It was typed and xeroxed onto yellow paper. It was the color of nausea. The Summer Reading List had come in the mail. My mother would be excited to open it and see what books my siblings and I were supposed to read. To me, it was like terms of parole. It’s very existence screamed, “You are out of school, but while you are out, you’d better be reading!” And my mother was apparently hired to be my P.O.
At the time it seemed burdensome to do and unrealistic to expect. However, age and hindsight have led me to believe the goal was never just “busy work” or some tactics of psychological warfare cooked up in a secret basement located under the faculty lounge. I think the lesson – the good lesson – was to always be learning. Further, others had vetted the books that filled the shelves of bookstores.
So then, youthful complainers, foot-draggers, and self-perceived voices of freedom & resistance have become men who write Summer Reading Lists for churches.
Here is a selective list of some of the books that have shaped and encouraged:
Here I Stand by Roland Bainton
With the soon-coming 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church, it is a good time to read a classic Luther biography. You will be better suited to celebrate this momentous anniversary having read more about God’s work through this complex sinner-saint.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
This book has made a significant impact since first being published more than 40 years ago. Packer is a brilliant, careful, and deeply reverent theologian of a generation now passing. Though because of the unchanging nature of the One on Whom he focuses, it is as enriching a read as ever. (The book also comes with a study guide if you want to dig deeper on your own or with friends.)
Renewal as a Way of Life by Richard Lovelace
This book helps to categorize and articulate spiritual dynamics without offering formulas or clichés.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
Spiritual disciplines do not earn favor with God, but they fill a life with intentional opportunities to be with the God who lavished His favor on us. Whitney is a pastor who guides the reader through the biblical foundations and practices of the spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible reading, serving, and more.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
A classic piece of apologetics from a timeless author. As this work originally came in the form of a radio address, the audio book version seems to play into the medium in which its message was initially delivered.
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness [short booklet]
by Timothy Keller
This short book from Keller is a quick, but very good read on the freedom and joy found in viewing yourself as Jesus views you.
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
You likely will not read this one straight through. It’s a Theology 101 textbook that is relatively unintimidating and quite readable. In recent years it has become a staple resource for theology libraries.
(Wayne Grudem’s son, Elliot Grudem put a hyper-condensed version together entitled “Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know” which is more of a standard book, versus a great volume.)
The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott
Stott is a rare gift: A Christ-centered theologian, pastor, and pleasant writer. This 20th century book on the Christ of the cross is likely to become classic.
The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire
This catalog of worldviews presents the channels that have shaped American thoughts on life, death, origins, and purpose. A good read to understand the person who lives or works near you but sees an entirely different world than you.
The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George Hunter
This book helped me shape the views that became a core value at Terra Nova: Missional & Monastic. Through the life and ministry of St. Patrick, Hunter shows us a missional alternative that arose when the Church of Europe was being insular in a world that was becoming pagan after the pax Romana.
The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller (w/ Kathy Keller)
An insightful, biblical, and well-written book on marriage. If you are familiar with the ministry and work of Tim Keller, it will not surprise. Keller navigates culture, bible, and pastoral guidance on marriage.