I’ve been recently compiling a recommended reading list for my new church in Ballymoney. I whittled it down to 100 books, and left off many that could well have been included. It does reflect the fact that I am Reformed, Baptist, cessationist and complementarian! – but hopefully it will still be helpful to an even wider audience.
1. “Two Ways to Live” by Matthias Media (Tract). A simple but thoroughly biblical presentation of the good news about Jesus. Charts the two possible courses human beings can take in relation to God. Also available online.
2. “Ultimate Questions” by John Blanchard. A little book which asks and answers life’s big questions. Answers queries like “Is anyone there?”, “Who am I?”, “Is sin serious?”, “How can I be saved?” The entire book is available online.
3. “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. Written with sceptics in mind, this book addresses many of the concerns commonly raised by atheists about Christianity. Keller also positively proclaims the gospel of Christ. The book has been a recent best-seller in the US, even on the secular market.
4. “Darwin on Trial” by Phillip Johnson. With the razor sharp logic of a lawyer, Johnson critiques pro-Darwinist arguments and proposes intelligent design as an alternative.
For New Christians
5. “Just for Starters” by Matthias Media. This book covers the basics of Christian living in a series of studies. Best done with a mature Christian and maybe ideally in a group setting.
6. “Hanging in There” by John Dickson. A non-patronising introduction to the Christian life that you can read in an evening.
7. “God’s Big Picture” by Vaughan Roberts. An overview of the bible in just over 100 pages. Shows you how the story fits together using the theme of God’s kingdom. Simplified version of the teaching of Graeme Goldsworthy (see below: According to Plan)
8. “Distinctives” by Vaughan Roberts. Unpacks some areas where the fledgling Christian will have to stand out from the crowd if they are to follow Christ. “Perspective in a world that lives for the moment”; “Purity in a world obsessed with sex” are just some of the chapters.
9. “Don’t waste your Life” by John Piper. Hugely powerful book. Helpful to read early on in one’s walk with Christ. Examines the cost of discipleship and weighs it against the even bigger cost of wasting one’s life.
10. “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. Probably the finest allegory every written. More than just a good story, it is rich theology put into story form. “Christian” makes his perilous journey from the “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City” , meeting many remarkable characters along the way.
11. “Confessions” by Augustine. Still well worth reading. An autobiographical and extremely personal work, ‘Confessions’ gives Augustine’s testimony from his early years of immoral behaviour, to his conversion, to his current life of ministry.
12. “Institutes of the Christian Religion” by John Calvin. A heavyweight doctrinal discussion from perhaps the sharpest exegete and theologian of the Reformation period. Regarded as one of the greatest theological volumes ever.
13. The Puritans! The sixteen volume works of John Owen are intellectually rigorous, but wonderful material. Other great Puritans include Richard Baxter, John Flavel, Thomas Watson (see ‘Body of Divinity’), William Perkins and Thomas Boston. Two great introductions to the Puritans are “Worldly Saints: the Puritans as They Really Were” by Leland Ryken, and “A Quest for Godliness: the Puritan view of the Christian Life”by JI Packer.
Defending Your Faith
14. “Every Thought Captive” by Richard Pratt Jr. One of the best practical introductions to the practice of defending the Christian faith. No previous knowledge required; written for laypeople.
15. “Tactics: A Gameplan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions”by Gregory Koulk. A very down to earth discussion about how we negotiate conversations with sceptical non-Christians’. As a starting point, not much to choose between this one and Pratt’s.
16. “Apologetics to the Glory of God” by John Frame. More academic than the previous: a comprehensive introduction to the field of ‘apologetics.’ Superb.
17. “The Universe Next Door” by James Sire. Examines other worldviews and critiques them from a biblical perspective.
18. “Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind” by Tremper Longman III. A book aiming to kindle our passion for Scripture, whilst giving us the tools to read the bible better.
19. “Dig Deeper”by Beynon and Sachs. Introduces some of the basic ‘tools’ needed for effective bible study (eg. The context tool, the repetition tool). Ideal for reading in a pair on a weekly basis.
20. “According to Plan: the Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible”by Graeme Goldsworthy. Looks at the story of the bible as a whole and explains how the entirety fits together. Heavy reading, but a great pay off for the persevering.
21. Dillard & Longman, “Introduction to the Old Testament” and Carson, Moo, Morris “Introduction to the New Testament.” These are more ‘technical’ introductions to the Old and New Testament books that discuss the debates of critical scholarship from an evangelical perspective.
