Christian Leader Essential’s Library.

Post Published on May 22, 2012.
Last Updated on April 28, 2016 by davemackey.


By Rembrandt.
By Rembrandt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At heart I am a curator – I love to know, to categorize, and to highlight. I love to understand and to assist others in understanding. To help folks find the best resources for whatever they are desiring – books, household products, software, services, music, recreation, movies.
I enjoy making things better…and while I may focus in specific areas, the underlying thread is always this desire to find and provide the best way forward – and, when necessary, to create such a way.
I’m very eclectic in my interests – I’m interested in (almost) everything. But there are certain areas of interest which are more core to the human condition – and I try to devote primary focus to these areas.
Especially close to my heart is the equipping of Christians for leadership. I work and have worked with a ton of great people – more than I can list here – and I am always looking to grow myself and see others grow.
I’ve begun assembling a Christian Leader Essential’s Library which I slowly give to folks who work with me in church ministry.1This is a subtle attempt to make folks stay with the ministry FOREVER, muhahaha. 😉 I’ve decided to share that library below and I’ll update it as I add or remove additional volumes to the essential’s library. I also welcome your suggestions…

New Living Translation Study Bible.

There are three basic types of Scripture translations I am aware of: (a) the literal/word-for-word translation, (b) the paraphrase, and (c) the dynamic/thought-for-thought translation. The NLT is of the last variety. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses…but if you hold a gun to my head and make me choose a translation to recommend – it is the NLT.
But this is also a “study bible” – which means it includes numerous articles, footnotes, cross-references, maps, and charts that help explain the Scriptures. I have been exceptionally impressed by the quality of the resources included with the NLT – and thus my recommendation of it here.

[We are talking an essentials library, but if you asked me for a few other translations worth reading I’d mention the New American Standard Bible (literal), English Standard Version (literal), King James Version (archaic/poetic English, literal), New Jerusalem Bible (Roman Catholic, literal), The Message (paraphrase), Amplified Bible, Wuest’s Expanded New Testament, J.B. Phillip’s New Testament, William Barclay’s New Testament, and the New English Translation (literal). There are few bible translations I don’t think are worth looking at…each represents the best efforts of individuals to communicate ancient concepts and words in modern language.]

Streams of Mercy.

God used this book to change my life significantly. Rutland writes with power, clarity, and simplicity about God’s grace and urges us to see how receiving grace is the best way to reflect grace.

[For those considering alternative recommendations…I have already read Jacobsen’s He Loves Me! and Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace. Both excellent.]

Celebration of Discipline.

Richard Foster is the grandfather of the contemporary spiritual formation movement, and his book Celebration of Discipline is a classic on the topic. He discusses the inward disciplines (meditation, prayer, fasting, study), outward disciplines (simplicity, solitude, submission, and service), and the corporate disciplines (confession, worship, guidance, and celebration).

[Other works such as Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God and Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ have a much longer legacy behind them, but Foster provides an excellent overview of the disciplines.]

Co-Dependence: Misunderstood–Mistreated

Anne Wilson Schaef isn’t a Christian, so what is one of her books doing in a Christian Leader Essential’s Library? Quite simply, Schaef provides the most concise yet hard-hitting book I have ever read describing the nature of our sinfulness. Wilson doesn’t use words like sin – but anyone who seriously reads this book will find themselves devastated by how deep sin reigns within their hearts. This is a must read to save us from our judgmental, holier-than-thou attitudes and throw us entirely upon the grace of God.

[For that sort of painful yet healing surgical tool of self-examination, close runners up included Les Carter’s Imperative People, Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker, and Larry Crabb’s Inside Out]

How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth.

Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart provide a concise, robust introduction to understanding the Scriptures. If you struggle to understand the Scriptures – this book will help. While it is an easy read it isn’t a simplistic read – you’ll find plenty of meat to chew on in these pages.

[Howard Hendrick’s Living By the Book is an easier read, but I found less satisfying. Traina’s Methodical Bible Study I found painfully dry.]

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.

Dr. Richard Swenson’s book is a must-read. Swenson writes from a Christian perspective about the necessity of time management. He provides an underlying biblical, philosophical, biological, and technological rationale for proper time management that ensures margin. If you are in leadership – you need to read this book.

[One could also read David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) which is quite helpful with time/project management. But Dr. Swenson provides a foundation of understanding which will foster an interest in further studies on this topic, ala GTD, etc.]

Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ.

Neil T. Anderson offers a robust volume on truth from a Scriptural perspective. You’ll feel encouraged and challenged as he pours Scripture after Scripture down your throat to help you understand who God is and who we are.

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

John Maxwell is well known within Christian circles as a trusted thinker on leadership. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read enough books on leadership – but this is the best I’ve found thus far.

Daily Study Bible.

William Barclay considered himself a liberal evangelical – many evangelicals would disagree (that he was evangelical at all). Whatever the case may be, God saw fit to use him to write some magnificent and readable commentaries on the New Testament. I recommend picking up the whole set – but to read at least one or two volumes. Learn from Dr. Barclay the ways of expounding the Word that are understandable and applicable.

[I’ve read numerous other commentaries – or portions thereof – and never found anything to compare with Barclay’s commentaries for combination of brevity, depth, and applicability. Amongst other commentaries that are worthwhile I would note the New American Commentary series, Bob Utley’s commentaries (available free online), Thomas Constable’s commentaries (also available free online), and Albert Barner’s commentaries (an older evangelical with lots of application thrown in).]

Creating a Healthier Church: Family Systems Theory, Leadership, and Congregational Life.

Ready for your entire understanding of how relationships work and why people are difficult to be turned upside down? Ready to understand more deeply how to lead folks through conflict successfully? This is the book to read. It uses family systems theory to explain relationships within the church.

[I’m a little underwhelmed by the end of the book – namely the chapter on birth order…but the rest of the book is simply amazing.]

Diary of an Old Soul:

George MacDonald lost two adult children in a single year and then composed this slim volume. It consists of short poems – one for each day of the year – written as a dialogue of prayer with God as MacDonald struggled to continue on in the face of his grief. Powerful.

Elective: Mental Health:

We are all broken people – but the church attracts (or at least it should) the most broken of people. The ignorance regarding mental health issues within the church is very dangerous and hurtful. It is dangerous b/c it allows some individuals with mental issues to become praised for performing their illness and it is painful b/c it oftentimes criticizes the suffering.
The exact book that is read is not as important as reading and understanding the nature of mental illness and its treatment. Any of the following volumes are excellent:

Dedicated To:

All those who have served with me as Nomads leaders – in the past, to the present, and those who will come in the future:
Charity Mackey, Christopher Spatz, Sabrina Spatz, Patrick Spatz, Jordan Evans, Lisa Evans, Jane Dodge, Rachel Spalding, Amanda Ruschok, Katie Burt, James Young, Laura Young, Cayla Belser, Taylor Belser, Kyle Landiak, and Chanyung Woo.
[Did I miss anyone? Forgive me if I did!]

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