10 Favorite Books of 2013 (Timothy Raymond)
It’s that time of year again; time to reflect back on the previous year and consider all the good books we’ve read in 2013. I realize my list is coming out a bit later than most, but since just about everybody enjoys reading book recommendations, I considered it worthwhile.
I should clarify that this year’s list is not a list of favorite books published in 2013 but favorite books I read last year. Furthermore, this year’s list, like last year’s, isn’t enumerated in a countdown of good-better-best, but instead I chose what I considered my favorite read in a variety of different categories (e.g., parenting, biography, pastoral ministry, etc.). So, with no further ado…
Favorite Book on Parenting: Gospel-Powered Parenting by William P. Farley. While there may be other books on more specific facets of parenting (e.g., discipline, instruction, etc.) which are better, this is the best all-round book I’ve read covering all the basics. Its unique contribution is considering how the gospel shapes the way we evangelize, train, discipline, disciple, and raise our children. The chapters on marriage and fathers interacting with sons are particularly powerful. You won’t agree with every jot and tittle, but the good stuff is way too good to pass up.
Favorite Book on the Church: Persistently Preaching Christ: Fifty years of Bible ministry in a Cambridge church, ed. Christopher Ash, et al. A very encouraging book that’s sort of a complied biography of a single congregation (The Round Church at St Andrew the Great) pastored by two pastors (Mark Ruston and Mark Ashton) over 50 years. It’s filled with wonderful stories and testimonies of conversions, practical discipleship, university evangelism, and a surprising number of individuals called into full-time pastoral ministry. If you’re struggling with feeling that local church ministry is a waste of time, this book is a great remedy.
Favorite Book on Pastoral Ministry: Renewed Pastor: Writings in honour of Philip Hacking, edited by Melvin Tinker. Written in the spirit of Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor, this volume includes outstanding essays on a whole host of topics relevant to pastoral ministry by some of our best pastors and scholars, such as Peter Lewis on prayer, Peter Adam on preaching, Don Carson on worship, and J.I. Packer on baptism. Most of the authors are evangelical Anglicans, and that comes out from time to time (e.g., Gerald Bray’s chapter, “The Pastor as Evangelical and Anglican”), but 95% of the book would apply to pastors of all denominations. The book was equal parts convicting, informative, inspiring, and encouraging. I actually learned a lot about the Bible from this book.
Favorite Book to Nourish My Own Soul: Pastoring the Pastor, by Tim Cooper and Kelvin Gardiner. A fictional collection of emails between an older pastor in the twilight of life and his newbie nephew just called to pastor his first church. It’s brief, sometimes hilarious, sometimes gut-wrenching, convicting, and incredibly edifying. I wrote a longer review of this book for the July issue of Credo, so I won’t belabor it here, but it’s definitely worth reading, especially for new pastors just starting out.
Favorite Book for Discipleship: Reverberation: How God’s Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People by Jonathan Leeman. For some strange reason this book hasn’t received the attention it should. It’s an outstanding theology of the life-giving Word of God written for laymen, along with a practical vision for how that Word can and should characterize the life of the average Christian and local church. It comes from 9Marks ministries and is a real spiritual feast. I’m currently using it in leadership training and am very glad I am.
Favorite Historical Book: The Legacy of the King James Bible by Leland Ryken. For some odd reason I gravitate toward books on the history and impact of the King James Version and this one didst much rejoice mine heart. After a brief overview of the circumstances which gave rise to the KJV, Ryken then surveys the translation’s impact on culture, politics, education, language, art, etc., and especially literature. It’s worth reading just to see how the ghost of the KJV still constantly haunts contemporary American idiom.
Favorite Biography: Wrestling with the Devil: The True Story of a World Champion Professional Wrestler-His Reign, Ruin, and Redemption, by Lex Luger. Not everybody will love this autobiography of a former professional wresting legend, but since I grew up adoring guys like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, it was a real page-turner for me. It’s also a wonderful conversion story of unlikely friendships and the ordinary means of grace. Here’s my longer review.
Favorite Paradigm-Challenging Book: To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History, edited by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser. I picked up this book on the SBTS bookstore clearance rack for less than $5, simply because so many of the contributors are esteemed evangelical scholars (e.g., Walt Kaiser, Darrell Bock, Mark Seifrid, Richard Pratt, etc.). The majority of the essays either argue for or assume that Paul’s statement in Romans, “to the Jew first”, is one of priority and not merely chronology. If they’re correct, and the exegesis does appear to be sound, the church today should actively prioritize evangelism amongst Jewish people groups. The book turned out to be fascinating and introduced me to biblical teaching I didn’t know I didn’t know.
Came-Out-of-Nowhere, Surprise Favorite: Hearing the Spirit: Making the Father Known, by Christopher Ash. I picked up this one on a whim and started reading it, not really knowing what to expect, and wound up hooked. It’s a brief but tight exegetical argument showing how the Bible itself teaches that there’s a profound unity between God’s Spirit and God’s Word such that God’s Spirit does not work through impressions, feelings, circumstances, “fleeces,” etc. but only through the written Word rightly interpreted. Ultimately, it’s all about the finality and sufficiency of the New Testament as a witness to Jesus, and is the most convincing thing I’ve ever read countering extra-biblical revelations, prophecies, signs and wonders, etc. I highly, highly recommend it.
Overall Favorite Book of 2013: Such a Great Salvation: Collected Essays of Alan Stibbs, edited by Andrew Atherstone. I had never heard of this book, nor Stibbs (1901-1971), but bought it because it looked interesting and because somebody like J.I. Packer calls Stibbs “for many years the best theological mind serving British evangelicals”. Stibbs is as exegetical as B.B. Warfield or John Murray but with a good bit more devotional warmth. This collection of essays and articles covers the gamut of topics from the inspiration of Scripture to the completeness of Jesus’ cross-work to the primacy of preaching to the nature of the local church. I’m not exaggerating whatsoever when I say that I learned more about the Bible in general, and about the work of Jesus in particular, from this book than from any I’ve read in the last five years (at least). It’s become one of my favorite books I’ve ever read in all my life. If you’re a pastor, you’re missing out if you skip this one.
So that’s my list. Now I’m curious; what were some of your favorite reads from 2013? Point us to them in the comments section below.
Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation.