It’s not happened to me yet (I live in hope), but if a new-ish Christian let me pick 10 books for him to read in a year, I’d do a few somersaults and then tell him to read these ones (alongside his bible, of course)…
First, King’s Cross by Timothy Keller, because it’s the best book I’ve come across that explores who Jesus was, and why he matters for our lives and for the world.
Second, The Cross of Christ by John Stott (this’d be the one to spend 2 months with!). The word magisterial could have been invented for this book. It is a thorough, robust, and devotional exploration of why Jesus died for us.
When my much-appreciated imaginary reader had finished with those, I’d put him on to a biography. Eric Metaxes’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, in fact. Hopefully, it would give his mind a bit of a respite after reading Stott. But mostly, because Bonhoeffer’s story provides such an inspiring example of what a life captivated by Jesus looks like.
My reader might at this point be wondering how to “get after” God in a whole-hearted, Bonhoeffer-ish way himself. So, I’d give him The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, a beautiful little book about just that.
We’d be approaching the halfway stage now – and winter, at least in New Zealand – a good time to engage with some of the harder questions which may have begun to surface. Here’s the “trilogy” I’d prescribe…
I’d pass along The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, to help get the reader’s mind thinking with an eternal perspective, as Lewis does so well.
Next, I’d give him The God I Don’t Understand by Christopher Wright, which tackles the “terror texts” of the Old Testament.
And to complete the trilogy, another book by Tim Keller (because, as I’d tell my reader friend, you can’t do much better with your time than spend it reading Keller), Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering. Neither the Wright nor Keller book stoop to easy answers to the hard questions, but they both equip readers to trust deeply in God, and to help others do the same amidst their own questions.
We’d be on the home stretch now, and I’d want the final three books I gave my friend to be ones which inspired, prepared and excited him to be a minister of the gospel in the world.
I’d give him Ajith Fernando’s Jesus-Driven Ministry. Yes, it’s aimed at pastors and leaders, but it’s a wonderfully solid book about the bread-and-butter of ministering to people (which, I’d tell my reader, we’re all called to do).
Next, I’d hand over To Change The World by James Davison Hunter. It’s the most brilliant book I’ve ever read about how Christians should relate to culture. Davison Hunter is forthright and challenging, and he frames things in such a helpful way. But most of all he inspires Christians to be a faithful presence in their culture, something I’d very much hope my readerly friend could be.
Last of all, I’d give him Tom Wright’s best book, Surprised By Hope. My desire would be to leave this new-ish Christian with a longing to see the Kingdom of God come amongst his community, and to join with God in working towards that. For that, this is the best book he could read.