Sjogren’s Top Tens — Books (of all time)

Top Tens – Books (of all time)

It’s difficult to boil down to a short list the books that have most influenced my thinking and practical theology-leadership. The following is a stab at that task. Next year I may change my mind and have a fairly different list, who knows. I do highly recommend these books – each for their own reasons. I have been a reading Christian for over 24 years and this list has survived the test of time and my personal scrutiny.

I didn’t bother to list publication dates or publishers because I believe they are all still in print and I recommend if you desire to purchase them you take the easy route and go through Amazon.com (www.amazon.com). I have found Amazon a quick and easy way to get books no matter how obscure they may be.

Knowing God (J.I. Packer, IVPress)
If I were king of the hill I would make this required reading by all Christians. Granted, this is no light weight read – I can only take in a few pages at a time, but it does wonders for my soul as much on my tenth reading as my first. It’s a book that would serve as a tool for a new believer in Christ as well as a challenge to the most seasoned veteran in the Church.

What’s So Amazing about Grace (Phillip Yancey)
I read a lot of books. My goal is a book a day approximately. I do this by more skimming than word for word reading or studying a book. This is the first book I carefully read in a couple of years. I laughed at points, I cried and I found myself coming to the conclusion that what the modern church needs desperately is an understanding of grace. I suspect many who follow Christ the most outwardly enthusiastically are the least schooled in the ways of grace.

Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness (Jerry Cook)
Jerry Cook said in this book what I always believed in my heart about the philosophy of ministry of a Spirit-led Christian and church life. Simply put, he put my heart into words. If you’ve read any of my books you will see a fair bit of Jerry bleeding through into my thinking. I have given away hundreds of copies of this book since it first came out over twenty years ago.

Corporate Lifecycles (Ichak Adizes)
How and why corporations grow and die and what you can do about it. Adizes is a Santa Monica-based change management consultant that has written the ultimate book on organizations that are seeking to make their way through cycles of growth without killing themselves or the organization in the process. As I read this book at several points Adizes so accurately describes me and the organization I lead it is almost scary. This is mandatory reading for our uppermost level pastors at VCC. Any leader in a rapidly growing organization ought to run not walk to the nearest bookstore and begin to read this one.

At the writing of this (January, 1999) this book is temporarily out of print and about to be re-released in an updated form. You may still be able to order it or purchase it through Amazon.

The E Myth (Michael Gerber)
Michael Gerber has studied the concept of entrepreneurs for several decades (thus the “E” in the title). He has found that there is no shortage of good ideas for starting businesses, but it is a fact that over 90% of all businesses will fail in their first five years of existence. The primary reason for this failure is the inability of the entrepreneur to reproduce himself or the quality of product that got him or her started in the first place. He explores how one can reproduce oneself and one’s product over and over and over with consistent quality.

Jesus CEO (Laurie Beth Jones)
What would business look like if Jesus were in charge of a company? No doubt it would be successful, but what would he do differently than business being run in the same ‘ol same ‘ol way that it’s always been done? Jones does a great job of capturing the leadership secrets of Jesus as portrayed in the gospel accounts of his dealings with people in various settings. I have used this book at a basis for one-to-one get togethers with business leaders in the church I lead and found it a great tool.

Built to Last (Collins and Porras)
What is the difference between great and lasting and ever-improving companies and just good companies? That’s the question Collins and Porras set out to answer several years ago. They discovered there are numbers of perspective differences between the great ones and the also-rans of the corporate world. I found virtually all of the concepts present in this book to be pertinent to my leadership in the church. This would be a great book for a board of directors or elders to read through together if they hope to build an enduring church in the 21st century.

Great Divorce (CS Lewis)
I’ve read a lot of Lewis, but this is his best. This allegory of the afterlife has endured as a best seller for decades because it deals with the ultimate question of all mankind – what happens after I die. In true Lewis fashion he takes the reader on a bus ride to both heaven and hell and concludes that people pretty much get what they want when they die. (Hope I didn’t ruin it for you…)

The Jesus I Never Knew (Phillip Yancey)
One of my mottoes is, “If Phillip Yancey wrote it, I’m going to read it.” He is without a doubt the best Christian author alive today. In this candid treatment of his Christian background he admits to being brought up and following a form of Christianity that was more American and more Southern than it was biblical. That’s a problem for all of us because we are human and we are wired to think in certain ways that are inherited from our culture or families. If you are convinced as I am, that your brand of Christianity isn’t the perfect expression of God’s heart, then you will find good fellowship indirectly with Yancey in this one.

Connecting (Clinton and Davis)
Reproducing disciples isn’t a priority of the church, it is THE priority of any successful life, church or ministry. A number of books on mentoring have come out over the past few years and I have read most of them. In my opinion this is the best. When I first read it I was in my late thirties and still feeling like a novice as a pastor. By the time I finished reading it I had begun to pray and look for my replacement in ministry, even though I don’t plan to retire for many years yet.

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