I wasn’t “born” a reader; I became a reader by choice, by work, by determination. Why? Because I wanted to learn. When God called me into the ministry, I felt like a desperately under-qualified student. Ignorance isn’t an attractive quality in the ministry, so I read and studied–often! As the years have passed, I’ve come to love a handful of books more than others, and have found myself repeatedly returning to them (or their authors). Although I could go on and on here, these are 5 books for every Christian leader.
What can I say, this presumptive entry must be noted, because you can never have enough of your Bible! I say “your” Bible, because I believe every Christian needs 1 Bible that is theirs: highlighted, marked, having important dates recorded in the blank pages; having a worn cover, browned edges, and has lost its stiffness. Mine is an English Standard Version, Classic Reference Bible, by Crossway. It was a gift in 2002–and I love it.
The Cross of Christ, John R. W. Stott
Stott is someone who should own his own shelf or 2 in your library. Buy the books that he wrote, and buy biographical books about him, because it’s a pleasure to get to know both the writings and the writer. He was a stalwart Christian who constantly and faithfully wrote, preached, traveled as a missionary, and mentored younger pastors. This particular book, The Cross of Christ, covers the meaning, purpose, and result of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It’s deep, readable theology.
It’s important to build an intellectual base for your goals. Formal education is fine. Self-education is vital. – Paul Harvey
The Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin
Love him or hate him (and I’m in the love camp), Calvin penned one of the most, if not the most, influential systematic theology books ever written. Starting in 1536 and ending in 1559, the Institutes grew and expanded alongside of Calvin and his ministry. One thing can be said of it that I believe makes it unique to Christian theology books: it has a devotional nature. In other words, Calvin wrote with an eye on the Lord at all times, which makes learning from him a heartwarming experience.
Holiness, J. C. Ryle
Undoubtedly one of my favorite pastor/writers, Ryle never actually wrote a book. He wrote such incredibly detailed and organized sermons that they were easily formed into books later. Another interesting tidbit about Ryle is that, although he lived and ministered during the Victorian Era, his writings are incredibly simple. You won’t read a ton of “thees” and “thous,” because his aim was to be understood by all . . . not just by an elite some. His desire was to be understood by the common man, and still, to this day, he is easily understood. This book, Holiness, will challenge your every step to bring your closer to Jesus and to personal purity.
Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
A simple book that is a compilation of radio talks, Mere Christianity is a book that is apologetic in nature: that is, it argues for the Christian faith. What makes it different is its author. He’s not a pastor or a church leader. Lewis, a late convert to Christianity, was a professor of classical literature, and, as such, he brought an interesting and helpful perspective to the faith, to the Bible, and to how they should relate to the world. It’s full of great lines, like, “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms” (III.iv).
If I wanted to elongate this post (and that wasn’t easy to resist!), I’d include the likes of Charles Spurgeon, Arthur Pink, and George Eldon Ladd, saints who, by their words, have provided strength and encouragement for the Church universal.
What books would make your top-5 Christian books?