Top Seven Books Read in 2022

This has been a whirlwind year for me. With moving across the country, buying and renovating a house in rural NH, planting a church, and taking on the role of senior pastor, I did not read as much as I have in years prior. I’ve also started working out, watching the Celtics, and tackling more projects at our home. This year has also been one of continuing lament and grief as I try to make sense of life here in NH without Mom. I foresee my reading goals shifting in the years to come and will probably set a goal of 30 books instead of 60. I need to slow down, read bigger books, better books, prioritize my Bible reading, and overall, pursue a more balanced approach. I was playing catch up after seminary, but now I’m ready for a more ordinary and sustainable reading plan.

Here are my favorite books read this past year—

7. Redeeming Productivity by Reagan Rose

“Without knowing who you are and why you’re here, there will be no controlling purpose that unites your productive efforts, no chief end to all that toil.”

Drenched in self-improvement, time-management, goal-setting, better efficiency, and/or guaranteed success, the push for productivity is often driven by a self-focused and utilitarian ethos. Rather than being a typical, self-help, “how-to” book, this new one approaches productivity from deeper, more fundamental presuppositions of worship, calling, and stewardship. It starts with our identity and purpose—the why—before it gets into the how. What my friend Reagan provides is a thoughtful interaction with, and synthesis and critique of mainstream productivity literature and then offers a revolutionary, paradigm-shifting and theocentric approach. With thoughtfulness and care, he challenges, redeems, and sanctifies productivity for the glory of God, the good of others, and your own wellbeing. What I appreciate most about his book is its distinctively Christian worldview, its sharp emphasis on the heart, and its refreshing accessibility. This is my new favorite book on productivity.

6. Recovering Our Sanity by Michael Horton

“The real world is the one in which the triune God is the central character in nature and history, and the illusion is that we’re in charge. It’s autonomy that is the myth—and the sooner we raise our eyes to heaven, the sooner our sanity will be restored.”

We live in an increasingly polarized culture. Both sides of partisan politics have become further separated, more deeply entrenched in their ideological framework, and, even worse, more fearful of and vitriolic toward the opposing side. And at the same time some of our fears are becoming more real than simply imagined. As in all of his writings, Horton has a way of cutting through the tension and confusion and reminding us of the truths that transcend culture wars. Realizing that fear causes spiritual paralysis and Gospel amnesia, he counsels us through our fear. He points us to a greater fear that will bring confidence and hope even in these uncertain times. He calls us to be a Gospel people who live confidently above the circumstances so that we are able to engage in stewardship with hopeful responsibility instead of the utopianism and despair peddled to us everywhere else we look.  This book brought comfort, hope, confidence, and clarity to my eternal identity and temporary mission. Horton never disappoints.

5. Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative by Carl Trueman

“While conservative theological types are often very concerned about theological precision, we can tend to think in rather simplistic, black-and-white clichéd terms when it comes to politics.”

With the growing political polarization and posturing, I have grown rather disillusioned with politics and more distrusting of government in general (as I’m sure you have). Being born in the States and into a conservative Cristian family, I’ve come to realize I have a very limited and myopic purview. When Trueman emigrated to the States from the UK, he found no home in either the progressive Left or the conservative Right. He wrote this book to critique the real problems of both sides of the aisle.  If we are intellectually honest, social issues are much more complex than either side makes them out to be. So much of partisan politics is pandering worse-case scenarios, caricatures, sweeping generalizations, and faulty logic. He helped me see that partisan politics often blurs the lines of demarcation between believers and unbelievers. Equating party affiliation and faithfulness to Christ is not just overly simplistic, but prideful and uncharitable. And to think that a particular party, movement, or leader accurately represents Christ or the Church is foolishly misguided. Trueman doesn’t encourage us to find a middle ground between the Left and Right, but to rise above the drama and conflict and to give our absolute devotion to Christ and our dedication to the service of his kingdom. Christians are to unite in Christ, not in the particular platform of a certain political party of a particular country.

4. Exiles on Mission by Peter Williams

“By virtue of becoming Christians, followers of Jesus have a relationship to the world such that they don’t belong and are treated with hostility. In other words, a heightened sense of exile is a reality of authentic Christian discipleship.”

