A recent list of the top selling Christian books for 2016 reveals something very problematic about the faith of the current church. We don’t like thinking. We love feeling, but don’t really want to engage much of anything that will make us think deeply about God and ourselves. Furthermore, there is little discernment. Among the top twenty five sellers are three different printings of a deeply emotive book about spirituality that is full of all out heresy, three adult coloring books, two joke books, the biography of America’s favorite football player who is not playing football, and several books from health and wealth preachers who peddle a version of Christianity that is nothing close to the true Gospel found in the pages of Scripture. One has to go all the way to best seller #25 on this list before finding a book that engages a serious question Biblically while trying to encourage people to think deeply about a topic. This list truly demonstrates something that is seriously wrong with the American version of Christianity. We are people who feel our way into believing instead of starting with theological truths that produce solid beliefs and proper emotive responses. In other words, for the most part, if an author can draw us into a story and make us feel deeply about the story, they can tell us pretty much anything about God and ourselves and we will buy into the argument without thinking about it at all. Sadly, though, this leads us right to the moment we are in now as there are so many challenges to faith and for the most part followers of Jesus in this culture are completely unable to respond with Biblical truth or with proper emotional responses.
As part of the challenge to Genesis Church for 2017 I encouraged our church to read some things that will make us think. So I wanted to write a blog with some recommended readings, things that will engage our mind and draw our faith deeper. The wonderful thing about reading things that take us to a deeper understanding of God and ourselves is that in the end they will make us feel more deeply and in ways that are so rich and wonderful. When we are led only by feelings, we will eventually find that our feelings are superficial and shifting all the time. But when we begin with seeing God deeply in His glory, understanding Christ and what He accomplished, and gaining a clear view of self our emotions will grow in deep love for God, worship, compassion, and joy. So here is a list that might head in this direction. My encouragement is that every person reading make it a goal to read at least one of these this year. Most of these are available at the Genesis book table on Sundays or you can find them at the Amazon link provided. For most of these authors I could have recommended multiple books, but chose one. But if you have already read the one I list and enjoyed the author you might choose something else. I’ll also encourage dialogue, feel free to post a recommendation of your own in the comments.
Knowing God by J. I. Packer – A fabulous read working through the attributes and character of God.
Desiring God by John Piper – Piper’s classic that looks at the genuine life of worship and glorifying God.
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis – Lewis was seeking to explain the core truths of Christianity to skeptics, but this classic is so helpful to explain our core understanding of God, ourselves, and the world.
The Reason for God by Tim Keller – Some have called this the “Mere Christianity” for the 21st Century. There are so many good reads from this author, anything you might choose from his list would be helpful.
The Prodigal God by Tim Keller – So I will list one more, this little book is revolutionary as it explains the Gospel, has changed my and so many people’s understanding of the basic Good News of the Christian faith.
The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler – A rich look at the central component of our faith, the Good News of Jesus.
Everyones a Theologian by R. C. Sproul – This book is a simple and straightforward systematic theology. In other words he writes short chapters explaining the core doctrines of the Christian faith. This is a fabulous primer on the core truths we believe.
Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore – a fabulous read for our time, Moore helps us think about how we can love our neighbors and wade through the challenges in our world in a compassionate yet still truth based way.
Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson – Includes his testimony of how he went from religion to a rich personal experience with Christ through the Gospel. A great read for moving from head understanding to a whole life experience with Jesus.
Note to Self by Joe Thorn – A fabulous little book that helps us to be honest about ourselves and discover how to apply the Gospel to all areas of our lives.
The God who is There: Finding your Place in God’s Story by D. A. Carson – this book is so helpful in a couple ways. First, it shows us how the Bible is one overarching story that has Jesus as the central character and hero of every story. Second, it shows us how every part of the Bible is written to show us how the Gospel shapes our lives each day and in each circumstance.
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel – As a former journalist, lawyer, and agnostic, this book and the others written by this author examine the truths of Christianity and the evidence for our faith in the midst of skeptic’s challenges. Also, there are both teen and children’s versions of this and Strobel’s other books which are great for helping your kids know what they believe and why their beliefs are rooted in truth.