Books for Pastors - List 3: 'Non' Essentials

Make sure you read the first post in this series for disclaimers and explanations and links to the full series.

This is a list of books that are not entirely focused on Christianity or religion in their topic matter (if at all) but are nonetheless very important for pastors to understand. Heads up, this will probably strike you as the strangest of all the lists I am posting. 

1. "Thinking in Systems: A Primer" by Donella H. Meadows. Systems theory is an incredibly rich, rewarding, and important area of study for a pastor to understand. The fact is that we are mired in systems and there is nothing we can do about it. Not only that, but lacking an understanding of the systems you work in will inevitably lead to frustration, especially when dealing with change. Ever wondered why the more you push, the more 'they' push back? Or why you meet resistance to change despite everyone agreeing that the change is necessary and good? Or why the more things you try to change the more things stay the same? Systems theory will help you understand. 

2. "Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue" by Edwin Friedman. This is very much related to the first book on this list but instead of being a primer on the theory of systems it is an applied text on how this works out in family processes. This book will open your eyes, guaranteed. You will read sections of it and be able to see those things happening all around you. 

3. "Philosophy and the Christian Faith" by Colin Brown. For many pastors Philosophy is a no-go subject. I am not advocating that all pastors be philosophers. However, I do believe that as a pastor you will be greatly helped by a rudimentary understanding of philosophy. This book will get you started. 

4. "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" by Malcolm Gladwell. Another book which will help you understand better what is going on in your congregation. Gladwell is a very good writer, making this a very enjoyable book. The subtitle basically tells you what the book is about and I have nothing to add. 

5. "Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity" by Charles Taylor. I really debated whether or not to put this book on any of these lists. It is probably the hardest and definitely the longest book I am going to recommend. But, if you can wade through this you will come away with a much deeper understanding of the culture you work in. 

Runner up for this position: "Philosophical Fragments" by Kierkegaard. Another very difficult book that is worth wading through. Christianity and philosophical idealism are truly and deeply incompatible, but idealism is a seductive and powerful force in our culture which easily seeps into our faith. Kierkegaard is a great aid in understanding this struggle. 

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