Most Impacting Books of 2013


Every year I try to develop a balanced reading list. My tendency is to read in only one area. I am drawn to practical books on leadership and heady books on theology. However, I have noticed that I often lack in reading for my heart.

One of my favorite living theologians, John Frame, has helped me to develop a reading list that is both balanced and broad. He calls his approach triperspectivalism (It’s the job of theologians to invent fancy new words). In a gist, Frame says that in life there are three aspects (perspectives) that are interrelated and interdependent that enables to us know what we know; the three aspects are:

  1. the Normative aspect – content, doctrine, truth, morality, principles: Christ as Prophet
  2. the Situational aspect – context, culture, application, wisdom: Christ as King
  3. the Existential aspect – character, personal piety, community experience: Christ as Priest

Many practitioners have simplified Frame’s three categories to head, heart, & handsSo I will review this year’s literature that most impacted me under these three headings.


  • Center ChurchTim Keller’s Center Church. This book really deserves its own blog post. Let me just say that Keller has finally compiled over 20 years of  articles, sermons, and lectures into one standard. Some of the chapters are summaries of his other books, such as Ministries of Mercy, Generous Justice, & Every Good Endeavor. Our church planting apprentices along with our university pastor, Oscar Briones, read and discussed this entire book. It was a great launching pad to have in-depth discussions about the gospel, contextualization, the church’s postures in culture, urban ministry, making disciples in the workplace and many other topics. Keller’s book definitely sharpened our theological vision for church planting and the ministry.
  • the-permanent-revolution-hirsch-alan-9780470907740Alan Hirsch & Tim Catchim, The Permanent RevolutionNo other book has more exhaustively studied Ephesians 4:11 and its implication on the church. No other book has stretched me to think outside the box of traditional categories of church leadership. Hirsch & Catchim argue that the church needs all five types of leaders (apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching) to grow the Western Church to full maturity so that it might become a multiplying global movement. The focus on the book is on the apostolic ministry – where Hirsch & Catchim do not identify apostles as some coo-coo neo-pentecostal post-Benny Hinn, rather he is the custodian of the church’s DNA. Apostle-types know what it takes not only to plant churches but to start movements. A brilliant part of their book is when they show that in the NT there are two prototype apostles: Peter & Paul. If this peaked your curiosity, I encourage you to give this book a thoughtful read. You will not agree with all of their conclusions, but they will stretch your paradigms.


  • Dangerous-CallingPaul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling. I knew this was going to be a tough read. Like surgery it was a necessary procedure. Paul Tripp has become the modern Baxter and this book is like Reformed Pastor. Heart searching. Pastoral. What I like most about Tripp’s book is that he is deadly honest. He does not hold any punches. Every pastor ought to read this book. Although Tripp at times goes overboard with personal application, sometimes writing a full paragraphs of various examples, God tremendously blessed my soul for shining his precise light on all my blind spots and sinful habits. I found myself  repenting over and over in every chapter.
  • 7598_large_imageJoe Thorn’s Note to Self. This short book was also great medicine to my soul. It’s short chapters are directed mainly to pastors and church leaders. Like Tripp, Thorn is a reliable gospel-centered author who is always leads me to Christ. For many of us pastors, we find ourselves often leading others to Christ, but very rarely does our parishioners lead us to Christ. So praise God for men like Thorn who have faithfully ministered to us, remind us of the Savior.


  • PrintOtt & Wilson’s Global Church Planting. One of our apprentices, Albert den Oudsten from the Netherlands, turned me on to this great book. Ott & Wilson have studied broadly and summarize many articles, books and other resources. Each section is balanced, well researched, and very accessible. I took notes in every chapter. Their chapter on church planting teams was worth the price of the book – at times I wonder if he had spied on our team in Peru and written about us! I’m sure I will refer to this book again and again in the future.
  • 9780830858644Marion Kneel’s Burn Up or Splash Down. This book is not your normal read. It is written for families who have lived in another culture and are returning to their “passport country”. So as we return to the States in April, we have been reading various articles and materials to prepare ourselves for entry to America. There is an entire section for family and friends who want to help missionaries adjust back to their “passport country.” Very helpful and brief book.

What books have shaped you this year? 

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