December 31, last day of the year, a day to reflect back on the previous year, as we look forward to the next. Many of us are planning for 2107, anxiously planning new years resolutions some we will keep and some we will break by January 31. The end of the year is also a time for list, you know we all love them; “MY TOP 10 ______ of 2016!”
As I look back on 2016 here are the top three books I read that had the biggest impact on me and why:
- Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith
“The racial reconciliation message given to the mass audience is individual reconciliation. That is, individuals of different races should develop strong, committed relationships. There is also need to repent of individual prejudice. These are the means reducing racial strife and division. Missing from this formula are the system-changing components of the original formulations. the more radical component of reconciliation espoused by early black leaders and many of the current leaders – to challenge social systems of injustice and inequality, to confess social sin – is almost wholly absent in the popularized versions.”
Unless you were living under a rock for all of 2016, one thing we were reminded of is that America continues to have a racial divide in our country, and unfortunately this carries over into the Church. There is a reason there is the often quoted line of: “the most segregated time of day is Sunday service.” Its becoming more and more evident that it is time for the Church to begin thinking through and addressing racial reconciliation. This book impacted me by helping me better understand the issues in the American church as well as how our “cultural toolbox” (the lenses by which we look at things based on our context) affect the way we see or don’t see.
“Mark this down if you can. Silences, not just sentences, form the work of pastoral ministry. Wise pastors are listening preachers.”
I couldn’t recommend this book high enough for those in ministry or those aspiring to be in ministry. It was a refreshing kick to the gut, over and over again. As it reminded me that I can’t and don’t have to do it all; that there is a God and I am not Him. Yes we all know this, but many times we need to be reminded of this truth. Being reminded of what God requires of us is to be faithful and obedient with what He has before us; and that He supplies all we need to be faithful and obedient is freeing.
3. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
“Martin Luther King Jr. called for us to be lovestruck with each other, not colorblind toward each other. To be lovestruck is to care, to have deep compassion, and to be concerned for each and every individual, including the poor and vulnerable.”
This book more than anything taught me how to listen. We are not good listeners in our day, we want to immediately add our commentary, offer unsolicited advice, tell the speaker why they are wrong, etc. Oftentimes loving my neighbor well is simply sitting and listening to them; to their hurts, to their concerns without telling them why they are wrong or what they should do. We all have been shaped and molded by the context that we grew up in, and rarely understand those of different contexts, therefore we must listen with open ears and hearts. This book helped me be a better listener, as I seek to understand that which I do not understand because I did not grow up in that context.
Reading shapes and molds us, helping us to think better and understand more. These three books have had a great impact on the way I think, the way I learn and understand. Looking forward to all that 2017 will teach me.