On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
We asked Ray Ortlund, senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville and TGC Council member, about what’s on his nightstand, books that have shaped his view of gospel ministry, his favorite fiction, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
- Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. Unlikely conversions are especially fascinating.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between The World and Me. Unless white people like me listen to our African-American friends enough to grow into some measure of understanding, we will have no prophetic voice to our generation.
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
- Francis Schaeffer, No Little People. His sermon “The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way” is the most important thing outside the Bible I’ve ever read. Our integrity and power are at stake.
- A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous. Tozer consistently leads me to deeper realism and humility as I stand before the Lord.
- The Westminster Confession of Faith. I love the precisely stated doctrinal formulations here. They help me get past my own vague notions into sharper biblical clarity.
What books have most profoundly shaped how you view gospel ministry?
- Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections. Edwards convinced me that I was too cerebral and abstract in my preaching. I had to re-learn how to preach, more to the heart.
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers. His final chapter, “Demonstration of the Spirit and of the Power,” is the best declaration I’ve ever read advocating Spirit-filled preaching.
- Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal. His table of contents alone, with the chart on page 75, offers a compelling paradigm for pastoral ministry with revival impact.
- Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man. Scougal convinced me of the deeply personal interiority of a real relationship with God.
- Paul Tournier, Guilt and Grace: A Psychological Study. Tournier sensitized me to the ocean of guilt-driven social dynamics we swim through every day. He alerted me to the especially poisonous nature of religiously induced anxiety, so that I detest it.
What books have most helped you teach Scripture to others?
- Brown, Driver, Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament
- Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
- Gesenius, Kautzsch, Cowley, Hebrew Grammar
- Robert L. Chapman, Roget’s International Thesaurus. Word choices matter. Precise wordings matter. When you have a word but need the meaning, you go to a dictionary. But when you have a meaning, an idea, a concept, and need the best word for it, you go to a thesaurus. Roget’s has helped me countless times.
- C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek
- Bruce K. Waltke, Biblical Hebrew Syntax
What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?
- Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. I love Luther for his courage and forthrightness.
- Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo. I love Augustine for his honesty and profundity.
- Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield (two volumes). I love Whitefield for his energy and exuberance.
- George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life. I love Edwards for his spirituality and scholarship.
What are your favorite fiction books?
- Charles Dickens, David Copperfield. Maybe the most perfectly told story I’ve ever read. Satisfying, moving!
- C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces. Full of insight into deep feelings we are barely aware of until Lewis identifies them and explains them to us.
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. So like our real lives, in that the story is filled with subplots that initially seem to complicate the literary landscape and slow everything down. But that’s what life is like. And it’s eventually summed up in a glorious way. Tolkien tells me my own story.
What are your top books related to the local church?
- Raymond C. Ortlund [my dad], Let The Church Be the Church. Dad imparted to me his simple but profound and fruitful ministry model marked by three priorities: Jesus, community, mission—in that order!
What book do you wish every Christian would read and why?
- Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian. Jesus told us that our observable love for one another would set us apart as his true followers in the eyes of the watching world. But we aren’t good at loving one another, and we’re really lousy at repairing broken relationships. Schaeffer shows us all a better way.
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
Life is short, the merest vapor, quickly passing. I’m rapidly nearing the end. More and more, what matters isn’t my ministry accomplishments but only the grace of Christ crucified as my justification before the all-holy God.
Also in the On My Shelf series: Brett McCracken, Mez McConnell, Erik Raymond, Sandra McCracken, Tim Challies, Anthony Moore, 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, and Matt Chandler.