Below is a list of non-technical and accessible resources that I find to be rich with both wisdom and relevance. The list is in no particular order and is followed by a few honorable mentions.
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Here Are Your Gods
Written by respected scholar Christopher Wright, this is not only well-written but timely, delving into the very nature of idolatry and its often hidden agenda. This is a book I recommend to all who want to deepen their walk with Christ and live out the gospel well in idolatrous times. Here Wright puts flesh and bone on what the Bible says about idolatry and how it is not only anti-God but anti-human, detrimental to God’s glory, God’s shalom, and to human flourishing.
Recovering From Biblical Manhood & Womanhood by Aimee Byrd underscores how discipleship does not prefer one gender over the over, and how men and women together and in community, not segregated, are to become more like Christ. More than a book about women, this is a book about discipleship, a call to recover Jesus’ vision for his followers.
Analog Church by Jay Kim questions the unchecked pursuit of relevance within our churches which damages our witness and our humanity. A call to reflect God’s values to a broken world, Kim also deals with how unchecked technological reliance plagues our churches. A call to abandon subtle individualism which cripples our witness and personal growth, Kim lays out his resolution for a healthier church, a church which does not bemoan technology but also does not worship it. As the title states, “We Need Real People, Places, And Things In The Digital Age” and the church has an opportunity to be a safe haven rather than mirror American culture’s obsession with the self and with technology, as well as with relevance. Technology can try to replicate or even try to replace community, but ultimately falls short. We need more books like Analog Church. (See here for my interview with Kim.)
The Ten Commandments by Peter J. Leithart has to do with how Ten Commandments pertain to discipleship in the modern West. Full of gems and “aha” moments, for me, this is the best resource on the Ten Commandments that I’ve come across-and it also happens to be very readable. Stunning visuals and beautiful prose make for a great gift, or great as a devotional or for bedside reading.
The End of the Christian Life
J. Todd Billings has become known for calling the American church to embrace lament and grief rather than naivete and triumphalism. Years ago Billings was diagnosed with an incurable disease but has been writing with hope for years, calling the church to recover the lost art of biblical lament. The End of the Christian Life is a somber book about the benefits of believers facing their mortality, as well as a warning against a Church obsessed with more health, more wealth, and more success; bigger is not necessarily better.
Reading While Black showcases how black Christians have historically approached God and God’s Word, and how white Christians (both progressive/mainline Christians and evangelical Christians) can learn from their black brothers and sisters. Here Esau McCaulley offers a stirring plea for more followers of Jesus to recover the New Testament’s vision/view of politics, as well as a reminder that Romans 13 is more often than not misunderstood and misquoted. I enthusiastically endorse Reading While Black which is also available on Audible with the author’s own narration.
Reading Philippians (by respected scholar and prolific author Nijay K. Gupta) is short, sweet, and to the point. Gupta is one of the leading experts on Paul and his letters, and the world of the New Testament, but also showcases here that he is no ivory tower theology. Packed with plenty of modern anecdotes and references to pop culture, this is a phenomenal non-technical introduction to Paul that’s great for anyone who wants to better understand Paul and his letter to Philippi. (See here for my interview with Nijay Gupta on Philippians.)
A Church Called Tov
Church abuse is real, but many times our response to it is unethical and unbiblical. Our church cultures often reflect an innate desire to protect perpetrators while shaming victims, something antithetical to Christ and his mission. Respected scholar and author Scot McKnight, along with his daughter Laura Barringer, go to great lengths to provide a better framework for curating healthy cultures of goodness. A Church Called Tov reminds us of our need to walk away from self-preservation (including defending our institutions and/or leaders at all costs) and our call to follow Christ at all costs. Our churches and institutions often reflect the values of the world when they protect perpetrators and shame (and silence) victims. Christ was the defender of the vulnerable and calls us to take on that very posture. Rather than resembling Christ’s selflessness, our communities of faith often reek of self-preservation and blatant injustice especially in how we respond to the stories of the abused.
Urban Legends of Church History
Myths about Church history are ever-abounding and will not cease until Jesus’ return. This new resource takes on the daunting task of exposing some of the most popular and deep-held myths of Church history. From Christians being fed to lions in Rome to misconceptions about Constantine, this is a great resource that is written for the sake of truth and historical purity (as much as it is possible). The authors are not condescending but rather note that they themselves have fallen prey to many misconceptions that sound nice but simply lack any historical evidence. They note that many untruths or half-truths slip through the cracks in sermons, books, and lectures. This is a healthy attempt at separating fact from half-truths.
Misreading Scripture With Individualist Eyes showcases how the riches and depth of Scripture can easily get lost on those steeped in non-collectivist cultures. Its authors are renowned New Testament Scholar E. Randolph Richards, and a church-planter in the Middle East whose pen name is Richard James.
Can We Still Believe in God? by respected scholar Craig Blomberg tackles some very big and common objections to Christianity. What about slavery? What about sexism and homophobia? Are the accounts of Jesus’ life actually reliable or are they works of fiction created by overzealous followers of Jesus?
How (Not) To Read The Bible by Dan Kimball attempts to make sense of some of the crazy parts of the Bible in an age which seems to scoff at context in general. Kimball is asking for people to approach the Bible on its own terms. In essence this is a plea for logic. This is also available on Audible with the author’s own narration.
Demons: What The Bible Really Says About The Powers Of Darkness by Michael Heiser attempts to bring what the Bible says about demons down to earth, a daunting task in and of itself. I think it’s safe to say that spiritual warfare and the demonic reality are not all that understood by many modern Christians, and Heiser’s voice is one of the most important in correcting some extremes.
A Week In The Life of Ephesus, by respected scholar David deSilva, goes to great lengths to transport the modern reader into the world of the New Testament. This is historical fiction at its best and has the capacity to enrich anyone who is interested in studying the New Testament. Great for seminary students, preachers, book clubs, or for bedside reading.
The other Side of the Wall: A Palestinian Christian Narrative of Lament and Hope (by Munther Isaac) exposes some strong-held beliefs held about Palestine and Christians from Palestine. Informative and well-written, this was a page-turner.
Preaching the Word with John Chrysostom works great as a brief and simple introduction to John Chrysostom.
Pages From A Preacher’s Notebook: Wisdom and Prayers from the Pen of John Stott
With John Stott being one of my theological heroes, I was excited to receive my copy and was taken aback by just how many topics Stott took on. Stott’s disdain for dichotomies is quite admirable, as was his relentless pursuit of Christ.