Books often contain great arguments and claims that shape us. I'm particularly grateful for some new books that appeared this year that I was able to digest. Most of my reading is in the areas of global Christian history, theology, culture, and mission and the following were among my favorites in no particular order.
1. In Our Global Families, Todd Johnson and Cindy Wu offer Christ-followers the tools to understand and engage two families—the Global Body of Christ and the non-Christian, human family, while proposing a humble “faithful presence” approach to being on mission in a globalized world. See my brief review.
2. Douglas Jacobsen's Global Gospel presents a concise history and current status of the global church. He discusses the four main traditions within the global church (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and Pentecostalism) and then explores global Christianity geographically looking at Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and then North America. I've a written review that is forthcoming in Evangelical Missions Quarterly.
3. I spent a good part of the year completing my own book, Missionary Monks, so I read a great bit on the history of monasticism, including Greg Peter's Story of Monasticism. Peters' stated aim is to craft a work “on the history of Christian monasticism geared toward a ressourcement of the tradition for the twenty-first century." I wrote a brief review here.
4. My monastic studies also benefited from George Demacopoulos', Gregory the Great: Ascetic, Pastor, and First Man of Rome. The author argues well that “Gregory’s ascetic and pastoral theology both informed and structured his administration of the Roman Church” and that Gregory synthesized well the contemplative life of a monk with the active life of a pastor. I have a forthcoming in Fides et Humilitas.
5. In Scott Sunquists's The Unexpected Christian Century, he attempts to sketch out the history of global Christianity in the twentieth century. This is a tall order indeed and I appreciate his approach to the “global century” that began with some 80% of the world’s Christians living in North America or Europe and ended with about 60% living in the Global South (Africa, Asia, and Latin America). I've written a short review here.
6. David Shenk's Christian.Muslim.Friend: Twelve Paths to Real Relationship ought to be read by every Christian who has ever watched a story on the news about Muslims. In the book Shenk shares insights from over five decades of engaging Muslims, demonstrating an effective combination of peacemaking, friendship, and bold Christian witness. See my review here.
7. Michael Bird's What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine through the Apostle's Creed was enriching on a historical, theological, and devotional level. I found the book so accessible that our home fellowship adopted it to study this semester in our gatherings. I wrote some initial thoughts here.
8. Finally, the book that most impacted me spiritually this year was James K.A. Smith's You are what You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. As the title attests, Smith effectively shows that “Jesus’ command to follow him is a command to align our loves and longings with his." I've scribbled out some reflections here.
Thanks to all of these authors for investing in my growth this year.