I just finished reading Larry Osborne's book Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God. I have to say I think this is one that could become a modern classic. I believe this book has two great values.
The first is that it teaches that spirituality need not be something that can only be attained by religious professionals or zealots. It is something that is accessible to all of us. Unfortunately, we have allowed religious professionals and zealots to overly complicate the business of spirituality. Instead, normal God-loving, well-meaning people can live lives pleasing to God. Even ones that struggle finding time to rigorously study the Scriptures or pray for hours or fast for days at a time. This is a book that will be invaluable encouragement to those Christians in the trenches trying to please God, but who are constantly riddled with guilt that they're probably a disappointment to God.
The second value will be to pastors and church leaders. I found myself reading this book and several times pausing to repent for setting the bar higher than Jesus set it. I think a lot of guys like me desire to see church members deepen their relationships with Christ and we try to encourage people into more committed, more disciplined spirituality. Instead, we probably leave people feeling like they'll never measure up or can never be spiritual enough.
One of the most personally convicting chapters was "Tools or Rules?". Osborne states that church leaders or well-meaning lay-people have taken spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study, fasting, family devotions, etc...), which are tools to give us meaningful encounters with Christ, and turned them into rules. The problem is that not everyone resonates equally with the same tools. And not every tool is effective for every situation. We should use the tools that are the most effective for us and that are most appropriate for the season of life we're in.
I want to emphasize that Osborne doesn't suggest we lower the bar when it comes to sin issues. What he's addressing is the overall business of connecting with God and our overall spiritual lives. I loved this book and will probably recommend it over and over again. If you struggle with guilt that stems from not meeting other people's standards of spirituality, or from a nagging feeling that God is never pleased with your weak efforts, I promise reading this book will encourage you and give you hope.