In response to last week’s post on the top 40 books for understanding missional theology and praxis I have received several requests for a shorter list. As with the earlier list, these are only my suggestions, but if I could recommend only ten books to have someone read to get the best synopsis of the missional conversation, and know how to live out missionality as a Jesus follower and a faith community, I would start with these ten books for a missional library:
Foolishness to the Greeks by Lesslie Newbigin
Newbigin was a missionary in India for nearly 40 years and upon his return to England analysed modern Western culture from the perspective of a missionary outsider. He applied the same discernment involved in contextualizing the gospel in another culture to the issues involved in contextualizing the gospel in Western culture. It is an extraordinary book on contemporary missiology.
Transforming Mission by David Bosch
Bosch's Transforming Mission is widely recognized as an historic and masterful contribution to the study of mission. Examining the entire sweep of Christian tradition, he shows how five paradigms have historically encapsulated the Christian understanding of mission and then outlines the characteristics of what he calls an "emerging postmodern paradigm of mission."
Missional Church edited by Darrell Guder
What would a theology of the Church look like that took seriously the fact that North America is now itself a mission field? This question lies at the foundation of this book written by a team of six missiologists—Lois Barrett, Inagrace T. Dietterich, Darrell Guder, George Hunsberger, Alan Roxburgh, and Craig Van Gelder. It is the result of a three-year research project undertaken by The Gospel and Our Culture Network. The book issues a challenge for the church to recover its missional call in North America. The authors examine North America’s secular culture and the church’s loss of dominance in today’s society. They then present a biblically based theology that takes seriously the church’s missional vocation and draw out the consequences of this theology for the structure and institutions of the church.
Confident Witness – Changing World edited by Craig Van Gelder
How do we make the gospel clear and the church relevant to the changing culture in North America? Confident Witness – Changing World offers a balanced mix of essays from more than twenty theologians and ministry practitioners calling the American church toward a more missional identity in Post-Christian America.
The Shaping of Things to Come by Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch
Shaping was probably the most seminal book in my own personal journey. The book gave me both the language and license to live out a missionary lifestyle. It explores why the church needs to recalibrate itself towards a missional-incarnational posture in light of the unique challenges the church faces in the twenty-first century.
The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch
In this book Alan proposes the concept of Apostolic Genius as a way to understand what caused the church to experience exponential growth and impact at various times in history, interpreting it for use in our own time and place. Apostolic Genius includes the following six elements: Jesus is Lord, Discople Making, Missional-Incarnational Impulse, Apostolic Environments, Organic Systems, and Communitas. It is a masterful work of rediscovering a New Testament, missional ecclesiology.
Incarnate by Mike Frost
While Incarnate has just recently been released it doesn't take long to recongize the importance of the ideas presented in Mike's latest book. Over the past decade the missional conversation has included the topic of incarnational mission, but so much of contemporary Christian culture is rooted not in incarnation but in escape—escape from the earth to heaven, escape from the suffering of this world, escape even from one another. Christianity is increasingly understood as something personal, conceptual, interior, private, neighborless. If Jesus was God incarnate, the church is in danger of being excarnate. Mike helps the church understand what it is up against when engaging incarnationally, by exposing the gap between the faith we profess and the faith we practice.
The Sky Is Falling by Alan Roxburgh
In this book Roxburgh proposes a new way of imagining a common life together as the pilgrim people of God seeking to fulfill God's purposes for the world in our time. If we need new kinds of churches, we cannot develop them with old kinds of leaders. We ourselves need to become those new kinds of leaders, even as we all look to the next generations to help them be formed in new apprenticeships in the kinds of skills this book describes.
The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
Hugh and Matt do a great job sharing the story of Addullam as the church was birth out of doing life with those around them. The book offers theological answers and real-life stories that demonstrate how the best ancient church practices can re-emerge in today's culture, through any church of any size. They outline a simple, innovative model for creating grass-roots faith communities.
The Missional Quest by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco
Now I realize this selection seems a bit self-serving (although it is my blog 😉 but Lance and I worked hard to take much of what we have learned from the authors mentioned above and create a straightfoward, practical guide for transitioning an existing congregation in a missional direction. We discuss the importance of starting with the "why" before moving to the "how." We then spend eight chapters talking about key practices to help cultivate missionary formation in the lives of every member.