Some of Our Favorite Books of 2018

Reading, both widely and deeply, is a vital discipline for any leader. But reading is especially important for the Christian leader, because our way of leadership (following Jesus) isn’t just pragmatic. It’s a inherently theological pursuit that demands we reflect deeply on our relationships regularly.

We asked our team to give us a few favorite books from 2018, and we’ve got a list below, in no particular order. (Note: these aren’t necessarily books that were released this year, just books we happened to read this year.)

OK, enjoy this list of a few of our favorite books of 2018!

Surprised by God: How and Why What We Think About the Divine Matters

Surprised by God: How and Why What We Think About the Divine Matters, by Chris E. W. Green

(Submitted by Matt Tebbe)

A book on how to work through a deconstruction and reconstruction of who God is, written by a Pentecostal, quoting primarily from Christian and Catholic contemplatives and mystics. If that doesn’t make you want to read this book….I don’t know what will.

Only 83 pages so it the volume of it won’t overwhelm you, but it was so incredibly helpful. I could only read a few pages at a time because the insights had to digest.

Also, check out our podcast interview with Chris Green. It was a good one!

The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism

The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism, by Benjamin Myers

(Submitted by Ben Sternke)

This is a book of very short meditations on each phrase of the Apostles’ Creed, and it’s pure gold.

So many in the early church died for their faith, which means they were caught up in something greater than themselves. What were those truths? How did they empower a revolution? How did early church pastors and theologians use the Apostles’ Creed as the essential guide to the basics of the Christian life?

Ben Myers re-introduces that creed, showing it to be deeply counter-cultural, and the truths embedded within it revolutionary still today.

Introducing Christian Mission Today: Scripture, History and Issues

Introducing Christian Mission Today: Scripture, History and Issues, by Michael W. Goheen

(Submitted by Mac McCarthy)

This is the single best overview I’ve read on missional theology. While written at a level everyone can digest, Goheen also brings together the most relevant scholarship. It’s theologically rich, historically insightful, and intensely practical.

If you are looking for a solid introduction to all things missional, this would be my top choice. This volume is both accessible and comprehensive.

The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race

The Christian Imagination, by Willie James JenningsThe Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Raceby Willie James Jennings

(Submitted by Matt Tebbe)

This may be the most difficult book I’ve ever read, from both a technical and spiritual perspective. Technically, the prose is thick, the argument complex, the language foreign to me in many ways. I had to work more than normal to grasp the overall argument . But, it was worth it because this is hands down the best book I read this year.

Spiritually, this book confronted me with the cultural heritage of my evangelical faith and how indebted it is to the Western colonial project. It deals with race, theology, identity, and the centrality of Jesus in all of it. Can’t recommend highly enough.


Prayer, by Hans Urs Von Balthasar

(Submitted by Ben Sternke)

I wasn’t expecting this book, but it completely blew me away. It’s been called the best and most comprehensive book on prayer ever written.

From the persons of the Trinity through the Incarnation to the Church and the very structure of the human person, this book is a powerful synthesis of what prayer is and how to pray.

Balthasar is a great theologian, but this book gives an intimate and illuminating glimpse into his own practice of and reflection on that most personal and interior of actions: contemplative prayer.

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures, by Gary L. McIntosh & Samuel D. Rima

(Submitted by Mac McCarthy)

While history is replete with leadership fails, over the last few decades it seems we have witnessed a surge among Christian leaders. Some of the most prominent and well known faces to evangelical Christianity have fallen morally, leaving a wake of hurt and pain for all those trusting in their leadership.

In this book, McIntosh and Rima seek to address this growing and disturbing trend. Every leader has a shadow side. Learning how to identify and face our shadow tendencies will help us avoid future failure.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown

(Submitted by Matt Tebbe)

Austin recounts her many years operating as a black women in white, evangelical spaces. I was struck again and again how what seems ordinary and normal to me is culturally and racially shaped.

A quick read, her story has stayed with me and continues to help me reflect on my own complicity in male-centered, white-centered cultures. Convicting and challenging.

The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent

The Good of Giving UpThe Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent, by Aaron Damiani

(Submitted by Ben Sternke)

“Observing Lent is not a forced march of works-righteousness. But it was good medicine for [my soul], for the painful split between what I knew about God and what I experienced of Him.”

This is an excellent introduction to practicing Lent in a life-giving way. Aaron (an Anglican pastor with a low-church background) explains the season of Lent theologically, historically, and practically. He shares wisdom on how to practice it in a way that can form and shape your habits and convictions.

He also talks practically about how to lead others through practicing Lent, so it’s especially good book for pastors looking to lead congregations through a meaningful experience of Lent. and guides you in its practice.

Resilient Leadership 2.0: Calm, Clarity, and Conviction in Anxious Times

Resilient Leadership 2.0: Calm, Clarity, and Conviction in Anxious Times, by Bob Duggan & Bridgette Theurer

(Submitted by Mac McCarthy)

We live in an age of discontinuous change and heightened anxiety. Change almost always provokes anxiety. Leaders who want to lead change, therefore, must learn how to be a non-anxious presence – a “step down transformer” – thereby lowering the anxiety within those they are leading.

Drawing on the best system theorists (Murray Bowen & Ed Friedman), Duggan & Theurer have produced a simple leadership guidebook that helps leaders ‘think systems’ and embody a mature emotional presence.

This book will challenge you to be the right kind of leader to whom such tools and practices can be entrusted. It will challenge your character, elevate your competency, and increase your capacity as a leader.

How about you? What are some of your favorite books of 2018? Leave a comment below to join the conversation.

This work by Gravity Commons is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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  1. Lara Archibald on December 23, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Non-fiction: “The Next Evangelicalism” and The Education of a Wasp we’re both super challenging reads that stuck with me all year.

    Fiction: “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi. There are no words to adequately describe this book, other than you HAVE to read it!

  2. Ben Sternke on December 23, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks Lara!

  3. Scott Olson on December 27, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the list! Where do you brothers typically get ideas for good reads from?

  4. Ben Sternke on January 2, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Glad it was helpful, Scott! We get ideas from all kinds of places, I guess – mostly from friends and colleagues, I think. One practice that’s been helpful for me is to try and listen to voices that come from a different perspective from me, and hear what they’re recommendations are.

  5. Grace Rockstroh on January 3, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Always love your books lists!

    I read Rising Strong by Dr. Brene Brown this year and it has pushed me HARD into vulnerability which, for me, included questioning whether or not I truly view people through God’s lenses. I know that I want to see all people as humans – equally deserving of grace and forgiveness and love, but are my actions and reactions demonstrating that?

  6. Ben Sternke on January 9, 2019 at 9:39 am

    Thanks Grace! Great recommendation.

  7. Gailyn Van Rheenen on January 15, 2019 at 9:46 am

    Thanks, Ben, I appreciate this work in selecting books for reflection and growth. Very helpful to many of us! Gailyn Van Rheenen

  8. Ben Sternke on January 16, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Glad it is helpful!

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