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Rethink Church recommended reading list

We asked our Rethink Church community what books have inspired them in their spiritual journeys. Below are 10 of the most shared responses. These books provide theological thoughts, inspiring stories, and deep questions for reflection. BTW, you can join our Rethink Church community group on Facebook, too!

The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness by Gregory Boyle

What it’s about: In short, the amazing ways in which God’s unifying love shows up in the midst of some of the most unsettling or heartbreaking situations. Fr. Gregory Boyle founded Homeboy Industries–a rehabilitation and re-entry program focusing on bringing healing to Los Angeles gang members. This is the third book in which Fr. Boyle recounts stories collected from Homeboy. 

Readers share the story of Saul, who as a teen killed his stepfather in an act of self defense. We learn about Abel, who comes to work alongside the young man who put him in a coma years before. In all cases, we see how healing sets us all free.

Why you should read The Whole Language: Fr. Boyle never seems to run out of patience or hope. If he can keep plugging away at this work after decades without losing faith that God’s grace is in fact winning, then we can be inspired to hold that faith too. And nothing is more convincing than hearing the actual stories of God’s love winning out over poverty, oppression, generational separation and harm.

A quote to consider: "Restorative justice is also justice and not a vindication. It is about healing and alleviating pain. Not about vengeance. We need to seek only repair."

BONUS: We got to talk with Gregory Boyle on the Compass podcast. Catch some of his inspiring hope here.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World by John Mark Comer

What it’s about: Feeling hurried affects our relationships, our health and our ability to tune into spiritual connections. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry identifies the causes of our feelings of being hurried and provides ideas and tips for slowing down and embracing a contemplative approach to life. It’s about living with more intention, focus and peace.

Why you should read The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: Feeling a bit anxious, unsettled or hurried? Here are the tools for disrupting those feelings. Plus, the book provides justification for taking a break and taking notice of what’s happening in the moment. Want permission to relax a bit? Here it is… complete with spiritual justification.

A quote to consider: “Here’s my point: the solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.”

We Are Called to Be a Movement by William J. Barber II

What it’s about: This is a call to action. Rev. Barber paints a picture of how people of faith can respond to the ongoing threats of racism, poverty and ecological devastation. The book is a spiritual thesis on the role of faith in creating social change.

Why you should read We Are Called to Be a Movement: It’s incredibly inspiring and quite short. The book was actually a sermon.  It delivers passion and clarity while pointing towards a biblical foundation for responding to today’s societal threats. It’s a roadmap for advancing the kin-dom of God.

A quote to consider: "Truth is, whenever the ones who've been rejected have come together down through history and stood together to lead us, justice has never lost. Now, I didn't say justice has never been fought and justice hasn't been beaten up. But justice has never lost."

Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence by Diana Butler Bass

What it’s about: Bass is a religious historian who gives us a historical lens through which we peer at Jesus’ teachings. In so doing, we encounter some profound lessons on love and compassion. The point is that our understanding of Jesus often arises out of our experiences. Bass gets personal as well as historical, sharing how she has come into different aspects of Jesus through her own spiritual journey.

Why you should read Freeing Jesus: Curious as to how perceptions and declarations of Jesus have changed through time? Longing to know a little bit more about the person we profess to be Lord? Freeing Jesus offers some interesting perspectives.

A quote to consider: “My story can never be your story (that is called colonization—something I hope we are leaving behind). But my story might inform yours, or be like yours, or maybe even add depth or another dimension to yours.”

Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science by Mike McHargue

What it’s about: Mike McHargue shares his story of losing faith as a young adult only to “re-discover” spirituality and a connection to God through scientific exploration and understanding. Through this story of Mike’s explorations, we get fascinating looks at what happens in our brains when we pray, how God’s imprint is displayed in the night sky and how faith impacts the human psyche.

Why you should read Finding God in the Waves: We all of have doubts. Mike McHargue’s story reminds us that, while unsettling, our doubts can lead us towards deeper understanding… and a deeper faith. And if you struggle to relate science with faith, this book provides hope.

A quote to consider: “The first thing a hurting person needs is to know they’re not alone. My path back to God was paved with grace by those who received my doubt in love.”

The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

What it’s about: The book makes the case that four agreements an individual makes with themselves can create personal freedom and a greater sense of contentment. The agreements are based on ancient Toltec wisdom. 

Why should you read The Four Agreements: The book isn’t explicitly Christian, but it does exemplify christian ideals of integrity and grace. If you feel trapped i a cycle of self-defeating habits or self-limiting beliefs, then the agreements help disrupt those cycles. They become an avenue for revealing our value and the value of others through God’s eyes.

A quote to consider: “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.”

Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the 12 Steps by Richard Rohr

What it’s about: We may be familiar with the 12 steps as a means for addiction recovery and healing. Richard Rohr points out that they are also principles that can be applied by anyone seeking a deeper understanding and to advance a personal spiritual journey. The book is an invitation to transcend addiction to self-will and find an alignment to a higher will, offering healing and inner peace.

Why you should read Breathing Underwater: Each of us has something to deal with. We often assume the 12 steps apply to those experiencing chemical addiction. But Rohr applies the steps to other “hang-ups” in life, and through that reveals the way we can invite healing in and begin to envision a brighter future.

A quote to consider: “God does not love us if we change, God loves us so that we can change.”

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

What it’s about: Isn’t God present in dark times as well as light? The dark night of the soul is not just a negative experience; it is an opportunity for spiritual growth and a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. Barbara Brown Taylor shares from her own experiences, from the experiences of faith leaders of the past, and from biblical stories to show how the moments of wandering in the proverbial dark lead to meaning and purpose.

Why you should read Learning to Walk in the Dark: The dark may not be comfortable, but it need not be terrifying. For those who feel a bit in the dark, this book offers comfort and hope. 

A quote to consider: “There is a light that shines in the darkness, which is only visible there.”

Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living by Rueben P. Job

What it’s about: The Methodists of old had three general rules by which they were to guide their lives: Do no harm. Do good. Attend to the ordinances of God. Reuben Job has updated these rules a bit and clarified their applications for today.

Why you should read Three Simple Rules: It’s short. It’s inspiring. And it’s highly practical.

A quote to consider: “But taking appropriate care of self and living selflessly are not opposites. Rather they are each essential elements of a healthy and productive life.” 

Emotionally Healthy Discipleship: Moving from Shallow Christianity to Deep Transformation by Peter Scazzero

What it’s about: It’s about the importance of emotional health–something that has often been ignored in Christian formation. Scazzero notes that we have historically had a tendency to make faith development about cognitive understanding and behavioral change: believing the right things and doing the right things. But caring for our emotional health invites us into deeper spiritual intimacy and allows us to mature in faith.

Why you should read Emotionally Healthy Discipleship: Do you know how to be emotionally healthy? It sounds a bit opaque and quite complex. Scazzero breaks it down into seven points or marks, then provides action steps to move towards emotional healing and care.

A quote to consider: "While I was disciplined in spiritual practices, the people closest to me (starting with my wife, Geri) did not experience me as more loving with each passing year."

Want more inspiring and transformative books to read? The Compass podcast regularly speaks with fresh authors. Subscribe now to make sure you don't miss one.

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