Today is National Read a Book Day, a day meant to encourage everyone to pick up a book they will enjoy and spend the day reading it. Here at Jesus' Economy, we're readers. You could even call us bookish. Our reading has become the research that supports much of what we do. For my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change, I assembled the following reading list, which I now recommend to you.

If you decide to buy any of these books, don't forget to support Jesus' Economy using AmazonSmile.

Reading List on Poverty, Missions, and Economic Development

While it’s often hard to quantify how ideas influence us and where these ideas eventually resurface, I know the following set of books greatly influenced my writing of Jesus’ Economy. It is the ideas of these authors that operate in the background of my writing.

It’s difficult to know if you will have the same epiphany moments I did when reading these works, but I hope that the combination of books listed here will cause you to think differently. I hope that in reading further on this topic, you will become a little wiser, a little cleverer, and more emotionally attuned to the needs of our world. I hope the writings of other authors will help you see more clearly how to live Jesus’ economy in all aspects of life.

The Short List of Books I Regularly Recommend

Seriously, You Have to Read This

The Bible. Pick a readable translation and get on a consistent reading plan where you regularly read the Bible in its entirety. Also, try a study Bible focused on the ancient context; it will help illuminate the text.

Knowing the Issues at Stake When Serving the Impoverished

Robert D. Lupton, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It). | In 2012, I wrote an article for Relevant Magazine on lessons from Toxic Charity, "How Should Christians Help the Poor."

Jacqueline Novogratz, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. | At the inception of Jesus' Economy, I dialogued with The Blue Sweater in a series of blog posts; see "What I Learned from Jaqueline Novogratz."

Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. | Near the beginning of Jesus' Economy, I also wrote a series of blog posts interacting with The End of Poverty; see "What I Learned from Jeffrey Sachs."

Understanding Local and Global Poverty Firsthand

Miriam Adeney, Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity.

Ron Hall and Denver Moore, with Lynn Vincent. Same Kind of Different as Me.

Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.

Tass Saada with Dean Merrill. Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life.

What It Means to Be Christian, Church Planting, and Living on Jesus’ Mission

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church.

Michael W. Goheen, Introducing Christian Mission Today: Scripture, History, and Issues

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Reggie McNeal, Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church.

Lesslie Newbigin, A Word in Season: Perspectives on Christian World Missions.

J. D. Payne, Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of Global Church Planting.

William Wilberforce, A Practical View of Christianity.

Other Books Well Worth Reading

If you finish that first reading list and want to go even deeper into this subject, here are other resources I consulted while writing Jesus’ Economy.

Perspectives on Poverty, Power, Culture, and Justice

Sunday Bobai Agang, When Evil Strikes: Faith and the Politics of Human Hostility. | Sunday Bobai Agang is a Board Member of Jesus' Economy and has written widely in this space.

Anne Bradley and Art Lindsley, eds., For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty.

Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself

William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. | I also wrote a series of blog posts dialoguing with this book; see "What I Learned from William Easterly."

Duane Elmer, Cross-Cultural Conflict: Building Relationships for Effective Ministry.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait.

Martin Luther King, Jr., The Measure of a Man. | For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I wrote an article with accompanying infographic on how Dr. King thought we should each measure our lives. See, "The Complete Life According to Martin Luther King, Jr."

Eng Hoe, Lim, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Revealing the Heart of God. | At one point, I reflected on a conversation I had with Eng Hoe, Lim about "Spiritual Issues Often Associated with Poverty."

Robert D. Lupton, Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor.

Michael Matheson Miller, dir., Poverty Cure. DVD.

Michael Matheson Miller, dir., Poverty, Inc. DVD.

Soong-Chan Rah, The Next Evangelicalism: Releasing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity.

E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible.

Perspectives on Missions

Harvie M. Conn and Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City, and the People of God.

Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society.

C. René Padilla, Mission Between the Times: Essays on the Kingdom.

Perspectives on Life Change, Balance, Calling, and Work

Leo Babauta, The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life. | See my review of The Power of Less on JohnDBarry.com, "Minimizing to Be More Effective."

Edward R. Dayton and Ted W. Engstrom, Strategy for Living: How to Make the Best Use of Your Time and Abilities. | I discuss the relevance of this book in an article on JohnDBarry.com, "Goals Are Often Selfish."

Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What.

Ryan J. Pemberton, Called: My Journey to C. S. Lewis’s House and Back Again. | Ryan Pemberton serves on the Board of Jesus' Economy. See my review of Called on JohnDBarry.com, "Calling Is Complex." You can also read an excerpt of Called on the Jesus' Economy Blog, "Faith as Beautiful as Fireworks: Calling, Atheism, and Oxford."

