects that which looks irrelevant or fake. Including Christians who say one thing and then live very differently” (p. 17). She reminds us that our Christian lingo doesn’t always connect to those who have never been around church, and that as the Holy Spirit works in the life of the new believer, we need to nurture them in opportunities of service rather than (unbiblically) limit them. Finally, she reminds us to “enjoy the ride” of watching new believers grow in their faith, realizing that God’s work in them will sometimes create doubt or differences as they grapple with God’s Word.
Get your hands on this resource. It’s written as a workbook for personal or group study and asks thought-provoking questions that help the seasoned believer wrestle with ways we engage those who think so differently than us. It also offers a group study discussion guide to use with small groups. If you have been a Christian for many years, this study is for you. Read it to be reminded. Be reminded of what it looks like to love our neighbors. Be reminded of how to love those very different from ourselves. Be reminded what it means to love others as you love yourself.
Casey Merrifield, a native Texan, has made her home in Oklahoma thanks to a good Elk City man, whom she married in the spring of 2013. Her life has been full of adventure serving the Lord in full-time student ministry and Christian higher education in Texas & Oklahoma. She currently works as a Senior Associate for GiANT Worldwide, a global leadership consulting firm and serves on the State Women’s Leadership Team with Oklahoma Baptists. She is often involved with the women’s ministry of First Baptist Church, Elk City helping with their yearly IF:Gathering and leading Bible studies. She is enjoying married life with her husband, Scott and their dogs, Mex and Bodee.