22. Bible Speaks Today” Commentaries. A well balanced commentary series with titles available on every book of the bible. This series of commentaries is written by evangelical authors who seriously interact with the biblical text. However, it is simple enough for the layman to follow. John Stott has written a number of times for this series (His BST commentaries on Acts and Ephesians are outstanding).
23. “For the Love of God – V 1 & 2” by Don Carson. A bible reading plan which follows the pattern laid out by Robert Murray McCheyne. Also has a comment from Dr Carson each day.
24. “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church Member”by Thabiti Anyabwile. An ideal starting point to introduce the responsibilities of church membership.
25. “Nine Marks of A Healthy Church” by Mark Dever. A formative book that presents a contrary picture to a consumer-orientated church. Among the ‘marks’ are expositional preaching, a biblical understanding of conversion and a biblical understanding of church discipline.
26. “Stop Dating the Church” by Josh Harris. Written to convert lone-ranger Christians into those who are committed to the church body.
27. “Handbook on Church Discipline” by Jay Adams. A primer on the thorny but important subject of church discipline. Unpacks Matthew 18 passage.
28. “Worship by the Book” by Don Carson and others. Dr Carson’s opening chapter on worship throughout the bible is worth the price of the book. The remaining chapters show how three pastors in different traditions seek to apply the principles in their confessional tradition.
29. “The Gospel and Personal Evangelism” by Mark Dever. Answers four basic questions about evangelism: Who should we evangelize? How should we evangelize? What is evangelism? Why should we evangelize?
30. “Know and Tell the Gospel” by John Chapman. Does exactly what it says on the tin. The first half of the book explains the gospel to make sure we get it; the second half deals with the practicalities of evangelism.
31. “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God”by JI Packer. How do the themes of God’s Sovereignty and our responsibility to evangelise interact? Packer gives a brief but stretching treatment.
32. “Tell the Truth” by Will Metzger. If the words ‘God centered evangelism’ mean nothing to you, this book would be a worthwhile read. Aims to help us share the whole gospel to the glory of God.
33. ” Let the Nations be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions” by John Piper. Simply the best contemporary theology of mission. Returns frequently to God’s goal in all mission work: to bring honour to His great name, thereby bringing joy to the nations.
34. “Know the Truth” by Bruce Milne. A great entry point for those new to theology.
35. “Concise Theology”by JI Packer. Contains concise chapters (2-4 pages) on about 90 doctrines.
36. “Reformed Dogmatics” by Herman Bavnick. Richard Gaffin calls it: “arguably the most important systematic theology produced in the Reformed tradition.” JI Packer adds: “Bavinck’s Dutch masterwork was the Everest of which the textbooks by Louis Berkhof and Auguste Leoerf were foothills”! Need I say more!
37. “Chosen By God”by RC Sproul. Trying to wade through the issues of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in the plan of salvation? One of the simplest introductions to a profound subject.
38. “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended and Documented” by David Steele, Curtis Thomas and S Lance Quinn. Philip Ryken callls this book “the best short introduction to the doctrines of grace”; RC Sproul dubs it “a classic.” Unpacks the five points one by one.
39. “The Theology of the Reformers” by Timothy George. A historical and biblical introduction to Reformed Theology.
40. “The Holy Spirit” by Sinclair Ferguson, “Four views of Spiritual Gifts” by Counterpoints & “The Final Word: A biblical response to the case for tongues and prophecy today” by O. Palmer Robertson. A triad of books that will be helpful in orienting people toward the work of the Holy Spirit as well as controversial questions about spiritual gifts today.
41. “Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul” by Guy Prentiss Waters. Reviews and responds to the so called ‘new perspectives on Paul ‘which are causing a wide-spread re-interpretation of books such as Romans and Galatians. Written to introduce the subject to those who know little or nothing about it.
The Cross of Christ
42. “The Cross of Christ”by John Stott. Arguably the best treatment on the death of Christ available. One to read through slowly and several times over.
43. “Pierced for our Transgressions” by Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, Andrew Sach. A superb contemporary defence of the long attacked doctrine of ‘penal substitution.’ (ie. The idea that Christ died for our sins as a substitute, bearing God’s wrath)
44. “The Cross Centered Life” by CJ Mahaney. A five star devotional book that explores how we can make the cross of Jesus central to our everyday living.
45. “The Passion of Jesus Christ: 50 reasons why Jesus came to Die” by John Piper. An ideal book to read daily on the run up to Good Friday.
46. “Believers Baptism” by Tom Schreiner. Takes seriously the challenge of the paedo-baptist position, but defends and promotes believers baptism. Superb treatment.
