by Frank Powell

Pilgrim Heart written by Darryl Tippens

Tippens bring a fresh outlook on some old spiritual disciplines and a few newer disciplines (and by newer I am referring to Christendom’s observance of them), and he forces the reader to view the daily walk with God as an invitation to be spiritually formed. Followers of Jesus with a “pilgrim heart” do not compartmentalize the Christian life, but instead view every situation in life as an opportunity to look more like Jesus. If you have never thought about the importance of spiritual disciplines, or if you are new to the idea and would benefit from a brief, but comprehensive look at spiritual formation, I would strongly recommend Pilgrim Heart. This book is on par with some of the works of Foster and Willard (bold statement, but I believe it to be true).

MY RATING: 4.0 out of 5

The Catalyst Leader written by Brad Lomenick

Simply put, this is the best book on leadership I have ever read. From beginning to end, Lomenick does an incredible job of mixing insight, practical application, and straight up truth regarding the qualities necessary for a leader. His eight essentials (called, authentic, passionate, capable, courageous, principled, hopeful, and collaborative) are spot on, and it is obvious from reading the book that the Catalyst team has a firm grasp on the millennial generation. His list of “20 Points For Leading 20 Somethings” is worth the price of the book by itself. This book is one of only a handful I can say I will constantly come back to as a resource for years to come, and for those of you that enjoy “one-liners” as much as myself, this book has a plethora.

MY RATING: 4.5 out of 5

Next Generation Leader written by Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley is one of the best sources for Christian leadership alive today, and all of his works are worth a look. Next Generation Leader is not as lengthy as some of his other books, but this does not mean it is less insightful or challenging. In this book, Stanley focuses on five important characteristics for leaders of this generation (competence, courage, clarity, coaching, and character). Stanley actually takes a lot of the principles in this book and expounds upon them in another book, Deep and Wide, but there are certainly some one-liners in this work which make it worth a read. His chapter entitled “Competence” was very profound and challenging, and if you want to learn how to maximize your time and focus on what’s important on a daily basis, pick up the book and read that chapter.

MY RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Scarred Faith written by Josh Ross

Real, authentic, challenging, refreshing…all of these describe Josh Ross’s Scarred Faith. The catalyst for this book is the untimely death of his sister, and Josh takes his readers on a journey of grief, doubt, and dealing with the emotions that accompany the death of a sibling. Josh challenges the view that it is not okay to be transparent with God (I mean, he already knows anyway…right?), and he reminds us that Jesus’s ultimate mission was not to heal people of their physical problems but instead their sin problem. If you have ever experienced seasons of doubt or struggled to deal with grief, I highly recommend this book. Heck, I recommend it even if you have not.

MY RATING: 4.5 out of 5

God’s Potters written by Jackson Carroll

Pastoral ministry is an occupation in flux. In this all-inclusive study Jackson W. Carroll considers the many factors – changing roles among clergy and laypeople, the opening of ordination to women, an increasing shortage of clergy, and more – that are shaping congregations and ministers today. Drawing on Paul’s image of Christians as “clay jars,” Carroll paints a portrait of “God’s potters” – pastors whose calling is to form their congregational jars so they reveal rather than hide God’s treasures. This is a dense work that is full of statistics, tables, charts, and graphs that help the reader understand the nature of pastoral culture today. Better block off at least a few days. If you read this book in less than that, I am going to call your bluff.

MY RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Leading the Congregation written by Roger Heuser and Norman Shawchuck

Leading the Congregation does a superb job of addressing pressing issues relevant to the church today. The authors understand there is a shift taking place in Christendom, and the leaders who rely on God and are willing to be risk-takers will be the ones who continue to successfully lead their respective congregations. Heuser and Shawchuck divide this book into three sections (leading from within, working with others, and the transformation of others). Reader beware: there is a lot of great material in this book…do not plan on blocking off an afternoon and reading this book cover to cover. It must be read with a pen and paper close at hand. It will challenge your mind and attack some of your long held beliefs. But if you want some invaluable insight and direction on leadership, this book is one worth your time.

MY RATING: 4.0 out of 5

I Am a Church Member written by Thom Rainer

In this short, “pamphlet type” book, Thom Rainer writes to Christians of all backgrounds urging them to be productive, healthy church members. This is an easy read, and although its length does not allow it to get below surface-level, it is a surprisingly convicting work. Rainer reminds us Christians are only truly members of a church Biblically when they are active and productive within the local body. To claim association with a particular church and not be active is not Biblical membership. Rainer also urges church members to pray for their leaders and explains why it is important. This book would be helpful as a resource for churches who want its members to be reminded what God expects from his church.