This book provides an honest assessment of the contemporary church—she perpetuates a secular-sacred dualism, whole-life discipleship is rare, she’s lost her public voice, has become too partisan, is increasingly susceptible to ideology, and is not effectively reaching the postmodern, pluralistic culture she finds herself in. With the twin themes of exile and mission, Williams helps us see that Christians must live between the tension of assimilation and withdrawal. We can neither isolate from nor integrate with society as we seek to influence our communities with the Gospel. He reframes exiles from a paradigm of judgment and oppression to one of mission and opportunity. He insightfully shows how a heightened experience of exile in an increasingly secular society clarifies our mission. We must establish embassies of grace, learn the language of the secular world, and translate the Gospel message in a way that pokes holes in Western narratives and reveals a greater, more glorious and fulfilling story.

3. Seasons of Sorrow by Tim Challies

“One of the realities of grieving as a Christian is the coexistence of heights of joy alongside depths of sorrow.”

While killing time alone in Nashville, I was able to sit and read straight through this short book. This is a year’s worth of raw reflection after Tim Challies suddenly and unexpectedly lost his beloved, 18-year-old son, Nick. He journaled his thoughts, feelings, and questions that stemmed from his grief and lament. In a sense, he chronicled the painstaking journey of processing this tragedy as he wrestled with God’s sovereignty and goodness. I found it very relatable, moving, and comforting. He wrestled through many of the same questions, feelings, doubts, and fears that I have over the past year and a half. It brought encouragement and healing to my hurting soul. I commend it to those who find themselves in the lifelong journey of grieving the tragedy of bereavement. This book is a comforting companion as you process through feelings of heartbreak and wrestle with serious questions. It is raw, hopeful, theological, and helpful.

2. Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop

“Trust is believing what you know to be true even though the facts of suffering might call that belief into question. Lament keeps us turning toward trust by giving us language to step into the wilderness between our painful reality and our hopeful longings.”

I read this book early last year as I was grieving my mom’s passing and preparing for her memorial. Tragedy has a way of disrupting not just our lives, but our worldview. Everything we know and hold dear is suddenly challenged by doubts and fears when we come face to face with death. The book provides a biblical framework for expressing our deepest doubts and fears and emotions to God in a way that brings us closer to him in intimacy, trust, and worship. He has broad shoulders and can handle our questions, complaints, and cries of despair. In fact, he welcomes them and though he rarely provides specific answers, like David, Solomon, Job, and Jeremiah, we learn to choose to trust him more implicitly because of who he is. He presents lament as a language for loss, the solution for silence, a category for complaints, a framework for our feelings, a process for our pain, and a way for us to worship when it seems impossible. This is not just a comforting resource, but a very practical one.

1. Bully Pulpit by Michael Kruger

“In all the cases of spiritual abuse I have read about, there’s one word victims would never use to describe a bully pastor: kind . . . We expect [pastors] to be be smart and eloquent maybe, but not kind.”

Abuse is a real problem in the church. Unfortunately, local church elders and parishioners have an unhealthy tendency to excuse and even defend their pastor’s abusive behavior because they value his gifts and results over his character. This was exposed in The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, but then again, we don’t have to look there when we have ample examples in our own lives and churches. We all have hurtful, traumatic experiences in our past where pastors have hurt or manipulated us through their dismissiveness, overreach, unkind words, and positional authority. Most Christians I meet have a story of falling prey to ecclesiastical malpractice. They have been hurt, scarred, traumatized by a certain spiritual leader or leadership team and have become nervous around and intimidated by anyone in a position of church leadership. Abuse is one of those nebulous, subjective, therapeutic words that can be overused, misused, and abused (see what I did there). And if everything is abuse, then nothing is abuse. Kruger does a thorough job rising above the culture to bring clarity and objectivity to the word so that we know what constitutes abuse and what doesn’t. He summarizes the problem, defines pastoral abuse, and bifurcates between real abuse and felt/imagined abuse. He provides practical steps to prevent abuse from becoming a normal part of your church culture. I recommend this to both pastors, elders, and the regular church members. Ministerial abuse must be recognizable to all within a church in order to prevent it from becoming normalized.

Honorable Mentions: The Plague by Albert Camus, Lead by Paul David Tripp, The Loveliest Place by Dustin Benge, Deeper by Dane C. Ortlund, Faithful Leaders by Rico Tice, The Church as a Culture of Care by T. Dale Johnson, Love Your Church by Tony Merida, and Dispensational Hermeneutics by Michael J. Vlach.

Top Ten Books Read in 2021

Top Ten Books Read in 2020

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