The Most Influential Books in My Early Christian Life

The Most Influential Books in My Early Christian Life

I did not become a Christ follower until I was 20 years old. My growth trajectory was pretty rapid following that event. I was recently asked during a Q&A what was most strategic in my early discipleship. 

First, there were the people who led me to Christ. I was reached through a campus ministry – InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – and the men and women involved in leading that ministry were nothing less than pivotal. They met with me, prayed with me, invested in me, opened doors for me, invited me… I am a life that was changed.

Second, there was an exceptional local church I quickly aligned with that took me under its wing.

But finally, there were the books. I had always been a reader, but after coming to Christ my early reading proved significant. Some things I read were not particularly helpful. Others were… anointed. Particularly those that helped me begin to knit together what it meant to live life following Christ, both in practice and in thought.

When I mentioned this in that Q&A, I was asked to share some of the book titles. I said, “I’ll give you a few for now, but I promise I’ll blog the top 10. I may not offer much commentary on them because I wouldn’t know where to stop, but I promise I’ll put them out there for whatever it might be worth. And for me, they were worth a lot.”

Consider the promise met. Here are the top 10 in no particular order:

The Fight by John White

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Improving Your Serve by Charles Swindoll

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald

Loving God by Charles Colson

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer

Basic Christianity by John R.W. Stott

The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin

To be sure, there were many, many more. If I were to make a list of “honorable mentions” it would number in the scores. But if you were to read these 10 as I did, I can make you one very confident promise:

You would be profoundly transformed.

James Emery White

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.