Pastor Jeff’s Top 10 Books Every Christian Should Read

In the “10 Books” series, our pastors share reading recommendations for every Christian’s bookshelf.

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Dr. Jeff Pennington

Executive Pastor


I want to make a confession. Reading is a discipline that has not come easy for me. For a long time I have been envious of my wife, Ali, and my mother. Both of them can devour a lengthy book in just a few evenings. That is not the case with me. But over time I have learned to make reading a regular part of life, and the benefits that the discipline has paid to my personal devotion to Christ have proven to be invaluable. What follows is my recommendation of ten books that any believer would be wise to include in their personal library. Much like the Associated Press Poll ranking the top college football teams in the country, my list concludes with a handful of books that almost made the cut.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer
One of my favorite passages of Bible is Philippians 3:10, for in it Paul states the passion of His life, “I want to know Christ!” This book has helped me, along with one million plus who have purchased the book, get on the journey toward making Paul’s passion their own. In 2006, Christianity Today listed this work as the fifth most influential book to have shaped evangelicals. If you have yet to join the audience of those who have read Packer’s classic, I strongly encourage you to join this crowd.

Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper
I was first introduced to Piper in college, not through his writing, but his preaching on missions. This book is sure to stoke the embers of your heart as you read of God’s love for the nations and our call to make Him famous throughout the world.

God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughan Roberts
This book, thanks to the precise way it is written, is my favorite resource in helping Christians read the Bible for themselves. Roberts’ book masterfully gives the big picture of the Bible, showing how the different parts of God’s Word fit together under the theme of the Kingdom of God. As one might expect, the author points us to Jesus as the Bible’s supreme subject, and the salvation that is found only in Him.

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
In a church culture that seems to always be looking for the next great evangelistic strategy, Coleman’s book offers a prophetic voice. If we want to be effective evangelists that keep the Great Commission at the forefront of our everyday living, this book is sure to be an inspiriting and satisfying read. Over 3 million Christians have read Coleman’s book in the past 40 years. I am sure that this army of readers have led countless more people to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord.

The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott
In seminary, this book was required reading for the theology class I took with Dr. Daniel Akin. He lauded this book as his favorite, single book on the salvific work of Christ. In, my ten plus years of preaching the cross and Atonement, I have referenced Stott’s book more than any other outside of the text of Scripture itself. The cross should be in the center of our thinking and living. Stott’s resource helps to keep it there.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt
When working on my dissertation, Jerry Vines told me that when Dr. W.A. Criswell talked with him about the need for the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention, “Dr. Criswell put words to a song that was already playing in my head.” This is how I felt about Platt’s book as I read it. This book captures what discipleship, evangelism, missions, and local church life should look like as we meet the challenges of our present culture.

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey
This student of Francis Shaeffer has written the single-most helpful book on how to think rightly as a disciple of Jesus. If you readily admit your own propensity to tragically live according to Pearcey’s, “Secular/Sacred divide,” I highly recommend this work.

10 Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin
Whether chatting with my fellow pastor Adam Bishop or heeding advice from the author of Radical, David Platt, I have often heard great Christians discuss the importance of reading about other great Christians. This book, offering brief biographies of some of the greatest missionaries the world has ever seen, is sure to help you say, “yes,” the next time you are given the opportunity to go on an international mission trip.

Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
This abbreviated version of Grudem’s Systematic Theology, is a tremendous resource for anyone looking to add a systematic theology book to their personal library. If you are looking for a theology book to read with a small group to weekly meet for discussion and accountability, look no further than this work.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
For me, this book is the sin qua non book on discipleship. It is hard for me to think about an aspect of discipleship that Whitney does not address in this book. A follower of Jesus must be committed to the spiritual sweat of working out these disciplines if he or she is to experience victorious living and genuine spiritual growth.

Others that received votes:

  • The Cost of Discipleship, by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
  • Life Together, by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
  • The God Who is There, by Francis Schaeffer
  • Desiring God, by John Piper
  • Transformational Discipleship, by Erick Geiger, Michael Kelley, and Philip Nation
  • Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God, by Bruce A. Ware