On My Shelf: Life and Books with Glen Scrivener


On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.

I asked Glen Scrivener—evangelist and author of several books, including 3 2 1: The Story of God, the World, and You [20 quotes] and Four Kinds of Christmas: Which Are You?—about what’s on his nightstand, the books that have shaped his view of evangelism, and the book he wishes every Christian would read.

1. What’s on your nightstand right now?

John Yorke’s Into the Woods, on screenwriting and storytelling more generally, as well as Fleming Rutledge’s The Crucifixion [read TGC’s review].

2. What are some books you re-read and why?

I re-read C. S. Lewis because I always assume I was probably too immature to appreciate his work the last time I read it. I think that’s a fair assumption. Among the most rewarding to re-read I’ve found are The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, and The Great Divorce.

I don’t so much read Lewis for theology as for anthropology. He nails how people tick in an extraordinary way. And because he knows how we tick, he also knows how, through his writing, to “steal past the watchful dragons,” as he put it—to get past people’s defenses and speak to their hearts. Whether through fiction or non-fiction, he’s an unparalleled teacher of persuasive communication.

3. What books have most shaped how you view apologetics and evangelism?

The early apologists and church fathers gripped me when I studied church history. Justin Martyr (his First Apology and his Dialogue with Trypho) and Irenaeus (Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching and Against Heresies) in particular struck me for a number of reasons: they were unashamed to be Christ-centered, biblical, and theological, whether their audience was pagan, Gnostic, or Jewish. Such convictions gave their gospel proclamations a depth and vitality that is so lacking in our modern evangelism.

Lesslie Newbigin’s books (Truth to Tell, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society) were so refreshing in giving confidence to tell the gospel on its own terms. Similarly Cornelius Van Til’s approach, most succinctly put in Why I Believe in God, was genuinely liberating. But perhaps the most influential book has been Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield. J. I. Packer may have written about evangelism and the sovereignty of God, but Whitefield embodied the truth of it: a confidence in the triumph of the gospel allied with a burning zeal to herald it.

4. What is your favorite evangelistic book?

If I could take two chapters from Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic (his “sin” and “Jesus” chapters; the rest of the book is very mixed), a selection of John Piper’s portraits of Christ in Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, and then have Nate Wilson weave it together with a Tilt-a-Whirl-type-30,000-foot-view, the-world-is-stranger-than-you-think, come-with-me-on-a-wild-and-crazy-ride narrative, then we would have the ultimate evangelistic book.

In practice, my second-most given-away book to inquirers is my wife’s testimony, A New Name—it’s just sensational writing, and when Jesus shows up in all his glory and grace you will cry. The book I give away most, though, is John’s Gospel. We should carry giveaway copies with us wherever we go. Seriously, people read that thing and meet Christ all the time! It’s thrilling.

5. Which book do you wish every Christian would read and why?

Just one? Okay, everyone has to read A Brief Exhortation in What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels by Martin Luther. It won’t take long; the title’s almost longer than the book. It’s a pamphlet really, but its central tenet is essential to grasp: “Before you take Christ as an example, you [must] accept and recognize him as a gift—a present that God has given you and that is your own.”

Every Christian needs this truth to transform their lives, and every preacher needs this truth to transform their ministries. Without this conviction, we can be ever-so-evangelical and yet be trapped (and trap others) in a lethal ministry of the letter (2 Cor. 3:6ff). For that reason I can’t think of a more important few pages to read.

Also in the On My Shelf series: Cherie Harder • Zane Pratt  • Russ Ramsey • Jason Allen • Jason Cook • Mack Stiles • Michael Kruger • Robert Smith • Tony Merida • Andy Crouch • Walter Strickland • Hannah Anderson • S. D. Smith • Curtis Woods • Mindy Belz • Steve Timmis • David Mathis • Michael Lindsay • Nathan Finn • Jennifer Marshall • Todd Billings • Greg Thornbury • Greg Forster • Jen Pollock Michel • Sam Storms • Barton Swaim • John Stonestreet • George Marsden • Andrew Wilson • Sally Lloyd-Jones • Darryl Williamson • D. A. Horton • 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

Browse dozens of book recommendations from The Gospel Coalition’s leaders and sign up your church at Hubworthy.