WHEATON, IL -- Christianity Today magazine went to the trouble of surveying several dozen Christian leaders, authors and publishing executives to determine which books they considered the “Top 50 Books that have Shaped Evangelicals.” The result is a list containing some titles we would expect to find and a few unexpected ones. Celebrating its 56th anniversary, CT wanted to make the project somewhat manageable, so the list was limited to books published after World War 2.

We live in an era where lists abound and we love them…whether they contain trivia, bloopers, self-improvement tips, best places to live, top tunes, or do-it-yourself suggestions. The Christianity Today list, however, has much redeeming value if it impels us to read a title new to us or to reread a favorite... and put its message into effect.

CT approached the project with trepidation and some vigorous staff debate. They felt that reading a book “requires us to engage someone else’s ideas with more seriousness than almost any other activity.” They didn’t want to chronicle books that simply entertained, but ones that “altered the way American evangelicals pray, gather, talk and reach out.” They understood the seriousness of making such recommendations, but nonetheless completed the task and produced something that can be a valuable endeavor for Christians.

Make no mistake about it; the Bible should be first and foremost in the lives of all followers of Christ. Nevertheless, in checking out this list, consider that non-fiction, commentaries - even Christian fiction - can help plumb the depths of the Word of God.

Some who made the list are authors familiar to evangelicals and some maybe not so familiar. From Bonhoeffer to Yancey, the list includes many we would perhaps expect…the likes of Carl F. H. Henry, John R. W. Stott, Josh McDowell, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Frank Peretti, Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Ted Engstrom, and James Dobson. Limited by its size, no doubt many successful authors are absent. But that’s not the point. What matters is the list can introduce or re-introduce us to some powerful Christian words.

Containing commentaries, biographies, fiction, science and, yes, even the Bible itself, the list is ranked from number fifty down to number one in countdown fashion. We won’t divulge the rankings here, but the complete list is available on the Christianity Today website, www.christianitytoday.com. The publication welcomes debate and thoughts about what should and shouldn’t appear on the list.

While a good number of us may have our own personal list… and one that is ever-changing… it can be good to exercise our spiritual muscles and investigate other Christian titles.

Anyone who has yet to read God’s Smuggler can be prepared to have their faith challenged. Brother Andrew is the pseudonym of the undercover Dutch missionary who, beginning in the 1960s, smuggled thousands of Bibles into Communist countries and blessed the persecuted church. It’s an autobiography which traces his spiritual journey. A real, true to life, God-glorifying adventure.

Berkeley law professor, Philip E. Johnson, brought Intelligent Design into the public square and rankled the feathers of evolution theorists in Darwin on Trial.

Maybe you’ve only heard of him, but A. W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy is a pastor’s work that opens the gates to God’s very presence – a worthwhile read.

Another biography on the list is David Wilkerson’s Cross and the Switchblade which brought sacrificial evangelism to new audiences when it became a theatrical film release.

CT provides further descriptions to direct us toward some of the challenges found within the pages of the other titles: