Five More Books I'm Looking Forward To: Leadership, Vocation, Global Poverty, Theological Education, Willpower

Going through my inbox, here are 5 more books I’ve just bought or been sent that I’m looking forward to:

1.Fast Living: How the Church Will End Extreme Poverty

I believe along with Scott Todd that we can end extreme poverty in our generation. Further, I think there is firm biblical basis in Deuteronomy 15 and 2 Corinthians 8-9 that we especially ought to seek to do so in the church, and can do so. Sometime I hope to write on that.

Until then, I love the way Edwards put it: “There ought to be none suffered to live in pinching want, among the visible people of God, except in cases of prodigality or laziness or some other case which the word of God excepts.” Amen.

We need to take that seriously.

2. Theological Education Underground (1937 – 1940): The Works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Volume 15

This is a collection of Bonhoeffer’s letters and papers as he was struggling with how to uphold a forthright Christian witness against Nazi totalitarianism and maintain his theological education activities illegally underground after being banned from preaching and teaching by the Gestapo in 1937.

This book is not only of interest in itself, but ties to Scott Todd’s book that I mentioned above: it is not enough to seek to end extreme poverty. There is also a massive need for theological education in the developing world. Theological education is essential in itself, and is also a critical and unexpected means to overcoming poverty. I talk about this a bit in my book, though I think I will have to cut it out due to space (and publish it in a different book). Suffice it to say, I’m very interested in learning about how to serve the cause of theological education in the developing world, and am interested in learning about how to innovate the model to work more effectively in the hardest to reach places. I hope that Bonhoeffer’s book helps.

3. Teach the Bible to Change Lives. Continuing the subject of theological education, I’m looking forward to this book by Glenn Brooke as well.

4. The Shaping of an Effective Leader: Eight Formative Principles of Leadership

I’ll be reviewing this one for The Gospel Coalition. It has received good reviews so far, and I like that the first chapter is about the importance of character to leadership. I make the same point about productivity in my book except, of course, in relation to personal effectiveness and productivity. For too long the personality ethic of (mere) image and technique has dominated; we need to restore the character ethic.

5. Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good

I saw Amy present on her book at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society this year and enjoyed it. I’m especially interested in this book because of its tie to the doctrine of vocation.

6. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Though the message of this book is hopeful, I find it depressing (at least initially) because he points out that willpower is an exhaustible resource. In what became one of the most cited papers in social science literature, one of the authors argued that willpower has a physical dimension and operates like a muscle which can be strengthened with practice but fatigued by overuse. That paper became the foundation of this book. The later part of that summary is the bad news — your willpower can be depleted. But the good news is that we can build our willpower and creatively overcome some of the seemingly built-in limitations. The authors talk about scientifically demonstrated ways to do this.

I think willpower is an important subject. The verdict is out in my mind, however, as to whether will power is the same thing as self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. I don’t deny that there are physical components to the fruit of the Spirit — for example, if you get more sleep, you are likely to be more joyful, patient, and of course self-controlled. But at the essence of any fruit of the Spirit is that you are able to maintain it even under the worst conditions — no sleep, annoying opposition, terrible circumstances. So while willpower is certainly a virtue and highly useful, I am not sure that it is the same as what the Bible at least is referring to in Galatians 5 when is speaks of “self-control” (though there would doubtless be overlap).

I ended up adding another book in the middle of the post, so looks like it actually adds up to six. I hope to get to these soon, though it will probably take me longer to get to some rather than others.

I mentioned the ties between the first three books. You’ll notice there is also a tie with the next three as well, for if we are going to do good for the world on a global scale and address pressing global problems like extreme poverty and the lack of theological education, we need to become effective leaders (book 4), have a robust doctrine of vocation (which book 5 relates to), and know how to management ourselves effectively (which book 6 relates to, though it certainly wouldn’t be the first book to read on issues of personal effectiveness).

  • Bo

    I just ordered Xealots by Gibbons and Toxic Charity by Lupton, both fit some of your reading categories….you may want to check them out as well….

    ‘Fast Living’ is shorter than I expected….

  • Matt

    Excellent. Will check those out.