On My Shelf is a new feature designed to help you get to know various people through providing a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers. I corresponded with Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, about what's currently on his nightstand, books he re-reads, his favorite novels and biographies, and more.
What's on your nightstand right now?
William Julius Wilson, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City
Daniel Hyde and Shane Lems, eds., Planting, Watering, Growing: Planting Confessionally Reformed Churches in the 21st Century
Charles VanEngan, God's Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
Eswine's book is having a tremendous effect on me. In a poetic, contemplative way, he's showing me the joy that comes from accepting the limitations of creatureliness. I'm learning that following Jesus means I don't have to be a superhero, do everything, be everywhere, and know it all. That's been wonderfully liberating, and I'm sensing a great deal more about my own heart, my own setting, and Jesus' presence in both. For me, chapter 3 was worth the price of the book.
What are some books you constantly re-read, and why?
I come back to a couple of books every couple of years: J. I. Packer's Knowing God
and Charles Bridges's The Christian Ministry
. I first read Knowing God
as a new Christian, all of six months old. He exploded my infant categories, and I find that each time I re-read or dip into it I continue to see God a bit more clearly. The Lord God grows larger with each reading.
The Christian Ministry probes my heart and ministry. It may be difficult for the sensitive and thin-skinned to read it without feeling discouraged. But I tend to be thick-skinned and dull, so I need searching works for my soul's sake. Bridges does that for me—exploring my spiritual habits, intellectual routines, and pastoral service. I'm made more zealous when I read it.
What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel?
I'd have to include Alexander Strauch's Leading with Love
and C. John Miller's The Heart of a Servant Leader
. Strauch's application of 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that love is not abstract, but should be demonstrated in how we lead people. Miller's letters provide a real-life example of leading with love. His tenderness, thoughtfulness, and insight challenges me and leaves me feeling pastored myself.
What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?
I love biographies and autobiographies, but I don't read them as much as I'd like. A couple have been influential, though. Iain Murray's two-volume biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones
, one of my heroes, encourages me in my commitment to exposition and a Bible-driven ministry. I also really enjoyed Courtney Anderson's biography of Adoniram Judson, To the Golden Shore
, which gives me a real passion for cross-cultural mission.
What are your favorite fiction books?
Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon
. I also enjoy the historical fiction of Anita Richmond Bunkley
. And I really enjoy Dee Henderson's O'Malley series
. Dee is unique among Christian fiction writers. She tells a wonderful story by weaving together suspense, apologetic issues, conversion narrative, and romance in each book of that series. I know I lose some people at "romance," but her kind of "romance novel" deserves leisure reading.
What are your top five books on belonging to the body of Christ in the local church?
Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife Maghan have two children and live in Louisville, Kentucky, where they belong to Third Avenue Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter.