Which three books?

A pastor friend has some book money in his budget and wants to stock up on books he can freely pass out to people he is discipling or those who come through his office. He asks me about my choices.

“If you could get all the people at our church to read three books, which three would it be?”

Being a bit of a reader, I thought I would be able to rattle off three titles and be on with my day. However, it was tougher than expected to narrow down my selections. Is the reader a mature Christian or new to the faith? Should someone read more on Christian living or on how to read the Bible? How old is the person?

“Three books for anyone anywhere on their Christian journey,” my friend says.

With that, these are my three selections:

God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts

Dig Deeper by Nigel Beynon & Andrew Sach

The Everlasting God by D. Broughton Knox

With the first two selections, I hope that someone will begin to develop (or redevelop) a proper foundation for reading and understanding the Word of God. The final choice comes not from a need to put a Matthias Media book on the list. It comes from a conviction of the necessity to ground people in a proper theology, especially of the nature and character of God. The Everlasting God, like no other book, helped me grasp that theology is not just a study of God but of “God in relationship”. From these additional two words comes all of Christian living and thinking.

So, those are my three books. What are your three books?

16 thoughts on “Which three books?

  1. Great list. Quick question for you: is The Everlasting God the same book found in volume 1 of the 3 volume set of Knox’s writings? Thanks.

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for the response. Yes, it is the same book found in Volume 1 in Knox’x collective writings.
      Take care,

  2. Hard to decide. This might change depending on the level of understanding and ability to process. I would love to see all believers work through:

    The Cross of Christ, by John R. W. Stott
    Knowing God, by J. I. Packer
    The Contemporary Christian: An urgent plea for double listening (Stott)

  3. Yes, hard choice. Just for ones that have a big influence over me, I would recommend:
    -Knowing God, J I Packer
    -Know and Tell the Gospel, John Chapman
    -almost anything by John Piper, but Don’t Waste Your Life would be a good start.
    I would also love to include something by C S Lewis- maybe Miracles for its sheer brilliance and readability, or the Problem of Pain.

  4. Wow, books for anyone at any stage of their walk? Tall order! I will have to go with The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur, Scandalous by D.A. Carson and The Cross of Christ by Stott. If I could have one more, maybe The Glory of Christ by Owen.

  5. OK, because my employment contract insists on it, I am going to confine myself to Matthias Media titles. (Big surprise there folks!) It also helps narrow the field down considerably.

    (1) “Right Side Up” (Paul Grimmond);
    (2) “Guidance and the Voice of God” (Tony Payne and Phillip Jensen);
    (3) “Everlasting God” (Broughton Knox).

    (Apologies to all the other Matthias Media authors I have just alienated. I’m sure your book would have been #4.)

  6. Church goers already have plenty of Christian/Anglican books. How about teaching both sides of the issues and letting people make up their own minds based on different views? So what about these three books:

    – You Take Jesus, I’ll Take God: How to Refute Christian Missionaries by Samuel Levine
    – The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings by Bart D. Ehrman
    – The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

    This would provide well rounded views of issues Christians face these days.

  7. Hi,

    Great suggestions. You’re right, it does depend on who the person is discipling/ mentoring: are they a recent convert from a non-Christian background? Are they a Christian from a Christian family who should consider training for ministry and need a bit of a ‘push’ to do something like MTS? Are they a Bible study leader? (Growth Groups by Col Marshall is hands- down best book on Bible study training & leadership). Are they from a charismatic/ Pentecostal background and need to sort some theological issues out (Guidance & the voice of God, from Matthias Media would be great). So it’s hard to pick a general 3…
    However, like some of the above responses, I too would have to suggest: Cross of Christ by John Stott- whether you’re from a strong Christian background or not, it just explains the riches and depth and achievements of the death of Christ. It just gets to the heart of the Christian gospel so deeply and clearly. If the trainee wasn’t a ‘reader’- Cross of Christ would be a good push for them. If they are an established reader, it would remind them of the centrality of the cross – for Christian theology, life and ministry. So, number 1 is: Cross of Christ by Stott. Number 2: know and Tell the gospel – a good Aussie book on evangelism, which would be good for personal encouragement and training in witnessing.
    Number 3: cant decide- Reason for God by Tim Keller is good to help train in apologetics and working through non Christian objections to the gospel. But maybe something like Trellis and the Vine would be more suitable in order to grow a trainee in having a ‘great commission mindset’ in their local church, how they can become a ‘Trainer of trainers’. Maybe something like God’s Big plan- Vaughan Roberts or How to Read the Bible for all it’s worth. Either one of these gives a good treatment of Bible exegesis, and Biblical theology: essential for any good student (and teacher) if the Bible. But alas… The top 3 has now become a list of about 7 or 8!! Sorry it’s become a long list! I don’t know how you’d pick simply 3… :(

