2021 For the Church Book Awards

by Staff December 6, 2021

In a Washington Post review of the 2021 novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land, Ron Charles calls the book “a love letter to books.” Charles is correct, Anthony Doerr’s (best known for All the Light We Cannot See) newest novel is a centuries-jumping, continent-spanning love letter to books and libraries.

After reading the review, that phrase stuck with me: “love letter to books.” This is the kind of letter many of us bookish folks wouldn’t mind writing. Even in the strangeness that was 2021, many of us found consistent and faithful friends in good books. Because of the faithful friendship of these books, many readers could resonate with Roald Dahl’s touching sentence from one of his most beloved children’s books: “These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

To no one’s surprise, each member of the editorial board of For the Church would happily take on that odd epithet of bookish. As a people of the Book, we find it time well-spent to reflect on stories and truths in many books. Therefore, with eagerness, we look forward to participating in and publishing the annual For the Church Book Awards.

Like previous years, we are pleased to present our readers with a few books that stuck out as exceptional from this past year. In this, our fifth annual For the Church book awards, each member of the editorial team chose two books—a winner and a runner-up—to honor and to recommend to you. For us, like many of you, 2021 brought about the turning of thousands of pages and we collectively want to give a hearty “thank you” to the many faithful authors and publishers who worked to give us companions during these last twelve months.

Congratulations to this year’s winners of the 2021 For the Church Book Awards. They are as follows:


Dr. Jason K. Allen, President of Midwestern Seminary and FTC Editor-in-Chief

Winner: In the Name of God: The Colliding Lives, Legends, and Legacies of J. Frank Norris and George W. Truett by O.S. Hawkins

In the Name of God: The Colliding Lives, Legends, and Legacies of J. Frank Norris and George W. Truett: Hawkins, O. S.: 9781087743196: Amazon.com: Books “One doesn’t have to be a Southern Baptist to find O.S. Hawkins’ In The Name of God: The Colliding Lives, Legends, and Legacies of J. Frank Norris and George W. Truett a true page-turner. As the title suggests, he unpacks the fascinating story of two of the 20th century’s most prominent pastors and, in so doing, gives the reader a tutelage in Southern religion, Baptist power plays, and the consequences of leadership. All who want to better understand 20th century church history, and these two titanic personalities who shaped it, will want to read this book.”

Get the book here.

Runner-Up (TIE): The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility by Ray Ortlund AND Men & Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction by Kevin DeYoung

The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility: Ortlund, Ray, Anyabwile, Thabiti M.: 9781433576690: Amazon.com: BooksMen and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction - Kindle edition by DeYoung, Kevin. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. “Both The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility and Men & Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction deserve wide distribution in the 21st-century church. These two skilled authors confront these pressing issues with biblical faithfulness and pastoral care. Love of family, neighbor, and church will motivate you to read these two books. Love of Christ and Scripture will motivate you to apply them.”

Get the books here and here.


Dr. Jason G. Duesing, Provost of Midwestern Seminary and FTC Editorial Council Member

Winner: The Glory Now Revealed: What We’ll Discover About God in Heaven by Andrew M. Davis

Glory Now Revealed: Davis, Andrew M.: 9781540901941: Amazon.com: Books“In these days of trouble on Earth, we know we would be helped by thinking more of God in heaven. Yet, even though we desire to be more heavenly-minded, we struggle with exactly on what we should think and ponder. Thankfully, Andrew M. Davis’s, The Glory Now Revealed, arrives as a trusted guide to help. Davis, pastor, missionary, church historian, and Bible-memorizer, brings all his experience and gifts to each page in a way that instructs and edifies. This book does more than just direct your gaze to what is right and true in heaven; it stirs your heart and affections for the God who is both there and near.”

Get the book here.

Runner-Up: Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction by Kevin DeYoung

Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction - Kindle edition by DeYoung, Kevin. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.“When discussing (and debating) controversial topics, churches have often been helped by clear, winsome voices. Kevin DeYoung regularly has been one of those voices and is once again with this book that presents ‘the divinely designed complementarity of men and women as it applies to life in general and especially to ministry in the church.’ This is a book to which all those in dialogue about this topic should say to one another, ‘Have you read yet Men and Women in the Church? You should.'”

Get the book here.


Jared Wilson, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry, Spurgeon College; Author in Residence, and FTC Editorial Council Member

Winner: Holier Than Thou: How God’s Holiness Helps Us Trust Him by Jackie Hill Perry

Holier Than Thou: How God's Holiness Helps Us Trust Him: Perry, Jackie Hill, Dates, Charlie: 9781535975711: Amazon.com: Books“The best new release I read in 2021 is this thoughtful, wonderful staring at the glory of God. The pursuit of personal holiness comes not primarily through behaving but beholding, and page by page, combining classical theism with poetic language, Holier Than Thou excellently exemplifies this important truth.”

Get the book here.

