So here it is, my own personal list of must-read books. Please keep in mind that this is my list, not yours (therefore you may not agree with them all), and be aware that the standard by which I judge a good book is not so much its academic or literary quality, the effectiveness of its argument, or anything similar, but rather the measure in which it reveals Christ. As I thought back over all the good books I’ve read over the years I tried to narrow the list down to those which had the greatest practical impact on my life at the time I read them. I return to each of these books from time to time, and in my opinion every Christian should have them on their shelf, or at least borrow them from a friend who does.
Enough said. Without further adieu I present to you, in no particular order-
THE 20 MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS I’VE EVER READ
1. The Gate Seldom Found by Raymond Reid. This little-known work of historical fiction dramatizes the real life story of an obscure fellowship of believers that flowered in southern Canada in the late 19th century. If Reid’s presentation is even half accurate and true to life, I would’ve loved to have been part of it. Either way, his portrayal is one of the purest expressions of Christ and the church I’ve ever read.
2. The Divine Romance by Gene Edwards. A stunning presentation of God’s relentless passion and pursuit of a bride. An absolute must-read.
3. The School of Christ by T. Austin Sparks. Sparks is never an easy read, but the riches of his ministry are always well worth the labor. Personally speaking, there are depths of Christ I’ve glimpsed in Sparks’ writings that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
4. Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. A classic work on submission and authority, as seen through the lives of Saul, David, and Absalom. Plenty of insight here into the ways of God.
5. The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. From beginning to end this book will arrest you with the reality of God in Christ. Nee approaches the subject of what many would call the “overcoming” life or the “victorious” Christian life and shows that according to the New Testament this is really the “normal” Christian life meant to be enjoyed by all God’s people.
6. The Normal Christian Church Life by Watchman Nee. In the same vein, Nee presents the first-century pattern of the church. Clear, concise, and practical, this book will cause you to rethink all your notions about the church life known and practiced by most Christians today.
7. Practicing His Presence by Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach. I’m talking about the Seedsowers edition here. Brother Lawrence’s work has long been hailed as a classic, and rightfully so, but I actually got more out of Laubach’s writings than I did his. I was helped through this book to “see” the Lord within me for the very first time, and that was indeed a glorious moment.
8. Practical Expression of the Church by Witness Lee. Lots of people shy away from this brother, but he had an incredibly rich ministry of Christ. Ephesians is a wonderful letter containing the heavenly revelation of the church, but the fulfillment of God’s purpose demands a practical fleshing out of those truths here upon the earth. Lee deals with such issues in this book.
9. Torch of the Testimony by John W. Kennedy. “A 2000-year history of those Christians and churches who have stood outside both the Catholic and Protestant traditions.” Enough said.
10. Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. A modern classic by a great man of God. One of the first Christian books I ever read. Worth coming back to time and time again.
11. God’s Spiritual House by T. Austin Sparks. Lots of wonderful insight here into Christ and the church.
12. Azusa Street by Frank Bartleman. A very stirring, eye-witness account of the Azusa Street Revival. Suffice it so say that things were different in the early days of Pentecostalism than they are now. The final chapter containing Bartleman’s message on the purpose of God through the ages is worth the cost of the book all in itself.
13. Silas Diaries by Gene Edwards. The first of a five-book series chronicling the story of the early church, this one is by far the best. If I could recommend any commentary on the book of Galatians this would be it.
14. Revolution: The Story of the Early Church by Gene Edwards. The prelude to the above five-book series, this one knocked me off my feet when I first read it. Stirred a hunger inside of me that I couldn’t even describe to you at the time.
15. Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Wonderful allegory on the spiritual life of a beliver, and how God uses sorrow and suffering in our lives to transform us into His image and make us more than conquerors through Him.
16. So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore by Wayne Jacobsen. Hugely influential to me at the time I read it. A wonderful book for those who are transitioning out of the setting of institutional Christianity. I’ve met Wayne once and he is a great guy.
17. Against the Tide: The Story of Watchman Nee by Agnus Kinnear. Get a glimpse of the man behind the ministry. Knowing the context behind Nee’s writings enriches them even further. This book should raise the standard for any Christian worker.
18. Climb the Highest Mountain by Gene Edwards. This book is Gene at his best, in the early days of his ministry. How I would’ve loved to be in the original audience who first heard these messages spoken.
19. Two Kinds of Righteousness by E.W. Kenyon. I found this book on a clearance shelf at a local bookstore for $1.50, and it was well worth the cost! At the time the Lord was taking pains to convince me of my righteousness in Christ, and what can I say but He sealed the deal through this little book. Can’t thank Him enough.
20. The Early Christians in Their Own Words by Eberhard Arnold. A compilation of writings from second and third century Christian writers. If you ask me, Arnold’s overview of the early church in the introduction is the best part of the whole thing. Very stirring.
So there you have it. These are the twenty most influential books I’ve read to date, along with the following honorable mentions: The Apostle by John Polluck; Shaped by Vision (biography of T. Austin Sparks) by Rex Beck; The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent; Discipled to Christ by Stephen Kaung; Experiencing Church Now as it was in the Beginning by Rodrigo Abarca; When the Church was Young by Ernest Loosely; Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne; and The Anabaptist Story by William Estep.
Now it’s your turn to chime in. Have you read any of these books? If so what are your thoughts? What would your own must-read books list include?