Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.Harry S. Truman
This famous statement by President Truman can be balanced with that of King Solomon, a world leader who predated him by several millennia: “My son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body.”
With both Truman’s and Solomon’s words in mind, I offer the following Top 10 list. A few words before we get to it.
First, this book list was made with young, next generation church leaders in mind － those of you in your 20’s and early 30’s who “desire to be overseers” (1 Timothy 3.1). These are the best extra-biblical books I could recommend you pick up and read.
Some of you come from upbringings where you had very little exposure to the Bible. And even if you did grow up around the Bible, you probably are largely ignorant of the history of the church. The books in this list will help you learn the history of the Bible and the history of the church.
Some of you grew up steeped in American church tradition and micro-culture. There is a danger that you will get locked into rigid, narrow viewpoints that hinder you from being flexible enough to move out and take new ground with the Gospel. On the other hand, I have watched as those who come from unchurched backgrounds bounce from one new and exciting fad/movement to the next every few years. No matter your background, every young leader can benefit from developing a foundation that provides perspective. The books on this list will help you develop that perspective.
Second, this list is not set in stone. Several of these books have been on my short list for more than 15 years. Others are more recent additions. My Top 10 list several years from now will likely have 2-3 new titles that have worked their way in.
Finally, I would say that there is a clear distinction between the first 5 books on the list and the second 5. In fact, I have a hard time seeing the first 5 books ever falling out of my Top 10. They’re that good.
Top 10 Book List for Young Leaders
- The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
- The Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola
- The New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content by Bruce Metzger
- The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark
- Paul: In Fresh Perspective by N.T. Wright
- The History of Christianity: From the Disciples to the Dawn of the Reformation by Luke Timothy Johnson
- Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley
- Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Timothy Keller
- Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph by Jim Collins
- Studying, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible by Walt Henrichsen