On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I corresponded with Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Tired of Taking Sides (Tyndale, 2015) and Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear (Tyndale, forthcoming) about what’s on his nightstand, books that have shaped him, his favorite fiction, what he’s learning, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
I just finished a pre-release copy of a deeply moving book called Struck
by Russ Ramsey. It’s a memoir on affliction and grace. I think it releases sometime in 2017. I’m also plodding through a handful of other books, including Tim Keller’s book on the Psalms
, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead
, and Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water
. On deck is Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses
, Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s Spiritual Depression
, and a collaborative book just released by several PCA ministers on racial reconciliation and belonging, titled Heal Us, Emmanuel
. Ann Voskamp also has a book called The Broken Way
that I can’t wait to read, but it hasn’t yet released.
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
Outside of the Bible, Mere Christianity
seems to be the book I return to more than any other. I’m also greatly helped by Paul Tripp’s book for pastors titled Dangerous Calling
. In a day where many pastors seem to be stumbling and even losing their ministries (some of whom are friends of mine), Tripp’s book feels especially urgent. I also find great encouragement from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel
and Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God
, who both encourage heart application of biblical sonship, but in two distinct voices. Because my heart is prone, perhaps more than many others, to wander from the identity secured for us in Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection, I need books like these to lead me back home. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together
reminds me there’s often a difference between our dream of what true Christian community should be, and what true Christian community actually is.
What books have most helped you teach Scripture to others?
Tim Keller’s sermon archive in Logos
is tremendously helpful, not only as a practical commentary and source of great anecdotes and quotes, but also devotionally. (If you have read this far, you should be able to tell Keller’s voice is very significant in my life.) I also find N. T. Wright’s For Everyone
commentaries on the New Testament immensely helpful. I’m drawn to Wright’s obsession with Jesus’s kingdom already being here, and with how the resurrection of Jesus moves us out in the world to love people, and also places and things, to life. I’m also deeply grateful to those who contributed to the notes in the ESV Study Bible
, including my predecessor at Christ Presbyterian Church, Ray Ortlund. Jonathan Edwards’s On Revival
and Charity and Its Fruits
provide fresh reminders that good theology is meant to catch fire in the preacher’s heart. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Testament of Hope
helps me remember the importance of life experiences and perspectives different, and less privileged than, my own—which I believe is essential to understand for a preacher. Preachers must have high levels of cultural and emotional intelligence, especially as the landscape in the West diversifies. Speaking of that, I find anything by Soong Chan-Rah to be both prophetically challenging and inspiring.
What books have most influenced your views on culture and cultural engagement?
What are your favorite fiction books?
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
These days, I’m learning that by virtue of being a pastor, I’m vulnerable. Satan hates the ministry, and the flesh is always at war against the Spirit. I’ve been deeply affected by the number of pastors who’ve lost their ministries due to isolation that led to moral compromise, and know deep down that under different circumstances, it could be me instead of them. I recently wrote a blog post called “Thoughts on the Rise and Fall of Pastors
,” which seemed to resonate with fellow pastors especially. What I’m learning is that we pastors need more friends and fewer fans. We need to pay more attention to Scripture and less to building platforms. We need people in our lives to remind us that God hasn’t called us to be heroes or celebrities, but humble, forgiven, faithful sons and servants to Jesus.
Also in the On My Shelf series: 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.
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