Christian Books

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Influential Books in My Life

Here are some books that have been influential and formational in my life.  These works cover over a decade of personal spiritual growth, education, and ministry.  These are not representative of my reviews.  If you are interested in more information and/or possibly purchasing a book, please click on the link below it.  If I listed multiple books by the same author, then I included a link to the author instead of the book.

Neil Anderson: Bondage Breaker
I read this book while I was struggling with spiritual issues that I did not understand and possessed (pun intended) no model for making sense of them.  This book opened my eyes to the reality of spiritual warfare and gave me a balanced view of the topic.

David Benner: Strategic Pastoral Counseling; Sacred Companions
I read Strategic Pastoral Counseling as required reading in seminary.  It is a very good book for pastors who counsel.  Sacred Companions provides instruction in spiritual friendship and direction from a practical, experiential view.

Steve Bierly: Help for the Small Church Pastor
I read this book during the first year of my first full-time solo pastorate.  It provided me with a model for understanding, functioning, and leading in a small church environment.  It went well for me while I used his model!

Larry Crabb: Basic Principles of Biblical Counseling; Effective Biblical Counseling; Encouragement, Understanding People, Connecting
I began reading Larry Crabb’s books while I was in seminary.  Understanding People was a required text.  Then, I read Basic Principles, Effective Biblical, and Encouragement.  These were a tremendous help for me in relationships and ministry.  I read Connecting several years later.  It further confirmed to me the healing potential of relationships. I appreciate Crabb's spiritual, intellectual, and professional journey from psychology to Christian spirituality.

Jack Deere: Surprised by the Power of the Spirit; Surprised by the Voice of God
I was raised with a Scofield Reference Bible and a belief that the miraculous gifts had ceased, especially tongues and prophecy.  While I was evaluating this position in college, I read Jack Deere’s first book, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit.  He convinced me that this was not a proper interpretation of Scripture.  While both texts are very anecdotal, the notes have a wealth of scholarly research.

Millard Erickson: Christian Theology
I read Erickson in college.  His balanced, thoughtful, evangelical systematic theology brought many things together for me.  I had been reading and studying Scripture for several years, but this book broadened my view of various positions as well as helped me think systematically about theology.

Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline; Prayer
In reading Bill Hybels book (see below), it created an appetite for the spiritual disciplines.  Richard Foster does a great job of explaining the spiritual disciplines from a historical perspective.  He provides the historical, while Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life) provides the biblical, and Willard (The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives) the philosophical and theological foundation.

Stanley Grenz: A Primer on Postmodernism
I also read this book in college.  As I was discovering Aristotle and Aquinas, I found that I was mostly unaware of the current philosophical movements.  I read Grenz as an introduction to postmodern philosophy.  This is an excellent introduction.

Bill Hybels: Honest to God
I read Hybels book before going to college or seminary.  This book was my first introduction to spiritual disciplines, Myers-Briggs personality types, dealing with interpersonal conflict, etc.  It is a well-written, helpful book on all of the basics of the Christian life.

Wayne Grudem: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
I read Grudem in seminary.  As a Wesleyan-Arminian reading a Reformed Baptist, I found myself intensely disagreeing with him at times, but I found that he kept me honest because I had to wrestle with the biblical text in disagreeing with him.  This is a great systematic theology textbook.  I have yet to find a Wesleyan text that is comparable in Scripture and scholarly depth.

C. S. Lewis: Mere Christianity
I read Mere Christianity before college and seminary while working at a major university and interacting regularly with a variety of religious beliefs among our students.  I found myself doing apologetics before I knew what apologetics was!  In this context, I found myself asking a variety of questions, and thankfully, I stumbled upon C. S. Lewis in a public library of all places.  Believe it or not, I had never heard of C. S. Lewis, and this was before the internet (I'm old!!!), but I read it several times and found it was exactly what I needed at that time.

Alister McGrath: Christian Theology: An Introduction
I read McGrath in seminary and thoroughly enjoyed his book.  His Christian Theology is primarily a historical introduction and explanation of most major theological concepts and controversies.  Of course, this makes me wonder what his Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought covers.  Regardless, it broaden and deepened my view of theology in a historical direction.

Thomas Oden: First and Second Timothy and Titus; Pastoral Theology
I first encountered Tom Oden when I was in college.  His “Patristic Christianity” or “Paleo-Orthodoxy” was first coming to the attention of the broader evangelical community.  My interest in Oden quickly became pastoral as I went on to seminary to study for the pastorate.  He grounded my pastoral ministry in the historic pastoral tradition of the church.  Pastoral ministry did not begin with the Reformation or modern Evangelicalism (THANK GOD!), but had been going on for 1500 years before it.

Francis Schaeffer: The Trilogy
In college, we had a course that centered on Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live.  This introduced me to Schaeffer’s work: The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent.  Schaeffer gave me an approach to doing apologetics and evangelism.  His thoughtful analysis of current culture and mild presuppositionalism impressed me.  As I continued to study philosophy, I took issue with his blaming Aquinas for everything.  He seems unaware of Descartes.  But while I found myself taking issues with Schaeffer academically, he is still a profound thinker and influence on evangelical Christianity.  I still find myself concerned about the logical implications of his ethic.

C. Peter Wagner: Your Church Can Grow; Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow
I grew up in a church that emphasized evangelism.  This is why I have always had a concern for apologetics, evangelism, and church growth.  I discovered C. Peter Wagner in college.  He is the church growth guru of the late 70s, 80s, and 90s.  No one compares to his voluminous output of research on church growth.  He followed the movements of the Spirit throughout the years and finally joined those movements in the “New Apostolic Reformation”.  Some think that he “lost it,” but I think that he finally went from being a researcher-academic to a participant-leader in this movement of God.

Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
I read Whitney while continuing to build on my interest in spiritual disciplines.  His is the most biblical of the various books on the spiritual disciplines.  Richard Foster wrote the historical book on the Christian disciplines and Dallas Willard wrote the foundational philosophical and theological book on them.  Whitney’s book is very good.  It is readable and scripturally based.

Dallas Willard: Hearing God; The Spirit of the Disciplines
I read Willard because it seemed that many of the books on the spiritual life that I was reading would refer to him, so I read Hearing God and The Spirit of the Disciplines.  Dallas Willard is an academic philosopher, and even with his popular writings, they are not immediately accessible.  He provides a foundational work to hearing God's voice and to the practice of the spiritual disciplines.  The depth of his work is impressive; the accessibility of it is not.

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