This time of year, every year, I get promo packets, samples, and catalogs of things to honor the graduating class of ____. I deeply appreciate the generosity of these groups to send out so many resources, and I am always thankful for the chance to see what’s out there in terms of music, literature and emphasis. This will be my fifth graduating class I’ve had come through my ministry, and every year I have always given out books. And not some book with a cover that looks like it was designed by a toddler, but good books, substantial books. The number of and the titles have changed over the years, depending on budget, interests of the class members, and such. But I have always resisted ordering the “Greatest Hits of ____” CD packet with the Jesus trinkets for these reasons:
1) Books are valuable because they contain the wisdom and insight of those who have loved Jesus before us. When you read Packer’s Knowing God, you’re reading a book that has influenced several generations of faithful Christians. Or when you read Bonhoeffer, you’re getting a glimpse into one of the most complex people in the most horrific time in modern history. Because of this, books are something that can be passed down later. I have several given to me by spiritual mentors, and have given away many of mine to other people to continue a pattern of faithful reading.
2) Reading good books changed my life in college, and steered me to become a greater student of Jesus and a more impassioned doer of His Word. Many of my dear friends, even those with “secular” jobs can trace much of their faith foundation to books they read during very formative years as they wrestled with the major decisions of life.
3) Fads come and go, but good books are a timeless treasure. I have often come back to the books that have had the greatest impact on me in times of despair. I’ve also come back to several when I need a refresher. What’s hit music now will, in 5 years, be considered outdated. Whatever is the trend now will be obsolete as soon as the next trend on Twitter hits. Usually that’s what we see, but there are some books (and music, movies, etc) that seem to break that trend towards obsolescence.
4) This generation of students is tired of fluff, they want substance. I’ve learned that many times students are spoon-fed mush for so long that when they get a taste of something significant, they cannot wait to have it again (like if you go to Memphis for ribs, it’s impossible to get them anywhere else because they’re just not the same ). Our students have been fed a steady diet of Scripture, truth, and wrestling with significant doctrinal issues, in a way they can understand and broken down so they can see the pieces come together, and that’s what they ask me to keep doing.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re a student minister trying to figure out what to give your graduating students. Let me give you a list of books I’ve given out or would recommend:
- ESV Study Bible – a bit hefty and pricey, if you have a rich benefactor get them on board!
- J. Budziszewki, How to Stay a Christian in College
- Francis Chan, Crazy Love
- Matt Chandler, Explicit Gospel
- Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something
- John Dickson, Humilitas
- James Dobson, Life on the Edge
- Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears, Vintage Jesus, Vintage Church
- Elisabeth Eliot, Shadows of the Almighty
- Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (or Kent Hughes Disciplines of a Godly Man, Don Whitney Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life)
- Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?
- Josh Harris, Stop Dating the Church, Dug Down Deep
- CJ Mahaney, Worldliness, Humility
- R. Albert Mohler, Culture Shift
- J.I. Packer, Knowing God
- John Piper, Desiring God, Don’t Waste Your Life
- David Platt, Radical
Feedback time, what books would you add to the list?