On My Shelf helps you get to know various people through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I asked Darryl Williamson—lead pastor of Living Faith Bible Fellowship in Tampa, Florida, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition—about what’s on his nightstand, books that have shaped his understanding of gospel ministry and racial justice, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
My current pastoral obsession is Spirit-filled community: how the Holy Spirit shapes gospel community, deepens fellowship, and drives us into mission. I’m re-reading A. W. Tozer’s The Counselor, and for the first time I’m reading Art Azurdia’s Spirit Empowered Mission, as well as Martin Lloyd Jones’s Joy Unspeakable: Power and Renewal in the Holy Spirit.
Non-pastorally, I’m working my way through Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God and Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. I started reading them in early 2016, but they require lots of reflection and extensive biblical reading, so I’m moving slowly and deliberately.
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
The two books I read most repeatedly are Tozer’s The Pursuit of God and Leonard Ravenhill’s Why Revival Tarries. Tozer’s description of the heart that longs for God grabbed me years ago when I first encountered it. Remembering the yearning I felt for the Lord when I read that work encourages me to examine my heart. Ravenhill anchors preaching in prayer and conviction; he reminds me that I can only be effective when I am rooted in the Spirit’s presence by prayer. I love those books, and I’m grateful to God for them!
What books have most profoundly shaped how you view gospel ministry?
First, Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, and his recommendation of Richard Baxter, have had the biggest effect on my convictions about ministerial character. I owe a great debt to Tim Keller’s Center Church for helping me to work with our leadership team in formulating gospel strategy. Simon Chan’s Spiritual Theology has influenced my thoughts about the corporate dynamic of gospel community life.
What books have most shaped your understanding of racial justice?
There are two books that had a big effect on me, though both were written by nonbelievers. The first is Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression by Hussein Bulhan. Bulhan’s thesis is that racial injustice is overcome both psychologically and systemically through empowerment. I see traces of that process in Acts 6:1–7, guided by the Spirit through his church. Both Bulhan and Scripture make it clear that racial justice is achieved through institutional action, not just improved attitudes. The other book is Harold Cruse’s The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, which my college pastor introduced me to in the late 1980s.
Though these books were influential in my life, I would not expect many Christians today to read them. Instead, my recommendations on this theme would be Soong-Chan Rah’s Next Evangelicalism and Carolyn Renee DuPont’s Mississippi Praying; both are phenomenal. Christian Smith and Michael Emerson’s Divided By Faith is a helpful staple for the saints today.
What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?
I would be dishonest if I did not admit that The Autobiography of Malcolm X had a profound effect on my life trajectory. Indeed, the Lord sent my college pastor into my life to redeem my reading of that highly racialized account of Malcolm’s life so I would not slip into emotional and Christless overreaction.
I absolutely love John Saillant’s Black Puritan, Black Republican, which is a biography of Lemuel Haynes. That book is a gem and warrants serious study by Reformed believers, especially those who want a rigorous theological assessment of how America failed early on with the race problem.
Arnold Dallimore’s biographies of Whitefield and Spurgeon were really encouraging for me, and I’m hoping to read Nettles’s Spurgeon biography before this year is out.
What are your favorite fiction books?
My favorite fiction books are Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Stendhall’s The Red and the Black, and anything by Toni Morrison.
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
I’m learning how amazingly patient and generous the Lord is with us. As I observe how the Lord shows himself in the ministry of our church, it is abundantly clear to me that the Lord works without any reference to me, my efforts, giftedness, or achievement. This wonderful group of saints has been brought together by the gracious presence of God’s Spirit. I am so grateful to see him work in the lives of our people; it has taught me to balance urgency with waiting, because the Lord is so completely committed to his church.
Also in the On My Shelf series: Carl Ellis • Owen Strachan • Thomas Kidd • David Murray • Jarvis Williams • Gracy Olmstead • Matthew Hall • Drew Dyck • Louis Markos • Ray Ortlund • Brett McCracken • Mez McConnell • Erik Raymond • Sandra McCracken • Tim Challies • Sammy Rhodes • Karen Ellis • Alastair Roberts • Scott Sauls • Karen Swallow Prior • Jackie Hill Perry • Bruce Ashford • Jonathan Leeman • Megan Hill • Marvin Olasky • David Wells • John Frame • Rod Dreher • James K. A. Smith • Randy Alcorn • Tom Schreiner • Trillia Newbell • Jen Wilkin • Joe Carter • Timothy George • Tim Keller • Bryan Chapell • Lauren Chandler • Mike Cosper • Russell Moore • Jared Wilson • Kathy Keller • J. D. Greear • Kevin DeYoung • Kathleen Nielson • Thabiti Anyabwile • Elyse Fitzpatrick • Collin Hansen • Fred Sanders • Rosaria Butterfield • Nancy Guthrie • Matt Chandler