10 books that shaped my faith

Sarah Bessey is posting 10 Books a Day for a week on various topics, and since she asked, I'm chiming in, but know that I am not much of a reader these daysThere are not nearly enough women on this list, and it clearly skews emergent, but is what it is, and I was who I was in my twenties when I read many of these.

I do love books, and I'll come around again. I'd love to hear what books wrecked, changed, and challenged you, too.

The Call to Conversion (Jim Wallis)
I read it on the DC metro the autumn the towers fell and the Pentagon burned. It was an early edition, lent to me by the director of the urban ministry where I'd just spent the summer. Although it was penned during the Reagan administration [it has been updated since 9/11], its timeliness was uncanny as I studied poverty and community change and navigated armed guards and terror threats. The country was racing to war, and I was converted: living out my faith meant a commitment to peacemaking and nonviolence.

Life Together (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
This tiny tome put to words much of what I experienced in Christian community at summer camp: confession, forgiveness, service, work. The necessity (and relatedness) of solitude and community. Finding unity. Spiritual discipline practiced together. So stinkin' good.

Fearless Faith: Living Beyond the Walls of Safe Christianity (John Fischer)
I read this as I worked as a youth pastor, and it resonantly deeply as I strove to equip my students to live out their faith in the world. It warns against '"safety" and subculture. He exhorts Christians to dig deep, make art, pursue excellence, love well, and live an integrated faith.

The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church (Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch)
This book blew me away. Both academic and practical, it transformed the way I looked at church and ministry. It dismantles the "if you build it, they will come" model of attractional program building and challenges Christians to go out and be the church in the world. Their take on Christianity in a post-Christendom world alone is worth the price of admission.

Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality (Rob Bell)
This is not a purity primer. It is a Big Picture book, and I was captivated by the story it painted, that sexuality is about wholeness, the putting back together of broken pieces. His vision is so much bigger than what happens in the bedroom, and it offers an especially affirming picture for celibate or hurting people. Its incarnational theology firmly counters gnostic heresies that devalue bodies or paint sexuality as dirty and affirms a God who is present in every aspect of creation.

A Generous Orthodoxy (Brian McLaren)
Transcending denominationalism and celebrating God at work among his people, this favorite affirms the diverse Body of Christ and Truth as Someone far bigger than anything one person or church could fully hold in hand or heart. It helped me to recognize unfamiliar denominations and other Christians as brother and sisters with gifts to bring to a common Table.

Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel (Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo)
I loved this one, too, and the way the authors took turns writing chapters and rebuttals was compelling. They peel back some of our cultural lenses and flesh out the context in which the gospels and scriptures were written. The chapter about the tremendous scope of salvation (far surpassing go-to-heaven-when-you-die) changed me.

Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time (Dorothy C. Bass)
This is a gorgeous book about a God who orders our days and calls us to faithfulness and rest. Its emphasis on sabbath and hospitality remain with me, and her celebration of the rhythms of liturgical year [also, Girl Meets God (Lauren Winner)] primed me to find a home much later in the Episcopal church.

My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers)
This was my first Serious Devotional. I read it in high school and most of college, and I still come back to it now and again. Weighty and meaty, it never failed to call me into deeper discipleship. It was written in 1935, and I didn't find a daily reader as worthy until I began reading Common Prayer (Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove, Okoro).

The Violence of Love (Oscar Romero)
This book is a collection of prophetic sermon excerpts from the radio addresses Romero gave during his three year tenure as archbishop of San Salvador. Romero truly preached with a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. His passion for justice, so rooted in Christ's work on the cross, shaped my faith and worldview considerably.


I'd love to know, which books shaped your Christian faith? 

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