It may seem out of place for me to give book recommendations for women to read, but honestly more women than men in the church have asked me what they should be reading. It would be an overgeneralization to assume this happens because men don’t like to stop and ask for directions. My best guess is that women are just stepping up to the task of reading and writing good theology at a more rapid pace than men are. It’s a wonderful thing to see.
I’ll get asked, “Pastor, what books would you recommend?” or “What can we use in our small group study?” As I’ve read more widely trying to find better books to recommend to others, I’ve found that female authors are writing some really fascinating stuff—stuff that makes some of the male-authored books I’ve read look impoverished. I sure felt impoverished before I read this list of books I’m about to give you.
But there is another reason why I want to share this list with you. It’s because I’ve personally benefited from the writings of these female authors. I’ve been greatly edified and encouraged in my calling as a Christian and my calling to the ministry through these wonderful women. Each of these books is full of wisdom, and I want more people to be influenced by these godly and gifted women.
Here are ten of the best books I’ve read by women in the church that I think every woman (and man, for that matter) in the church should read:
1. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren
“Unkind and condemning thoughts tell me that God’s love is distant, cold or irrelevant, that I must prove myself to God and other people, that I am orphaned and unlovable, that God is tapping his toe, impatient with me, ready to walk out on me. These thoughts are loud enough that I need a human voice telling me, week in and week out, that they’re lies. I need to hear from someone who knows me that there is grace enough for me, that Christ’s work is on my behalf, even as I’m on my knees confessing that I’ve blown it again this week. We may confess quietly, even silently. But we are reminded of our forgiveness out loud, with standing and shouting. We need to be sure to hear it.”
“Our God is self-sufficient, needed by all, needful of nothing. Certainly not us. This is news to some of us, who were taught to believe that God created humans out of a need for love or companionship. It sounds so good, doesn’t it? The idea that his crowning act of creation was intended to fill a human-shaped hole in his transcendent heart. But there are no voids in his being, no gaps he must fill to be made whole. He is whole already, wholly loving and wholly loved within the perfect, eternal companionship of the Trinity.”
3. No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God by Aimee Byrd
“The very first false teacher, Satan, deliberately went after the woman in the garden of Eden. Why didn’t he approach Adam? Was it because Eve was more susceptible to error? Scripture doesn’t tell us the reasoning behind his strategy, but we are told that he was ‘more crafty than any other beast of the field’ (Gen. 3:1). Adam was the federal representative for mankind. His obedience would have earned blessing for us all, and his disobedience brought depravity and death to his whole posterity. So, make no mistake, Satan was going after Adam. He was going after Adam by going after his bride. He went for a target of value to bring about Adam’s fall.”
4. The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard by Kara Tippetts
My wife got to know Kara through the blogosphere and through snail mail exchanges before Kara died, and I met her surviving husband about two years ago at the airport. Her words provide deep comfort in the hardest places that God takes us.
“Jesus didn’t have to extend His love. He didn’t have to think of me when He went up on that cross. He didn’t have to rewrite my story from one of beauty to one of brokenness and create a whole new brand of beauty. He simply didn’t have to do it, but He did. He bought me. He bought me that day He died, and He showed His power when He overcame death and rose from the grave. He overcame my death in that moment. He overcame my fear of death in that unbelievable, beautiful moment, and the fruit of that death, that resurrection, and that stunning grace is peace. It is the hardest peace, because it is brutal. Horribly brutal and ugly, and we want to look away, but it is the greatest, greatest story that ever was. And it was, and it is.”
5. Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings by Elyse Fitzpatrick
“The primary reason the Spirit gave us portraits of the world to come is to comfort us in the midst of our suffering. Life in the New Earth is only good news to those for whom this old earth no longer promises satisfaction. The season of suffering I’ve been going through—though insignificant in comparison to what others have faced, and are facing—has made me long for Paradise and my true Home on the New Earth like never before. It is meant to do so.”
6. Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control by Elisabeth Elliot
Elisabeth Elliot is another beloved woman who is now with the Lord. Listen to some words she left us with:
“If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul. What God gives us is not necessarily ‘ours’ but only ours to offer back to him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of, if we want to be our true selves. Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, many letting goes.”
7. Missional Motherhood: Everyday Ministry of Motherhood in the Grand Plan of God by Gloria Furman
“This is the story that I need to remember. This is the story that needs to overrun the minor plot twists in my life: What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear? The car is having issues again—what shall we drive? The schedule is too full—what shall we drop? The doctor says there’s no hope for healing, just pain management—what shall we change? Your Twitter feed drops a story that makes your heart just explode in your chest—Lord, what shall we do? I need to know that life is not meaningless, my work is not in vain, and the night is almost over. I need to experience something far bigger than myself—something grand, solid, divine.
There is a forerunner who has taken our flesh up out of the grave into the fullness of resurrected life. Jesus ascended back into heaven (there is a Man in heaven!), and he is worshiped as the slain-yet-conquering Lamb of God. The Father seated him at his right hand, but he’s not gone from our lives. His presence is given to his followers through his indwelling Holy Spirit. Through his Spirit he testifies to our hearts that we are children of God. Exile is not the final word, because Jesus ushers in the age of resurrection.”
8. Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith by Jen Pollock Michel
“I have wanted to believe that desire is bad, that I am bad for wanting. Suffer for Jesus’ sake. But this I can now admit: this has not always been the heroism I once thought. Often, it has been a damnable project of self-salvation. At the core of every project of self-salvation is the staunch unwillingness to believe that God’s love and forgiveness can be unmerited. Those who would try and save themselves prefer work to rest, effort to gift. Instead of receiving the free gift of grace, they wear themselves out trying to earn what has been given in Christ. They will insist upon working for the goodness they receive from God. It produces the sweat equity of works-righteousness: the wages of death (see Romans 6:23).”
9. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge
“The power of God to make right what has been wrong is what we see, by faith, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day. Unless God is the one who raises the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist, there cannot be serious talk of forgiveness for the worst of the worst—the mass murderers, torturers, and serial killings—or even the least of the worst—the quotidian offenses against our common humanity that cause marriages to fail, friendships to end, enterprises to collapse, and silent misery to be the common lot of millions. ‘All for sin could not atone; thou must save, and thou alone.’ This is what is happening on Golgotha.”
10. Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed by Betsy Childs Howard
“The world understands how we can trust God when everything in our lives is going well. What it doesn’t understand is why we still cling to God when he takes everything away. When God allowed Job’s life to fall apart, Job’s response was, ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him’ (Job 13:15a). Job’s hope was not unfounded. When your neighbors want you to know how you keep going through cancer treatment, tell them about the new body you’ve been promised at the end of God’s story. If they want to know how you can hold your head up after being abandoned by your husband, tell them about your faithful God who pursues prodigals such as you and me. Let your story tell God’s story.”