By Rich Villodas
My pastor approaches every text she preaches out of by asking, “What is the trouble here?” and then “What is the grace?”
Rich Villodas, pastor of a large and diverse church in New York City, constructs his new book similarly. The “trouble” is clear—we live in a sinful world of trauma, racism, and unhealthy conflict. Wounded people wound others, and we pine for goodness, kindness, and beauty.
But there is also grace. “We have to rediscover the truth that wholeness, healing, and love are found in the ancient path of Jesus,” he writes.
Villodas shows readers how to engage in contemplative prayer and healthy conflict, forgiveness and justice. He lays out how to cultivate humility and a calm presence, dismantling the false self that clings to us like barnacles.
I adored this book, my favorite nonfiction read of 2022. Villodas is a winsome, relatable writer, and his stories will linger with me for years. But most importantly, I loved how this book gave me a new vision for a way of being in this world, a more humble, healing, tender, and abiding way. As the back-cover copy of the book says, “This isn’t the kind of book you read as much as the kind that reads—and transforms—you.” (Waterbrook)
By Katelyn Beaty
Award-winning journalist and Calvin grad Katelyn Beaty explores the ways fame has reshaped the American church.
According to Beaty, a meticulous journalist, celebrity is woven into the fabric of the evangelical movement—and has been since the days of D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As Beaty points out, celebrity is “social power without proximity.”
“Christians have reached for the tool of celebrity and found that it isn’t really a tool at all,” she writes. “It has more power over the user than the user has over it.”
As helpful and healthy as it is to examine one’s interest in celebrity and the nature of fame itself, the most important insights come at the end of the book, when Beaty gracefully offers a vision of Christian life that looks very little like the celebrity culture she has so thoroughly evaluated. For the church and each reader, we are “better off abandoning the fixation on cultural credibility,” she writes. Instead, we can pursue day-to-day faithfulness and a return to “the small, the quiet, the uncool and the ordinary.” (Brazos Press)
By Karen Gonzalez
Karen Gonzalez’s first book, The God Who Sees, taught me so much about immigration, a topic close to my heart as the daughter of a father who was both a child refugee and immigrant during and after World War II.
I eagerly anticipated her next book, Beyond Welcome, which takes the conversation about immigration to the next level. In these pages, Gonzalez navigates deeper layers of the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico borderlands and issues pertaining to people who are on their way here or are already here. What is the North American church’s responsibility to these image bearers, many of whom are fleeing poverty and violence? And how can we place immigrants at the center of our response, not ourselves?
This book taught me that we must recognize ourselves in our immigrant neighbors, and “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” as the prophet Micah implores.
Every chapter ends with a prayer, and the book itself ends with an especially potent plea:
“We want justice, kinship, liberation, and belonging. Don’t let our hope falter in seeking this kin-dom. Let us see you in the face of our neighbors. Amen.” This is an empowering, informative, and humane book for anyone who cares about immigrants. (Brazos Press)
By John White
When IVP came out with their Signature Collection of classics from their archives, with new covers and introductions, I knew I wanted to read John White’s The Fight, which came out in 1976. John White was a customer in my dad’s bookstore, and my dad used to read his fantasy novels aloud to my brother and me.
The book sold over 300,000 copies in its day and influenced a generation as a guide to the basics of Christian living: faith, prayer, temptation, evangelism, guidance, Bible study, interpersonal relationships, and work.
As I read, I highlighted dozens of sentences—and marveled at White’s sage insights and exquisite writing. The Fight reads like a classic, and not just a classic from the 1970s but from farther back in time. Born in 1924, in England, White had a lyrical, timeless way of putting age-old truths into accessible language.
Overall, the book has aged beautifully, with a couple of exceptions where his views on the role of women and men, for example, seem a bit dated.
With study questions at the end of each chapter, The Fight is ideal for small groups, spiritual directors, and those who are discipling others in the faith. It serves as a primer for new Christians and a refresher course for seasoned believers. For almost 50 years, John White’s classic has bolstered and encouraged readers to fight the good fight. I closed the book grateful for the memories it stirred and even more so heartened and strengthened by its powerful teaching. (IVP)
By Osheta Moore
Dear White Peacemakers draws on the Sermon on the Mount, spirituals, and personal stories from author Osheta Moore’s work as a pastor in Minnesota.
Moore’s stories, gently and factually told, brought home for me the need to accept the invitation of the book’s title: Dear White Peacemakers. Moore is writing to white readers who want to be agents of peace and shalom, and she really does mean the “dear” part.
“This is a love letter first and foremost to my White siblings who want to be called in when you feel like you’ve only been called out for your fragility, your privilege, for your inability to fully understand,” she writes in the introduction. Being constantly called out causes walls to rise, but being called in feels more like a table than a wall. Moore’s kindness in this shift permeates these pages.
What sets this book apart from any other anti-racism book I have read is that Moore approaches her subject and challenges it with the assumption that every person, Black or white, is beloved.
She calls readers to own their belovedness, and from that place work toward becoming agents of shalom—nothing missing, nothing broken.
This book is for those who want to work toward wholeness and healing but feel like they don’t want to risk getting it “wrong” and embarrassing themselves. The focus here is being beloved. Sister Osheta is waving us over to the table, a “table set for White peacemakers curated by a Black peacemaker.” There we can sit and stay awhile, learning together to live into the truth of Ephesians 2:14: “He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” (Herald Press)