I remember the day I bought my first Bible. I had become a Christian through a friend explaining his faith to me among the Bunsen burners in our school chemistry lab. I saved up my earnings from my Saturday job and looked up my local Christian bookshop. The elderly owner was a bibliophile and I was a brand-new Christian hungry for anything that would help me grow in my faith, so my visits became a weekly event. I'd finish my shift, collect my paycheck, and go and spend it all on Christian literature. The shop owner introduced me to AW Tozer, John Stott, Matthew Henry, Bilquis Sheihk, Marin Luther, Derek Kidner, John Calvin, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Bruce Milne and many more mentors and heroes. I am grateful for a wise old Christian's passion for books and I wonder where I would be in my faith without his guidance and encouragement. But as a church we are losing the habit of spiritual reading, leaders are struggling to recommend books to their congregations, and Christians simply aren't being encouraged to read.
To help play a part in changing this, I've launched a new initiative called "Books for Life". Each month we will release a feature-length video interview with a significant Christian leader. I'll be asking them to name three Christian books that have changed their lives and why. Then I'll take a look at the latest crop of books to hit the shelves and make three recommendations that are well worth a read.
It has been a privilege to meet with leaders across the UK and to be inspired by the way that spiritual reading has helped them grow and develop in their faith. I have come across some old treasures that I had missed in my reading as well as being exposed to some of the cutting-edge new books that will equip us for the fresh challenges of today.
My first interview is with Canon J.John, one of the busiest people I know. J.John is an irrepressible evangelist and has been constantly travelling and preaching for the past 34 years, yet he talks about being more passionate about Jesus than when he first began. He told me how reading is a vital part of his spiritual life and giving time to reading is as unmissable a discipline in his life as brushing his teeth.
I do hope you will enjoy watching his inspiring message, and would encourage church leaders to consider showing these videos in your churches so we might inspire a new generation of readers.
I'd love to hear which books have changed your life, so why not join in on Twitter with the #3books challenge. We are encouraging Christians to tweet or post on Facebook the #3books that have changed their lives and then nominate a friend to share the #3books that have helped them.
My three recommended books this month are:
- Simplify by Bill Hybels – if, like me, your life is getting a little out of control with business and over-commitment, here's a book that can help us face up to some big challenges to try and live a simpler and more effective life for God.
- The Lion Comic Book Hero Bible – my nine-year-old read this Bible from cover to cover – twice. Without being asked, nagged or bribed. She found it exciting and inspiring.
- Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey – a pithy book that seeks to equip Christians to push back on some of the aggressive atheist rhetoric we see so often in our media. This book will equip you to think more clearly as a Christian but also to speak up for your faith in hostile contexts.
J. John's recommended books include:
- The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis – this is one of the all-time classics on spiritual devotion. It is over 500 years old and impaced the lives of leaders such as John Wesley and John Newton.
- Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger – a page turning biography that centres upon a young woman's mission to reach out to the inhabitants of Hong Kong's most dangerous territory: the Walled City.