On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I asked Vermon Pierre—TGC Council member, lead pastor of Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, and promoter of adoption and foster-care initiatives—about what’s on his nightstand, the books that have shaped his understanding of racial justice, the three books every young pastor should read, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
I don’t really read in bed, so if I can take this question as referring to the books I’m currently reading, here’s my lineup (not including the five to ten commentaries I read each week for sermon preparation):
- Doctrine that Dances: Bringing Doctrinal Preaching and Teaching to Life by Robert Smith Jr.
- Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63 by Taylor Branch
- The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon
- How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise by Chris Taylor
- Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
What books have most shaped how you view gospel ministry?
I’m answering this question more in line with my vocation as a pastor. So with that in mind:
Knowing God by J. I. Packer. The first couple chapters in this book have forever shaped me. This book is the regular reminder to me that “a little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about him.”
The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. Published in 1656, it remains the most practical and relevant book I’ve ever read on what gospel ministry must look in the pastoral vocation.
Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf. I always keep this book close by for reference, as many of its concepts have been foundational to my thinking on the interplay between diversity and unity within the church. You know how certain phrases in books stick with you for the rest of your life? This book is full of them for me. At the top of the list is the idea of Christians now having a “catholic personality,” i.e., a personality in which space has been created in you to “receive the other,” one where the Spirit now says, “You are not only you; others belong to you, too.”
Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being by Zack Eswine. An encouraging reminder to not fall into the temptation of operating in ministry as if we’re God (i.e., we must be omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient). Instead, we can and must lean into the fact that we’re human beings, fully dependent on Jesus. And praise God for that! See also the updated, more condensed version of this book, The Imperfect Pastor.
What books have most shaped your understanding of racial justice?
There are a lot of books I could list here! Frankly I think this is something that requires yearly reading and reflection if you care about having legitimate relationships with people outside your culture and ethnicity.
However, if there’s one book to start with it would be Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr. I love Dr. King’s prophetic challenge and stand against racial injustice throughout this book, all undergirded by his steadfast belief that “the darkness of racial injustice will be dispelled only by the light of forgiving love.” It’s how Dr. King could say amazing things like this: “While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.”
Another book I draw from on this would be Exclusion and Embrace.
What are your favorite fiction books?
What three books should every young pastor read?
- The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter
- A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller. Pastors need to pray. This book will help you do it, and do it a lot better.
- Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being by Zack Eswine
What book do you wish every evangelical Christian would read and why?
With the caveat that I’m answering this question with what I feel is necessary in light of the racially divided climate of our day, it would be Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith (for understanding why there is such a big divide between white and black evangelicals) and Strength to Love (for how this divide might begin to be crossed).
Also in the On My Shelf series: Jake Meador • 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