Four books I’m most excited about from #T4G2016

T4G - the freebie pile

Books. Everywhere. Tens of thousands of them.

And many of them… free.

That, friends, is what is exciting for so many people who attend Together for the Gospel every two years. I’ve never been to an event as extravagantly generous to its attendees as this one, where it is not uncommon to return home with between 16 and 30 free books, the vast majority of which are excellent (depending on your taste and reading habits).

This year, I returned home from the event with 30-ish books. (You can read about the trial of packing them here.) There were a few I chose not to pick up this time around (but only because I already had them). Having now unpacked my books, I’m starting to go through them with a critical eye—specifically, looking for the ones I’m really excited about.

That’s what I’m sharing with you today. While I am pretty keen on all the books that I brought home, these are the ones I know I’m going read at my earliest opportunity, or have already started to use in our home. Check it out:

Hymns of Grace. Yep, a hymnal actually made the “most excited about” list. Why? Because it’s got some terrific songs in it, and not just old ones, either. The folks at The Master’s Seminary did a great job selecting classic and modern hymns that exalt Christ and speak to the heart. Emily’s already started trying to figure out how to play some of them on her ukulele, which is encouraging, as family worship (specifically through music) is not something we’ve done often. Perhaps this will assist us in building a new habit in our home.

Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle. Reading Ryle is good for your soul, which is probably why his work is as relevant today as it was more than 100 years ago. I’m really looking forward to digging into this volume, which offers his insights into the spiritual formation of young men, the dangers, counsels and special rules they (and all of us, really) need to consider.

Discipling by Mark Dever. The Building Healthy Churches series is one of the first I’d recommend to anyone who is hoping to learn what a healthy church can (or should) look like. Each volume I’ve read has been clear, Christ-centered and extremely helpful. I’m hopeful this volume, focused on how disciple-making relationships should function in the local church, will continue in this vein.

A Camaraderie of Confidence by John Piper. The seventh volume in Piper’s The Swans are Not Silent series, this book focuses on the lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller and Hudson Tayler, men who knew and loved one another and whose lives displayed “their shared confidence in the power of God and their love for his glory and goodness.” I am thankful for the influence of each of these men in my life (our son is named in honor of Taylor), so I’m eager to read these short biographies.

A brief look at the 9Marks series

There are very few organizations I get excited about, but one I absolutely love is 9Marks. I’ve been amazed at the quality of thinking on essential matters of the faith such as church discipline and discipleship, expositional preaching, and, of course, the gospel itself. The example set by many of the leaders involved with this ministry is tremendous. Frankly, even if you don’t agree with all their emphases, you can’t deny they genuinely love the local church and want to see churches become healthier.

This is especially clear when you look at the books published under the 9Marks banner, and this is no less true of the books found in Logos Bible Software’s 9Marks Series collection. Containing eleven volumes published by Crossway, this series covers a wide variety of subjects, from the relationship between God’s love and church discipline to the importance of biblical theology in the life of the local church.

9marks-series

Included in the series are:

For the sake of brevity, here are a couple of key takeaways to keep in mind:

First, each book published is intended to address one aspect of the nine marks of a healthy church.[1. The nine marks are: (1) expositional preaching, (2) biblical theology, (3) a biblical understanding of the good news, (4) a biblical understanding of conversion, (5) a biblical understanding of evangelism, (6) biblical church membership, (7) biblical church discipline, (8) biblical discipleship and growth, and (9) biblical church leadership.] These marks are foundational to the organization’s vision of healthy churches but because they’re so rich, they require some serious investigation. You can’t just say “we believe a healthy church is one with biblical church leadership” without explaining what that means and what it looks like, practically.

Second, although many of these volumes are directed toward church leaders, all are accessible to the average church member. I found this to be especially true of two volumes. The first is Mike McKinley’s Church Planting Is for Wimps (which I reviewed here), a volume describing his experience replanting Guildford Baptist Church (now Sterling Park Baptist Church) and the challenges planters face:

…planting and revitalizing take different kinds of courage, and God appoints a particular task for every man. Go where God guides you. As Karen and I thought about our future, we wanted to take the path of revitalizing an existing church…I believe revitalizing may be more difficult at the outset, but I also believe that it offers all the rewards of planting—a new gospel witness—and more: it removes a bad witness in the neighborhood, it encourages the saints in the dead church, and it puts their material resources to work for the kingdom. (Church Planting Is for Wimps, 36-37)

The second is Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, particularly as Dever breaks down the problem we have sharing our faith and makes it a little less scary by admitting his own failures in that area:

Sometimes I’m a reluctant evangelist. In fact, not only am I sometimes a reluctant evangelist, sometimes I’m no evangelist at all. There have been times of wrestling: “Should I talk to him?” Normally a very forward person, even by American standards, I can get quiet, respectful of the other people’s space. Maybe I’m sitting next to someone on an airplane (in which case I’ve already left that person little space!); maybe it’s someone talking to me about some other matter. It may be a family member I’ve known for years, or a person I’ve never met before; but, whoever it is, the person becomes for me, at that moment, a witness-stopping, excuse-inspiring spiritual challenge.

If there is a time in the future when God reviews all of our missed evangelistic opportunities, I fear that I could cause more than a minor delay in eternity.  (The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 15)

The eleven volumes in the 9Marks Series are ones every church leader—and every church member—should have in their libraries. They’re the kind of books that don’t leave you crushed under the weight of trying to “do more,” but constantly point you back to Christ, the One from whom all our purpose and power in ministry flows. I know I’m glad to have them in mine. I trust the same will be true for you as well.