I did that once. Only once. Long ago. The mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving thing. Once will do.
Here is a better idea. Buy books for your people for Christmas. I sat last week with a young man I mentored who will soon be heading to the nations for the gospel. He reminded me of some things I said that had a lasting impact on him. One was this: who you become is based largely on the books you read, the people you meet, and the places you go.
I didn’t come up with that saying as it’s been around a long time. But it’s true. Here are a few suggestions for books for Christmas. These books will make you think and stretch you. I’m not endorsing everything in all of them (although in several cases I would), but we should be reading to grow mentally even as we should exercise our bodies to be in shape physically. NOTE: I’m visiting our daughter and son in law in Chicago so I didn’t take time to add the hyperlinks for the books, but they are all available on amazon.
On evangelism and apologetics: Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness. This is just too good not to read. Guinness gives the reader a brief primer in western civilization and the history of ideas while explaining adroitly how evangelism and apologetics must change. He optimistically (unlike 99% of Christians I see on social media) argues today is a most wonderful time to be alive for the gospel, but he argues against what I call the lowest-common-denominator approach to evangelism-apologetics-discipleship. I’m a bit of a philosophy nerd, so Guinness makes me think and smile, and gives me hope.
On the Christian life and our relationship to society around us, two books:
Every Square Inch by my colleague Bruce Ashford. This book is a fast read and a healthy primer on how we relate to culture. Ashford deftly describes various spheres of life as they relate to our faith. Any believer can help understand better his/her place in this world by reading this book. Also, Joy for the World by Greg Forster argues among other things that, when the church is at her best and the gospel is central, she not only brings the message of salvation verbally to civilization, she also brings joy. Forster gives a helpful and very timely summary of the history of America and how we as believers fit into the larger story. He offers the good, the bad, and the ugly on our influence. Both Forster and Ashford in their own unique ways show us how we have greatly overemphasized the role of vocational ministers while unintentionally making it seem other believers (you know, 97% of us) are less vital in Kingdom work. My Greek word for that is baloney, by the way.
For marriage and family check out my friend Darrin Patrick and his wife Amie’s book The Dude’s Guide to Marriage. If’ you’ve heard me speak very much you know I like to point out how guys are dumb and girls are crazy. Guys, we are really dumb, and this book will really help you.
Speaking of guys, one of the idols of our time is the extending adolescence of young men. Immaturity among young men is not only annoying, it can be dangerous, leading to abuse and a myriad of other social ills. Darrin Patrick’s The Dude’s Guide to Manhood will help you or young men you mentor to snap out of society’s penchant toward perpetual silliness.
On the secular side (and we should all be reading books by folks who don’t believe just like us), here are a few suggestions:
Before Happiness by Shawn Achor, a Harvard prof I first saw on a TED Talk. His book offers extensive research on just what makes people happy or not. He offers insight into the workplace, families, and other relationships.
Linchpin by Seth Godin is not a new book but is one I think every leader should read. At the very least I would argue every leader should know Seth Godin. He’s an evolutionist and sometimes he makes me shake my head, but he also makes me think about how every person matters. He offers an insightful and at times scathing critique of society while believing every person matters. If you haven’t read Tribes, get that as well.
Want to be a writer? Get Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art. It’s a bit salty, but Pressfield has encouraged me more to pursue excellence as a writer than anyone.
Finally, I want to mention a few more books by my colleagues. Southeastern has a wealth of scholars who write tons of books, but here are just a few:
Tony Merida’s Ordinary offers an encouragement to every believer to live a life that matters, but to do so in ordinary ways. We like big, we like sensational, but it’s the ordinary flow of life where God uses us the most. Merida’s passion for hospitality and social justice shine throughout this book.
J.D. Greear, who teaches adjunctively for us, wrote Gaining by Losing. I haven’t yet read it, but I’ve never been disappointed in anything J.D. has written so far. His focus on being generous in the sending of believers is not only good theory, it’s his practice as a pastor.
Chuck Lawless’s Nobodies for Jesus is a fantastic little book to encourage you in your witness. He looks at regular folks aka “nobodies” in the New Testament used by God.
Finally, if you want to buy a book I wrote, you can go here to check some of them out. In the spring I will have two releasing, With: A Practical Guide to Informal Mentoring written with my colleague George Robinson, and Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out, a book for literally any believer anywhere in any place on earth to help share Christ naturally and confidently.