If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know books play a key role in my weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythm. I have numerous books going at once. I am surrounded by books in my office. If I’m not reading then I don’t think I’m living a particularly healthy or helpful life. And when it comes to holiday periods I’m usually struggling to decide which books to leave behind and not take with me.
This year has involved a few changes in life circumstances but it has also included a strong desire to keep reading, even though there have been times where it has lapsed for weeks on end. In any case, this year I’ve managed to work through 36 books, ranging from biography to practical theology to trashy crime novels. And, as usual, I have a few here to recommend to the interested reader.
Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World by Stephen J. Nichols
I can’t recommend ‘The Christian Life’ series enough, so much so that there are two on this list.
If you’re unfamiliar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer then this is a good introduction to him. He is considered a friend to both liberal and conservative theologians with much written about his days as a pastor-theologian in Germany during the 1930-40s. It is clear Bonhoeffer was a very smart and clever man, someone with an exceptional intellect who could interact with scholarship. However he is also known for his mentorship and community-driven focus on what it means to be the church together. This book highlights Bonhoffer’s life in Nazi Germany and the tension of being a disciple in such a regime, his heart as a pastor, and the various theological themes that helped guide his life and understanding of God.
The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones – 1899-1981 by Iain H. Murray
I think this is the best biography I have ever read. Murray condenses his large two-volume set on Lloyd-Jones into one, and I think he makes it better, sharper, and more poignant.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a significant Welsh evangelical pastor of the 20th century, sensing a call to the ministry while entering the echelons of the medical fraternity in London, England. Lloyd-Jones’ upbringing wasn’t easy, with his father making some unwise decisions for the family unit that meant they struggled financially. However, given his aptitude and some help along the way Lloyd-Jones studied and was mentored in medicine by the top doctors in Harley St, London. However, in his late-20s he sensed a call to preach and with his wife moved back to Wales to serve in a local church. After 7 years he then moved to London again and was involved as assistant or senior minister at Westminster Chapel.
This biography gives a terrific outline of his life and the major turning points in his faith. It works through his childhood and some tragedies that occurred during that time that may have shaped him further in life. The book I have now has oodles of underlines in it and it is an encouraging and inspiring read, particularly for anyone considering or in ministry. Those seeking to know more about a minister-preacher a generation or two behind us will also find it enjoyable.
Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus by Jeramie Rinne
I found this a helpful book to consider what the criteria for elders is and also how to think through their role in the local church. It gives a clear understanding of biblical eldership, although some will debate the complementarianism that is explicit throughout. Nevertheless, this is a book worth working through with leadership groups or other pastoral staff. It is worth talking through the chapters presented with elders themselves. This book isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re in church leadership or at a church that has people considered ‘elders’ then this would be a helpful volume.
Teach Us to Pray: The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church and Today by Justo L. González
I read a number of books on prayer in the lead up and during a series I preached through the Lord’s Prayer. I found this work to be the most fascinating as it works through each line of the prayer through a historical theology lens. That is, it talks about the meaning of the text as it has been understood by the great theologians and pastors of church history, working from the early church fathers, through the middle ages, into the reformation and then more recently. I just found this so helpful and it provided more insight into the text. It was also comforting to know how powerfully this prayer has been through the ages and that we continue to be part of that today.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Narnia series is almost an annual read for me and in this year’s read through I was struck by the classic story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Perhaps part of the joy in reading this again was that I read it with my daughter too, but it again highlighted those Christian themes of discipleship, love, sacrifice, and the whole good versus evil things as well. If you’ve never read it then you’ve got to grab a copy. If you have and it’s been a while then I’d recommend returning to it.
Preaching for God’s Glory by Alistair Begg
Preaching has gone up a step for me this year. In becoming a senior pastor the majority of the years preaching has now fallen to me. This being the case I thought this short book on preaching was a helpful reminder in the task. While I may have read plenty of books on preaching there is always more to learn, think through, and be reminded of. I found this book does all of these things. Plus, Alistair Begg is my favourite preacher of this era so I knew I was going to like it.
Philippians: An Introduction and Commentary by Jeannine K. Brown
Next year our church will spend a significant amount of time in the Letter to the Philippians. As part of my preparation I read through this commentary on the book. It’s a reasonable length, published in 2022, and an update in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series.
I found Brown engaging in her writing of this work and it gave me good insight into the issues that modern scholars are thinking through about the letter. Because it has been so recently released I feel like it has given me good oversight of things commentaries in the past may not have been thinking about. If you’re leading a Bible study on the book, preaching through the letter yourself, or just want some further depth to personal study then you won’t find much better.
The Work of The Pastor by William T. Still
I’d never come across William Still before reading this book. He happens to be a 20th century minister of a church in Scotland and had a strong expository preaching ministry. Again, like Begg’s preaching book above, I found this a helpful volume as I stepped up into the senior leadership role.
This is part biography, part war stories, and part ministry tips. It’s not a long book, it’s full of examples that relate to anyone who has been in ministry for a while, and it provides insights to the work from a Scottish perspective. I was encouraged and inspired in parts as it reminded me of the main focus of pastoral ministry.
Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire by Jason C. Meyer
Yep, you read that right, another Lloyd-Jones book, this time in ‘the Christian Life’ series. Flowing on from the Murray biography is a dense volume that not only dips into aspects of his life but gives a greater focus on the theology Lloyd-Jones taught and lived. From a theology of God the Father and God the Son through to the work of the Spirit to a theology of prayer and preaching this isn’t an easy read but a worthwhile one in thinking through such themes. I took a few turns in getting through it but found it helpful in my understanding of God and living the Christian life with solid foundations.
Well, this now makes it nine years in a row where I’ve published my favourite books of the year. If you’re game enough you can go back and have a read of previous years here: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.
If you’re that keen to know all the books I’ve read in 2022 then head to Goodreads to see a summary.