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

Hugh Whelchel, How Then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.

Perspectives on Entrepreneurship and Business

Scott Berkun, The Myths of Innovation. | On some of the ideas behind this book, see my article on JohnDBarry.com, "The Lightbulb Alone is Useless."

Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? | On some of Godin's ideas, see my article on JohnDBarry.com, "Here's the Truth."

Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. | On how the breakthrough of the Oakland A's applies to business, see my article on JohnDBarry.com, "Playing Business Like the Oakland A's."

Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.

Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers.

T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. | See my full book review of The First Tycoon at JohnDBarry.com, "Could You Be the Next Cornelius Vanderbilt?"

This recommended reading list was originally published in my book, Jesus' Economypages 172–175.

Call Me Bookish, But This is Why I Read

I once had a supervisor who said, "There are two ways to gain more experience: live longer and read." We read to expand our worldview, our experiences, and our mindset. We read because it helps us grow. We read because it helps us gain experience of the mind, accelerating the rate by which we become wiser.

 

Have you picked up your copy of Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change? With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

An economist named Jeffrey Sachs identifies four ways that family income per capita can increase—here are two of the four he mentions. The other two are in yesterday's post. This list is adapted from his book, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. The explanations are my own, based on his ideas.

1. “Technology”

When someone receives access to new technology, it can completely transform their life. Most of us have heard technology spoken about as disruptive: One of the advantages of disruptive technology is that it can disrupt the usual patterns of poverty.

We are all limited by our potential resources. When you change a person's level of access to resources, as technology does, you can increase their earning potential exponentially. What if you could take any business and plug it into new technology and ideas that worked? In the process of doing so, you would change the way that business functions for the better. Just like a farmer who learns a new, better method for farming crops can rapidly change their place in an economy, a shirt manufacturer connected to global ecommerce and other technology will have a more successful business.

This is part of the model of Jesus’ Economy—this is why we connect entrepreneurs to global ecommerce. By plugging them into our technology and marketing capability, we can unlock the potential of their business. In addition, part of our microloan process involves helping entrepreneurs get set up with technology to make their manufacturing process smoother. We can make it easier for them to produce more, faster. 

2. "Resource Boom”

A resource boom occurs when a major, ongoing problem plaguing the life of an entrepreneur is suddenly handled and under control. This often occurs at the regional level, as many of these problems involve disease spreading insects or the meeting of basic needs. Sachs uses farming to explain this:

"The farm household is able to move to a much larger and more fertile farm after the government's success in controlling the breeding of black flies, which spread African river blindness. Suddenly there are thousand of hectares of new farmland and a significant expansion of production capacity as a result. Incomes rise and huger falls as each household in the newly opened region is able to triple its previous food output."

Although Jesus' Economy is not the kind of organization that would be able to take on a problem like black flies, we are the type of organization who sees the necessity of meeting basic needs in the process of helping a region recover economically. We plan to fund this work; we don't do it ourselves. When basic needs are met, people are healthy, can work consistently, and have greater opportunity. What good are jobs without clean water?

In a very real and tangible way, we can bring economic hope to others. It doesn’t take much to get there. It’s just a matter of creativity and implementation. You can fund holistic regional transformation today. Donate to Jesus’ Economy regional transformation.

(This post is part one of two of “Ways Family Incomes Increase.” This post is also part of the “What I Learned from Jeffrey Sachs” blog series.)

An economist named Jeffrey Sachs identifies four ways that family income per capita can increase—here are two of the four he mentions. The next two will be in tomorrow’s post. This list is adapted from his book, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. The explanations are my own, based on his ideas.

1. “Saving”

When people save resources—whether it is money, goods, or livestock—rather than spend it all, they are given the economic freedom to invest. They’re also given an economic buffer against moving back into poverty. Once this savings is invested (at least in part) in something other than their primary business, they have the potential to have a greater yield the next year—they’re creating an additional income stream. That extra yield becomes a buffer against moving back into poverty and creates a larger investment pool, and thus potential larger earnings the following year. Sachs remarks, “In economic jargon, the saving has led to capital accumulation … which in turn has raised household productivity.”

It’s often overlooked that one of the primary problems of poverty is a lack of buffer to recover from basic economic pitfalls: any small dip can send someone in poverty deeper into poverty. Thus, people need a more sustainable source of income—one that can produce enough wealth in the beginning to invest in multiple streams of potential income and/or have savings. This is in many ways part of the model of Jesus’ Economy—this is why we connect entrepreneurs to global ecommerce and work with them directly to develop product for an international market.

