I don't presume to know what should be on your "must read" list, but here are two books that are on mine. I'm working my way through both of them, and I marvel at the parallels.
One is "shop talk" for pastors and lay leaders, particularly in the area of stewardship — Clif Christopher's just-published Rich Church, Poor Church: Keys to Effective Financial Ministry (Abingdon Press).
One small sample (from page 11) gives you an idea of Clif's perspective:
"The Rich Church, the healthy church, is always focused on its mission. ... The Poor Church, the sick church, is always focused on its own survival."
The other book is Diana Butler Bass' Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening (HarperOne, 2012). If you benefited from Phyllis Tickle's The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, Bass' new book is a helpful sequel.
Bass believes America has seen three "Great Awakenings," (1) 1730-60 (which launched evangelicalism); (2) 1800-1830 (which initiated new understandings of free will); and (3) 1890-1920 (which inspired new mission work). Bass believes we are in a Fourth Great Awakening which began around 1960. She sees a transformation, a Great Turning "toward a global community based on shared human connection, dedicated to the care of our planet, committed to justice and equality, that seeks to raises hundreds of millions from poverty, violence, and oppression (pp. 5-6)."
If you're trying to make sense about the mass exodus from the institutional church by those younger than Baby Boomers, Christianity After Religion is a sobering, yet hopeful, analysis of what Bass believes is a Great Awakening. I believe she's right. Here's one more quote, from pp. 36-37:
And the awakening? What will it look like? It entails waking up and seeing the world as it is, not as it was. Conventional, comforting Christianity has failed. It does not work. For the churches that insist on preaching it, the jig is up. We cannot go back, and we should not want to. Lot's wife turned to a pillar of salt when she looked back to catch one last glimpse of the past as her family fled to an unknown future (Genesis 19:26).
- Ted Leach
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