Summer Reading Recommendations

Summer is always a good time to dial all the normal activities back a notch and dive into some good books. Whether it’s the change in weather, the kids being out of school, or the natural change in pace, there’s no better time to pick up a new book and have your imagination or inspiration stretched, your faith deepened and challenged, and your heart and mind rekindled.

Here are a few books that I can personally recommend, and would love for you to pick up one (or all of them!) and be inspired this summer:

1) The Tech-wise Family by Andy Crouch. My wife handed me this book and said, “You’ve got to read this!” It is a super-practical (and very helpful) book and the subtitle says it all: Everyday Steps For Putting Technology In Its Proper Place.

As a family, we’ve been able to get out of the default of slavery to devices and create some new and incredibly satisfying rhythms and activities because of this book. If you have kids with devices and have struggled to reclaim life in the midst of the many distractions that screens offer, then I want you to read this book. Even if you don’t have kids – read it. I promise you’ll walk away with some new perspective and tools for balancing relationships and technology.

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2) Among Wolves: Disciple-making in the City by Dhati Lewis. If you’re looking for a challenging and inspiring book that will give you some real tools and resources to make a difference by making disciples, this is it. Dhati is not just a friend, but someone who’s life and character I’ve seen up close for almost 20 years. He’s the real deal, and this book is worth every penny because it’s forged from the fires of real life experience, not just theory about discipleship. 

Among Wolves seeks to help us move to obedience to the call of Christ to labor to multiply disciples. You will walk through eight significant movements in the book of Matthew, beginning with Jesus establishing His presence with us, to him mobilizing an army to go and make disciples of all nations. As you follow Jesus’ patterns and teachings in Matthew, you will be equipped to establish a thriving disciple making culture in your context as your burden to see your city reached moves toward reality.

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3) Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. Discovering the principles behind this book was life-changing for me. Too many Christians find it hard to talk to others about Jesus. Is it possible this difficulty is because we’re trying to speak a language we haven’t actually spent time practicing? Is it possible we have neglected to understand for ourselves how the good news of Jesus impacts every facet of our own lives?

To become fluent in a new language, you must immerse yourself in it and commit to practicing it, over and over again. You must use it everyday until you actually start to think about life through it. Becoming fluent in the gospel happens the same way—after believing it, we have to intentionally rehearse it (to ourselves and to others) and immerse ourselves in its truths. Only then will we start to see how everything in our lives, from the mundane to the magnificent, is transformed by the hope of the gospel.

Challenging us to cultivate this counter-cultural mindset, Jeff offers readers wise biblical insights, practical advice, and compelling stories aimed at encouraging and equipping Christians to speak the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life.

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4) My Heart: Every Beat Surrendered To Our Unchanging God by Julie Manning. Ok, I have to admit: my wife and I had a front row seat to Julie’s unfolding story, and we watched her take a life-threatening condition and receive it as God’s good grace. Julie was in the middle of giving birth to her second child when doctors noticed an irregularity in her heartbeat. Within six weeks, tests revealed it was no one-time occurrence. This ultra-capable mom, wife, marathon runner, and pediatric nurse practitioner was in active heart failure, finding herself at risk for experiencing a sudden cardiac death.

My Heart is the first-person account of Julie’s journey from then to now—from a healthy woman’s normal expectations and self-reliance to the surrendering of her dreams, plans, and deepest desires into the hands of our unchanging God. Part retelling and reflection, part in-the moment prayer journal, her story takes you with honest vulnerability into the jaws of fear and suffering, and speaks realistic hope into your own story, leaving you with well-fought, well-placed confidence for the road ahead. It’s what her heart would like to say to you . . . about the faithful, loving, impeccably trustworthy heart of God.

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5) Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith. Never has a book been more relevant and more needed than in our current times. Through extensive surveys and face-to-face interviews, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith probed the grassroots of white evangelical America. They found that despite recent efforts by the movement’s leaders to address the problem of racial discrimination, evangelicals themselves seem to be preserving America’s racial chasm. In fact, most white evangelicals see no systematic discrimination against blacks.

But the authors contend that it is not just active racism that prevents evangelicals from recognizing ongoing problems in American society. Instead, it is the evangelical movement’s emphasis on individualism, free will, and personal relationships that makes invisible the pervasive injustice that perpetuates racial inequality. Most racial problems, the subjects told the authors, can be solved by the repentance and conversion of the sinful individuals at fault.

Combining a substantial body of evidence with sophisticated analysis and interpretation, the authors throw sharp light on the oldest American dilemma. In the end, they conclude that despite the best intentions of evangelical leaders and some positive trends, real racial reconciliation remains far over the horizon.

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