Here is a list sent to a friend who has a group of fairly sharp women, in a fairly ordinary evangelical church setting. Sometimes, here, I list books I think folks ought to know about, stuff about culture and reformation and spirituality and social concern; often these are not typical inspirational books. Here is a list of more ordinary "basic Christian growth" for a young women's group. Even in this rather classic genre we have some suggestions that might be just a bit more interesting than the most typical. Know any women's growth groups or home Bible studies? Could you please pass this along? These really are fine books and deserve to be known more than some of the fluff that is out there. Most, as you will see, are not only for women, so other kinds of groups could use 'em too.
Thanks again for your interest in getting suggestions for books for your group. Since you’ve read Eugene Peterson’s terrific Long Obedience in the Same Direction, it seems to me you could go in nearly any direction, and handle any number of great books. Still, I’ve suggested a few fairly standard, thoughtful books for a women’s group that is relatively ordinary. These books are smart and solid, fun and friendly. That is, there aren’t too academic or specific to any topic----you know we could recommend books on everything from pop culture to world hunger, all within the category of "Christian living" as some bookstores call it. But here are some very inspiring books that are pretty much in the category of basic Christian growth, mostly for women. We think you’d like any of them. All either have discussion/reflection questions or exercises or webpages with study resources which you can download. Let us know if we can serve you further.
Come Closer: A Call to Life, Love & Breakfast on the Beach Jane Rubietta (Waterbrook) $13.99 The subtitle is "15 Invitations from Jesus…" and that is exactly what each chapter explores. Christ issues many invitations and these help us respond, to come closer to Him. This is really creative, and very, very nice.
Spiritual Arts: Mastering the Disciplines for a Rich Spiritual Life Jill Briscoe (Zondervan) $13.99 Books on spiritual formation are very popular these days, and this is a perfect introduction to the practices that help us train for the inner journey. This is not overly deep, not monastic, and all mystical; Jill Briscoe has been an evangelical Bible teacher for decades. It uses Philippians as a guide and includes great discussion questions at the end.
Longing for More: A Woman’s Path to Transformation in Christ Ruth Haley Barton (IVP) $16 This book used to be a book about being a Christian woman, Becoming a Woman of Strength (not to be confused with the Bible study guide by that name by someone else) and it eventually went out of print. She expanded it---a bit more about sexuality, and a lot more about spirituality---and it was re-issued as The Truths That Free Us Now it has finally be re-issued (with yet another name) and we are happy to say it is one of the best books for Christian women we’ve seen. The spiritual exercises at the end of each section are very rich. I hope you've seen the blog posts we've done on her other books, as they are excellent.
Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus Paul E. Miller (NavPress) $14 This is a breath-takingly good book, wise, insightful, passionate and powerful. Really down to Earth, too, but it includes some truly rare insights about Jesus and his own emotional life. I wish there was a study guide with it, but you can download plenty of extra teaching resources at the author’s website.
Metamorpha: Jesus as a Way of Life Kyle Strobel (Baker) $14.99 I have been intending to write a full review of this as it is one of my favorite books of the year! Kyle has a spectacular website (along with other authors) on spirituality, and he has a website with fabulous stuff for this book (study questions, bonus materials, etc.) at www.JesusAsAWayofLife.com. He is the very widely read son of apologist Lee Stobel, and combines worldview thinking, radical discipleship and the inner journey of spiritual transformation all presenting in conversational, exciting writing. Highly recommended.
Questions to All Your Answers: The Journey from Folk Religion to Examined Faith Roger E. Olson (Zondervan) $19.99 This hardback is not a hard read, but it is thought-provoking! Every chapter is a study of a commonly-heard saying that, upon examination, ends up being less than accurate and unhelpful. Or, in some cases, the common answers are not all that clear, really (Chapters includes "The Bible Has All The Answers…" or "Judge Not" or "All Sins Are Equal" or "God Is in Control.") Without being too heavy or antagonistic, this helps us think through what we really believe, moving away from a glossy, cultural spirituality towards a truly Biblical and living faith.
Godsight: Renewing the Eyes of Our Hearts Lacel Arrington (Crossway) $12.99 This is the only one that doesn’t have a study resource with it, but I just had to mention it: it is a very Godly approach to helping women "see" from a Christian perspective. With lots of stories, wholesome piety and beautiful examples, this feisty writer has written a book about a Christian worldview without really saying that. It is about, as she says, "overcoming the seduction of our imaginations." Really, really nice.
Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Women Brings Her Home Jonalyn Grace Fincher (Zondervan) $16.99 I have been telling people that this book may mark a new era in evangelical publishing! I have rarely seen a book for Christian women, about the common topic of being a Godly woman, written with as much verve and energy and thoughtful creativity as this. She is really, really smart, widely read, and challenges young women of the emerging generation (and others) to be faithful in all that they are. The longings of our hearts call us home to Christ, and in that, we are freed to be agents of deeply spiritual transformation.
