10 Important Books Shaping the Church Today

In every era of the church there are certain books that seem to have greater influence than others. Growing up as a kid in the 70’s, I still remember the impact of Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth and books like The Cross and the Switchblade, God’s Smuggler and The Hiding Place.  These were so popular at the time that I first read them in comic book form.  As I got to thinking about it, I was struck by the fact that once again (at least in certain circles) some books are having significant influence on the life, conversation and thinking of the church.  This list is not comprehensive and it is my choice, but I think that they are representative of what I hear many people talking about these days.  I only hope that by mentioning these books, I can encourage others to read them and maybe some of you will have lists of your own to suggest.

1. Radical – David Platt

This book was such a surprise to me and a joy to read even though it was painful and convicting at many points.  It is such a counter cultural call to resist the urge to live simply as Christian consumers in our world.  In a day and age when so much of the way that church is structured seems to feed into a consumer mentality, I was half expecting a book on polling the church for sermon material to be the next hot book in Christian circles.  Instead, Platt calls for a complete rethinking of the way that we approach life in America as we do church together.

I pray that the message of this book will not be washed away in the tide of books that feed into a “what’s in it for me” mentality that seem to find their way into the Christian marketplace.  Instead, I am hoping that it will be the starting point for conversations all over the country about what it would look like for us to be consumed by a love for God that results in a radical desire to reach the lost for Christ.

2.  The Hole in Our Gospel – Richard Stearns

This book wrecked me the first time that I read it.  Richard Stearn’s journey from CEO of a Fortune 500 company to the head of World Vision was captivating enough, but his message in this book shook me to the core.  How had we as Christians missed such a key teaching of scripture to love the poor and to really do something to take care of the widows and orphans around us.  Jesus does not shy away from these topics and yet it seems that in our desire to be a church that preaches the word, we have forgotten to be a church that also promotes deeds of daily compassion.  I think that many of us are so caught up in being busy that we can’t even imagine taking time to understand the needs of our world let alone do something about it.  The best part of this book for me where the practical take aways on how we can get involved without being overwhelmed.  After reading this book, I think that I understood for the first time the concept of holistic gospel ministry.  May this book shape the way live as Christians for years to come.

3. Jesus Calling – Sarah Young

The wonderful little book has become a number one bestseller in the USA, something of a surprise for a daily devotional with the exception of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Sarah’s Biblically grounded daily messages are written with the voice of Jesus himself and are both beautiful and startling at the same time.  The freshness of the writing draws the reader into a daily consideration of life from Jesus’ perspective and is a great reminder of the Christocentricity of our faith.  With so many other things to distract us, this book has been a daily grounding point alongside of the scripture that it is based in for many people including my family.

4.  Crazy Love – Francis Chan

This book was and is so necessary for the church at this moment it time.  When much of the Christian church in America was being painted with a broad brush as hateful and unloving, this book reminded us all of the crazy love that our faith is founded upon.  It is not so much a call to repentance from the behaviors that led to these perceptions as it is a call to a complete re-understanding of how much we are loved by God.   Once we really get this deep truth ingrained in us, we must be a people that are characterized by love as  much as the first Christians in the book of Acts always were.

5.  UnChristian – David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

This book was hard for many of us to read and explained in black and white why so many people in America and around the world think that Christians are hateful and unloving.  In some cases, their extensive research pointed out our blind spots and revealed ways in which we, even unintentionally, do come across this way to non believers.  Too often we have defended our bad behavior by referring to the truth of the gospel as an “offense” to those who hear it, when the reality is that we are simply offensive in the way that we present the gospel and live our lives around those who have not yet come to faith in Christ.  This book, more that many others, has caused much necessary soul searching in the evangelical church.

6. Almost Christian – Kenda Creasy Dean

As a parent of two teenagers, this book was a must read for me and one that I had been hearing a lot of buzz about.  It’s central premise that many Christian teenagers in the church today are really moral therapeutic deists was eye opening and caused me a lot of discomfort as I saw some of these traits in my own children.  The key concept of the book for me was that instead of recognizing this trend and doing something about it, many church youth groups actually foster this perspective or accept it blindly as the norm.  May this book be lightning rod for change in the way that youth ministry is done in the years to come.

7. The Reason for God – Tim Keller

This book was a delight to read at a time when the new atheists and there perspectives are all the rage in secular bookstores all over the country. Without dumbing down any of his arguments, Keller deals directly with the criticisms that many skeptics and non believers have of the Christianity and the church.  He presents not so much defense of Christianity as a fully thought out reason to believe despite all of the hypocrisy that so often defines us.  As a long time believer myself, it provided me with a perspective that strengthened my faith and reminded me again of the beauty, simplicity and power of the gospel message itself.

8. To Change the World – James Davison Hunter

This book is one that I think will be read by thinking Christians for years to come.  James Davison Hunter masterfully takes on world view perspectives from the right and the left of Christianity and makes the argument that both sides have pushed a political agenda that will not actually accomplish what each side is setting out to do – to actually change the world.  Instead he presents a new idea of “faithful presence” where Christians would once again be able to influence to those aspects of culture such as the arts and higher education in significant and meaningful ways.

9.  The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

This may be my favorite new book and one that I think should shape the thinking of Christian leaders as they work with this next generation of believers.  Gabe Lyons ably demonstrates that this group who have often labeled with terms like emergent are actually more orthodox in their beliefs than some would give them credit for.  His view of the future is that Evangelicals will need to be “provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; and countercultural, not relevant.”

10. The Jesus Storybook Bible

Depending on your circles of reference, this book may not have crossed your radar screen yet.  For many of us with children and those that are involved with Children’s ministry, this book has been nothing short of revolutionary.  Some churches are using it as their primary text book for children’s church and others are using as the basis for children’s sermons.  In our church, many adults have admitted that it’s fresh presentation of the stories of the Bible were as helpful to them as they were to their children.

May God use each of these books to shape us and the Christian church of the future.  If this list was helpful to you in any way, please take the time to suggest recent books that you feel have had the same type of influence.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “10 Important Books Shaping the Church Today

  1. Marge

    The Jesus Storybook Bible Jennifer used in teaching English to internationals in her church in London. It is a wonderful book. Kim and Heidi use it with their families.
    Humility, True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney is one of the best books I have ever read next to the Bible.

  2. Marge

    Because of your review of The Jesus Storybook Bible, Beth bought one for Daniel and Rachel and it had a CD in it which they will play in the car as they travel. Also, I recommended ‘Almost Christian’ to our youth pastor and I think he is going to read it.

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