The end of the year is always a good time to reflect, as well as take a break and dive into some good books (or give a few away as gifts!). It’s also a great time to encourage and challenge yourself, have your inspiration or imagination stretched, your faith deepened and challenged, and your heart and mind rekindled.
Here are a few of our favorite books that we at Verge recommend, and would love for you to pick up one (or all of them!) and be inspired, challenged, and deepened in your walk with Jesus. These are books that we highly recommend and impacted us most or were very timely this year:
The Gospel in Color: A Theology of Racial Reconciliation for Kids by Curtis A. Woods and Jarvis Williams
My family went through this book during our dinner devotionals and it helped us really have some incredible conversations about race and racism. Racism is a painful, complex issue, and can be challenging to explain to children. That’s why The Gospel In Color For Kids is written to facilitate honest conversations about race and racial reconciliation between kids and their parents.
With vibrant illustrations and engaging text, this book explains how the false idea of race brings about suffering and division, and why the good news of Jesus Christ brings about the reconciliation the world needs.
By providing a biblical lens for viewing race, racism, and reconciliation, The Gospel In Color helps kids understand big ideas in a highly accessible way.
Also check out the parents version! The Gospel In Color For Parents directly addresses vital questions about how Christians should respond to racism without falling into the error of color-blindness or ignorance, equipping parents to provide their children with a biblical perspective on race and racism, while celebrating the gospel’s power to bring about reconciliation.
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield
What did God use to draw a radical, committed unbeliever to himself? Did God take her to an evangelistic rally? Or, since she had her doctorate in literature, did he use something in print? No, God used an invitation to dinner in a modest home, from a humble couple who lived out the gospel daily, simply, and authentically.
With this story of her conversion as a backdrop, Rosaria Butterfield invites us into her home to show us how God can use this same “radical, ordinary hospitality” to bring the gospel to our lost friends and neighbors. Such hospitality sees our homes as not our own, but as God’s tools for the furtherance of his kingdom as we welcome those who look, think, believe, and act differently from us into our everyday, sometimes messy lives―helping them see what true Christian faith really looks like.
Images and Idols: Creativity for the Christian Life (Reclaiming Creativity) by Thomas J. Terry & J. Ryan Lister
Christians ought to be leading the way in creativity, but we rarely do.
God is the Creator of all things, and He created us in His image. Creativity is woven into the very fabric of our humanity. Therefore, Christians should value and champion creativity as a vital part of our image-bearing role. Instead Christians often don’t know what to do with creatives and creatives don’t know what to do with Christianity. On one side you have Christians who neglect or discount art, imagination, and beauty altogether. On the other, you have artists who make idols out of each of these good things.
Ryan Lister, a theology professor, and Thomas Terry, a spoken word artist and founder of Humble Beast, team up to help restore the connection between creativity and theology. Images & Idols is a theological and artistic exploration of creativity in the Christian life. It will help creatives build a strong theological foundation for their art, while challenging the church to embrace a theology of beauty and creativity.
Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry
In Gay Girl, Good God, author Jackie Hill Perry shares her own story, offering practical tools that helped her in the process of finding wholeness. Jackie grew up fatherless and experienced gender confusion. She embraced masculinity and homosexuality with every fiber of her being. She knew that Christians had a lot to say about all of the above. But was she supposed to change herself? How was she supposed to stop loving women, when homosexuality felt more natural to her than heterosexuality ever could?
At age nineteen, Jackie came face-to-face with what it meant to be made new. And not in a church, or through contact with Christians. God broke in and turned her heart toward Him right in her own bedroom in light of His gospel.
Read in order to understand. Read in order to hope. Or read in order, like Jackie, to be made new.
The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy by Timothy Keller
The story of Jonah is one of the most well-known parables in the Bible. It is also the most misunderstood. Many people, even those who are nonreligious, are familiar with Jonah: A rebellious prophet who defies God and is swallowed by a whale. But there’s much more to Jonah’s story than most of us realize.