Runner-Up: The Pastor as Counselor: The Call for Soul Care by David Powlison

The Pastor as Counselor: The Call for Soul Care: Powlison, David, Welch, Ed: 9781433573019: Amazon.com: Books

“This slender monograph, published posthumously this year by Crossway, is a thoroughly rewarding reflection on the utter necessity of pastoral ministry for real human flourishing and the vital truth of the supernaturality of Christianity. Powlison’s work served to remind me again of the uniqueness of pastoral care and, through these reminders, actually refreshed me with the grace of Christ in a surprising way.”

Get the book here.


Dr. Charles W. Smith, Senior Vice President for Institutional Relations; Assistant Professor of Christian Leadership, and FTC Editorial Council Member

Winner: The God of the Garden: Thoughts on Creation, Culture, and the Kingdom by Andrew Peterson

The God of the Garden: Thoughts on Creation, Culture, and the Kingdom: Peterson, Andrew: 9781087736952: Amazon.com: Books“I’m so thankful that Peterson is writing books. For decades, God has used his lyrics to encourage the Church. Now, with books like Adorning the Dark and his latest, The God of the Garden, even more people can benefit from Peterson’s heart and mind. In this frantic and fearful world, it’s good to be reminded that God is the God of the Garden. ”

Get the book here.

Runner-Up: The Gospel Shaped Leader: Leaning on Jesus to Shepherd His People by Scott Thomas

The Gospel Shaped Leader: Leaning on Jesus to Shepherd His People: Scott Thomas: 9781645071631: Amazon.com: Books“Biblical leadership is a work of the heart and the hands. And yet, it is rare to read a leadership book that balances character and competency, theology and practice. Thankfully, Scott Thomas has done just that. Readers will find this biblical, yet highly practical leadership book designed to encourage both inexperienced and experienced leaders. Highly recommended.”

Get the book here.


Dr. John Mark Yeats, Dean of Students and Student Success, Professor of Church History, and FTC Editorial Council Member

Winner: The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility by Ray Ortlund

The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility: Ortlund, Ray, Anyabwile, Thabiti M.: 9781433576690: Amazon.com: Books“Porn is destroying the lives of countless men and women, but Ortlund shows the way out of the trap with Gospel hope. Short and succinct, this is a great book for a father to work through with his son, or a men’s group to work through together.”

Get the book here.

Runner-Up: The Bible Told Them So: How Southern Evangelicals Fought to  Preserve White Supremacy by J. Russell Hawkins

Amazon.com: The Bible Told Them So: How Southern Evangelicals Fought to Preserve White Supremacy eBook : Hawkins, J. Russell: Kindle Store“Evangelicals are inheritors of a long and complex history relating to the challenges of race. Hawkins draws from a deep well of primary sources from the mid-20th century to demonstrate how some evangelical communities argued for segregation and preserving Jim Crow from the Scriptures. In the tensions of the current moment, Hawkins helps us listen to the voices of the recent past to better understand the long shadow of theological error masquerading as Biblical truth within our churches.”

Get the book here.


Dr. Ronni Kurtz, Assistant Professor of Christian Studies and Managing Editor of For the Church

Winner: The Same God Who Works All Things: Inseparable Operations in Trinitarian Theology by Adonis Vidu

The Same God Who Works All Things: Inseparable Operations in Trinitarian Theology: Vidu, Adonis: 9780802874436: Amazon.com: Books“The past few years have seen the publication of a few great volumes on Trinitarian theology. Adonis Vidu’s work is among the best of them. Vidu takes readers through an in-depth look at the classical doctrine of inseparable operations. In doing so, Vidu helps readers grapple with the notion of divine action. How does the one divine essence of the triune God act in inseparable, yet distinct, ways throughout the economy of redemption? Vidu’s treatment of inseparable operations, divine appropriations, and divine action will help students of theology make sense of this important question, and many more like them.”

Get the book here.

Runner-Up: You Are Not Your Own: Belonging to God in an Inhuman World by Alan Noble 

You Are Not Your Own: Belonging to God in an Inhuman World - Kindle edition by Noble, Alan. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.“As depicted in the Sisyphean scene on the cover, the task of creating your own identity and forging your own meaning in life is never-ceasing and only adds burden where it promised to deliver. With a tone of kindness and gospel clarity, Alan Noble helps readers lay down the dizzying task of self-realization and self-aggrandizement. Instead, what if we were more free, not less, when we surrendered to the idea that ourselves and our future do not ultimately belong to us?”

Get the book here.


Mike Brooks, Associate Editor at For the Church

Winner: The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims by Rebecca McLaughlin

The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims: Rebecca McLaughlin: 9780999284308: Amazon.com: Books“Rebecca McLaughlin is fast becoming a go-to guide for helping us make sense of the world around us and know when, where, and how we should engage. McLaughlin’s thoughtful analysis challenges prevailing modern sentiments as she suggests our cultural categories for ‘basic common moral sense’ are more reflective of core Christian commitments than many realize. Most importantly, McLaughlin contends for a way forward that is marked by Christian humility. ‘On all these fronts,’ she writes, ‘we must fight with the weapon God has given us: self-sacrificing, unrelenting love.'”

