Readworthy is a section where you have an opportunity to share missional readings that are impacting your ministry. What are you reading that is giving you new insight into risk-taking mission and service or ministry with the poor?
The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door
by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon
This is a great read and a potentially great resource. The authors say, “When Jesus was asked to sum up everything into one command, he said to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Most of us have turned this simple idea of loving our neighbors into a nice saying. . . What would happen if every follower of Jesus took the Great Commandment literally? Is it possible that the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past two thousand years?” In a very readable format, the authors share their own experiences and the experiences of their community in focusing on building relationships with our actual neighbors . . . persons who live next door, on our block, down our street. The resource has a study guide and the authors talk about their experience in sharing a community focused sermon series with other pastors in their city. If you are looking for encouragement and even some training and tactics for following Jesus’ commandment to be a good neighbor, this could be a great resource for you!
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert
You are probably thinking, "This does not sound like a book that would normally be on a missional reading list" and you are probably right! In fact, I picked up this book at the airport bookstore because I had finished the only book I brought with me on the first leg of the trip. Actually, this book IS about the kind of thinking that just might help us reach out of our "fear-prescribed" borders and do the kind of risk-taking work required to build the "kingdom on earth as it is in heaven". After all, God was pretty creative when God adapted the plan midstream and came into this world in Jesus Christ so that we might know redemption! Any of us who seek to reach out into our communities with the love of Jesus know we continually search for creative relevant ways to tell that story of God's love. When Gilbert wrote about the process of creativity, she asks, "What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail? What do you love even more than you love your own ego? How fierce is your trust in that love?" When it comes to faith-sharing, we have to be creative and courageous in following the lead God has placed in our hearts. If you're needing a push, shove, or kick in the pants, this book might be for you. It's an easy read, and although Gilbert never mentioned God, I felt God speaking to me through it.
The Ideal Team Player
by Patrick Lencioni
Obviously, this is not a book written only for mission leaders, but we are, after all, always looking for mission team members who are “ideal team players” aren’t we? We all know that leadership is essential if we are to design, implement and share effective mission ministry in our local churches. And we know that effective mission ministry requires more than one effective leader – it happens best with a team of leaders who bring their individual gifts to the table for the good of the ministry. Obviously, each individual brings a unique set of spiritual gifts to the table. In addition, Lencioni, who writes from a secular perspective, says there are three key virtues that contribute to an individual being a great team player: being hungry, humble and smart. This is a great read for anyone charged with putting together a team of persons to accomplish mission and ministry, whether they are staff or volunteers.
The Wealth of the Poor
by Larry M. James
This book is about valuing neighbors and restoring hope in inner city ministries. If this specific focus resonates with you, the book could be a great resource. Larry James was the pastor of a large, suburban Dallas church when he accepted an invitation to direct an inner city food pantry. The food pantry is now one of the largest non-profit food distributors in the world and also develops housing for the formerly homeless and manages health clinics in other economically under-served Dallas neighborhoods. The book shares James’ journey of partnering with neighborhood residents and other organizations to bring hope and transformation to vulnerable persons and neighborhoods. James says, “Over this past twenty-five years I’ve made a seminal discovery: poor people possess great wealth. Their wealth includes social capital, survival skills, resting capacity to engage and to serve, as well as great wisdom about life, hope, and apparent despair.” If you are considering developing urban ministry, this book and Larry James could be a great resource. He continues to be in ministry in Dallas.
Toxic Charity and Charity Detox
by Robert Lupton
Continuing with the theme of re-evaluating our mission ministry for transformational impact, these two resources by Robert Lupton really encourage further thinking about how we effectively engage our local community and the world for change. Lupton writes, “Doing for rather than doing with those in need is the norm. Add to it the combination of patronizing pity and unintended superiority, and charity becomes toxic.” How do we evaluate the fruitfulness of our mission ministry? How do we move from providing only short-term emergency relief to building relationships that encourage sustainable growth? These are great reads for mission leaders looking for ways to re-vision existing mission ministry overly focused on emergency relief to lead toward greater potential for relationship building and community transformation.
Discovering the Other (Asset Based Approaches for Building Community Together)
by Cameron Harder
This is not necessarily a quick and easy read, but it is a great approach to understanding the concept of "asset based development" in our local mission ministries. What would happen if, instead of looking around our communities and seeing all the need that is there, we looked within our congregations and communities for the assets we already have available to us? The author looks at our theological calling to build and live in community and then offers some practical strategies for appreciative inquiry (strategically asking the right questions), discovering (mapping) the assets in our communities and then developing ministry based on our communal strengths. This book is somewhat technical and could best be used by missional leaders who see their next steps to be getting to know and looking somewhat analytically at their local communities. If there is a social worker, community developer, or other similar leader on your leadership team, this could be a great resource to share with him/her as it will quite likely offer some theologically grounded ways to call them into leadership using the strengths of their profession.