Best Books for Winter Days

Our Best Books from 2017 keep coming in, and we hope you take advantage of these recommendations throughout 2018.

Karen Meadows, board of deaconesses secretary
You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith

Curt Miller, missions pastor
Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones

Pat Fallon, director of congregational support and care
The Bible (in particular, Psalms, Isaiah and Romans.) I found myself landing in these three books many, many times during this past year. They offered me, as well as people with whom I ministered, profound words of comfort during challenging times.

Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision for Sexuality by Dr. Todd Wilson, former pastor at College Church and senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park. As Dr. Wilson puts it so concisely, “It is time for evangelicals to rediscover the historic Christian vision of human sexuality.” He does a wonderful job of explaining how our approach to so many sex-related issues of the day must have a more robust foundation.

Perfecting Ourselves to Death: The Pursuit of Excellence and the Perils of Perfectionism by Dr. Richard Winter, a psychiatrist and professor emeritus of counseling at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. This book provides a lot of easy-to-read and yet research-based information on the important and complex subject of perfectionism. Dr. Winter sheds the light and truth found in Scripture on how our value and purpose must be based in Christ.

Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness by Dr. Matt Stanford. I appreciate the way Dr. Standford is able to provide clear, chapter-length overviews of the more common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc. I also appreciate his holistic approach to recovery. His chapter on mental health and the church provides a clear rationale for why the church can play a key role in supporting people with these needs.

Jeremy Taylor, missions board chair
The Mission of God by Christopher Wright. This thick tome is an excellent exploration of missiology from a theological and historical perspective. What is the mission of God? To bless the nations! This book explains why, and why it’s important for the church today.

Unexpected News by Robert McAfee Brown. People in developing nations often have a very different interpretation of familiar Bible stories than Westerners. This great little book gives some examples, focusing on Liberation Theology.

The Reason for God by Tim Keller. Keller is mainly writing to skeptics, but Christians can benefit from this accessible apologetics book as well.

Missions by Andy Johnson. This 120-page book can be read in one sitting and provides a helpful overview of the reasons international missions is still needed in the 21st century.

Prophetic Dialog by Stephen Bevans and Roger Schroeder. Written from a Catholic perspective, this book on witness is absolutely useful for Evangelicals. Bevans and Schroeder argue that witness must be a combination of proclamation and conversation to be effective.

The Locust Effect by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros. Gary Haugen is the founder of International Justice Mission; his perspective on global poverty and its connection to violence against the poor is difficult to read but essential for anyone interested in biblical social justice.

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Already a classic after less than a decade, this book provides a biblical framework and best practices for local and international mercy work.

Josh Stringer, pastor of discipleship
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance—I discovered this book when it showed up on several “best of” lists from last year and decided on the audiobook version. Narrated by the author, this is a fascinating, yet sobering memoir about the culture of working-class America. The honest and fair critique of nominal, Bible-belt Christianity should be of particular interest to Christians as we seek to influence the culture around us with the gospel.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke—This book was of particular interest to me, personally, since “how do I have appropriate boundaries with technology?” is a question I’m asked a lot as a pastor, as well as a question we ask a lot at home. I found this book to be a resource full of diagnostic, biblical wisdom. Reinke doesn’t take a hard stance for or against smartphones or technology. His balanced approach and tough analysis covers both the benefits and dangers of smartphones, in particular, and technology, in general.

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson—The subtitle, “Grace for people who can’t get their act together,” perfectly describes the type of real-life, up-and-down path of discipleship that we all experience. The goal of this book is to point us to Jesus, even through the failures and imperfections of our walk to follow the Savior. More than any book on discipleship I read this year, I came away from this one encouraged and refreshed about my own journey as a disciple of Jesus.

Steve Ivester, elder
Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Tim Keller—Keller shows in this book that gospel-humility means we can stop connecting every experience, every conversation with ourselves and can thus be free from self-condemnation. He says, “humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but instead thinking of ourselves less.”

You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith—Smith asks the reader this uncomfortable question: “Do we love what we think we love?” This book presses us to answer this question honestly and shows us the renewed and abundant life that awaits Christians whose habits and practices—whose liturgies of living—work to open our hearts to our God and our neighbors.

Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch—True flourishing, says Crouch, travels down an unexpected path—being both strong and weak. In this book, Crouch shows us how to multiply our power to create a world where people from every tribe and nation can flourish and reach their full God-given potential. 

Wil Triggs, director of communications
The Hidden Smile of God by John Piper, John Bunyan, William Cowper and David Brainerd—Suffering and perseverance pointing me to conclude at first that in 2018 we could learn a great deal about how to care for one another and stand for Christ from these people who lived for Christ in a very different world than we know.

The Psalms: Rejoice, the Lord is King by James A. Johnston—Covering Psalms 1-41, this first in a planned three-volume series contained some great perspectives on these psalms, relating them to both history and contemporary life. Jim was the missions pastor here at College Church when Lorraine and I were appointed as missionaries many years ago. Reading and being blessed by these chapters was a great way to reconnect with him.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke—I loved that this book was not from the perspective of a Luddite, but someone who, at some level, embraces technology and uses it for good. Practical, real-life and thought provoking.

Gail Mudra, interim director of children’s ministries
Seasons of Waiting by Betsy Childs Howard—Waiting is hard. God is good. Howard points us to God, reminding us that although we often wonder how God will meet our needs, we can fully trust that he will. We must wait for him to reveal his provision day by day.

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot—A wonderful collection of lead articles featured in Elliot’s newsletters. In the author’s words, “Mostly they are about learning to know God, and nothing else comes close to being as important as that.” I love her focus on knowing God and the quiet refuge her words offer.

Devotional Psalter, Crossway—I love the psalms. I am thoroughly enjoying digging into them each morning with this devotional.

Erik Dewar, pastor of worship and music
The Worship Pastor by Zac Hicks

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull