20 Books That Have Influenced Me



A few weeks ago blogger friend Jeremy Postal wrote about the top 20 influential books in his library.

It got me thinking, what are the 20 books that have been a significant influence on me.  So here is my list.  Take it for what it is worth.  I would be interested to hear which books, based on this list, that would stretch me, and challenge some of my thinking. 

Of course this list assumes the Bible as the most influential.

1.  Transforming Mission – David Bosch

This book introduced me to the Missio Dei (Mission of God) which has become a significant foundational piece as I seek to do theology in my particular time and place.  A classic.

2.  Streams of Living Water – Richard Foster

A very generous and enlightening engagement of the many streams of spirituality within the Christian faith tradition.  This book taught me the value of each tradition within it’s biblical, historical and contemporary contexts.  A classic.

3.  Following in the Footsteps of Christ: The Anabaptist Tradition – C. Arnold Snyder

To learn how deeply entrenched spirituality is within the Mennonite tradition was a shock to me given my previous experience and some of the critique I’ve encountered, and given, to the Mennonite/Anabaptist world. 

4.  Community: The Structure of Belonging – Peter Block

If you want to learn about the inner workings of a healthy transformative community… read this book!!  Blew my mind!

5.  The Politics of Jesus – John H. Yoder

I’m a Mennonite.  Enough said.

6. The Naked Anabaptist – Stuart Murray

See above.

7.  The Cost of Community – Jamie Arpin Ricci

Jamie is a brother.  A true theologian of the street.  His work through the Sermon on the Mount in this book is phenomenal.  The book paints the real life picture of the collision between the SOTM text, his community and St. Francis of Assisi. 

8.  The Shaping of Things to Come – Alan Hirsh and Michael Frost

This book gave me hope for the future of the church.  A true gift from Hirsch and Frost!

9.  Preaching – Fred Craddock

A classic preaching text.  In some cases it is showing it’s age.  But it is still a classic and I am in debt to the wisdom within it’s pages.

10.  The Road – Cormac McCarthy

This book taught me about being a dad.

11.  Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller

A great book for me to read during my days as a call centre representative.  It got me through many hours of call centre lameness.  I don’t think my bosses knew I was reading it.

12.  Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis

This book had my brain going in circles.  Brought me to knew questions which in turn brought me to new perspectives on faith and life.

13.  Jesus and His Parables – Edited by V. George Shillington

I didn’t know how radical the parable telling Jesus was in first century Palestine until I read this book on the parables.   

14.  Velvet Elvis:  Repainting the Christian Faith – Rob Bell

Rob Bell is great at asking questions.  I am thankful for his ability to ask the seemingly right questions at the right time.  I wish he wasn’t in Hollywood making T.V. shows and stuff.

15.  Practicing the Way of Jesus:  Life Together in the Kingdom of Love –Mark Scandrette

One of the most practical and useful books I’ve read on ministry.  It was like it gave me permission to experiment. 

16.  Listening for the Soul: Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction – Jean Stairs

Taught me how to hear beyond words and exegete the depth of the conversation. 

17.  The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

Brilliant!  I wish I could speak Elvish.

18.  Irresistible Revolution – Shane Claiborne

Inspirational, motivating and very very Anabaptist. 

19.  The Imitation of Christ – Thomas a Kempis

One of the more intense spiritual experience I’ve ever had was a result of reading this book. 

20.  Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness – Eugene H. Peterson

Introduced me to the counter-cultural nature of the pastoral vocation.  Eugene Peterson is the man!

What are the books that have been influential to you?  Based on this list, what would be a good book for me to read?


  1. Dan Jr. · September 13, 2012

    “Community” was an awesome book. Good choice.

  2. Jordan · September 14, 2012

    I need to read more.

  3. Joe Troyer (@joetroyer2) · September 17, 2012

    Myth of a Christian Nation – Greg Boyd. I wept through it.

    Mere Discipleship – Lee Camp

    The Rest of God – Mark Buchanan. It was a powerful write about what Sabbath truly is.

    • Chris Lenshyn · September 17, 2012

      Nice. I will add these, particularly “The Rest of God” to my ever growing to read list. Sabbath is something on my mind lately!

  4. kristi · September 18, 2012

    i could probably pinpoint a few of your profs based on some of those books. 😉 an interesting list. i’m afraid my list would be less theological. but then i’m not a pastor so that would be ok!

    • Chris Lenshyn · September 18, 2012

      Lol. About 7 of these books come from my university experience. It is quite theological. I found it rewarding to do this…difficult to limit the list to 20 though.

  5. Greg D · September 26, 2012

    Here are my Top 20:

    1) A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren
    Taught me to embrace the diversity found in the Body of Christ and how we can learn from other traditions found in the Christian faith.

    2) The Myth of a Christian Nation by Gregory Boyd
    Taught me that politics and patriotism cannot be reconciled with faith. It also moved me out of conservative politics and into a more neutral view.

    3) Love Wins by Rob Bell
    Opened my eyes to non-traditional Christian views of the afterlife.

    4) Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby
    Taught me how to better listen to and discern God’s voice.

    5) Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
    Taught me the numerous disciplines of the Christian faith.

    6) God of the Possible by Gregory Boyd
    Opened my eyes to alternative views of God’s sovereignty. And, that prayer truly changes things.

    7) Pagan Christianity by George Barna/Frank Viola
    Taught me that the way we do church today is so different than the early church. We must return to vintage Christianity.

    8) The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down by David Bercot
    My first introduction to Anabaptist theology.

    9) Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall/Denver Moore
    Opened my eyes to modern day slavery and the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ.

    10) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
    Exposed the tragic life found in a militant Muslim country. But, also taught me about grace and redemption.

    11) Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
    The best book about grace.

    12) Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
    Taught me some basics of the Christian faith.

    13) The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
    A cool story about how a Christian woman sheltered Jews during the Holocaust.

    14) How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer
    Shows how western civilization has evolved from a Christianized worldview to a secular worldview and where it’s headed.

    15) A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren
    Introduces a Christocentric narrative for hermeneutics.

    16) God Came Near by Max Lucado
    A collection of wonderful stories and devotionals. If you ever read a Lucado book, read this one.

    17) Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
    Using logic and reasoning to point to God.

    18) The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
    After all, what is the Gospel? It seems to get lost in various understandings. Here, McKnight clearly spells it out.

    19) Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview by Gary Phillips
    Brings to light the various worldviews and how it affects us today.

    20) Radical by David Platt
    A charge to be active in our faith. It’s more than just sitting in church on Sundays.

    • Chris Lenshyn · September 26, 2012

      that is a great list Greg. I have not yet read any Greg Boyd – shhh, don’t tell my neo-Anabaptist friends… but I have him on my ‘to read’ list. I do catch some of his sermons online and find them helpful.

      Thanks for sharing!!!!!

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