2. "Trade”

When a person learns a new trade, especially when it involves learning a new way to use their current assets, they have the potential for a larger income than ever before. In a very practical sense, this is like a person who manufactures fishing nets learning that if they changed their method and material, they could manufacture mosquito nets and have a larger market potential. Teaching people a new type of trade—based on their current one—is one of the best ways to alleviate poverty.

Sachs notes: “This pattern exemplifies Adam Smith’s insight into the two-way link from specialization to expanded markets back to increased specialization.” Jesus’ Economy model for working with entrepreneurs reflects this idea: we believe that people learning new potential for their current skill is a great way to help their income increase and thus see their lives changed for the better.


In a very real and tangible way, we can bring economic hope to others. It doesn’t take much to get there. It’s just a matter of creativity and implementation. You can help fund entrepreneurs in the developing world today, and be a part of household incomes increasing. Donate to Jesus’ Economy microloans.

(This post is part one of two of “Ways Family Incomes Increase.” This post is also part of the “What I Learned from Jeffrey Sachs” blog series.)

“Every morning our newspapers could report, ‘More than 20,000 people perished yesterday of extreme poverty.’ The stories would put the stark numbers in context—up to 8,000 children dead of malaria, 5,000 mothers and fathers dead of tuberculosis, 7,500 young adults dead of AIDS, and thousands more dead of diarrhea, respiratory infection, and other killer diseases that prey on bodies weakened by chronic hunger.”

This remark from the introduction of Jeffrey Sachs’ book, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, is shocking, yet incredibly true. To those of us with much, it’s difficult to comprehend what life is like for those with little. Their lives seem so different than ours—so sad and so tragic. But there is hope. There is power of will. There is a want to not just survive, but thrive. There are dreamers. And there is much we can do for them.

For all of the arguments that have been presented against Sachs’ solutions to poverty, there is a great truth he presents that often gets missed: In Sachs, we have someone audacious enough to present not just the problems, but possible solutions. Poverty is complex. It involves layers upon layers of problems. Yet, Sachs believes he has a proposal that will work. His willingness to commit to a solution is bold and noble.

We at Jesus’ Economy are making a similar commitment, although our primary solution to poverty is different than Sachs’ (not opposed, just different). We boldly are proclaiming that God has chosen this time to free people from poverty. God is ready to act and we merely have to respond.

I believe the world is ready to change. I believe we are on the brink of a great revolution regarding the poverty on our planet. I am hopeful, even against the dire circumstances and statistics.

I am ready to act. Are you? Donate today.

(This post is part of the “What Jeffrey Sachs Taught Me” series.)

Poverty is a highly complex problem. But when examined from an economic standpoint, the reasons for poverty can become clearer. This is what Jeffrey Sachs in his book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities of Our Time has done. Sachs identifies six major ways people move further into poverty. The list is Sachs’; I have built upon his ideas in my explanations. Where Jesus’ Economy’s model is applicable, it is noted and explained.

 

1. “Lack of Saving”

If a family has no savings, they are unable to absorb the cost of unexpected setbacks. Something as simple as a broken plow or chronic hunger can destroy their economic standing. Sachs notes that even a “broken plow [can] count … as capital depreciation, or a fall in the amount of capital available per worker.”

Jesus’ Economy aims to fix this problem by funneling more money into a community via microloans with ecommerce in mind.

 

2. “Absence of Trade”

If there is something as simple as a road absent from a community, a person may have to pass on a possible commerce opportunity. Thus, rather than move with the times, they experience a setback.

 

3. “Technological Reversal”

When a community loses an entrepreneur to disease or something else, often the next person in line to take over the business will be forced to reverse the use of previous technologies, as they may not know how to use them.

Jesus’ Economy aims to provide a support system for such circumstances. But above that, Jesus’ Economy seeks to meet basic needs via partners to help tackle some of the major curable problems facing the poor, so that they can remain healthy and able to work. This is the case for every holistic community transformation project.

 

4. “Natural Resource Decline”

In a farming situation, natural resource decline—meaning part of the land being unusable or inaccessiblecan destroy a livelihood.

 

5. “Adverse Productivity Shock”

Natural disasters are common; there is little that can be done about these situations.

 

6. “Population Growth”

Populations are always growing, rarely decreasing. This means that the needs of a community continue to grow. Thus, commerce must grow with it.

For this reason and others, Jesus’ Economy’s model is based on an infinitely expandable commerce platform—that’s the advantage of ecommerce. There is no limit to the growth a company can see.

