Our Favorite Books of 2020

Olivia Frost, Assistant Editor 

Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer 

If you struggle to understand the nature of servanthood and calling that Jesus beckons for His followers to adopt as kingdom citizens, then I recommend reading Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer. This book provides diagrams and analogies that further extend the breadth of servanthood from numerous angles. He addresses the challenges and the victories that come when one acts as a servant among cultures that are different than their own. Elmer outlines a seven-part process of servanthood that radically changes day-to-day interactions by combatting biases and heart conditions of the believer. He insists that the servant displays openness, acceptance, trust, a learning mindset, and understanding eyes.

This book convicted me in many ways and consistently reminded me that the crutch of Christ-like servanthood is humility, which in today’s society seems to be a forgotten character trait. Elmer identifies that to be a servant one must have a proper perspective of the holy God we serve which brings a proper perspective of self-defined by lowliness of mind, gentleness of spirit and meekness of attitude. As a servant we must adopt a mindset of grace, recognizing that each individual the Lord has in our path is made in the Image of God and deserves to experience the common grace of our loving Father Jesus Christ.

 

Gabby Bass, Senior Book Review Editor 

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer focuses on how we can not only work but also rest biblically. In a society that is filled with hustle culture, this book was a great reminder of God’s intentionality in designing us to have a balance between work and rest, especially to see how important rest is.

While this book has great theological truths, it is also very applicable and practical. I love how Comer shows that no matter what “work” may look like for us, it can be used for God’s glory and that purpose can be found there. I also enjoyed that this book talked about the Sabbath and the importance of taking one- however it may look for us. Comer does a great job of helping the reader re-evaluate one’s priorities and find their way back to God’s original intention for us as humans. This book has helped me slow down and be more intentional with my time. I think it’s a great read for all.

 

Emily Zell, Assistant Editor 

Silence by Shūsaku Endō

Shūsaku Endō’s Silence was the first book I read in 2020, and it was easily the most powerful. This book follows priests in Japan while Christians are being horrifically martyred. It wrestles deeply with the idea of apostasy—all the Christians have to do to avoid suffering is denounce Christ. It follows a priest and a man who constantly apostatizes and betrays him. Their relationship is chronicled as they battle with the harsh realities for Christians in Japan. 

The question cried throughout the novel is, “God why are you silent?” And throughout most of the book, it feels like He really is. People are being horrifically murdered for His name and nothing is being done about it. You can’t help but ache with the characters. It is graphic and sad and at the same time such a vivid image of the fragility of our faith; but it is also such an important read. It is rich and painful and transformative. I couldn’t recommend it more. 

 

Preston Blakeley, Editorial Director 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is perhaps the greatest work of literary redemption. Dostoevsky tells of Raskolnikov, the novel’s penniless and disheveled protagonist, who commits murder to prove that his ego can transcend man’s seemingly fictitious moral constraints. With raw Russian style and psychological depth, Dostoevsky condemns the reader into the severed intellect of the murderer, telling of his desired ascension, transgression, and eventual redemption. Where Raskolnikov believes he has successfully cast off the moral burdens intended for the weak, he is met with the reality that he has violated the Law of God. 

From a literary perspective, Dostoevsky’s novel is an impressive amalgamation of the intellectual debates of his day, a microcosm of the tensions between the rise of modern relativity and traditional authority. Yet, in the throes of doubt and anguish, Crime and Punishment seemed as if it came to me from Sinai, a providential and pointed gift from the Lord to a struggling and confused college student. When I was laboring to see confirmation of God’s authority in my life, Dostoevsky revealed to me that that authority was right in front of me. 

 

Nnanna Okafor, Senior Articles Editor 

The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert N. Martin

I can tell you from experience that it is easy to be caught up in learning about God and His works without using that information to deepen your relationship with Him. The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert N. Martin assists readers to better connect the theological information in their heads with the affections in their hearts. Knowledge of doctrine should always lead to greater enjoyment of God.

In this short booklet, Martin explains the ways in which a biblical understanding of salvation teaches us the depth of our sin and the great graciousness of the Lord Almighty. We should see in ourselves humility, holiness, and submission to God when we understand salvation rightly. By abiding by the scriptural principles described in this book, we will have deeper, more joyous experiences of God Himself. It has helped me receive theology as more than mere head knowledge.

 

Jacob Patton, Assistant Editor 

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself by Rachel Llyod

Girls Like Us is a memoir by Rachel Llyod, but it is so much more than that. She discusses not only her story of how she was caught up in the commercial sex industry, but also the stories of the countless other girls she has worked with who have been sexually exploited. Discussing often ignored social factors of abuse, dysfunctional family upbringings, and the nature of a young women’s “choice” to enter into sex work, Lloyd’s sociological considerations of sex trafficking are raw and insightful.

With the enormity of sex trafficking becoming more and more prevalent and apparent in our world today, it is important for Christians to understand the nature of the evil we are fighting. Girls Like Us explains this in heart-wrenching detail with firsthand examples. In order to bring an end to the sex trafficking tragedy facing our country, the problems and solutions Rachel Llyod puts forward ought to be listened to. As Llyod suggests, regular girls get caught up in sex trafficking, and regular people can make a difference in preventing this.

 

Blair Thornton, Operations Director 

Candide by Voltaire 

Candide, a satire by Voltaire, follows the rollercoaster of a story that is Candide’s life. Meaning optimism, Candide exhibits the arguments between absolute optimism and cynicism. Candide believes in a perfect plan, where this is the best of all possible worlds. His idealism is challenged repeatedly as his life continues to take turns for the worse without any particular reason. From a distance this book seems like a fantastical story, but deeper thought will show how the destruction of Candide’s optimism causes questions of a perfect holy plan. 

Throughout the book, Candide learns that there is no method behind the madness of his life. Due to this, Voltaire forces Christian readers to question their belief in God’s involvement and good will. With a steady head and strong faith in Jesus, a challenged faith can become a matured faith. This is just what Candide can do for Christian readers.

 

Cole Shiflet, Executive Director 

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dave Ortlund 

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund is by far the most beautiful and touching book that I’ve read this year. Ortlund grabs a hold of Matthew 11:29 and squeezes the meaning out of it in a way that seems more like the writings of the Puritans than a 21st century best seller. Ortlund takes the statement, “I am gentle and lowly in heart,” and presents it as good news to sinners and suffers. Not only was this book well-written, but the timeless truths of God’s Word were taught, explained, and shared in a year when many of us needed it the most.