CT Lists the Top 50 Books that Have Shaped Evangelicals
- Thursday, October 12, 2006
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:
- The Stork Is Dead - Charlie W. Shedd
Shedd published his sex advice for teens in 1968 and got evangelicals talking about the topic four years before The Joy of Sex was published.
- The Late Great Planet Earth - Hal Lindsey with C. C. Carlson
In the beginning — before the Left Behind series was a sparkle in the cash registers of religious booksellers—there was The Late Great Planet Earth. It's hard to imagine that Jenkins and LaHaye would have sold 43 million copies of their bestsellers if Lindsey hadn't first sold 15 million copies of his dispensationalist hit.
- Roaring Lambs - Robert Briner
Back in the early ‘90s, when engaging the culture wasn't the "in" thing to do, Roaring Lambs inspired countless Christian artists to become artists who are Christians.
- Dare to Discipline - James Dobson
In the permissive '70s, Dobson did what he still does best—calling us to focus on the family.
- The Act of Marriage - Tim and Beverly LaHaye
The explicit marriage manual told men how to satisfy their wives.
- The Hiding Place - Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
The staple conundrum of late-night ethics discussions in Christian college dorms—Do you lie if the Nazis knock on your door asking for the Jews you are hiding?—was a question ten Boom lived.
- Born Again - Charles W. Colson
As we now know, the metamorphosis of a Nixon administration crook into a prison evangelist wasn't just a phase.
- Christy - Catherine Marshall
A privileged city girl finds faith and a husband in rural Appalachia; its reach was expanded when it became a successful TV series.
By the time you reach number one, you might be surprised.
Many titles come and go, but many stand the test of time. This list can bring back some favorites and open new vistas for evangelism with others. Have your daily Bible feast first, then seek titles that challenge their your personal evangelism.
There is value in having someone distil the countless of titles for us, just as there is when we decide to read a book picked up as we pass a library or bookstore display. Like panning for gold, we can gather as many evangelistic nuggets as possible and put them into action. Let the Holy Spirit lead, but do read… and let yourself be challenged. We should however, leave the “schoolroom” after reading, and put the principles to use.
Heavy reader or light, we should get beyond the list as a curiosity, and appreciate its contents as a deep source to bring forth useful tools to energize our Christian witness.
Whichever title or titles you decide to read or re-read... The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? -F. F. Bruce; Out of the Saltshaker and into the World -Rebecca Manley Pippert; The Purpose Driven Life -Rick Warren; The Master Plan of Evangelism -Robert Emerson Coleman; Desiring God -John Piper; This Present Darkness -Frank Peretti; The Genesis Flood -Henry Morris and John Whitcomb; Cost of Discipleship -Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Knowing God -J. I. Packer; The God Who is There -Francis Schaeffer; Mere Christianity -C. S. Lewis; or any other… the key is to pick one and do it. Let God’s word shape you. As Christianity Today editor David Neff puts it, “The list is not just for water cooler discussions, but to immerse ourselves into the books and live it.”
Tony Rufo is a communications/ministry executive, marketing consultant, writer, and broadcaster who has over 20 years of experience working in the Christian and general markets. Tyndale House has just released his newest book, The Complete Book of Pop Music Wit & Wisdom. His other published works include media and music articles, book reviews, radio and television commercials and scripts, and evangelistic essays. True Tunes News featured his article, "The Gospel According to John, Paul, George, and Ringo--Good Time Rock 'n Roll or Religion for the Undiscerning?" In addition, he is developing radio, TV and film projects designed for evangelism and pre-evangelism in the general and Christian marketplaces. Several of these involve applications to bring new revenue streams to ministries. He has spoken in churches, schools and business meetings, and groups. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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