 

It is my hope that this information will help you understand the needs of those in the developing world. You have an opportunity to help take care of many of these problems: Donate to holistic regional transformation.

(This post is part of the “What I Learned from Jeffrey Sachs” blog series.)

Some countries have rapid economic growth and others seem to decline. It’s difficult to understand the reasons why. Jeffrey Sachs in his book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities of Our Time explains how this happens. Sachs identifies eight reasons why countries fail to have economic growth. I have included four of the reasons from his list here with my own explanation of his ideas. The other four reasons were included on yesterday’s blog post. When applicable, I have also included explanations of how the model of Jesus’ Economy works to overcome these barriers for economic growth.

 

1. “Cultural Barriers”

Cultural barriers are one of the most complex issues facing those living in poverty. Even if a certain people group or government wants to overcome poverty problems, it may be a cultural or religious norm that some people are viewed as less than others. Perhaps the most common form of this barrier is the way women are viewed in patriarchal societies. There are other cultural norms, though, as well, such as the way work is viewed, and how communities function.

Jesus’ Economy aims to overcome these barriers with healthy churches, who preach equality, and biblical ethics training for entrepreneurs receiving microloans.

 

2. “Geopolitics”

At times, barriers or embargoes on trade between two countries can impede economic growth. In addition, some larger economic powers unfairly favor trading with certain smaller countries over others. This can happen for all sorts of political reasons. Overcoming this requires two countries to work out their differences.

 

3. “Lack of Innovation”

In an economically impoverished country, resources usually hold innovators back from making progress. In places where innovation is desperately needed to overcome major issues facing the poor, innovators are often forced to resolve that their ideas will remain just ideas.

Jesus’ Economy overcomes this problem by offering microloans and training to entrepreneurs. We bring the capital and resources to empower innovators.

 

4. “The Demographic Trap”

Due to all sorts of circumstances and norms, there are more children coming into the world in the developing world than other places around the globe. This has resulted in a massive boom of people who need educations and economic help. The developing world is growing faster, in terms of people, than the developed world. This means that the problems facing the developing world need to be handled or we will end up with even more people in poverty than we have today.


Despite these barriers, we can make a difference. We may not be able to overcome all of them, but we can overcome many of them. Donate today to holistic regional transformation.

(This is part two of two of "Ways Countries Fail to Grow Economically." It's a sub-series of the blog series "What I Learned from Jeffrey Sachs.")

From the outside, it can seem like a mystery why certain countries are poor and others are not. However, there are tangible reasons why certain countries remain poor. There are also tangible solutions. This is what Jeffrey Sachs in his book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities of Our Time explains. Sachs identifies eight reasons why countries fail to have economic growth. I have included four of the reasons from his list here and offered my own explanations of his ideas. The next four will be included in tomorrow’s post.

 

1. “The Poverty Trap: Poverty Itself as a Cause of Economic Stagnation”

There is a cycle to poverty: People who are poor lack the “savings” and “capital—
physical, human, and natural”—to overcome poverty. The idea is that poverty itself leaves people in the same circumstances despite their efforts to change them. As much as people may try, there is a barrier in place to becoming wealthy, and that barrier is poverty and its implications upon their daily lives.

The poverty cycle and a solution to it is explained in this infographic.

 

2. “Physical Geography”

If the country you live in is full of mountains or deserts, it’s very difficult for proper infrastructure to be created. It’s also problematic to transport goods. This prevents most types of companies from existing.

 

3. “Fiscal Trap”

When a government doesn’t have the necessary resources to create infrastructure, economies struggle to grow. This is the case for many impoverished countries. The physical geography problems, and often the simple infrastructure problems, cannot be overcome because of a lack of financing. This keeps the economy stagnant.

 

4. “Governance Failures”

An ineffective government can ruin any economy. This is certainly the case for many governments around the globe, and seems to be especially true in the developing world. There is little the average person can do about this. But there is something.

Jesus’ Economy offers leadership training, accompanied by biblical ethics training, to help overcome some of the barriers of corruption that run through many societies in the developing world. (Corruption in many developing world societies became widespread because it was the only way people knew to survive.) When a group of people begins to live by a higher standard of ethics, others may soon follow. This can produce moral change around the board.


People who live in poverty are not any different than you and me. They just need help overcoming the barriers in their way. Jesus’ Economy offers solutions to many of these problems. Donate today to holistic regional transformation.

(This is part one of two of "Ways Countries Fail to Grow Economically." It's a sub-series of the blog series "What I Learned from Jeffrey Sachs.")