Have there ever been so many Christian Books in print as now? I think not. Seemingly every day a new book, Bible study, and or instructional video is released with the seemingly magical ability to make Christendom great again. Read this, and you will be the best parent ever. Try this plan, and your besetting sin will disappear. Watch this…and well…your life will be better than ever before. And all these pleas connect with our hearts because we all want to grow closer to Christ. We all have spiritual battles. But at the end of the day, not all resources are created equal. And given the fact that few of us can devote large portions of our days to reading and studying, we do not want to squander our precious time on bad books. To determine which resources in your Christian bookstore are spiritual fool’s gold and which contain lasting truth, I encourage ask the follow three questions:
Who Published It?
Who published the book can tell you a lot about the book’s author. Obviously, allpublishers want to sell you their books, curriculums, etc. (Hence all the marketing that often makes picking the right resources very difficult.) If an author’s books fly off the shelves, everyone wants to publish their materials. But with that being said, publishers often still have some convictions and guiding principles that narrow down their list of potential authors.
Publishers will only publish authors who reflect their view(s) of the world. For example, B&H Publishing (the publishing wing of LifeWay) and Crossway Publishing (They produce the ESV Bibles) and P&R Publishers (They publish many fantastic theology books) make it a point to publish resources that are based on a literal and inerrant reading of the Scriptures. Publishers such as Zondervan and Tommy Nelson are a little freer with who they publish. For example, Tommy Nelson publishes books by Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) and commentaries by Dr. Thomas Schreiner (which are sound theologically and academically). And other publishers like, Faith Words – who puts out all the Joel Osteen materials – should simply be avoided. #FoolsGold anyone?
At the end of the day, seeing who publishes a book will not tell you everything you need to know. But it is a great starting point. Check on the publisher.
Who Endorsed It?
Now as a noted above, some publishers publish both good and bad authors. Just discovering who the publisher is not a fool proof. You need to explore a little more. You need to check the endorsements. If another author that you know and trust endorses the book, then you can be pretty sure the book is good. (At the very least your confidence in the book should be as great as your confidence in the one endorsing it.) If you are like me, you probably will not recognize all the names on the back of the book. I recently read Vertical Church by James McDonald (I highly recommend it). Thirty-seven people endorsed the book! The publishers want to get a wide variety of endorsements on their publication so that they can market it to the largest Christian demographic possible. That being said, do not worry about why some Anglican pastor you never heard of endorsed the book in your hand. If Dr. Albert Mohler, John MacArthur, and Paul David Tripp also endorsed that same book, it is probably one really good resources. If you don’t know any of the endorsers, that’s probably not a good sign.
Endorsements are never forced or fabricated. For example, the evangelist Greg Laurie once stretched the truth by saying John MacArthur endorsed his ministry. MacArthur quickly forced Laurie to retract the claim and to change his materials. Endorsements matter and are guarded closely by those who give them. Before you start flipping through the table of contents, check the endorsements. If people you trust stand by a publication or program, you can trust those resources. Check the endorsements.
Does Your Pastor Like It?
If you want to skip steps one and two, go straight to your pastor(s) and/or elder(s). Ask them, “who are your favorite authors?” Ask them to recommend books and resources that will help you.
Do not worry about bothering them. This is part of their job. They are called to lead and shepherd you, in-part by getting good resources into your hands and by protecting you from wolves in sheep’s clothing. Ask them for help! Most will love to direct you to great resources.
As a young college student, I knew I could trust C.S. Lewis, Francis Shaffer, and John Macarthur. But I did not have a clue about the other 99% of Christian literature filling the shelves of our local books stores. Thankfully, the pastors at the Bible Church of Little Rock did a great job of exposing me and that church to a host of godly authors. While at the Bible Church, I was introduced to J. I. Packer, C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, Ed Welch, Bruce Ware, Joel Beeke, and Don Whitney to name a few. I was given a solid foundation from which I could build my personal library. I hope and pray your pastors can and will do the same for you.
But if your pastor shirks this duty, I encourage you to fall back on points 1 and 2.
Alright, are you ready to pick out your next book?