Get the book here.

Runner-up: Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the News by Jeffrey Bilbro

Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the News: Bilbro, Jeffrey: 9780830841851: Amazon.com: Books“In Reading the Times, Jeffrey Bilbro helps readers in crafting a rightly ordered practical, theological understanding of the news. Centering his argument within a framework of attention, time, and community, Bilbro suggests faithfully consuming today’s news requires both a correct theological understanding of what the news is and isn’t, and the cultivation of healthy habits that form our approach. What’s at stake in faithfully attending to today’s headlines? Bilbro argues it is the opportunity for Christians to demonstrate God-honoring neighborly love.”

Get the book here.


Grace SuttonAssociate Editor at For the Church

Winner: Carved in Ebony: Lessons From the Black Women Who Shape Us by Jasmine Holmes

Carved in Ebony: Lessons from the Black Women Who Shape Us - Kindle edition by Holmes, Jasmine L., Ellis, Karen. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.“The ten women profiled in this book were faithful, fierce, and forgotten. Their memories deserve to be resurrected with the reminder that God is really, truly for us. Even on the darkest pages of history, he shines his light. These women, in their various callings as educators, missionaries, midwives, authors, and mothers, could have given up and given over to the limitations and discriminations they experienced, but they persevered. If you question God’s plan for you, and fear pushback, division, or hardship in life or ministry—take up and read. These women serve as examples of faithfulness, but even more so, the faithfulness of God, who writes all our stories, and carved these in ebony.”

Get the book here.

Runner-Up: R.C. Sproul: A Life by Stephen J. Nichols 

R. C. Sproul: A Life: Nichols, Stephen J.: 9781433544774: Amazon.com: Books“Even if you’re only acquainted with Sproul through his sermons, lectures, and books, you know he was a personal theologian. He shared much of his life, because to him, theology wasn’t just taught, but lived. This becomes even more evident in this first biography written on him, peering back the veneer of admiration we have for this theological giant to get to know him, and his God, a little more personally. Telling the story of his late-night conversion in a college chapel, to his final sermon on gospel awakening, Nichols has scoured through personal and teaching records of Sproul’s life to give us the portrait of a man who lived his doctrine to the death and encourages us to do the same.”

Get the book here.


Joseph Lanier, Manager, Sword & Trowel Bookstore and Tomlinson Cafe

Winner: A Theology of the Christian Life: Imitation and Participation in God by Christopher Holmes

A Theology of the Christian Life: Imitating and Participating in God: Christopher R. J. Holmes: 9781540964694: Amazon.com: Books“The Psalmist’s words ring loud: ‘For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.’ Holmes answers these questions: ‘What do they [essential names of God] say about God’s being, and what kind of life do they encourage?’ (xii) With Holy Scripture as the center and teacher, we become preoccupied with God by loving God through imitation (Eph. 5:1) and participation (2 Pet. 1:4). The Great I AM is existence itself, purely actual. The fool says in his heart that there is no god, yet God is life itself. God is not like the creature who has life from another and is subject to passions and change. God’s life and manner of life inform our relation to him as creatures. Thus, the life of the wise acknowledges the life and existence of God as creator and sustainer of life. Creatures participate in that life that is proper to God. True creaturely life, then, is imitative: ‘Our life accordingly takes on a heavenly hue, given over to pure praise insofar as we live in being itself, which is God’ (30). As the principle of all things, God works in us what he is timelessly and in perfection. The imitative and participative life of the Christian is located in the church. God’s gift of participation, making sinners anew in Him, is us becoming what he is through the way, truth, and the life. The happiness of God that dwells in infinitude is gifted to us and makes us happily complete.”

Get the book here. 

Runner-up: When Home Hurts: A Guide for Responding Wisely to Domestic Abuse in your Church by Jeremy Pierre and Greg Wilson

When Home Hurts: A Guide for Responding Wisely to Domestic Abuse in Your Church: Pierre, Jeremy, Wilson, Greg: 9781527107229: Amazon.com: Books

“This book is written to equip pastors, church leaders, and church members to respond with the wisdom and love of God to domestic abuse situations that occur in their local church. Pierre and Wilson seek to help you be the kind of church leader, church member, friend, parent, sibling, or neighbor who responds in wisdom and compassion. This book acknowledges the reality and the horror of domestic abuse, but also the reality and power of God to heal. From understanding abuse and its dynamics to helping in the short and long term, When Home Hurts will be a helpful guide to anyone who suspects abuse within their church family but is unsure how to help without making things worse.”

Get the book here.

See our review of the book here.


Once again, we would like to extend a congratulations to the authors and publishers represented in the 2021 For the Church Book Awards. You can view previous winners of the FTC Book Awards here: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017.

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