47. “The Water that Divides”by Donald Bridge and David Phypers. A believer’s baptist and a peado-baptist argue out the respective merits of their positions.
48. “Why I am a Baptist” by Russell Moore and Tom Nettles. Avariety of authors (including Carl. F.H. Henry, Roger Nicole, R. Albert Mohler Jr. & Geoffrey Thomas) commend baptist credentials from a variety of angles: personal, historical, and theological.
49. “A Call for Spiritual Reformation” by Don Carson. This celebrated work looks at the prayers of Paul the apostle, and calls on us to imitate his priorities in prayer. A watershed book for many in their understanding of how to pray Scripturally.
50. “Pray with your eyes open” by Richard Pratt. An excellent introductory book to prayer, complete with study questions.
51. “A Method for Prayer” by Matthew Henry. Henry’s commentary on the whole bible is famous, but his lesser known Method for Prayer is a real gem. Full of practical pointers for prayer, and gives hundreds of biblical examples of the things we should pray for. Readers will be amazed at Henry’s grasp of Scripture.
52. “Valley of Vision” by ed. Arthur Bennett. A collection of Puritan prayers. Many have found these prayers a useful stimulus to their prayer lives.
For Singles and those Dating
53. “Boy Meets Girl” by Josh Harris. Romance from a biblical perspective.
54. “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Josh Harris. A candid look at the dating culture among Christians today and what the bible has to say about it.
55. “Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?” by Carolyn McCulley A book on making the most of the single life as a Christian; written by a single lady.
56. “The Single Issue”by Al Hsu. Probably the best book written on singleness available. Looks at all the main issues, whilst keeping close to the Scripture’s teaching.
57. “The Big Picture Story Bible” by David Helm. An overview of the bible story, told with Jesus at the center. Probably best for under 5s.
58. “The Jesus Story Book Bible“. Similar idea to the Big Picture Story Bible, but much longer narration. Aimed at 5-10’s.
59. “The Big Book of Bible Truths” & “The Big Book of Questions & Answers About Jesus” by Sinclair Ferguson
60. “Praise Factory”. Ok, so strictly speaking this isn’t a book. But a whole host of excellent online materialis available to download from Connie Dever.
61. “God, Marriage and Family”by Andreas Kostenberger. The magnum opus of books on all issues relating to marriage and family. Comprehensively sweeps over the territory of Scripture and draws out lasting principles for the conduct of marriage, singleness, divorce and a host of other topics. A reference book to return to.
62. “Love that lasts”by Gary & Betsy Riucci. One of the best books in recent years dealing with marriage. Jointly written by a married couple, this biblical and practical volume is a good primer on all things pertaining to marriage.
63. “Lasting Love”by Alistair Begg. Perhaps best read by couples who have been married for some time. Stresses marriage as a covenant commitment and talks about protecting our marriages from a variety of threats.
64. “When Sinners say I Do: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage” by David Harvey. The title sums up the book’s theme. If you don’t know why the gospel would relate to your married life, you need to read this book!
65. “When the Darkness will not Lift” by John Piper. Deals with depression from a biblical standpoint. You can read this book online.
66. “When People are Big and God is small”by Ed Welsch. Everyone struggles with the fear of man, to a greater or lesser extent. Ed Welsch explores what to do about it.
67. “How long O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil” by Don Carson. A no holds barred look at what the bible teaches about suffering. Written with exegetical precision and pastoral sensitivity.
68. “When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty”by Joni Erickson Tada. Co-authored by a woman who has experienced deep suffering first hand and endured it with a rock-solid theology of God’s Sovereignty.
69. “Quick Scripture Reference for Counselling”by John G Kruis. An aid for elders, but actually a good reference for struggling Christians themselves. Has extensive scriptures to address a range of themes (eg. Adultery, affliction, alchohol, anger…)
70. “The Busy Christians Guide to Busyness” by Tim Chester. “I’m busy” – how often do we say it?! Chester examines why we workaholics fill our lives running around with no time to spare.
71. “How can I be sure I am a Christian?” by Donald Whitney. This book meets head on perhaps the most common and perplexing pastoral issue: a lack of assurance. Whitney takes us back to the bible and helps us distinguish between presumption and true assurance.
72. “Biblical Eldership” by Alexander Strauch. Deals with every major biblical passage pertaining to eldership, explaining and applying them. A bit of a tome, but no better single-volume on the market.
73. “Leading with Love” by Alexander Strauch. A practical book which looks at the vital part that love plays in church leadership.
