Friday, December 18, 2009

12 Most Influential Books (on this Country Parson)

Tis the season to rate books. While many Christians are looking back on 2009 and offering their list of ‘the top 9 books of 2009’, I’ve decided to do something different. I guess you could call me a nonconformist! In no particular order, I’ve compiled a list of the 12 books (besides the Bible) that have most influenced my approach to the Christian life and Pastoral Ministry. As you read, keep in mind that this is not a list of the 12 best books ever, nor is it a list of the 12 books I wish shaped me most. This is an honest list as I assess the books I’ve read, and consider the passions God has given me. I’d welcome your feedback regarding which books I should be reading that will help balance me out better. I fully own the fact that many of these books have been written in the past 20 years. I consider this a weakness. But if I’m honest, although I loved ‘The Religious Affections’ and ‘Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World’ by Jonathan Edwards, and ‘The Mortification of Sin’ and ‘The Glory of Christ’ by John Owen, the books mentioned below have influenced me even more, even if many of the same themes are struck in them.

Desiring God - John Piper
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him”. This is John Piper’s anthem, and this book was his first to lay it out in detail. I first read it in the winter of 1999 and have never been the same since.

The Pleasures of God - John Piper
Not only are people called to be God-centered, but since God is the most glorious being in the cosmos, it is appropriate for him to delight in no one and nothing more than himself. As with all of his books, this one is full of Scripture that show this to be a Biblical idea.

Brothers, We are Not Professionals - John Piper
The business world is full of professionals, but the pastorate ought not to be. How can there be a professional cross-bearer? A professional fool (2 Cor 1)? How can one professionally die to one’s self or be a professional slave of Christ? This book of short reflections for pastors is really a series of Biblical exhortations to pastors.

The Supremacy of God in Preaching - John Piper
Simply put: the end goal of preaching is to create worshippers, and the act of preaching ought to be worship.

Preaching and Preachers - Martyn Lloyd-Jones
First a series of lectures at Westminter Seminary in the late 60’s, this book has shaped my view of preaching more than any other. Preaching is not a lecture. It is an event, empowered by the Holy Spirit!

Preaching Christ From the Old Testament - Sidney Greidanus
If the New Testament insists that Christ is the center of the Bible, how does a preacher connect these lines when preaching from the Old Testament? This book offers a theology of Christ-centered preaching, an overview of the various views of this throughout Church history, and then offers seven (or so) very helpful ways to move from Old Testament text to Christocentric application. Greidanus’ “Preaching Christ From Genesis” is a practical application of this methodology, walking through 26 or so key texts in Genesis.

Redeemer Church Planter Manual - Tim Keller
This unpublished spiral bound book can be ordered from Redeemer Presbyterian Church. I was glad to see that portions of it are due to be published in the fall of 2010. It offers a theology of church planting, and many, many practical helps. Along with John Piper, Tim Keller has shaped my approach to Church life more than any other author.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism - Tim Keller
How does one live and witness and preach in such a way as to gain friction with postmodern people? This book looks at the seven most common objections to Christianity in our day and shows first, that it takes as much faith to believe those doubts, as it does to believe the claims of the Bible. In the second half of the book, Keller offers a positive apologetic for the gospel.

Humility: True Greatness - CJ Mahaney
What is it and how does one practically pursue it? This book is small, but it packs an awesome punch.

Why Small Groups? - edited by CJ Mahaney
This one outlines how the family of Churches CJ Mahaney oversees, shapes their small group ministry. Very practical and helpful, even if your church does not have a small group ministry.

The Pastor-Evangelist - edited by Roger Greenway
This series of essays by American Presbyterians offers a theology of, and practical advice on how to, have an evangelistic priority woven into every aspect of Church life. Essential stuff, in my view.

Good to Great - Jim Collins
A secular business book in a list like this? Yep. Like it or not, this one has really helped me think about church life. Two words: common grace. If you doubt, read the book and be blessed.

(Honourable Mention to make it a Baker’s Dozen) Systematic Theology - Wayne Grudem
It’s only an honourable mention because I am yet to read every chapter. But everything from the way Grudem organizes his material, to his very accessible writing style, to his extended quotations of Scripture so that the Bible’s voice is the main voice, to his conclusions, resonate with me more than any other theological overview. I’m thankful for this great book.

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