    • Great question. Surely the Chrsitian’s first task should be to know and love God more so here i have to go for “Knowing God” by Packer. Next, the central act of the Christian faith is the cross and here i would support others recommendation of the “Cross of Chrsit” by Stott. I feel we need something a bit different, perhaps more practical for the third and also something not written recently (are we really today at the all time high of Christian writing?) so i would go for the timeless classic “Pilgrims Progress” by good old John Bunyan. You haven’t asked for them but here goes anyway – my next “top three” would be a) how do we live as Christians? = “Holiness” by JC Ryle, b) a book for non Chrsitians = “Reason for God” by Tim Keller and c) another classic – on the basis that the Institutes are a bit of a challenge length wise – “Truth for all Time” (recently published by the Banner of Truth) which was written by the 29 year old John Calvin and very simply and effectively sets out the Chrsitian faith

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  9. Hi Marty, your post prompted a good ‘in brief’ discussion topic at our pastoral staff team meeting this week. Here’s my summary of those discussions – going far beyond your three.

    We agreed that for doctrine
    * Everlasting God by Knox, or
    * Knowing God by Packer is excellent (although I always found this hard to get through, and was helped by the comment that it’s better to start part way through!).

    We agreed that for a Bible overview from a biblical theological point of view you can’t go past
    * God’s Big Picture by Roberts, but added
    * The Big Picture Story Bible as an excellent giveaway for parents (including ‘god-fearers and new Christians) to help them and their children quickly get an overview of the Bible’s flow, characters and order of key stories.

    We agree Dig Deeper is excellent for teaching how to read the Bible better.

    For basic gospel and Christian living, different staff members recommended (and gave away):
    * Making the Most of the Rest of your Life by John Chapman (not just for oldies either!),
    * Ordinary Hero by Chester, and
    * Basic Christianity by Stott.

    However we wanted to mention that perhaps better than any of those is taking a person through Matthias Media’s Just For Starters 7 basic Bible studies. I do not think I have done anything more valuable in ministry than taking individuals through these studies. (Must try and do it more often, since it’s been a little while – thanks for the incidental poke!)

    We think you often need to give away books on marriage to young couples, and are split on either:
    * When Sinners Say ‘I do’ by Dave Harvey, or
    * Married for God by Chris Ash.

    We also find we often need to give away books related to relationships and conflict and recommend both:
    * Unpacking Forgiveness, by Chris Brauns, and
    * The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, although for many people his abridged version is more suitable (can’t recall name off top of my head).

    On basic apologetics one of our team gives away:
    * Is the NT History? by Paul Barnett, while I sometimes give away
    * Strobel’s The Case for Christ.

    And Keller’s Reason for God can be quite helpful both to give Christians to read and to be ready to give away to non-Christians, although I think Martin Ayers Naked God is often better for people without a ‘high culture’ reading background.

    To those giving their first Christian talk (whether at Kids Church or Youth Group, or church or some other ministry event), my colleague often gives away
    * How to Speak at Special Events, while I still like
    * Chappo’s Setting Hearts on Fire (whose preaching principles can easily be applied to more than evangelistic talks).

    An older very respected colleagues continues to recommend on leadership:
    * Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders.

    All that said, if forced to pick just three, I think I’d be happy to stick with your original three, Marty:

    1. God’s Big Picture
    2. Dig Deeper
    3. Everlasting God.

  10. My three are ones that meant the most to me in my journey.

    01. Foxes Book of Martyrs (John Foxe)
    02. The Pilgrims Progress (John Bunyan)
    03. The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis)

  11. Well, I’ve read almost NONE of the books mentioned (but you’ve just increased my good-books-to-read list). For the record I’ve read The Big Picture Story Bible, Pilgrims Progress and The Trellis and The Vine.

    I would recommend One to One Bible reading as it is short – meaning that even “non-readers” could find enough time to read it. I also found it quite encouraging and if everyone in the Church read the book and found one other person to read the Bible with then I think it would have a huge impact on the church and the community.

    I don’t know what else I’d recommend for everyone.

  12. I’m kinda late on this this one. It is a good “food for thought” question. I think one of them would be “Everlasting God” by Knox. I like “Holiness of God” by Sproul but its probably not as robust of a treatment of the doctrine of God as “Knowing God” or “Everlasting God.” Previously, my pick would’ve been “Knowing God” but some guy named Marty had me read Everlasting God and it has trumped “Knowing God” because it is easier to understand.
    Second, I would definitely want them to get on board with being a disciple-making disciple so I’m thinking Trellis and the Vine.”
    I’m thinking my third choice would be a book that would connect doctrine with the Christian life. Who better than Jerry Bridges for that. I would hand them “Trusting God.”
    1. Everlasting God
    2. Trellis and the Vine
    3. Trusting God

  13. Thats a tough one!

    1. The Cross of Christ by John Stott
    2. Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
    3. Know and Tell the Gospel by John Chapman

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