MY RATING: 3.0 out of 5

Eat This Book written by Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message, reminds us why God’s word (the Bible) is so important. Peterson knows the tendency of most is to read the Bible in the same manner as we read other books. Instead of skimming the pages, Peterson urges his readers to LIVE in the Bible. He presents sound theological and practical arguments for the Bible being the revealed, inspired word of God. Eat This Book is a classic. A must read for all people. It can be dense at points, so do not expect to breeze through it in a day. But the truths contained in this book are transformative.

MY RATING: 4.0 out of 5

Love Does written by Bob Goff

If someone told me they were only going to read one book this year, I would probably recommend this one. There are very few books that I actually struggle to put down. I literally could not put this book down once I started. Love Does reminds us real love presupposes action. Love is not an idea and it is not something abstract…love is something that does. Bob Goff takes us on a journey of his life and the many experiences he has had with others along the way. This book will inspire you to get out of your comfort zone and do something to impact the world. I actually had the opportunity to meet and talk with Bob Goff when he was speaking at an event in Jackson, MS. I quickly learned that the perception is the reality. The stories are real. The life is real. I highly recommend this book (and, yes, his cell number is actually in the book and he will answer if you call).

MY RATING: 5.0 out of 5.0

Mere Christianity written by C. S. Lewis

Mere Christianity is a timeless classic. It is very dense and difficult to digest, but the reward for reading this book is well worth the struggle. There is nothing surface level about any of C. S. Lewis’s works, but it is impossible to finish this book and not be a changed person. This one is not on my top five for this year only because I have read it in the past. I wanted to read it again this year. And I will probably read it again next year.Mere Christianity contains an infinite amount of one-liners, and his thoughts challenge the mind and pierce the heart. Please read this book. Other than the Bible, this might the best resource I own. I quote it often in sermons and classes, and use it often when developing thoughts and ideas.

MY RATING: 4.5 out of 5.0

Blessed are the Peacemakers written by S. Jonathan Bass

I read this book as a requirement for a class that I never took. I would never have considered it otherwise, but I will say it was very insightful. Blessed are the Peacemakers investigates the civil rights era, and specifically the time Martin Luther King, Jr. spent in Birmingham, AL, through the eyes of eight white clergymen. Bass wants to tell the story of these eight men who tried to promote peace in Birmingham during a time of extreme civil unrest. Their goal was not to choose sides, but to be mediators and peacemakers between the two sides. Bass wants the readers to know MLK did a lot to bridge the racial divide in the south, but in the mean time he put these eight clergymen in a no win situation. His decisions and actions forced them to choose between the white community and the african american community, and consequently, most of them were hated by both sides. I have never thought about the civil rights era through the eyes of those that were trying to use non-direct methods of racial reconciliation. S. Jonathan Bass presents a different point of view. Interesting read.

MY RATING: 3.0 out of 5

Deep and Wide written by Andy Stanley

This book really stretched me. Some of the concepts and ideas on leadership and church culture were very different, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading Deep and Wide. This is the most complete work to date for Stanley, and he covers everything from vision to leadership to church culture to specific aspects of their Sunday morning service. I would recommend it to any person that wants to shift the culture of the church from being insider-friendly to being seeker-friendly. Stanley makes it very clear the goal of the church is to reach out, and his philosophy is to be extremely relevant for the sake of reaching the lost. He wants to create a church where members want to invite their friends. He believes strongly in the appearance of the church (both inside and out) and seek to create a memorable experience for everyone who attends. Churches and leaders today can learn a lot from the approach and philosophy of Andy Stanley and the North Point Church. And even though numbers are not everything, the proof is in the pudding…on any given Sunday, North Point has upwards of 24,000 people attend one of their services.

MY RATING: 4.5 out of 5

Shared Wisdom written by Jeffrey Mahan, Barbara Troxell, and Carol Allen

Shared Wisdom is a step by step approach for conducting and facilitating case studies. If you are like me and have never been around the case study approach to learning before reading this book, I will admit it is different. But before you become skeptical and throw this book out, chew on this…the Harvard School of Business uses case studies to teach its students…AND NOTHING ELSE. That’s right. Case studies all day every day. Pretty impressive. Although case studies can be used in any setting (business, medical, theological, etc.), this book focuses on how to conduct and facilitate theological case studies. This is a pretty good beginner’s guide to the process.

MY RATING: 3.0 out of 5

Accompany Them With Singing written by Thomas G. Long

Long provides a much-needed theological and cultural critique of today’s Christian funeral. He describes the basic pattern for a funeral service, details options in funeral planning, identifies characteristics of a “good funeral,” and provides thoughtful guidance for preaching at a funeral. Accompany Them With Singing also addresses a disturbing trend toward funeral services that seem theologically right and pastorally caring but actually depart from the primary aims of the Christian funeral. I find Long’s blunt attacks on the culture of funerals today refreshing, and he uses theological and historical perspectives to call the Christian community back to the true meaning of the funeral.

