Recently someone asked me what ten book have been most helpful in my growth as a Christian. A good question, I thought, and a fun question to answer. I love to talk about books, especially those that have been instrumental in my walk with Christ.
Two quick caveats:
1. In order to be most useful, I tried to think of books that have been helpful to me as a Christian not just as a pastor. The two callings, however, are not easily extricated, so my list may strike a chord more readily with those in full time church ministry.
2. This is not a list of my ten favorite books of all time (though that list would have significant overlap with this one), nor is this a list of the ten books every Christian should read. For that list I’d pick a few more popular-level books and try to cover a number of other topics. What we have below are ten books that profoundly shaped my head and my heart at key moments in my Christian life. Not surprisingly, given the way God often works, I read all of these books for the first time (except for the last one) between the ages of 18 and 22. Pastors, campus ministers, professors, publishers, parents, take note: get good books in the hands of college students.
I don’t usually read too many of my blog comments (sorry), but on this post I’d love to hear from you. What books have been most helpful in your growth as a Christian? Here’s my list, in no particular order:
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
No book besides the Bible has shaped me more than this one. It’s more readable than you might think. Give it a try. I stole my dad’s copy when I was a college freshman and never gave it back.
Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers
I first came across this book during seminary (thank you First Pres book table), and as I went through the prayers I wasn’t sure I had ever really prayed before! Ok, I had prayed before, but after using this book I knew my prayers would not be the same.
Iain Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (two volume biography)
I got these two volumes as a Christmas present during college (thank you mom and dad). I found the Doctor’s life and ministry so thrilling I couldn’t put them down for the next semester.
B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
Warfield helped me come out of a confusing intellectual season where I wondered if the Bible really could be trusted.
J.C. Ryle, Holiness
Stirring, convicting, illuminating. I didn’t know about the Keswick controversy when I first read the book. I was just powerfully encouraged to grow in holiness.
J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
Never seems to not be relevant. Machen crystallized for me what I had seen in parts of my mainline college experience.
David F. Wells, No Place for Truth
He opened my eyes to the ways in which the church had become compromised and introduced categories for faithfulness I had never considered before.
John Piper, Future Grace
His analysis of anxiety, bitterness, and lust are still with me. For my money this is Piper at his practical, personal, penetrating best.
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology
After Calvin I cut my theological teeth on Berkhof. So clear, so concise, so logical. My copy has been falling apart for some time.
I had to study the Catechism with my pastor before I joined the church in fourth grade–a gift that keeps on giving.