*This post contains Amazon affiliate links to books I discuss, noted in bold with an asterisk. Read more about my affiliate links here*
I have a few new additions to our Required Reading List, all by one of my favorite authors, Brian McLaren! Because I own several of his books, I’m going to make this more of an Author Spotlight post. In truth, there have been very few people more instrumental in the reweaving of my faith than Brian McLaren. I first discovered his writing and beautiful exploration of a non-violent atonement in college, and it offered me the light I needed to see a way forward.
I tweeted at him, asking, “If you could offer young people a tweet-sized lifeline in their pursuit of a new kind of Christianity, what would it be?”
His response (which first, HELLO, HE RESPONDED!) will stick with me for a long time. He wrote:
“Life is a gift, Love is the point, and we can join God in healing the world as the ongoing embodiment of Christ.”
So hopefully, that’s plenty of motivation for you to purchase one of his books! They are chock full of wisdom and incredible questions and beautiful applications. He boldly vision casts for what the church could be, and I am here for it.
Here are the three books I recommend based on your circumstances:
For someone looking for a new Bible study or devotional book:
We Make the Road By Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation)*
This book has 52 chapters, one for each week of the year. It serves as a thoughtful and engaging exploration of the Biblical narrative. Each chapter begins with a few selections from Scripture and ends with questions for engaging with the message.
The book is broken into 4 parts:
Alive in the Story of Creation
Alive in the Adventure of Jesus
Alive in a Global Uprising
Alive in the Spirit of God
”But before Christianity was a rich and powerful religion, before it was associated with buildings, budgets, crusades, colonialism, or televangelism, it began as a revolutionary nonviolent movement promoting a new kind of aliveness on the margins of society."
"Whatever ember of love for goodness flickers within us, however feeble or small… that’s what the Spirit works with, until that spark glows warmer and brighter. From the tiniest beginning, our whole lives—our whole hearts, minds, souls, and strength—can be set aflame with love for God."
For someone who wants to see what loving your neighbor looks like:
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World*
The best way I can describe this book is by pulling a phrase from the back cover. In a world of religious rivalry, McLaren explores “how by standing in solidarity with ‘the other’, as Jesus did, we can become a force against injustice and inhumanity—fulfilling the Christian mission like never before.” This book is incredible. It affirms the truth we see in Jesus as The Way, but it does not force us to see other belief systems through the lens of competition and contempt. It is a lifeline to those with big questions about how to understand the Christian mission in our world. My own experiences only affirm the message of this book. This was the only book I took on our honeymoon, and I read the whole thing. That should probably tell you everything you need to know about me.
"I have no doubt that Jesus would actually practice the neighborliness he preached rather than following our example of religious supremacy, hostility, fear, isolation, misinformation, exclusion, or demonization."
"Something deep in our conscience tells us that hostility is part of the problem to be overcome in the world, not the means by which problems will be overcome. Hostility is a symptom of the disease, not part of the cure."
"If we speak of an angry God at all, we will speak of a God angry at indifference, angry at apathy, angry at racism and violence, angry at inhumanity, angry at waste, angry at destruction, angry at injustice, angry at hostile religious clannishness. That anger is never against us (or them); it is against what is against us (and them)."
"We must not define Jesus and his kingdom by fitting them within conventional understandings of kings and kingdoms. Rather, we must judge and deconstruct those conventional definitions in light of Jesus and his example."
For someone who hopes to take on a role in church leadership:
The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way To Be Christian*
This book is McLaren’s latest work and explores what it could look like if Christians chose to live lives defined by love, reject violent images of God, embrace God as the renewing Spirit at work in our world, and engage in spiritual activism.
"Confession: Imagine if love, not law, was the standard by which we learned to examine ourselves and confess our sins against God, neighbor, and the earth we share. Imagine if each week we were guided into the kind of self-examination that helped us name and turn from our unloving acts in recent days. And imagine if, along with confessing our sins, we confessed or named our hurts, the places where others have wounded us, so that we could process our pain and then respond in a way that doesn’t give in to resentment or revenge."
"Jesus faithfully and courageously represented the nonviolent and loving heart of God. Jesus and his way of nonviolent, self-giving love, the text suggests, will earn the trust of all humanity. We will ultimately migrate, in other words, toward the way of Jesus.”
"If you love someone, you will want to understand them and accept them as they grow and change; similarly, loving yourself involves a never-ending process of self-understanding and self-acceptance through life's ups and downs...we are finally coming to understand that love for neighbor and love for self naturally lead to love for the earth...if you love your neighbor as yourself, you want both them and you to be able to breathe, so you need to love clean fresh air...you want them and you to be able to drink, so you need to love pure water in all its forms...you want them and you to be be able to eat, so you need to care about the climate...."
"We might say that whatever our God is like, whether or not our God exists, our God is still powerful because our image of God transforms us. Like an image in a mirror, our God concept reflects back to us the image of what we aspire to become. Powerful and vengeful? Kind and merciful? Dominating and in control? Relational and respectful? Like God, like believer, we might say. Our image of God, our image of ourselves, and our processes of individual and cultural development move together as in a dance."