I’ve come across a number of bloggers and authors over the last little while who have mentioned their summer reading plans. Some are of the lighter fiction nature. (I have a John Grisham book that I still haven’t got around to reading…but some will say that all of his books are the same, anyway). Some of the lists also include some of the meatier writings. The theological books have had such a long term impact on my life and I keep them on my shelf so I can go bring them out for reference from time to time.
Let me give you a list of books that I have been most helped by over the last few years and give you a brief description of each one.
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – It is a twelve hundred pager that I picked up over ten years ago because it was promoted at a pastor’s conference. It was 40 bucks at the time but it was well worth it. I have a copy on my tablet and my daughters each got a copy when they graduated grade eight. It includes a clear and joyful presentation of all of the key doctrines of the Christian faith. The edges of mine are worn from constant use. I doubt that I go a month without turning back to it.
Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur – This freebie came to me during a time when some people I knew were trying to improve on the glorious gospel of the Bible (If you didn’t know, you can’t). It pointed out some spiritual wobbling in my teaching and preaching, and it set me straight.
Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns – This is a tool that gives you a thoroughly biblical, and complete understanding of the concept of forgiveness and some practical steps in how to walk it out. And to quote a line from ‘The Princess Bride’ and applying it to the word forgiveness: ‘You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”. It is a word that often gets thrown around cheaply and we need a better understanding through the lens of Scripture. I’ve read it more than once…and I rarely do that with a book.
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul – God is not our buddy and we have lost the holy other-ness of God. R..C.’s description of his encounter with a holy God in chapter one is worth the price of the book. Sproul puts God in His glorious place and us in our humble place…where we both belong. I’ve read it, taught from it, studied it on-line, and I found it in the church library yesterday and started reading it again. I need this.
The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson – I came across Jared Wilson’s blog a number of years ago. He was a small church pastor at the time and appreciated his blog and books for that fact. He is also a guy who says what he says, well. From a writers standpoint, I appreciate that. This book does an evaluation of the North American church and asks some good probing questions about it, in light of Scripture.
Famine in the Land by Steve Lawson – Spurgeon said ‘A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.’ Lawson’s writings are essentially a little book about that quote. It’s confrontational about the spiritual food that pastors are prepping for the flock of God. It challenges pastor and members to settle for nothing less that the Word of God explained.
9 Marks of a Healthy Church – This first edition of Mark Dever’s book first came out in 2004. I think I picked it up around that time and have not put it down. I have thought through the 9 marks and continue to think through them. I have tried to apply them to every church I’ve served at, whether as a pastor or as a member. It’s not rocket science and it’s not sexy but it’s a deliberate call back to some simple, key biblical marks that many a drifting local church has forgotten.
I wrote on the nine marks shortly after my blog began two years ago. Some groups in our church are working through these principles throughout the summer time and the plan is to offer this teaching in the small group setting in the Fall. I plan on walking through each one of the nine principles in blog form over the next 9 weeks (or ten or eleven!!).
The North American church is adrift. We have bought into the shiny, the temporary, the faddish, the goofy, and the manipulative. This book has done wonders for getting my head back in the game of what a healthy, biblical church looks like.
In light of that, I encourage you to join me for the next nine posts. It may affirm what you already believe. It may remind you of what you once believed and need to re-believe. It also may blow the whistle because you’re offside about your beliefs and practices relating to the local church.