January 4, 2016

Required Fiction for Honest Christians

We will never improve if we are unwilling to be self-critical. The darkest moments in church history are the result of missional efforts that were ignited by a good-willed missionary impulse but tainted by a complete inability to be self-critical, aware of one's cultural biases and norms. This doesn't mean that this impulse throughout church history is itself wrong. No, it simply means that we need to distinguish between unity and uniformity, be self-aware, listen before we speak, accept that we will make errors–failure is inevitable, practice reconciliation and learn to adapt our methods to the context around us.

What got me thinking about all of this was that over our kids' winter break I read Mary Doria Russell's novel The Sparrow. Last year I shared an unconventional list of books I thought every Christian leader should read. I'd have to add Russell's novel to an unconventional list of fiction that every honest Christian should read. Three other novels every Christian leader should read are Silence by Shusaku Endo, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos.

There are tons of books that offer tactical and theological insight for those leading faith communities. Most of us tend to be drawn to such books that reflect our theological instincts. These novels will make a Christian of any theological persuasion uncomfortable. You're forced to address the human flaws that inevitably arise due to the missional impulse. Are the resultant mishaps due to a terrible God or human frailty? If one wants to be honest about their work than such literature ought to be absorbed and reflected on.

What books would you add to this list?

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