My Reading List
Here is a list of books and articles that have influenced and continue to inform me, arranged by category and in priority …
Biblical / Theological
David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. New York: Orbis, 1991. In this magnificent work, Bosch addresses the mission of the church through the biblical material (chiefly the New Testament) and then chronicles the shifting of mission theology through seven historical paradigms. The book concludes with what he considers to be the emerging mission paradigm. There is nothing like Bosch for a wide-ranging, ecumenical, and scholarly examination of missions. In essence, Transforming Mission summarizes twenty centuries of missionary thought and practice. I have read through the entire text at least eight times and continually find myself thumbing through it for a reference or perspective. (519 pages).
Lesslie Newbigin. The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission. Revised edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. In a truly accessible manner, Newbigin addresses the pressing issues of mission theology and practice. He begins with a trinitarian foundation for mission and then moves to issues of history, justice, conversion, and religions. It is remarkable how much theology is packed in this slim volume. I believe this book offers the best introduction possible to a trinitarian approach to mission theology. (189 pages).
Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006. Wright, an Old Testament scholar, interprets scripture through the lense of a mission hermeneutic. He places grand themes of the 0ld Testament, such as idolatry, election, jubliee, and the Exodus, within the framework of God’s mission to humanity and the earth. He makes the case that mission did not just begin with Jesus and the New Testament but with who God is from the beginning of time. In addition, mission includes the whole of creation and not just the souls of men and women. Wright definitely challenges many of our conceptions about missions. (535 pages).
Harry R. Boer. Pentecost and Missions. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961. Boer critiques the whole of the missionary enterprise from the vantage point of Pentecost and the work of the Spirit. He maintains that the emphasis must be on the Pentecost event rather than the Great Commission in our missionary theology and practice. (254 pages).
Richard Bauckham. Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003. Bauckham shows us how to read the themes of scripture within the contemporary context – through a hermeneutic of the Kingdom of God. He demonstrates the movements in scripture toward openness, from particular to universal. His emphasis includes the role of geography and the church’ witness. (112 pages).
Eugene A. Nida. Customs and Cultures: Anthropology for Christian Missions. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1954. As far as brevity and practicality is concerned, there is not a better book on cross-cultural living and witness than Customs and Cultures. This is the book that every candidate or first term cross-cultural witness should read. Even though a bit dated, Nida’s examples illustrate well the point and can be humorous. I am sorry to say that this wonderful book is out of print, and it is only used copies that can be found. (269 pages)
Louis J. Luzbetak. The Church and Cultures: New Perspectives in Missiological Anthropology. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988. Luzbetak provides a good, solid perspective on culture and the missionary task. The foundation of this perspective is built on a scholarly investigation of cultural anthropology and unwavering belief in the work of the Holy Spirit. Ample illustrations and an ecumenical perspectivie offer an excellent orientation for anyone serious about cross-cultural witness. (397 pages)
Darrell L. Guder. “Worthy Living: Work and Witness from the Perspective of Missional Church Theology,” Word & World, vol. 25, no. 4 (Fall 2005):424-32. This article comes seven years after The Missional Churchand provides an updated and finer definition of missional church theology. The implications for vocation and witness of everyday Christians are applied to the church and its life.
Craig Van Gelder. “From Corporate Church to Missional Church: The Challenge Facing Congregations Today,” Review and Expositor, 1001 (Summer 2004):425-50. This clear presentation of the reasons for the various types of model for church makes suggestions as to how congregations can move to the missional model of church.
Neil Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin, 1986. This is a powerfully argued attack on the dominance of entertainment in every part of our lives. While education, religion, and politics are mentioned, the real target of Postman’s argument is television. And yet, he is not just ranting that television is junk but laments that image now trumphs words, rhetoric and discourse. The result is that truth has been lost and our culture has become anemic. (163 pages).
Principles and Methods
Vincent J. Donvan. Christianity Rediscovered. Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition. New York: Orbis, 2003 (Originally published 1978). Donovan tells the story of his rediscovery of Christianity while working among the Masai of Africa. In the pages of this moving story, one finds principles for the manner in which we are to do mission work and an example of what it means to be changed by the gospel we preach. (169 pages).
Jonathan J. Bonk. Missions and Money, revised and expanded edition. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006. This hard-hitting book challenges the affluence of missionaries and calls for us to become the “righteous rich.” Bonk details the liabilities and realities of our affluence but does not try to give glib or easy answers. This revised edition of the 1991 version of the book carries the conversation forward, and through three essays adds the voices of Justo González and Christopher Wright to the discussion. (235 pages).
