My (Current) Top Five Books You MUST Read

BooksMy (Current) Top Five Books You MUST Read


There was a blog sent out a few weeks ago where I said how we rarely break “the fourth wall.” That said, these next few weeks are going to be filled with a lot of wall-breaking. I’m inviting you to learn a little more about my personal life outside of writing these blogs each week by sharing with you what’s on my bookshelf, my Spotify podcast list, and even what other pastors and bible teachers have formed me over the years.

One of the things that has been most important for me over the years, even before entering full-time ministry, was to give as many resources as possible to those who were wanting to grow in their faith. As a pastor in a local church, I am often either recommending great books to our congregation or buying a specific book for someone to read.

Before my sophomore year of college (about 7 years ago), I really never read at all. I didn’t care much to sit down in a comfy chair and slowly work through the pages of a book. I only read what I needed to for class, and then I got on with the rest of my busy life. But I came to the realization that leaders are readers, and I believe that to be especially true of church leaders. I forced myself to read until I quickly grew to love it, and now I can’t think of the last time I wasn’t working through a book.

All of this to say, I’ve been wanting to write a blog to share with you what is currently my list of favorite books. This was incredibly difficult because I have a very large, very full bookshelf in my office at home. There are old and new books, thin and thick books, and many diversified authors on many spectrums (ethnical, cultural, theological, etc.). I’ll try to briefly explain why I love each book and what it’s about, and I’ll include a good quote and an amazon link as well.

To Preface: While I have about twenty Bibles on my bookshelf, the Bible will not be on this top five list. The Bible is considered completely other and superior to any of the books on this list.


1.    The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Have you ever felt like you’ve lost yourself in the speed of life? You’ve been overwhelmingly busy, rushing from one part of your life to the next. You are hardly ever present to the moment because your mind is already moving on to the next task, the next conversation, or even the next day. Somewhere you’ve lost touch with yourself, those around you, and – as hard as it is to say – God.

It’s not that you’ve given up your faith. You’ve just become too busy, distracted, and anxious to have faith, or, at least, a deeply-formative and life-giving faith. You often feel like God is distant even though you know it’s really you who has been disengaged. Between work, family, friends, social media, kid’s sporting events, and even ministry (this book was written by a pastor, after all), you feel like either you can’t keep up with Jesus or Jesus isn’t keeping up with you. I’ve certainly been there on more than one occasion.

John Mark, one of my favorite pastors and bible teachers for the last five years or so, makes a simple and perhaps too-obvious suggestion: Slow Down.

Really? Slow down? You’re probably thinking, “Yea, right!” But that’s the necessary step to keeping your spiritual vitality and emotional health in what is a need-for-speed world. When statistics and everyday stories are testifying to the insane amounts of Christians leaving their faith, you can’t help but to think of what Jesus said about those who are choked out by the thorns, which are those who get tired from keeping up with, “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22). That’s why John Mark gives four ancient practices which come straight out of Jesus’ routine for learning to slow down so that you can be present to God, your neighbor, and yourself.

Favorite Quote: “Our time is our life, and our attention is the doorway to our hearts.”

Click Here to Read it for Yourself.

2.    The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

I’ve recently noticed, more and more, how people have taken ideas about spiritual warfare and the demonic and stretched or emphasized it to the point where it becomes almost unrecognizable, even from a biblical standpoint. Honestly, Christians have tagged the Devil onto just about everything these days – but what if we’ve completely misunderstood how God’s Enemy really works?

C.S. Lewis, one of the most prolific writers of all time, wrote an incredible book called, The Screwtape Letters, to deal with that question. It’s actually a fiction book written from the perspective of the Devil’s workers. It includes a series of 31 short letters given from the Senior Demon to a Junior Demon in training, all about how they want to keep Christians from Christ.

It is fascinating to realize how much we misunderstand the tactics of the demonic which come against us as believers. This is one of the few books I read every year. I usually use it as a month-long read, with one letter/chapter for each day of the month. If you want to stay on guard against the enemy of your soul and be aware of how he might be working against you, consider reading this book. I cannot recommend it enough.

Favorite Quote: “You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [Jesus]. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Click Here to Read it for Yourself.

3.    Renovation of The Heart by Dallas Willard

Although Comer wrote my favorite book, Willard is my favorite author… and that’s not even up for discussion. In fact, I could’ve probably just written a blog on my top five Willard books. Needless to say, if you haven’t heard of Dallas Willard – you’re welcome.

This particular book was my first and favorite book that I ever read by Willard. In it, he writes about how to put on the character of Christ on the inside and outside. Because Willard was an academic professor, this is a deep book, both philosophically and theologically. That said, I feel like Willard is the only academic that I’ve personally read who was still able to write clearly and effectively for the everyday reader.

Renovation of the Heart is the book to read as far as it relates to practicing the way of Jesus and seeing whole-life transformation. Simple behavior modification is not sufficient for life-long discipleship. Instead, Willard helps you to understand what it means to live and be renewed by the with-God life.

Favorite Quote: “The revolution of Jesus is in the first place and continuously a revolution of the human heart or spirit. It did not and does not proceed by means of the formation of social institutions and laws, the outer forms of our existence, intending that these would then impose a good order of life upon people who come under their power. Rather, his is a revolution of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It is one that changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings, and habits of choice, as well as their bodily tendencies and social relations. It penetrates to the deepest layers of their soul.”

Click Here to Read it for Yourself.

4.    Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This book by Bonhoeffer has been long considered a “Christian Classic.” You may know Bonhoeffer for his other famous title, The Cost of Discipleship, however; as someone who greatly values intimate community for growing in my faith, Life Together immediately clicked with me. It’s such an incredible book that I ended up purchasing a copy for every individual who is in a community group at our church.

The entire book is a grand total of 122 pages. You could probably read it over the course of a few hours, but even as concise as it may be, the depth of what Bonhoeffer teaches from the scripture about living in Christian community is unfathomable. It will completely change how you think about and relate to other Christian believers.

Bonhoeffer begins by giving a biblical theology of Christian community. He gives a chapter each to how to spend your time together and how to spend your time alone respectively. He writes about serving and ministering to each other for the sake of spiritual growth. However, my favorite chapter is the final chapter, where Bonhoeffer discusses the practices of confession and communion.

Do not skip over this book. There are so many people who are increasingly growing bored with the church and Christian community. If they would read this book and cultivate the kind of authentic, Jesus-centered community which Bonhoeffer emphasizes, they would never leave.

Favorite Quote: “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone... Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”

Click Here to Read it for Yourself.

5.    The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

I was recently telling someone about this book and described it as, “the best book outside of the Bible itself which clearly states the Gospel.” In our familiarity with the Gospel, we can be tempted to dismiss a book like this. I’ve got one word: Don’t.

This book covers every part of the gospel, working through scripture from the Genesis to Revelation. What I love about this book is that it presents the gospel from two perspectives, the ground and the air. Many Christians and churches tend to saturate themselves in one or the other. Chandler is sure to give the dangers of sitting in one perspective for too long.

This book does the best job at balancing the Gospel implications on both the personal level (Gospel on the ground) and the universal level (Gospel from the air). Nevertheless, it is all Gospel and nothing but the Gospel. When you get to the end of the book, you can’t help but to marvel at the wonder of God demonstrated in Jesus Christ.

You must read this book.

Favorite Quote: “The context of the gospel message is not our benefit or our salvation; the context of the gospel is the supremacy of Christ and the glory of God. This story of the good news is personal, but it is also cosmic.”

Click Here to Read it for Yourself.