Tim Challies did a review of John Stott’s Why I Am a Christian, and while the review itself is fine, something Tim said gave me fodder for this post:
Why I Am A Christian is a good book and one I can recommend with only a small amount of hesitation. It is well-suited to provide to a friend or family-member who is interested in learning more about the Christian faith. It is a good “giveaway” book. I can’t say that it would be my first choice, but you could certainly do far worse.
As someone who likes to give or recommend books for people who are interested in learning more about the Christian faith, or have just given their life to Christ, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve gotten stale in my recommendations.
C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity has been my go-to work whenever I talk to someone about the Lord or hear that someone is investigating Christianity. I’ve given away so many of these over the years that I once visited a church and stopped by its library, only to find the copy on the shelves was one that had my name, address, and phone number in it! You can’t beat the logical presentation and the fact that Lewis goes back to First Cause and reasons from there. I’ve always thought the de-emphasizing of Biblical citations actually works in favor of the book, too, especially when read by people who criticize making “circular” references to the Bible to prove the case for the Lord.
And while I’ve read Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, I haven’t yet made them staples of my book giving. I recommend them to searchers, but I’ve long wanted to supplement my recommendation of Mere Christianity with something else.
I think I do better with book suggestions for new Christians though, and while there are plenty of good books out there, I’ve stuck with some proven choices.
For years my book of choice for new Christians has been John White’s The Fight. This classic has worn well over the years and InterVarsity Press still keeps it in its catalog. Good for them. There aren’t enough books that I know of that do such a good job of covering the basics of how to start in the Christian faith. When someone I know surrenders to the Lord, I always give them this book.
Another moldy oldie that I absolutely love for numerous reasons is Tony Salerno’s Life in Christ: A Manual for Disciples. It’s a Bible study/workbook that covers just about every aspect of the Christian life, but it delves into topics not found in most books of its type, including study sections on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, making restitution to those you’ve wronged before your salvation, the nature of the Church and its functions in the world, spiritual warfare, the believer’s commissioning from Christ, and even a section that functions as a scrapbook of one’s coming to faith.
And even though it was first published in 1983, it can never go out of style because it features an astonishing set of engravings of Christians scenes from the Bible and elsewhere by the likes of Gustav Doré and others. Let me say that the art direction for this book is top notch and has not gotten old even though the book itself has roots in The Agape Force (memories anyone?) Lastly, it contains a forward by David Wilkerson and preface by Leonard Ravenhill, along with quotes and sidebars by Moody, Spurgeon, Torrey, Goforth, and other greats of the Faith—how can anyone ask for more? Unfortunately, I fear this fine book is no longer being offered by Bethany House Publishers, although it is still being available from Amazon, but only as used. If that’s the case, I suspect it only went out of print in the last couple months. (I always told myself that I should buy about a hundred of these, but the cost for that many has always been an issue.) I hope it goes back into print soon. As one of the only books of its kind that addresses the Faith from the vantage point of charismatics and Pentecostals, it is absolutely needed.
Disciple by Juan Carlos Ortiz does a fine job emphasizing the Lordship of Christ in the believer’s life. (Ironically, Amazon lists its “Better Together” partner as White’s The Fight.) It goes all the way back to 1975, but returns to print from time to time—right now it is still available. Ortiz, formerly the pastor of the largest church in Argentina, brings his distinctly Latin American sensibilities to the book and it reads very simply yet profoundly at the same time. His illustration of the believer’s handing over his life to Christ has gotten a lot of mileage in Christian circles. If you’ve read this book, you’ll know what I mean. Still, I think it started with this book. Back in the early 1980s, just about everyone I knew had read this one and loved it. For years it was my favorite book. Don’t let the fact that Ortiz once ran the Hispanic ministry of Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral dissuade you from reading this; it contains nothing resembling Schuller’s message.
I’m just now reading C. J. Mahaney’s The Cross Centered Life and it may very well enter my list of recommended works for baby Christians. As easy to read as Disciple (and even shorter), Mahaney gets to the point in an age when the cross has fallen out of fashion in too many churches. Centering one’s life on the work of Jesus on Calvary was good enough for Paul; it should be good enough for us. A desperately needed message, for sure.
So, dear readers, what do you recommend in books for those investigating Christianity and for the newly converted? I welcome you to fill the comments section with anything you think is worthwhile. This is a need in the Body of Christ and I hope what we discuss here will help all of us and those people with whom we share these books.