Jocob A. Loewen. “Missionaries: Drivers or Spare Tires?” International Review of Mission, 75, no. 299 (July 1986):253-60. Loewen deals with the tricky issue of missionary role and the expectations of the sending church. I have found his parable of the bus to be helpful in talking about both role and expectation.
Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Second edition. Chicago: The Universitiy of Chicago Press, 1970. This is a landmark book in scientific and intellectual thought. From Kuhn, we get an understanding of paradigm shifts; how and why these occur. He challenges the traditional views of scientific progress and change, and he posits new procedures for revolutions in thought. What Kuhn describes for the history of science can be applied to many fields of study. (210 pages) Learn more or buy.
Andrew Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1996. This book is actually a collection of nineteen addresses and articles written over a period of twenty years. Walls brings a freshness of perspective and high level of scholarship to the history of Christianity and its transformativenature. He is the closest to being an outsider who is able to write as an insider within the movement of Christianity around the world. Each essay is written in an engaging and attractive style that causes students to wonder if they are really reading history! (261 pages).
Rodney Stark. The Rise of Christianity:How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religous Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1997. While admittedly not a historian or New Testament scholar, Stark, a sociologist, provides a fresh and unique interpretation as to why Christianity of the first three to four centuries succeeded. God is not removed from the equation but other forces are factored into the picture of Christianity’s rise. This book provide a good balance to the commonly held opinion that Christianity won merely because of good preaching, miracles, or superior doctrine. (215 pages).
India / Hinduism
Dayanand Bharati. Living Water Indian Bowl: An Analysis of Christian Failings in Communicating Christ to Hindus, with Suggestions towards Improvment. Delhi: ISPCK, 1997. Bharati catalogs the many reasons for the failure of missionaries to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to Hindus. And yet, beyond the specific reasons, the author points to attitudes about Indian culture and Hinduism that form the basis for these failures. The primary influence on Bharati’s thinking can be noted in the closing synopsis of Roland Allen’s Spontaneous Expansion. (247 pages) Learn more or buy.
Robin H. S. Boyd. India and the Latin Captivity of the Church: The Cultural Context of the Gospel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974. In this thin volume, Boyd writes as a missionary concerning the Latin encasement of the Indian theology and the need for the liberation of the Indian church from the Western colonial structures, language, and approach. He asks from the outset if the India church has a message of freedom for the Latin captivity of the Western church. (146 pages) Learn more or buy.
Herbert Hoeffer, Churchless Christianity. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1991. Hoeffer presents the findings of his survey of eleven districts of Tamilnadu in which he reports a movement of non-baptized believers in Christ. He gauges the strength of this movement and then offers theological reflection and practical suggestions. (352 pages) Learn more or buy.
Lamin Sanneh. Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. Sanneh employs a unique format of questions and answers to address the changes in world Christianity. In this dialogue, he argues with his questioner (himself) regarding the nature of religion, the translatability of the gospel, the Bible, and the legacy of Christendom. This is a delightful and timely book. (130 pages).
Dana Robert. “Shifting Southward: Global Christianity Since 1945,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research (April 2000):50-58. Robert poses questions about why Christianity has advanced in the Southern hemisphere and provides cogent and clear answers for the same. She identifies one of the coming crises for Christianity will be the struggle over identity within the global and local tension.
Philip Jenkins. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Jenkins fully exposes what others (Robert, Sanneh and Walls) have been writing about for some time now. The face, characteristics, and future of the worldwide Christian movement are vividly described. This book, for many, is a revelation that Christianity is not in decline but has relocated and is being renewed. (220 pages)
Yes, Roland Allen has his own section. Though writing at the end of the nineteenth century, Allen speaks directly to contemporary issues. He is a prophet for all seasons.
Roland Allen. The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes Which Hinder It. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962. Allen ruffles feathers, challenges the status quo, and calls into question our most basic assumptions. Spontaneous Expansion was first published in 1927 and caused quite a stir at that time. Already known for his abrasive and blunt style of interaction, Allen speaks prophetically to his generation, as well as ours. In this book he addresses in a forthright manner our tendency to control and dominate through doctrine, morality, organization, and payment of nationals. Whether one agrees with Allen or not, he must be read and discussed. Spontaneous Expansion and Missionary Methods St. Paul’s or Ours? are the only books of his that have been reprinted regularly. (157 pages).
