Recommended Reading

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Here are a few books that I highly recommend reading. I do not necessarily agree with everything that is said in all of these books–I don’t think anyone ever agrees completely with an author–but these books will challenge your mind.

Let me say that again: These books will challenge your mind! If they do not challenge you to draw closer to God and/or to examine your beliefs then you must already have everything figured out.

For the rest of us mortals…I recommend these books.

I will post individual reviews as time goes on. For now I have just put links to the books on Amazon.com. I have placed some brief notes below each link. Amazon.com has both professional and user reviews, so you can learn a little more about them there.

  1. The Cost of Discipleship: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    1. This is the book that God used to first start dealing with me about what it means to be a Christian.
    2. This book is very, very deep reading, but it’s worth it.
    3. If you read a lot of non-fiction Christian literature you will find that this book is often quoted by other authors, so it is worth taking the time to read.
  2. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical: Shane Claiborne
    1. A friend of mine once described “The Irresistible Revolution” this way: If Bonhoeffer tells you why to be a disciple, Claiborne tells you how to do it.
    2. This author quotes Bonhoeffer a lot, and he was obviously influenced by him.
    3. This book is much easier reading than “The Cost of Discipleship.”
    4. If you have to pick one book out of this list to read, then choose this one. If you are a very traditional Christian then this will make you rethink everything–and I mean that in a good way! (For what it’s worth, I consider myself a traditional Christian; however, Claiborne’s book looks beyond tradition to the heart of Christianity. He does not knock traditional Christianity, he only challenges people to think about why they do the things that they do.)
  3. Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith: Rob Bell
    1. Rob Bell pastors Mars Hill Bible Church–the fastest-growing church in American history.
    2. If you know about Rob Bell then you know that he challenges people to think through Christianity for themselves.
    3. This book does exactly that: It challenges you to think. Some of it is highly controversial, but Bell makes some great points (as he always does!).
  4. Hear Him! The One Hundred Twenty-five Commands Of Jesus: Peter Wittstock
    1. Peter Wittstock takes the Great Commission (“go and make disciples of all nations…baptizing them…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”) and asks the question, “What did Jesus command?”
    2. He attempts to identify the commands of Jesus that were applicable beyond the current circumstances, and then he studies each one.
    3. Some disagree with this approach, but I think if you read the book you will find that Wittstock is not being legalistic (he points out that it is impossible to condense Jesus’ commands to legalism).
    4. This book makes for an excellent devotional. Pick a command or two each day, read Wittstock’s word study on the commandment (you’ll find some of the commands didn’t mean what you thought they meant), and then meditate on it.
  5. Pursuit of God: Aiden W. Tozer
    1. This book is somewhere in between “The Cost of Discipleship” and “The Irresistible Revolution” for reading. It’s not too hard to read, but it’s not easy reading either.
    2. This makes for a good devotional as well. You can go through it a chapter a day, or something like that.
    3. A.W. Tozer wrote the rough draft spontaneously while on a train ride. He wrote the whole book on his knees. Need I say more?
    4. Note: This book is available to read on-line for free at this link.
    5. Note: This book is available for free as an e-Sword extra module.
  6. The Last Christian Generation: Josh McDowell, David H. Bellis
    1. “The Last Christian Generation” is a little different than the others I have listed so far, because it is aimed more at leaders.
    2. Josh McDowell does not teach legalism in this book, but he does teach discipleship.
    3. He shows how “easy believism” has led to an entire generation of Christians (almost two generations) who no longer know what it means to be Christian. Christianity is subjective to them, not objective.
    4. McDowell demonstrates what he calls a “process-driven” model. His goal is to show leaders how to get their church on a model of discipleship. How to get their people being the church instead of just going to church (as he puts it).
    5. McDowell also has materials that churches can use for Sunday School, small study groups, etc., that are all aimed at discipleship. If you think those materials might be something that your church can use then you can get more information here.
  7. Mere Christianity: C.S. Lewis
    1. I just finished reading this book, and I see why so many people call it a Christian classic.
    2. It is very deep reading, but well worth it.
    3. This book is based off a series of radio talks that C.S. Lewis gave. His goal was to describe what Christians believe. His target audience was a non-Christian one. Because of this, C.S. Lewis takes a very unique approach. He takes incredibly deep concepts and breaks them down using many illustrations so that the non-Christian can understand. Of course, this approach works great for us Christians as well! I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time.

3 thoughts on “Recommended Reading

  1. Crystal Shifflett

    I attend a pentacostal holiness church. Our outward standards are almost exactly the same as UPC. The major difference I see is that we are not “oneness”. I just wanted to comment to carolyn that I understand exactly where she is coming from. We have been members for 11 years and I have never known a more judgemental “holier than thou” crowd. As long as I lived it without questioning everything was fine but as soon as I started studying scripture for myself and living according to what I have found to be Biblical, the attitudes of a lot (not all) of the people I thought were my brothers and sisters in the Lord became very cold and distant. My husband and I have 5 children that we have raised in this way… We thought we were teaching them right and have only in the last couple years really started to question and see that holiness is ugly when it is just an external thing. If you have an ugly spirit, your outward standard is a joke. Our dilemna now is that we would like to find a new church but where. And our children love the young people and the shouting services, etc. etc. This church is all they have ever known. Our 2 oldest children are 15 and 13. We don’t know if making them leave would do more harm than good… My main concern is my children and being in God’s will. So far we have stayed put, but I feel very uncomfortable there. Please pray 4 our family. Legalism is a hard thing to break away from. I should mention that I was raised Baptist and never knew of this outward standard until 11 years ago. I have found it difficult to distinguish between man made rules and scripture. I have also found it difficult to distinguish between conviction from God and fear of being frowned upon by people I attend church with. Please understand that I believe with all my heart in modesty and moderation. I do not, however see anything wrong with wearing my wedding rings or trimming my long hair. I am not interested in attending an anything goes church but I want my children to know a merciful and loving God. Not a God that has sooo many rules that harldly any man can have joy in serving Him. My son is tormented with feeling like everything he does might in some way be a sin. God did not intend for us to spend our days in torment. Salvation is supposed to be a joyful and wonderful gift of God.

  2. carolyn cullum

    My husband and I left the upc four years ago. My husband was licensed to preach. We came to the conclusion that Jesus is grace and that we didn’t believe in grace- we weren’t allowed to. We realized that everything was works based. We came to understand that we were not understanding God’s love and acceptance.
    It is still hard for me to get my mind out of the whole idea of what I am “doing for God” and accept that God loves me because I am. I find it hard to believe that Jesus would care for me since I am so far (now) from striving it is laughable. I wish that I could come to love myself but I truly believe that being in a community where everyone judges everyone and every thing, I have learned to hate myself and it is hard to unlearn this.
    If I think anything with my whole heart it is this: that God must be very sad when he sees how hateful and unforgiving people are- especially those who claim to be the only ones who know the “truth”–not only to other people but also to themselves.
    The UPC teaches hatred- of others and ourselves- and it is why I constantly struggle with issues of self worth.

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