In The Prodigal Prophet, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller reveals the hidden depths within the book of Jonah. Keller makes the case that Jonah was one of the worst prophets in the entire Bible. And yet there are unmistakably clear connections between Jonah, the prodigal son, and Jesus. Jesus in fact saw himself in Jonah. How could one of the most defiant and disobedient prophets in the Bible be compared to Jesus?
Jonah’s journey also doesn’t end when he is freed from the belly of the fish. There is an entire second half to his story–but it is left unresolved within the text of the Bible. Why does the book of Jonah end on what is essentially a cliffhanger? In these pages, Timothy Keller provides an answer to the extraordinary conclusion of this biblical parable–and shares the powerful Christian message at the heart of Jonah’s story.
One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love by John Perkins
Dr. Perkins’ final manifesto on race, faith, and reconciliation
We are living in historic times. Not since the civil rights movement of the 60s has our country been this vigorously engaged in the reconciliation conversation. There is a great opportunity right now for culture to change, to be a more perfect union. However, it cannot be done without the church, because the faith of the people is more powerful than any law government can enact.
The church is the heart and moral compass of a nation. To turn a country away from God, you must sideline the church. To turn a nation to God, the church must turn first. Racism won’t end in America until the church is reconciled first. Then—and only then—can it spiritually and morally lead the way.
Dr. John M. Perkins is a leading civil rights activist today. He grew up in a Mississippi sharecropping family, was an early pioneer of the civil rights movement, and has dedicated his life to the cause of racial equality. In this, his crowning work, Dr. Perkins speaks honestly to the church about reconciliation, discipleship, and justice… and what it really takes to live out biblical reconciliation.
He offers a call to repentance to both the white church and the black church. He explains how band-aid approaches of the past won’t do. And while applauding these starter efforts, he holds that true reconciliation won’t happen until we get more intentional and relational. True friendships must happen, and on every level. This will take the whole church, not just the pastors and staff.
The racial reconciliation of our churches and nation won’t be done with big campaigns or through mass media. It will come one loving, sacrificial relationship at a time. The gospel and all that it encompasses has always traveled best relationally. We have much to learn from each other and each have unique poverties that can only be filled by one another. The way forward is to become “wounded healers” who bandage each other up as we discover what the family of God really looks like. Real relationships, sacrificial love between actual people, is the way forward. Nothing less will do.
The Minority Experience: Navigating Emotional and Organizational Realities by Adrian Pei
It’s hard to be in the minority.
If you’re the only person from your ethnic or cultural background in your organization or team, you probably know the challenges of being misunderstood or marginalized. You might find yourself inadvertently overlooked or actively silenced. Even when a work environment is not blatantly racist or hostile, people of color often struggle to thrive―and may end up leaving the organization. Being a minority is not just about numbers. It’s about understanding pain, power, and the impact of the past.
Organizational consultant Adrian Pei describes key challenges ethnic minorities face in majority culture organizations. He unpacks how historical forces shape contemporary realities, and what both minority and majority cultures need to know in order to work together fruitfully. If you’re a cultural minority working in a majority culture organization, or if you’re a majority culture supervisor of people from other backgrounds, learn the dynamics at work. And be encouraged that you can help make things better so that all can flourish.
Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials by Dave Furman
“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
What does it mean to “kiss the wave?” These words, attributed to nineteenth-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon, speak to the Christian’s only hope for perseverance in suffering. What if we can learn to experience the nearness of God in the midst of suffering? What if God intends to work through our trials rather than simply take them away?
After living for more than a decade with a debilitating nerve condition in both arms, Dave Furman shows us that God, in his grace, always designs trials for our good―not minimizing the pain, but infusing significance into our suffering. Furman demonstrates that, even when tossed to and fro by stormy waves, God is near . . . and that makes all the difference in the world.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
From a powerful new voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female in middle-class white America.
Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age 7, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker and expert who helps organizations practice genuine inclusion.
In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value “diversity” in their mission statements, I’m Still Here is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice, in stories that bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric–from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.