Transparent: Getting Honest About Who We Are and Who We Want to Be Sarah Zacharias Davis (Revell) $12.99 Again, an indication of the major improvement in this genre! Sarah is Ravi Z's daughter, and her first book, Confessions From an Honest Wife, was amazingly well done---each chapter was a different women, although all told by Sarah, as she gave voice to women she knows. Here, she does the same thing, with each chapter titled after the name of a certain young women, where she shares their deepest longings, tells the truth about what they are really feeling. This is not a book of packaged solutions but of possibilities. Thank God for this young woman as a writer and thinker. This book is truly an authentic gift.
Wanting All The Right Things Shirin Taber (Relevant) $13.99 Part memoir, part cultural criticism, this is a super book about the deepest things of our lives, and the modern woman's guide to finding a spiritually balanced and fulfilled life. Not every evangelical writer knows to quote Maureen Dowd or Naomi Wolfe, and not every modern gal works with the respected Damah film festival. Given the history of this genre within religious publishing, that books this honest and hip exist for young women is nearly a miracle. Yeeah.
Gracious Christianity: Living the Love We Profess Doug Jacobsen and Rodney Sawatsky (Baker) $12.99 This slim book is the combined efforts of a UCC prof at Messiah (who is a friend) and the former President (who was dying of a brain tumor as he wrote this book.) Together, these gentlemen offer a truly gentle and gracious and elegant overview of most Christian beliefs. This is at once a primer on the faith and a call to a certain kind of living, a discipleship that is wholistic and loving, active and, well, gracious. It is marked by serious thinking and exceptional humility. They have a website, too, with stories and extra resources.
When the Game Is Over It All Goes Back In The Box John Ortberg (Zondervan) $21.99 A few years ago Ortberg left his position as teaching pastor at Willow Creek and became the pastor of a very large and evangelically-minded Presbyterian Church. What a great, accessible and interesting writer. We love all his books, The Life You Always Wanted, God Is Closer Than You Think, If You Want To Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, and a great one on community, called Everybody’s Normal (Until You Get to Know Them.) Some have relatively inexpensive DVD curriculum to go with, and we highly recommend any. Very fun. This brand new one looks fabulous and reminds us that "winning" isn’t all that matters, and that "success" isn’t the real yardstick of anything that truly matters. Beginning with the right object---being rich toward God---he shows what it takes to really win at the "game of life."
Completely His: Loving Jesus Without Limits Shannon Ethridge (Waterbrook) $15.99 Ms Ethridge has written the Every Woman’s Battle books and is increasingly known as a writer. Here, she tells the stunning story of her journey to faith (as a 16-year-old driver, she made a foolish mistake, hitting and killing a young man on a bike. The family of the boy forgave her, leading her to a living faith in Christ!) Her theme here is knowing we are loved extravagantly, and sharing the love of God with others. Simple but powerful, this is going to get a lot of press, I believe, and she intends to write more.
There are currently two discussion guide resource tools for small groups as a follow up to Completely His. She calls the 30 Days Guides to Loving Jesus Without Limits. Completely Forgiven: Responding to God’s Transforming Grace and Completely Loved: Recognizing God’s Passionate Pursuit of Us (Waterbrook) $9.99 each
Redefining Life For Women think (NavPress) $8.99 This recent "think" line of inductive studies are interactive, hip, and include marvelous readings from other sources (everything from novels to essays to spirituality writings) that parallel the Bible study. Small group stuff just got a whole, whole lot more interesting. There are several for women, several for men, several that are for anyone, and a few for married couples. Extra-special, contemporary and very interesting. Uses The Message for the Bible portions.
Tough Love, Tender Mercies: 3 Short Stops in the Minor Prophets Lisa Harper (Tyndale) $12.97 This looks like so much fun; "on the road with Lisa" DVD includes her fun teaching, playing with this road trip metaphor, and stopping in with plenty of contemporary stuff. The back of the paperback asks "What happens when Malachi meets Scarlett O’Hara?" She has another on the Song of Solomon, too. An upbeat and fun teacher, she has her Master’s in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary.
Attentiveness: Being Present (Abingdon Press) Leaders Guide $12; Participants Guide; $9 This is a small group resource in a new series called Living the Good Life Together which is aimed at 20/30-somethings. Still, it is so good, I recommend it to nearly any age group; unlike the standard inductive questions, this is a very interactive, devotionally-rich small group curriculum that is excellent for group involvement and experiences of learning together. There is a thorough leaders guide, and each person gets a participant’s workbook, and there is DVD piece to use, too, if you want. It is about forming character in community.
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