74. “The Peacemaker” by Kevin Sande. THE book on dealing with conflict in the church. A comprehensive and practical theology for conflict resolution, designed to bring about not only a cease-fire but also unity and harmony.
75. “The Elder and his work” by John Dickson. Written by an elder, for elders.
The Pastor’s role
76. “On Being a Pastor”by Derek Prime & Alistair Begg. More geared toward ‘paid’ pastors, but much that is covered pertains to all elders. Covers a wide range of subjects from priorities in pastoral work, to teaching and visitation.
77. “The Reformed Pastor” by Richard Baxter. A classic work on the fundamentals of a pastor’s role.
78. “The Christian Ministry” by Charles Bridges. Rivals the Reformed Pastor as one of the finest works on pastoral ministry.
79. “I believe in Preaching”by John Stott. If you don’t believe in preaching, you should at least give this book a hearing. A comprehensive and persuasive case is made for preaching by Stott that appeals to history and Scripture.
80. “Feminine Appeal”by Carloyn Mahaney. A study of what the bible teaches about femininity, over and often against what the world teaches.
81. “God’s Design for Women” by Sharon James. As above.
82. “Biblical Womanhood in the home”by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. This book particularly looks at what goes on within the four walls of our homes, and what biblical womanhood looks like in that context.
83. “Women’s Ministry in the Local Church”by Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt. Deals with the thorny issues of the extent of women’s role in the church. A wholesome treatment of the subject that elevates the worth of women in the church congregation, and discusses how to implement a women’s ministry.
84. “50 Crucial Questions about Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. For those wrestling with what the bible really teaches about femininity. Answers the tough questions.
85. “Discipllines of a Godly Man” by R Kent Hughes. Examines 20 disciplines that are necessary in the godly man’s walk. An ideal study to do in a pair or a group. Has questions at the end of each chapter. (Note: There are also two other similar books available: “Disciplines of a Godly Woman” and “Disciplines of a Godly Family“)
86. “Men of God: Growing Men’s Ministry in the Local Church”by Benton, Coekin, Jackman, Jensen, Roberts, Tice. Very helpful booklet which grew out of the men’s conventions in the London.
87. “Thoughts for Young Men”by JC Ryle. Blunt, straightfoward advice man to man. Tackles what godliness needs to look like, especially in the lives of younger guys.
88. “Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God”by Noel Piper. Not just a book for women to read! Chronicles the lives of Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim and Helen Roseveare, drawing out spiritual lessons.
89. “The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon and William Wilberforce” by John Piper. This biography, like Piper’s others, give a brief summary of the individual’s life, and then draws out themes and lessons to learn for today. Read it online.
90. “The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther and Calvin” by John Piper. Similar format to the Roots of Endurance. Available to read online.
91. “Portrait of Calvin” by THL Parker. There isn’t much in the way of good biography on John Calvin, so THL Parker’s offering is a needful addition. Also available online.
92. “Here I stand: The Life of Martin Luther”by Roland H Bainton. The man who was God’s instrument in the Reformation. Bainton tells the story with all the eloquence it deserves.
93. “Jonathan Edwards: A Life”by George M. Marsden. Still a hero of many (not least John Piper!). Preacher, theologian, philosopher, missionary, pastor, author – Edward’s was all of them. Marden portrays the man who was a catalyst for the Great Awakening.
94. “George Whitefield: The Life and Times of an Eighteenth Century Evangelist”by Arnold Dallimore. Heart warming tale of Whitefield’s life is a favourite biography for many.
95. “D Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The first forty years” and “D. Martyn Lloyd Jones: the fight of faith” by Iain Murray. Celebrated account of the great expositor preacher, Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones, who graced the pulpit of Westminster Chapel for almost 30 years.
96. “William Tyndale: a Biography” by David Danielle. Remarkable story of the brave bible translator who put the bible into the English language, at the cost of his life.
97. “The Forgotten Spurgeon” by Iain Murray. A sane account of an extraordinary man, who was one of the greatest preachers ever. Alternatively “Spurgeon: A New Biography” by Arnold Dallimore.
98. “Through the Gates of Splendour” by Elizabeth Elliot. A story that has inspired millions of missionaries since the 1950’s, when Elizabeth’s husband was killed by the Aucu Indians in Ecuador.
99. “Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murray McCheyne” by Andrew Bonar. The life of McCheyne, much straight from his personal diary, is particularly well worth reading.
100. “Out of the depths” by John Newton. An autobiography from the quill of the slave trader turned hymn writer.