Bonhoeffer Books for Young Leaders

The saying goes something like this: The one who leads, reads. And the one who reads, leads. Something like that at least. I think its profoundly true. I don’t read as much as I want to, and my leadership isn’t what it could be for lack of it.

There are a lot of books that I’ve read and plan to read that are important books for Christian leaders to read. But there are two in particular, that I think young leaders need to read, especially. Both are by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


1) The Cost of Discipleship






  2) Life Together




[1] This is the edition I read while in college. A more accurate edition is available: D. Bonhoeffer, ed. Discipleship, ed. G.B. Kelly (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003).

I am convinced…

I’m convinced being generous is a better way to live.

I’m convinced forgiving people and not carrying around bitterness is a better way to live.

I’m convinced having compassion is a better way to live.

I’m convinced pursuing peace in every situation is a better way to live.

I’m convinced listening to the wisdom of others is a better way to live.

I’m convinced being honest with people is a better way to live.

This way of thinking isn’t weird or strange; it is simply acknowledging that everybody follows somebody, and I’m trying to follow Jesus.

—Rob Bell, in Velvet Elvis


Lectio Divina

[below is a bulletin article I wrote for the stc church one summer, while I was working with an intern. You may be familiar with the practice, but if you are not, I pray this is helpful & transformational for you.]

// Spiritual Reading //

We have all had those moments, or those days, or those extended period of time when our reading of Scripture is not what it needs to be. It’s dry and stale. There’s nothing new or life-changing in it. We just rehash what we have known for years, and so we come away from our time reading Scripture no different than when we . But what could we expect? We know the stories. We’ve memorized the verses. We have pages and pages of notes. But still, we come away from our study not having been changed or challenged. It becomes routine, ordinary….dare we say boring?

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Scripture can and will bring us life and energy as it leads us into deeper relationship with each other and with God. But we have to do more than just read it. We can’t just approach it as a reference book, or a set of facts to be learned. If we want Scripture to change us, we have to allow it to feed, energize, and transform us.

I had the privilege of helping a friend prepare a workshop on reading Scripture in community with the goal of allowing it to be transformation, and I want to share some of that material. There is an ancient approach to the reading of Scripture that may bring new life to you time in the Word. It is most commonly known simply as spiritual reading, or more formally lectio divina. There are four components of this approach—Read. Think. Pray. Live.

READ // Lectio

First of all—we must read the text. Read it slowly. Read it quickly. Read it over and over again. Read it in multiple translations. Savor the metaphors, the similes, all the literary devices and poetic beauty.

THINK // Meditatio

After reading the text, it is absolutely necessary that we meditate and think on the words of God. This meditation moves us beyond looking at the words of the text and entering the world Scripture paints for us. The Psalmist’s words become our words:

I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.            Psalm 119v15-16


PRAY // Oratio

In our reading of Scripture, we enter a conversation with God, and we must take what we’ve read and thought about to him. We do this with an eye toward the final step of this ancient practice.

LIVE // Contemplatio

The goal of reading Scripture is not knowledge. Knowledge is important….but the real goal is to walk in obedience. We read the text, take in all its beauty, meditate on it and pray about it so that we can live it.



This information was taken largely from Eugene Peterson’s book “Eat this Book” (2006)

Josh Graves has written a book based off of Peterson’s premise. It’s very engaging. “The Feast”

Tony Jones has a book on this same topic, but Peterson handles it more ably. “Divine Intervention”

Patrick Keifert has helped to write a handbook on a related reading practice called dwelling in the word. I have been introduced to the practice of dwelling in the word through my graduate work. It is a communal process that has been nothing short of transformational for me. I haven’t read the book, but my hunch is it will be very good as an introduction to dwelling. “Dwelling in the Word”


Volf: Solidarity in Sin & Salvation

“Solidarity in sin underscores that no salvation can be expected from an approach that rests fundamentally on the moral assignment of blame and innocence. The question cannot be how to locate “innocence” either on the intellectual or social map and work our way toward it. Rather, the question is how to live with integrity and bring healing to a world of inescapable noninnocence that often parades as its opposite. The answer: in the name of the one truly innocent victim and what he stood for, the crucified Messiah of God, we should demask as inescapably sinful the world constructed around exclusive moral polarities-here, on our side, “the just,” “the pure,” “the innocent,” “the true,” “the good,” and there, on the otherside, “the unjust,” “the corrupt,” “the guilty,” “the liars,” “the evil”-and then seek to transform the world in which justice and injustice, goodness and evil, innocence and guilt, purity and corruption, truth and deception crisscross and intersect, guided by the recognition that the economy of undeserved grace has primacy over the economy of moral deserts. Under the conditions of pervasive noninnocence, the work of reconciliation should proceed under the assumption that, though the behavior of a person may be judged as deplorable, even demonic, no one should ever be excluded from the will to embrace, because, at the deepest level, the relationship to others does not rest on their moral performance and therefore cannot be undone by the lack of it.”

Miroslav Volf. Exclusion and Embrace (pp. 84-85)

An Incomplete List of Helpful Books

Here are some books that have helped form me, inspire me, or change my thinking. It is by no means comprehensive, and it is certainly not up-to-date. I’ll figure how I want to handle books as resources. There can be no underestimating the usefulness and power of a good (or even bad) book. Of course, all the reading and learning aren’t worth anything outside of an experience with the living God that creates a living word in you.

[Minister’s Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with everything in all of these books, and I don’t necessarily recommend this to every reader.]


These are some books I read while in undergrad, that were really in my pursuit of God. These are mostly in the order that I read them.

The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne

Mere Discipleship, Lee Camp

Reading Paul, Michael Gorman

Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer

Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson

The Feast, Josh Graves

The New Testament and the People of God, N.T. Wright


Grad School

These are just a few books from my first semester of grad school that were stellar. This needs updated in a big way!

The Cross in Our Context, Douglass John Hall

Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright

The Imago Dei and the Cross

I will be leading some high school students in a discussion of the relationship between the Imago Dei and de-humanization through violence, in a frame work of a theology of the cross. Here are two articles that I’ve found immensely helpful:

The Irreducible Image: Finding the Imago Dei in the Aftermath of Genocide via [download PDF]

The Theology of the Cross: A Usable Past via [download pdf]

Douglass Hall on Relentless Discipleship

Discipleship of the crucified Christ is characterized by a faith that drives its adherents into the world with a relentlessness and a daring they could not manage on the basis of human volition alone.[1]

[1] Douglass John Hall, The Cross in Our Context. pg 183