I don't like being asked what Church denomination I'm affiliated with because I'm often not sure where to start. Afterall,
- I was raised in a Nigerian Church with ultra-religious traditional practices.
- In my teen years, I attended a Catholic Boarding School.
- In college, I served in leadership with the non-denominational Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
- Post-college, I pursued my Masters degree at a Christian and Missionary Alliance Seminary.
- Presently, I serve on staff as a teaching pastor at a Baptist Church.
- A few mentors and Godly friends whom I’ve given permission to speak into my life are of the Pentecostal persuasion.
So, when asked what denominational system of beliefs I adhere to, I pause. I take a deep breath and contemplate if I like the individual asking the question. If I don’t, or suspect ulterior motives in their questioning, I simply tell them I’m on Team-Jesus. But if I like the person asking and I know they’re willing to engage in an honest discussion, I tell them I’m a charismatic with a seatbelt on. Essentially, I believe in all the SOLAS and pretty much live and preach TULIP, but I'm also of the Biblical opinion that the Holy Spirit is actively at work in the Church today and still gives of Himself freely to those willing to ask.
Some people call that, being a Bapticostal. Fine. If it works for you, it works for me.
Through the years, however, certain books have been highly influential in shaping my thought life and deepening my love for God. Ten, to be specific. These 10 books have captured my imagination, transformed my way of thinking, and inspired practical approaches to ministry. They’ve also helped me find a healthy balance between the celebratory/charismatic aspects of my faith and the more serious and in-depth parts of my beliefs.
I pray you find them spiritually meaningful and hope they lift you to new heights in your pursuit and love for Jesus Christ. I've included a very brief summary of each book and the unique impact each has had on my life. They are in no particular order of awesomeness. Just a heads up though, #9 will probably come as a shocker. (Don't judge me. I'm only human!)
SUMMARY: This book gives you the tools you need to develop a warrior’s mentality and passion in prayer. It also prepares you to stand your ground with authority, against the plans and spiritual scheming of your adversary, the Devil. ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: This book is perhaps the most practical and powerful book on prayer I’ve ever read. It challenged me to move beyond viewing prayer as simply a means of communicating with God (about stuff I need), to approaching it as warfare tool through which God's people accomplish God's plan on earth. It’s resulted in me having a more intentional prayer life and a more acute awareness of the spiritual battle taking place around me.
SUMMARY: This book challenges the seeker-sensitive, user-friendly, entertainment-oriented pragmatism that permeates the church today. ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: I read this book during a season in youth ministry (as a youth leader) when I was longing to see God do more than MY plans and programming were accomplishing. Through it, God birth a hunger in me for expository preaching. I haven't turned back since.
SUMMARY: This book is a powerful, sensual, and poetic exploration of four generations of a family mistakenly named, “Dead.” Told through the eyes of "Milkman," a rare male protagonist in Morrison's wonderful catalog of unforgettable characters. ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: One of the first books I read earlier in college. It painted a vivid picture of a black America I’d heard of, but never experienced. It also helped me understand a little deeper (and appreciate) the angst and exuberance of "Black Preaching" that takes place in African American Churches. The ending is a cliffhanger and will keep you mystified days after you put the book down.
SUMMARY: This book is a great counseling session for Christians who need to settle down, make choices, and do the hard work of seeing those choices through. ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: I read this book during a season of life when I was working with college students and twenty-somethings who were almost always waiting for a sign from God before they would act. This book was the answer to getting them moving! Personally, It was quite frankly a liberating approach to discerning God's will in my life without having to wait for dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, unctions, open doors, random Bible verses, liver-shovers, and writings in the sky (practices certain Churches had instilled in me).
SUMMARY: The plot of this fictional book revolves around David Shirazi, a young CIA operative of Persian descent, who is assigned to stop Iran from developing nuclear power. Action packed! ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: Current news headline indicate I will someday find myself engaging a muslim or two in a conversation about their Messiah. Though fictional, this book does an amazing job of laying down the theological groundwork (and fulfillment of some Old Testament prophecy) for how to speak to a muslim about the Islamic messiah known as the 12th imam.
SUMMARY: This is the story of the birth and growth of Seattle's innovative Mars Hill Church. It's also the story of the growth of a pastor, the mistakes he's made along the way, and God's grace and work in spite of those mistakes. ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: Yes. I am well aware of the trouble and trials Mark Driscoll and Mars Hills have been through. Regardless of the fact that I believe he is a changed man today [for the better], I read this book during a period when I had no idea where or what God was calling me into. Mark's love for lost people, his city, and for Jesus was a great example for me to follow from during that "wandering" season of my life. His no-nonsense approach to preaching the Gospel gave me much freedom in my approach to exegeting scripture and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead me in sermon prep time. I ended up in full time ministry, so obviously, the book worked!
SUMMARY: This book is more than a book on prayer. It reveals profound truths about the Church and her unique role in the kingdom of God. Its down-to-earth style and Biblical insights provide you a rare glimpse into the eternal plan of God, to provide a bride--a reigning companion--for His Son. ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: I know I said there was no ranking on this list, but that might not be entirely true because this book ranks somewhere near the top as the most transformational book I’ve EVER read. In it, Billheimer paints a picture of prayer I hadn’t previously considered. It helped transition my understanding and approach to prayer from systemic study to an intimate activity between God and I. Most importantly, it made me more bold in what I ask God for in prayer and how I go about asking. YOU. MUST. READ. THIS!
SUMMARY: This book is a fictional account of one man's dream-journey to heaven. There, his life is reviewed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and he gets to see the impact his life truly made. ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: Heaven was never more vivid than when I read this book. Forget angels on harps and eternal chorus-singing. This account paints a Biblically plausible picture of heaven as an actual physical city (with studded blings like WHAT!). Beyond its stunning beauty though, it was the first time that I understood that even followers of Jesus Christ will someday face judgment (not the awful one, more of an evaluation what-did-you-do-with-what-I-gave-you kind of evaluation). This book is one of the top 3 reasons I ended up in seminary. Nine years after first reading it, I adapted (and performed) it for a dramatic presentation.
SUMMARY: Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12–18 from each of the twelve districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle to the death. ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: NADA! I just really enjoyed the books and needed a spot on my blog to say so!
SUMMARY: The book is about the 12 disciples whose many weaknesses are forever preserved throughout the pages of the New Testament. Jesus chose these men - fisherman, tax collectors, political zealots - and turned their weakness into strength, producing greatness from utter uselessness. ITS BAPTICOSTAL IMPACT: I always assumed these 12 Spirit-filled men were were saints who had no flaws or weaknesses. Their story helped me envision the possibility of being used mightily by God. The thought that God could use a flawed man like Peter (flaws of which I share many) gave me great hope that if I were fully yielded to His Spirit, "greatest things than these" might be accomplished in and through my life.