MY RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Fields of the Fatherless written by Tom Davis

Tom Davis’s story is absolutely amazing, and this book carries with it the passion he has for the fatherless. When Tiffani (my wife) and I were praying about God’s direction, she ran across this book and devoured it in a day or two. She then gave it to me and I did the same. This book is compelling and extremely convicting. Davis wants to bring to light the plight of orphans and widows and the role believers in Christ play. It is a call to open our hearts to those who are so important to God and become an agent of change, an advocate, and to start practicing true religion (James 1:27). Convicted yet? This book has literally changed my life. After reading it, I was convinced God was leading us to adopt a child and become a father to the fatherless. We are now going through the adoption process at least in part because I read this book. I am not saying the same will happen to you, but this book will open your eyes to the importance of playing some role in those who are fatherless in this world.

MY RATING: 4.5 out of 5

Barefoot Church written by Brandon Hatmaker

It is encouraging to know there are Christians alive today that believe having the best and biggest is not necessary to advance the Kingdom and change people’s lives. Hatmaker challenges American Christians to become like Jesus and devote their lives to serving the least in our communities and cities. Also refreshing is the fact that Hatmaker encourages local churches to partner with mission organizations already established in the community, and he spends time explaining how to make this partnership happen. Too many churches try to re-invent the wheel, and this is often counter-productive to what is already going on in our cities. With poignant stories and helpful resources, Barefoot Church will shake the foundation of your comfortable, consumer mindset and challenge you to devote your time, energy, and resources towards things that can have an eternal impact.

MY RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Visioneering written by Andy Stanley

If you look at my current list for this year, you will notice several books by Andy Stanley. This is intentional because of the quality of his books, especially as it relates to leadership and vision. In this book, Stanley lays out a road map for obtaining and promoting a vision to the people you are leading. He uses the Bible, and specifically the story of Nehemiah, as his model for vision and building the church. Probably not the most impactful book I have read by Stanley this year, but still beneficial nonetheless. If you are wondering how to cast an aggressive and compelling vision to the people you are leading, Visioneering is a good place to start.


Follow Me written by David Platt

One thing I love about David Platt is his passion for the Lord. It seeps out of every page he writes. Follow Me is a call for all Christians to become true followers of Jesus by allowing Jesus to penetrate our hearts and our minds. This book was certainly challenging in sections, and if someone is looking to understand God’s call for a true follower, from everyday living to church membership, this book will be helpful. The discipleship plan at the end of the book is very practical as well. As a whole, I believe my presuppositions of this book were unfair. Radical (Platt’s previous work) was extremely transformative for me at the time in life when I read it, and I assumed this book would be equally as transformative. It was not. This is a solid book though. Had I not readRadical, I believe my judgement on this book would have been different. Platt did challenge me to think about how to be more intentional when it comes to making disciples.


Living Jesus written by Randy Harris

In a word…WOW! Please understand my reviews are based upon the impact a particular book has on my life. I am not reviewing based upon perfect grammar or astute academic knowledge expressed in a 500 page masterpiece (although I have read those books). This book is going to make it on my top 5 because it reminds the reader of something important and life-changing…the words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 5-7 are actually meant to be LIVED OUT in our lives. I have read commentaries centered around the “Sermon on the Mount” that are 200-300 pages in length, but are not as deep and thought-provoking as this short work (approximately 150 pages). I felt like Randy was constantly punching me in the gut with his explanation of the commands from Jesus. Want to be challenged to live out the “Sermon on the Mount” and have your life radically altered? Read this book. He also talks about an experiment he is conducting with some students at Abilene Christian University where they are challenging one another to live out the commands from Jesus given in the “Sermon on the Mount.” Honestly, the book is worth its price just from the challenge he presents in the final 10 pages. It is an easy ready, and I appreciate Randy’s ability to take the words from Jesus in Matthew 5-7 and expound on them in a way that is easy to understand and extremely challenging.


Sacred Marriage written by Gary Thomas

In Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas looks at the holy institution of marriage as a journey of holiness as opposed to an opportunity for happiness. “God made marriage to make us holy, not make us happy.” From sex to conflict to forgiveness, Thomas believes marriage is a spiritual discipline, and every part of marriage should be viewed through this lense. This book is not like most marriage books you see in bookstores. This one is not necessarily a self-help book or a plan to save your marriage book. But do not be mistaken, if you allow Thomas to flesh out the meaning behind his title, your marriage will benefit from it. One of the biggest reasons marriages fail is pride and a false misunderstanding of what marriage is actually designed to accomplish. No person can find ultimate fulfillment in another person, but marriage can be a powerful vehicle to bring people closer to God and more fully understand his nature.


