My Top Most Influential Books – Part 2

7 11 2011

Francis Bacon once said, “Read not to contradict or confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.  Some books are to be tested, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”  The following books, along with the first five mentioned in my last column, are books that I have “chewed and digested” like a fine meal, many times in my life.  These are the books that are dog-eared, have broken bindings, have been replaced several times over, and are still breathing and alive in my heart.  May these next five books serve as an inspiration and encouragement to you.


6.  An All-Around Ministry by Charles Spurgeon.  During a deep theological struggle in my life, this book of lectures to perspective pastors had a great impact in my life.  I often refer back to this book because of its cogent and robust perspective to pastoral ministry, biblical authority, and preaching.  Spurgeon organized a college for training men for ministry and at his death, over 800 men had been equipped for pastoring and preaching.  This book contains a few of Spurgeon’s choice messages delivered from the Prince of the Pulpit to the men he was equipping to be powerful preachers at his annual Presidential Addresses.  Twelve of the twenty-seven addresses are contained in this book.  Spurgeon said it best: “Learning is essential to preaching, but not the kind of learning required by University degrees.  There is a learning that is essential to successful ministry, viz. the learning of the whole Bible, to know God, by prayer and experience of His dealings.”


7.  Miracles by C.S. Lewis.  As a young believer, first hearing about the charismatic movement, watching my father go through many struggles related to conflicts in his church over the miraculous, I read this book.  Lewis’s book is a precise and rational handling of the possibility, and the probability of miracles, and it has always provided an intellectual foundation that God does indeed still perform miracles.  Lewis shows that a Christian must not only accept but rejoice in miracles as a testimony of the unique personal involvement and influence of God in our daily lives.


8.  Here I Stand: the life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton.  I have one of the original hardback books on my shelf.  I stole it from my dad.  Written in 1950 and still in print today, no other book in my knowledge has so beautifully captured in a readable way the life, struggles, and theological battles of Luther and the reformation.  Kenneth Scott Latourette, in the chapter notes for “Luther and the Rise and Spread of Lutheranism” in his History of Christianity, lauds Bainton’s biography as “a superb combination of accurate scholarship based upon a thorough knowledge of the sources and secondary works with insight, vivid, readable literary style, and reproductions of contemporary illustrations. It also contains so valuable a bibliography as to render needless an extended one in this chapter.”  As an addict for a good biography, I have read and reread this biography more than any other.


9.  Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Growing up the son of a Lutheran pastor who was committed to peace, activism, and civil rights, my mom and dad often spoke of Bonhoeffer.  Long before his name became prominent among evangelicals, I had read Life Together and Cost of Discipleship.  Like others I’ve mentioned, Cost of Discipleship is tattered and no longer has a cover.  Given to me by my mom, she wrote on the flyleaf: “To our precious personal disciple of Christ, Stephen A. Holt, Love, Mom & Dad.”  The opening lines of the foreward capture the essence of the book, “When Christ calls a man…he bids him come and die.” Killed by Hitler in 1945, Bonhoeffer died a martyr’s death many times before he died—he understood what it means to be a disciple of Christ.


10.  Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.  Knowing very little about prayer and fasting, having never heard of the power of silence (even though every teacher I ever had in school preached it to me), learning the need for submission, discovering the value of simplicity (though I still don’t practice it), God has mightily used this little book throughout my journey with Him.  Foster covers the spiritual disciplines with a history for each discipline and its potential for changing our lives.  Dr. Elton Trueblood from the foreward says it best, “There are many books concerned with the inner life, but there are not many that combine real originality with intellectual integrity.  Yet it is exactly this combination which Richard Foster has been able to produce.”


11.  Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor.  This book is one of my all-time favorite biographies.  Yet it’s more than just a biography.  This is the story of the great missionary pioneer to China, but with a twist.  Unique to other studies of great men is the inclusion of Hudson Taylor’s inner struggle to find the power of God in his life.  More than just what he did, this book carries us on the spiritual journey of Hudson Taylor.  His battles with trusting God with finances, his struggle to connect with the woman he desperately loved, and the weight of a growing ministry, drove Taylor to find the spiritual secret of the exchanged life.  No book has had a more profound and lasting spiritual impact on my life as a Jesus follower and leader.


Reading great books, written by great authors who possess great insights, is the key to staying stimulated, active and envisioned in your life.  I hope this is helpful to those of you who are hungry to keep learning.



One response

8 11 2011
Michele Bremer

Great list of great books! Thanks for sharing!

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