Teen & Adult Discipleship Resources (Books)
In a digital age where we are ruled by and glued to our technological devices, it is important to find a medium for learning that takes you or you and your teenager through books. Yes, we don’t all love reading, but when we strip away the Christianese from it all, discipleship is simply learning how to follow Jesus.
If you as a teenager, college student, or parent want to be learn about our Christian faith, these are some good tools! However, these tools are not a replacement for the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, and gathering together with other believers in the Church.
Resources for High School and Up
Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel (2012)
11 Chapters + Intro, 222 pages
The gospel isn’t just the entrance into the Christian life, but the way of the Christian life. This is a superb resource lays out why the Gospel is good news for individuals and for all of creation. It is a great tool for discipleship because it helps people orient their lives to the overarching story of God’s redemptive work in the world. No matter how much you grow in your faith, you never outgrow the gospel, and so considering fresh ways to articulate its beauty is always tremendously worthwhile. I’ve found that this book is understandable enough for younger folks to understand yet profound enough to keep more mature believers engaged.
5 Chapters + Intro & Conclusion, 130 pages
Why should we care about studying Trinity? This book beautifully demonstrates the centrality of the Trinity in creation, salvation, and the Christian life. Reeves argues that God is love because God is Trinity. A book about the Trinity may sound like dry theology, but it is filled with incredible truths about God’s love for us and beckons us to do just what the title says: delight in the Trinity! At its heart, this book is a book about knowing and enjoying the Lord.
Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know (2005)
20 Short Chapters, 137 pages.
This is a solid, concise book about basic Christian truths. It’s a great one for brushing up on and teaching the basics of what we as Christians should believe. What is the Bible? What is God like? What is the Trinity, the Church, Heaven, etc. It walks you through all these things in a simple, straightforward way. I like this book for its conciseness and clarity. However, do not read all of chapter 3, as it contains a false teaching called “Eternal functional Subordinationism of the Son.” That’s a mouthful, but it’s a pretty serious false teaching that you can read about here and right here if you really want to get into it. You’ve been warned, it is hard to follow and requires much reflection, but is a foundational discussion. So when you get to chapter 3, read pages 37-39 but skip 40-41 and read this article instead: ligonier.org/learn/articles/god-centered-gospel.
Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story
6 chapters + prologue, 234 pages
For someone who doesn’t feel like they know the overarching story of the Bible, this is an excellent resource. Since this book condenses the whole story of Scripture into 234 pages, it feels a bit like drinking out of a fire hose. But it’s still pretty readable and could be a great resource for a senior in high school or a college student.
R.C. Sproul, Everyone’s A Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (2014)
8 Parts (Sixty short chapters); 335 pages
A more extensive treatment of Christian belief than Grudem’s book. It’s longer, but still relatively concise. It would be a great way to challenge a college student (who isn’t taking summer classes). It’s longer than Grudem’s book, but it’s still written in a really straightforward way. If you think this one’s long, just compare it to the systematic theologies of Berkhof, Bavinck, Calvin, Frame, or Hodge. And if you have no idea who those people are: cool, just read this one.
Jen Wilkin, Women of the Word, 2nd Edition (2019)
9 Chapters + Intro & Conclusion; 170 pages
If you are looking for discipleship resources for a male: don’t scroll past this! Despite what the title may tell you, it is a needed book over how to really read and study your Bible for everyone. Jen Wilkin is an incredible author and teacher from The Village Church in Flower Mound, TX, and offers a unique perspective as a woman who has seen the unfortunate shallowness of material marketed to women.
Tim Challies and Josh Byers, Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth about God (2016)
10 Chapters + Intro; 153 pages.
This is like a picture book of theology (though it also has words, and meaningful ones at that). I love this book because the graphics, charts, and art are really aesthetically pleasing, the content is deep but approachable, and it shows how theology and everyday life intersect in meaningful ways. This book is wonderful for discipleship because it shows how growing in your knowledge of Christ shapes your walk with the Lord and engagement with the world around you.
