By Shannon Youell
As in any recommended reading list, there are books that have challenged and stretched our thinking, books that we highlight every page, books that we can’t quite grasp the view being taken (yet feel compelled to explore further) and books that transform our thinking. Though we may not agree with everything being developed, we have found within the pages much to help us understand the Good News in refreshing ways that encourage us to press in to being devoted, obedient followers of Jesus on mission.
Each books here has, in its own way, helped us to understand the Good News of God’s Kingdom both here on earth through Christ’s followers, and into all eternity beyond.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – in the context of the Whole Story of God and Humans: Here is the main reading: the first four books of the New Testament. My premise is that we often forget the in-between story. We focus on the birth and the death and resurrection, the cross and the forgiveness that flows from that sacrifice, but somehow minimize parts of the story in between.
All of it is the Gospel! All of it equally important to our understanding of God’s redemptive and restorative work in his world. Read these again and again and again. Find Good News in all of it. Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord of all our lives, both now and forever.
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard: The Gospel, which is Jesus, is thick and full when we integrate the salvation actions of Jesus (his death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sinful natures and actions and his resurrection of invitation to new and transformed lives beginning here and now) and the teaching of Jesus. It would be remiss to skip over the teachings, which Jesus spent the majority of his time in ministry saying and which pertain to how we live life as his salt and light in this life, and just get to the wonderous glory of eternal life with God after our physical bodies leave this world. They are not separate from one another.
Willard’s classic has shaped and reshaped Christians understanding of this for decades. His treatment of the teachings of Jesus, particularly the Sermon on the Mount, brings living colour to the mission of Jesus here on earth to inaugurate God’s kingdom creation of redemption, reconciliation and restoration to all his creation and created.
Living the Sermon on the Mount by Glen H. Stassen: In the same vein, Stassen and his earlier work with David Gushee, Kingdom Ethics, helps us to see richly into the kingdom of God Jesus taught those first followers to live into.
Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us by Scot McKnight: Here’s a review of this book from pastor and author John Ortberg. “For too long, grace has been misunderstood as being nothing more than punishment avoidance. But God’s grace was flourishing long before the first sin was ever committed. Scot McKnight, in his thoughtful and provocative way, helps us think again about the comprehensiveness of grace and the robust nature of the gospel. This is a book for people who want not only to be ‘saved’ by grace, but to live by grace.”
And here’s what Ross Wagner, Professor of New Testament Studies, Princeton Theological Seminary has to say about it: “With grace, humility, and wit, (this book) offers a compelling vision of the breath-taking scope of the gospel—that in Jesus Christ, God is at work restoring broken people to full humanity in loving community with God and with one another, for the salvation of all creation…This is a message to be pondered, savored, embraced, and embodied.”
The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can be Made Right by Lisa Sharon Harper: “For all of us struggling with how the good news of Jesus should impact not just our own lives, but also speak to the injustices in our world, this book brings the threads together and paints a glorious picture of God’s redemptive work in creation.” Ken Wytsma, president of Kilns College.
We need to recover the whole Christian Gospel, the wholeness of the church, the wholeness of relationship….My wish is that Christians, and non-Christians alike, read this book.” Jim Wallis, author
Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes it Good by N.T. Wright: “What if the good news Jesus came to announce is much bigger, much better, and includes much more than merely what happens after we die? Scholar N.T. Wright reveals what the gospel really is how it can transform our todays just as much as our tomorrows.” Here’s a video from Tom Wright on the topic.
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels by N.T. Wright: Here’s the GoodReads synopsis: “New Testament scholar N.T. Wright reveals how we have been misreading the Gospels for centuries, powerfully restoring the lost central story of the Scripture: that the coronation of God through the acts of Jesus was the climax of human history. Wright fills the gaps that centuries of misdirection have opened up in our collective spiritual story, tracing a narrative from Eden, to Jesus, to today. Wright’s powerful re-reading of the Gospels helps us re-align the focus of our spiritual beliefs, which have for too long been focused on the afterlife. Instead, the forgotten story of the Gospels reveals why we should understand that our real charge is to sustain and cooperating with God’s kingdom here and now. Echoing the triumphs of Simply Christian and The Meaning of Jesus, Wright’s How God Became King is required reading for any Christian searching to understand their mission in the world today.”
Evangelism for “Normal” People by John Bowen: John was Professor of Evangelism at Wycliffe College from 1997-2013. I found this book incredibly helpful in understanding that very scary evangelism word. Cailey recently heard John speak and his comment was that he would only change one thing in the book if he were to write it again: He would move chapter 10, “What is the Gospel,” to the very beginning of the book.
John helps us see the Gospel and the things we believe about it in a way that takes the scary out of sharing the incredible Good News to those who are looking for good news in so many areas of life. He looks at the many different ways the Big Story of God engages people…what might be amazing news that God is Father to one, may not get the next person so excited–but they might find God in the story of the creation of all things, or in physical healing or in deliverance from a shame they have carried around as a millstone. Good news must actually be good to the person hearing it and Jesus has shown us many ways to engage people and draw them into God’s Story.
What Good is God by Phillip Yancey: We’ve included the link here to the introduction of this book as Yancey does a good job of raising questions our not-yet-Christian friends may have.
Do you have books to add to this list? Leave us a comment on the blog!