The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association recently revealed the top 100 selling Christian books in 2016. When this list started making the rounds on social media, most ministry leaders I read were noticeably disappointed. And understandably so, as, apart from a few exceptions, the list appears full of superficial inspiration, silly gift books, and pop spirituality bordering on word-of-faith heresy.
The discussion ensuing online was largely a helpful one, as people began troubleshooting the problem. Is it the readers' fault? After all, publishers wouldn't print the books they know nobody will buy. Or is it the publishers' fault? After all, readers can only buy what's available to them.
I think it's a little of both, but mainly I think the whole problem is fundamentally a pastoral issue — that is to say, the appetite for and popularity of the worst kinds of things we see on the Christian bestsellers lists is a direct result of the discipleship in evangelical churches. If you're a pastor, ministry leader, or otherwise concerned layperson, you are wisely asking yourself, "How do we work to fix this?"
Perhaps not the biggest solution but still an influential help is in the kinds of books we read ourselves, and especially in the kinds of books we quote from in sermons, recommend in our conversations and on social media, and otherwise share with others. Some pastors are wondering if a church bookstore might help.
Maintaining a church bookstore doesn't have to be a huge undertaking. Some churches have the space and human resources to accommodate lots of offerings. Most of us, however, have room mainly for a table in the foyer or perhaps even just a shelf. But whether you have a large bookstall or an average one, if you're concerned about shaping your congregation spiritually and intellectually according to the gospel, here are 10 books you should think about including. I have composed this list thinking of the kinds of needs and interests most Christians seek out answers for in the sorts of books that sell most at Christian bookstores. (If you prefer maintaining a lending library in your church over a for-sale book table, these are also titles to include.)
1. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
2. Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington
3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
4. The Reason for God by Tim Keller
5. Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung
6. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
7. Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
8. Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick
9. The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert
10. The Gospel by Ray Ortlund
This is just a starter list, of course, filled mostly with newer books that are relatively short, non-academic, and eminently shareable.
If you're interested in a nuts-and-bolts post about establishing a church book stall, this entry from Justin Sok and Paul Conner at 9Marks is excellent.