Roland Allen. Missionary Methods, St. Paul’s or Ours? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962. First published in 1912 following his service in China, Allen asks the question – what about our methods is different from those of the apostle Paul? He maintains that Paul’s way of missionary labor was not advantaged but it did follow certain principles that led to remarkable success. Allen’s goal is to mine these simple principles and call the church of today to follow them. (173 pages).
David J. Bosch. A Spirituality of the Road. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2000 (previously published by Herald Press, 1979). The chapters of this small book were originally presented at the Mennonite Missionary Study Fellowship in 1978. The purpose of the lectures was to readdress the tendency of spirituality to be other-worldly rather than dealing with the here and now. Bosch provides a needed balance and corrective that most of us need to hear. I have bought and given away more copies of this book than I can recall. (90 pages).
Steven Garber. The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Beliefs and Behaviors During the University Years. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996. Garber looks at the factors that add character to lives during the formative years of university and beyond. (199 pages) Learn more or buy.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Touchstone, 1995. This Christian classic explores the question of what it means to be a Christ-follower. Bonhoeffer unpacks ‘cheap grace’ and its ramifications for the church. I read the first half of the book while in college and thought that was enough. When I re-read the book several years ago, I discovered that he deals in the second half with the Sermon on the Mount in a unique and beautiful way. Don’t stop with the first half but push on to the beatitudes. (320 pages)
Courtney Anderson. To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adonirum Judson. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972. While many missionary biographies are too good to be true and a bit over the top, To the Golden Shoretells the story of Adonirum and Ann Judson in a balanced and honest manner. The good, bad, and the ugly of their call, commissioning, entry into Burma, and subsequent ministry are told in a readable style. Their story is important for an understanding of the beginnings of the American missionary movement, and particularly that of American Baptists. My encounter with this book while in university did much to shape the way I see life and ministry. (506 pages).
Mrs. Howard Taylor. Borden of Yale ’09. Philadelphia: China Inland Mission, 1926. I read this book while in high school. Borden’s dogged determination and deep commitment impressed me so much that I wrote out passages from the book and taped them to my mirror. My goal for some time was to be like Bill Borden. His dedication and Christ-centeredness are definitely worthy goals. (285 pages).
Eberhard Bethge. Dietrich Bonhoeffer; A Biography. Revised edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000. I lived with this monster of a book during some of the darkest days of my life. I was encouraged and challenged by Bonhoeffer’s theological integrity, courageous actions, and faithful living during some of the darkest days of human history. Bethge, a close friend and confidant, gives us an insider perspective on this teacher, churchman, and activist that reveals self-doubt and struggles, as well as courage and conviction. In reading this book, I felt as though I had a mentor to advise and guide me in my own self-doubts and struggles. (941 pages).
Mother Teresa. Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta,” edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk. New York: Doubleday, 2007. The collected letters and journal entries of Mother Teresa provide a unique look at the interior life, passion, and struggles of this unusual person. It is a surprise to hear of the darkness and abandonment she experiences in the midst of her service to the poor of Calcutta. The editor provides a chronology, as well as commentary, that gives context for what Mother Teresa writes. (362 pages).
FyodorDostoyevsky. The Brothers Karamazov. Translated by David McDuff. New York: Penguin, 1993 (Originally published in Russian in 1880). I was told by someone that I needed to read this book before passing from this life. They were right. During my 2007 summer trip to England and Ireland, I picked up a copy. Once I started this fat tome, it was my constant traveling companion. It is a story with rich characters, moral truth, and human drama. It truly is the best works of fiction I have read. (985 pages).
Shusaku Endo. Silence. Translated by William Johnston. New York: Taplinger, 1980. Based upon historical events within 16th century Japan, Endo delves into the problems of faith, apostasy, and martyrdom. In the words of the translator, Japan is a swamp that Christianity has had difficult rooting itself. The novel vividly and emotionally demonstrates the difficulty of this swamp and the need for radical transformation of Christianity if it is to fit the national character of the Japanese people. (201 pages).
Jhumpa Lahiri. Interpreter of Maladies. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Lahiri captures the complexities of what it means to an immigrant and first-generation American in an eloquent and moving set of short stories. Even though she is best known for her book The Namesake, I find this collection of stories to be more human and readable. (9 stories, 198 pages).
M. M. Kaye. The Far Pavilions. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1978. This epic novel set in the Himalayas fictionalizes the historical events of India during the days of the Raj and the Sepoys. (955 pages.