For readers who have engaged with America’s legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness–if we let it–can save us all.
Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church by John Onwuchekwa
What is the role of corporate prayer in the church?
Prayer is as necessary to the Christian as breathing is to the human body―but it often doesn’t come quite as naturally. In fact, prayer in the church often gets subtly pushed to the side in favor of pragmatic practices that promise tangible results.
This book focuses on the necessity of regular prayer as a central practice in the local church―awakening us to the need and blessing of corporate prayer by examining what Jesus taught about prayer, how the first Christians approached prayer, and how to prioritize prayer in our congregations.
Colorfull: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us by Dorena Williamson
Why be colorblind when we can be colorFULL instead?
Imani and Kayla are the best of friends who are learning to celebrate their different skin colors. As they look around them at the amazing colors in nature, they can see that their skin is another example of God’s creativity! This joyful story takes a new approach to discussing race: instead of being colorblind, we can choose to celebrate each color God gave us and be colorFULL instead.
Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable by Sam Chan
Most Christians already know that they should be telling their friends about Jesus. But they have been poorly equipped with methods that are no longer effective in today’s post-Christian world. As a result, many people become frustrated, blame themselves, and simply give up. Evangelism in a Skeptical World is a textbook on evangelism that is ideal for the church or the classroom to equip Christians with the principles and skills they need to tell the unbelievable news about Jesus to friends in a skeptical world.
Many of the older principles and methods of evangelism in the twentieth century no longer work effectively today. In a post-Christian, post-churched, post-reached world we need new methods to communicate the timeless message of the gospel in culturally relevant ways. Dr. Chan combines the theological and biblical insights of classic evangelistic training with the latest insights from missiology on contextualization, cultural hermeneutics, and storytelling. Every chapter is illustrated with real-world examples drawn from over fifteen years of evangelistic ministry. These are methods that really work – with university students, urban workers, and high school students – getting past the defensive posture that people have toward Christianity so they can seriously consider the claims of Jesus Christ.
Field-tested and filled with unique, fresh, and creative insights, this book will equip you to share the gospel in today’s world and help as many people as possible hear the good news about Jesus.
White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Daniel Hill
Daniel Hill will never forget the day he heard these words: “Daniel, you may be white, but don’t let that lull you into thinking you have no culture. White culture is very real. In fact, when white culture comes in contact with other cultures, it almost always wins. So it would be a really good idea for you to learn about your culture.” Confused and unsettled by this encounter, Hill began a journey of understanding his own white identity. Today he is an active participant in addressing and confronting racial and systemic injustices.
And in this compelling and timely book, he shows you the seven stages to expect on your own path to cultural awakening. It’s crucial to understand both personal and social realities in the areas of race, culture, and identity. This book will give you a new perspective on being white and also empower you to be an agent of reconciliation in our increasingly diverse and divided world.
Woke Church: An Urgent Call for Christians in America to Confront Racism and Injustice by Eric Mason
“Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.” –Frederick Douglass, 1845
The prophets of old were not easy to listen to because they did not flatter. They did not cajole. They spoke hard words that often chafed and unsettled their listeners. Like the Old Testament prophets, and more recent prophetic voices like Frederick Douglass, Dr. Eric Mason calls the evangelical church to a much-needed reckoning. In a time when many feel confused, complacent, or even angry, he challenges the church to:
Be Aware – to understand that the issue of justice is not a black issue, it’s a kingdom issue. To learn how the history of racism in America and in the church has tainted our witness to a watching world.
Be Redemptive – to grieve and lament what we have lost and to regain our prophetic voice, calling the church to remember our gospel imperative to promote justice and mercy.
Be Active – to move beyond polite, safe conversations about reconciliation and begin to set things aright for our soon-coming King, who will be looking for a WOKE CHURCH.
