OK, folks, here are some books I've recently read -- or recently FINISHED reading. Some were from last week's trip back to Iowa. Others were finished earlier this month.
The Starbucks Experience, by Joseph A. Michelli
Offered some interesting perspectives on how Starbucks' corporate values could be translated into other organizations. Author is definitely a Starbucks fan, perhaps to a fault. But still had good ideas about why Starbucks is a valued "third place" in our culture. Lotta ideas that could be applied in church settings, especially for front-line ministries like greeters, ushers, grounds, etc.
The Gospel According to Starbucks, by Leonard Sweet
Takes the idea of Starbucks' popularity and appeal, and finds some spiritual application. Sweet focuses around the EPIC concept: that Starbucks is experiential, participatory, image-rich and connecting. Sweet isn't a gushy fan of S'bucks in the way Michelli is, but he recognizes the social and cultural impact the corporation has, and he makes a good argument for how Christians can live EPIC lives. Seems like a great book for small groups, or for front-line ministries.
Second-Guessing God, by Brian Jones
Wasn't sure how good this would be when I bought it, but I read it in a span of just about 3 days. Jones tackles some intense topics that Christians face. He doesn't shy away from addressing the challenges -- things like feeling distant from God and wonder where He is and what He's doing -- but he also doesn't offer cheap, simple, easy answers. Wrestling with these issues is part of the Christian experience.
The Rock That is Higher, by Madeleine L'Engle
Great book. Not sure if I agree on every theological tenet L'Engle holds, but she's a superb writer with mature spiritual insight. The book follows her path as she recovers from a car crash back in the 1990s, and she offers her unique brand of wisdom along the way. No easy answers about what comes our way in life, but she's a good companion for the journey.
Preaching Re-Imagined, by Doug Pagitt
Wow, this book has challenged me more than almost any book I've read in the last year. Pagitt makes a rather strong case that our approach to preaching isn't really consistent with how the earliest Christian circles understood or practiced it. He makes the case for "progressional preaching," which uses the experiences, insights and understandings of the WHOLE congregational community -- not just the pastor/preacher -- to create and present sermons that are more than just memorable or cute or funny. He talks about finding ways to interact with the body of believers and battling the image that a pastor/preacher has all the answers to people's challenges. I found myself doing a LOT of thinking in recent days. Not sure if I have any real, solid, strong answers yet, but I'm thinking and praying and wondering how this whole notion could apply to our youth ministry here, and our whole church ministry.
The Three Hardest Words (in the World to Get Right), by Leonard Sweet
We're doing a Love/Relationship/Sex/Dating series all month with our youth, so I've spent time reading through love-focused books. Sweet's book proved a fast read for me: two airplane flights on Saturday. He breaks down the words "I" "love" and "you" to discover how Christ-followers need to receive a new identity, new integrity and new intimacy. Good February read!