Real Life Discipleship written by Jim Putman

In this book, Putman makes his premise that discipleship is the key to growing a church, and that the New Testament church exists to make disciples. Beyond that Real Life Discipleship provides the reader with a clear-cut process that is used at the author’s church for doing exactly that based on a series of steps, beginning with a small group and the relationships built within small groups. I found this book to be an extremely insightful tool, and a very important resource for any church leader or staff member that is attempting to establish a process for small groups. I highly recommend this book simply because of it practicality and the simplicity in which Putman lays out his strategy for discipleship.


Reviving the Ancient Faith written by Richard T. Hughes

Reviving the Ancient Faith is a concise overview of the history of the Restoration Movement. In this comprehensive work, Hughes does a superb job of chronicling the movement originally started by the Campbell’s (Thomas and Alexander), as well as Barton W. Stone and Walter Scott, among others. Hughes intends to show the reader how Churches of Christ have transitioned from sect to denomination over a period of approximately 200 years. If you are interested in understanding the history of Churches of Christ, as well as the Disciples of Christ and the Christian Church, this is a great book to read. You will be introduced to important figures and important dates, as well as how the movement has progressed (or digressed, depending on your perspective) through the civil war era, the world war eras, and the civil rights era, among other important periods in American history. I enjoy history, and I have been associated with Churches of Christ my entire life, so this book was fascinating to me.

MY RATING: 4.0 out of 5.0

Sticky Faith written by Drs. Kara Powell and Chap Clark

50% of all teenagers that graduate from high school will leave their faith in college. This is disturbing, and Sticky Faith brings this disturbing reality to life. There is not another book available today (to my knowledge) that sheds more light on the issue of teenagers leaving the faith and leaving the church. What makes this book invaluable to all teenagers, parents, and leaders, however, is the solution-driven approach of the authors. The book is littered with statistics, but it is also littered with powerful, practical solutions to the problem at hand. The authors are not satisfied with the statistics they have uncovered, so they have provided important, transformative solutions to address the alarming statistics. Reading this book has been the catalyst for a lot of change in my own ministry philosophy and has prompted a class on Wednesday nights where our teenagers and our parents come together to talk about the findings in this book. If you are a teenager, a parent with a teenager, or a youth leader, you NEED to read this book. It might just shake the foundations of your family and youth ministry, and it might alter the course of your child’s faith forever. If you want more info on the “Sticky Faith” movement,

MY RATING: 5.0 out of 5.0

Gods at War written by Kyle Idleman

Gods at War is another powerful book by Kyle Idleman. His previous book, Not a Fan sparked a national movement among churches, and this book has the ability to make a similar impact. Idleman has the ability to challenge the reader, but also make the reader feel as though they are good friends. He has the ability to get to the heart on multiple levels. Gods at War attempts to get to the core of the things that battle for our attention, our time, and our allegiance to God. One of the most striking statements in the book is when Idleman says, “Idols are not an issue – they are the issue.” From sex to money to entertainment, all of us have idols, and we need to constantly confront and seek to destroy these idols. It is an easy read, and it also serves as a great outline for Bible studies and classes.

MY RATING: 4.5 out of 5.0

Kingdom Come by John Mark Hicks & Bobby Valentine

Kingdom Come explores the life and theology behind two prominent men in Churches of Christ, David Lipscomb and James Harding. Two universities, Harding University and Lipscomb University, are named after these two men. Hicks and Valentine are careful to point out that these men were flawed and made a lot of mistakes (which is true of us all), but the authors highlight some of their commendable decisions and views on theology and devotion to God. Some of these include: their grace-centered, counter-cultural theology, a theology of grace and an openness to the power of the Holy Spirit, and their unwavering trust in God, among other things. I contend that if many Churches of Christ operated under the same devotion to God as these men, we would have a much greater impact on our respective cultures.

MY RATING: 4.0 out of 5.0

Desiring God written by John Piper

Desiring God is a classic work from Piper that expounds on his view of the Christian ethos. His premise centers around the idea of Christian Hedonism. In essence, a Christian Hedonists longs to glorify God through passionately pursuing joy. On the surface, there appears to be a disconnect, but Piper hammers down on his belief that God wants us to pursue our joy…through Him. Piper does a masterful job of presenting from Scripture how duty and delight are not mutually exclusive. Piper then shows the implications this approach to the Christian’s life has on conversion, worship, love, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions and suffering. He convincingly demonstrates the integrated nature of what a Christian life looks like when Christ is most magnified in His people when they are most satisfied in Him. I would recommend this book if you want a renewed approach to God and if you want to understand how God is glorified through his people. Very insightful and profound words from Piper.


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15 Books Every Christian Should Read Before Turning 30 – Frank Powell October 29, 2015 - 6:17 pm

[…] Book Reviews […]

Maria Smith October 23, 2017 - 11:40 pm

Thank you very much for your blog.

I enjoyed reading this article.


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