Committed disciples of Jesus want to learn more about discipling others. After all, it is a part of our pursuit to be more like Jesus, whose life focused on disciple making. Many of us value reading outstanding books on the topic in that pursuit. The following list is our top 10 books published in 2021 on discipleship and disciple making. We published a similar list twelve months ago on the top 10 books from 2020.
The word discipleship is typically used in North America to refer to the state of being a disciple of Jesus or discipleship of the mind. And it can also be used as a synonym for spiritual formation (think Dallas Willard and John Ortberg).
We prefer the expression disciple making because it is a direct reflection of the text of Matthew 28:19 when Jesus told his disciples to, “make disciples.” Furthermore, the expression disciple making connects directly to what Jesus did in the gospels with his disciples. When we talk about disciple making, we are talking about doing what Jesus did with his disciples in our context.
For the purpose of this post, I am including books that focus on what is commonly understood to be both discipleship and disciple making.
I have done my best to provide the highest quality list based upon research, readings, and input from national disciple making leaders this year. But this list, like all personal recommendations, will reflect biases. For example, one of the recommended books was co-written by my son and another one was a book that I co-edited. But I am steadfast in my conviction that they are both objectively worthy of being on this list.
I will leave that evaluation, in the end, to you, my readers. The books are not listed in rank order because each book has a different target audience.
1. Emotionally Healthy Discipleship: Moving from Shallow Christianity to Deep Transformation – Pete Scazzero
Pete Scazzero’s latest book is outstanding. He shows church leaders how to help people grow emotionally and how that integrates with spiritual growth. He points out that many people do not grow, despite more knowledge and effort focused on growth, because emotions are neglected. He lays out what is required for church leaders to multiply deeply changed people who are growing in relationship with God, themselves, and others.
2. The Revolutionary Disciple: Walking Humbly with Jesus in Every Area of Life – Jim Putman and Chad Harrington
This book by Jim Putman and Chad Harrington is outstanding in the way it addresses our cultural moment in North America. They walk readers through the five spheres of discipleship and unveil their four core practices of humility along the way. A tapestry of scripture and stories, this book uncovers the path to ultimate peace for Christians who want a cultural revolution.
Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. It is simply the best primer on the spiritual issues involved in disciple making I have found. The section on how Satan works is worth the price of the book all by itself. John Mark points not just that we tell lies but that we live them. One caution, this is a book about being a disciple and spiritual formation, but it is not about disciple making (spiritual formation is a sub-set of disciple making).
4. Real Life Theology: Fuel for Effective and Faithful Disciple Making – edited by Bobby Harrington and Daniel McCoy.
This book is based on the dictum: the Jesus we preach, the gospel we uphold and the faith we coach will determine the disciple we get. It is a collection of thirteen short books by sixteen scholars/church leaders designed for serious laymen and elders in churches. I invested the last eighteen months working on this book because of my conviction that we need a Biblical theology for everyday disciples to sustain a prolonged disciple making focus in North America. It is theology for disciple making. We created a model for groups of four so that you can use this material in disciple making relationships – Starting a Discipleship Group: A Leader’s Guide for Using the Real Life Theology Books.
I am recommending this book to every Christian father that I know and, as a lead pastor of a church, I am encouraging all the fathers in our church to read it and follow what it teaches. It is simply outstanding. The best book I have ever read on how fathers are to disciple their sons. It is filled with practical steps to help men raise sons of consequence–young men who know what they believe, know who they are, and will stand up against the negative cultural trends of our day.
6. The Well-Watered Woman: Rooted in Truth, Growing in Grace, Flourishing in Faith – Gretchen Saffles
This book has skyrocketed to a high level of popularity among women in a very short time. After reading it, I understand why. As Tyson’s book is outstanding for the needs of fathers and sons, Saffles’ book is outstanding in addressing – from the posture of a disciple’s identity in Christ – the unique needs of women. She well describes what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and unable to flourish and how a woman can uniquely find a Well of fullness, the Word of freedom, and the Way of fruitfulness. My wife and daughter will love this book.
7. The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims – Rebecca McLaughlin
Many of my pastor friends give this book out like candy to help disciple the minds of believers in their twenties who are struggling with the Secular Creed. Here are the Creed’s five points:
- Black Lives Matter
- Love Is Love
- Gay Rights Are Civil Rights
- Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
- Transgender Women Are Women
Rebecca McLaughlin has a PhD from Cambridge University and spent 9 years with The Veritas Forum, where she served as VP of Content and trained Christian professors to speak about their faith in relation to their work. She shows us that Christianity is the original source and firmest foundation for true diversity, equality, and life-transforming love. She is one of the most important voices for the Church in America today.
8. The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World – Brett McCraken
This book was the Gospel Coalition’s book of the year in the area of Christian Living. It shows a framework for how to disciple the minds of Christians in a post-truth world. In an effort to help us consume a more balanced, healthy diet of information, Brett McCracken has created the “Wisdom Pyramid.” Inspired by the food pyramid model, the Wisdom Pyramid challenges us to increase our intake of enduring, trustworthy sources (like the Bible) while moderating our consumption of less reliable sources (like the internet and social media).
9. Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College – Michael J. Kruger
This is the best book on discipling minds and preparing high school seniors for university that I have ever read. Kruger, a Biblical scholar, is one of the world’s leading authorities on how we got the canon of the Bible and why it is reliable and trustworthy. In this book he shares that he developed a focus on this topic as a reaction to being ambushed as a freshman at UNC when he took a class under a young Bart Ehrman, the antagonistic Biblical scholar who delights in de-converting evangelical Christians. Written as a series of letters to his daughter, now a freshman at the same school thirty years later, Kroger provides a highly readable guide through all the intellectual challenges that destroy the faith of young Christians on university campuses today. Amazingly helpful, solid material. I now give this book to all the graduating seniors in my home church.
10. Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice – Thaddeus J. Williams
My friend Alisa Childers does a great job describing this book and why it is so important. She writes, “If you are a Christian concerned about oppression, injustice, racism, and other moral ills that plague our culture, there may not be a more important book you read this year. Secular ideologies offer solutions to age-old problems that may act like temporary fixes, but only the Christian worldview can provide a robust and deeply satisfying action plan. Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth is the definitive guide to help Christians ‘do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God . . .’ as Micah 6:8 puts it, while not sacrificing one iota of biblical truth.”
We hope you find this list to be a helpful guide, especially as a guide to important resources that you might not have found for your ministry if we did not tell you about them.
Be on the lookout for two more similar lists that we plan to publish through Discipleship.org during the month of January.
- The Top 10 Books on Disciple Making for Senior Ministers/Pastors
- The Top 10 Books on Disciple Making for Small Group Ministers/Pastors
For King Jesus,
The Discipleship.org Team