The Storm-tossed Family by Russell Moore
Why do our families have so much power over us? In The Storm-Tossed Family, bestselling author Russell Moore (Onward, Christianity Today’s 2016 “Book of the Year Award Winner”) teaches readers whether you are married or single, whether you long for a child or shepherding a full house, you are part of a family. Family is difficult because family—every family—is an echo of the gospel.
Family can be the source of some of the most transcendent human joy, and family can leave us crumpled up on the side of the road. Family can make us who we are, and family can break our hearts. Why would this social arrangement have that much power, for good or for ill, over us?
Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey by Sarah Shin
In our broken world, ethnicity and racial identity are often points of pain and injustice. But God created us with our ethnic identities, and he made them for good. We bring all of who we are, including our ethnicity and cultural background, to our identity and work as God’s ambassadors.
Ethnicity and evangelism specialist Sarah Shin shows how our brokenness around ethnicity can be restored and redeemed, for our own wholeness and also for the good of others. When we experience internal transformation in our ethnic journeys, God propels us outward in a reconciling witness to the world. Ethnic healing can demonstrate God’s power and goodness to others and bring good news to the world. Shin helps us make space for God’s healing our ethnic stories, grow in our cross-cultural skills, manage cross-cultural conflict, pursue reconciliation and justice, and share the gospel as ethnicity-aware Christians.
Jesus offers hope for healing, both for ourselves and for society. Discover how your ethnic story can be transformed for compelling witness and mission.
Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age by Alan Noble
We live in a distracted, secular age.
These two trends define life in Western society today. We are increasingly addicted to habits―and devices―that distract and “buffer” us from substantive reflection and deep engagement with the world. And we live in what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor calls “a secular age”―an age in which all beliefs are equally viable and real transcendence is less and less plausible. Drawing on Taylor’s work, Alan Noble describes how these realities shape our thinking and affect our daily lives. Too often Christians have acquiesced to these trends, and the result has been a church that struggles to disrupt the ingrained patterns of people’s lives.
But the gospel of Jesus is inherently disruptive: like a plow, it breaks up the hardened surface to expose the fertile earth below. In this book Noble lays out individual, ecclesial, and cultural practices that disrupt our society’s deep-rooted assumptions and point beyond them to the transcendent grace and beauty of Jesus. Disruptive Witness casts a new vision for the evangelical imagination, calling us away from abstraction and cliché to a more faithful embodiment of the gospel for our day.
Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul David Tripp
Sometimes life just hurts.
Out of nowhere, death, illness, unemployment, or a difficult relationship can change our lives and challenge everything we thought we knew―leaving us feeling unable to cope. But, in the midst if all this pain and confusion, we are not alone.
Weaving together his personal story, pastoral ministry experience, and biblical insights, best-selling author Paul David Tripp helps us trust God in the midst of suffering. He identifies traps to avoid in our suffering and points us instead to comforts to embrace. This raw yet hope-filled book will help you cling to God’s promises when trials come and move forward with the hope of the gospel.
BONUS! Coming in 2019:
The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby
The Color of Compromise takes readers on a historical journey: from America’s early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War, covering the tragedy of Jim Crow laws and the victories of the Civil Rights era, to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. Author Jemar Tisby reveals the obvious—and the far more subtle—ways the American church has compromised what the Bible teaches about human dignity and equality.
Tisby uncovers the roots of sustained injustice in the American church, highlighting the cultural and institutional tables that need to be turned in order to bring about real and lasting progress between black and white people. Through a story-driven survey of American Christianity’s racial past, he exposes the concrete and chilling ways people of faith have actively worked against racial justice, as well as the deafening silence of the white evangelical majority. Tisby shows that while there has been progress in fighting racism, historically the majority of the American church has failed to speak out against this evil. This ongoing complicity is a stain upon the church, and sadly, it continues today.
Tisby does more than diagnose the problem, however. He charts a path forward with intriguing ideas that further the conversation as he challenges us to reverse these patterns and systems of complicity with bold, courageous, and immediate action. The Color of Compromise provides an accurate diagnosis for a racially divided American church and suggests creative ways to foster a more equitable and inclusive environment among God’s people.