Have you ever wished you had something to give a new Christian to read alongside the Bible, to encourage them in their faith and help them begin to live for Christ from a Christ-centred Biblical worldview? Over the years I have recommended countless good books 1:1 or from the pulpit, but I thought it was about time to be more intentional about this habit, for my own sake, and that of our church members. Maybe what follows will help you too.
The idea of a “top ten” list (yes, I realise that such a thing is usually shameless marketing) came from a visit to Tim Keller’s Redeemer Church in Manhattan two years ago during a sabbatical. The service was thoughtful and deeply Christ-honouring, but one of my main take-homes came afterwards, over coffee a couple of floors up from the worship auditorium. An unremarkable folding table was set out to one side of the room, with a selection of books for sale, a couple of signs, and a friendly church member on hand.
What was the stroke of genius? A simple guideline as to which books to read, and in what order. The books were arranged into three groups, not by the usual categories, “Bible”, “Christian living”, “Prayer” etc, but as “Read first”, “Read next”, and “After those” (maybe not the precise titles, but you get the idea). Keller had written a short explanation of the book-recommendation policy he had followed,
“instead of a bookstore for the whole community, we offer a book table carrying “next step” reading for worshippers at Redeemer…the order in which you read books has a big impact on the kind of believer you become…That is why many people will ask me – “Is this a good book to read?” and my answer is, ‘Yes – eventually, later, in the right place – but not now’.”
Keller had thought hard about the best books to start young believers with, and those to recommend later. I think that is incredibly good pastoral care, and am planning to introduce this wise approach when we move to pastor our new church in Norwich in the summer.
So here are my ten “Read First” books, copies of which I’d have always on hand to give away or to sell. The order doesn’t mean much. In future posts I will suggest my “Read next” and “After those” selections.
Read First (Top Ten):
Knowing God (J.I. Packer)
The Prodigal God (Tim Keller)
How to read the Bible for all its Worth (Gordon Fee/Douglas Stuart)
The Freedom of a Christian (Martin Luther)
Just do Something (Kevin DeYoung)
Discipling (Mark Dever)
How to Walk into Church (Tony Payne/Colin Marshall)
God’s Big Picture (Vaughan Roberts)
The Cross of Christ (John Stott)
Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)
I hope this gets you asking what you would recommend to a new believer – and what you’d agree they should read, but only later. Let me know what you think.