Justin Whitmel Earley, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction (2019)
10 Chapters + Intro and Epilogue, 167 pages
If you (or the folks you’re discipling) feel like life is out of control and you struggle with burnout, then this book is for you. Earley taps into and modernizes the ancient Christian “Common rule,” a way of ordering life around formative habits that reorient our lives to the goodness of God and the beauty of the Gospel. This book is easy to read, but challenging to carry out. Choosing this book is a commitment not only to read, but to do. The practices he suggests are simple to understand, difficult to put into place, and really, really transformative. Highly recommended!
Henry Cloud and John Townsend, How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth (2001)
19 (short) Chapters; 362 pages
This is a book about the dynamics of spiritual formation, but what makes it unique is the fact that it is written by Christian psychologists. It introduces the various facets, methods, and situations that stimulate growth in the Christian’s life, and it comes with several discussion questions for each chapter. I like this book for its simplicity and clarity. It’s a great one for new or young believers.
Resources for College and Up
Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (1995)
10 Chapters + intro & epilogue, 200 pages.
Don’t let the subtitle intimidate you. A “breviary” is really just a “brief study” of something. This book is about seeing and understanding sin dynamics in our own hearts as well as in the world around us. It’s an exploration of how the brokenness of creation impacts our souls, but it also casts a beautiful vision for how things ought to be (and one day will be). I know a book on sin sounds really convicting (and it can be), but it’s actually really hopeful and helpful. NB: some of the stories and illustrations can be pretty intense, so use this with discretion.
Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe about Ourselves (2015)
9 Chapters + Intro; 188 pages
This book displays a beautiful integration of theology, psychology, and spiritual formation. Thompson focuses on the nature of shame in the stories we tell ourselves and the story we live into. He focuses on the restorative value of safe communities where we can be vulnerable and find healing. This book gets a bit technical from a psychological/biological level (just for a chapter or two), but it’s still written for a popular audience. And those technical discussions are completely worth the reward of working through this book. For those dealing with the burden of shame, this book casts the light of the gospel on broken spaces in our lives in a beautifully healing way.
Sam van Eman, On Earth as It Is in Advertising? Moving from Commercial Hype to Gospel Hope (2005)
10 Chapters + Intro; 185 pages.
I love, love, love this book. Sam van Eman writes not as a pastor or theologian, but as someone involved in outdoor ministry. His chief aim is to show how TV, movies, and advertisements in all their various iterations seek to teach us and indoctrinate us into false, imitation gospels. Think about how advertisements work: they say “you’re broken and our product can make you whole; respond with faith (financial investment), and we can offer you the good life.” Intentionally or not, advertisers mimic the true, Christian Gospel and offer us a “good life” that is in conflict with the biblical vision for human flourishing. Anyone who has grown up in the west needs to read this book in order to resist the spiritually deformative forces of our cultural milieu.
James K. A. Smith, You are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (2016)
7 Chapters + a Benediction, 190 pages
This book explains the underlying foundations of Earley’s book (above). This one is written at a popular level, but Smith is a philosopher by trade, and it shows. This book explains how our habits shape our desires, and our desires shape our character. It would be a great book for some deep thinkers that want a challenge.
Barry Jones, Dwell: Life with God for the World (2014)
10 Chapters + intro & conclusion; 214 pages
A book about “inhaling and exhaling” the Gospel, as some like to put it. Jones talks about the importance of personally growing in your walk with the Lord while investing in others. This is an excellent resource on how to grow in your walk with the Lord while also reaching out to your friends and neighbors and loving them well. Super readable, interesting, and transformative.
Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd edition (2012)
22 Chapters; 440 pages
This is a thorough yet approachable resource for people who want to know how to read and study the Bible effectively. It is filled with excellent, approachable content, nice illustrations, and a corresponding workbook that has a ton of great exercises (sold separately). I like this book because it also contains a helpful bibliography that points the reader to further resource. Also, Duvall and Hays were my teachers in college, and they shaped my life and thinking in significant ways. So I’m a little bit partial towards their work. But it’s still my favorite hermeneutics book I’ve read so far.
Gerald L. Sittser, Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries (2007)
11 Chapters + Intro & Conclusion; 295 pages
This book is something of a mix between the fields of Historical Theology and Spiritual Formation. Sittser traces various ideas of Christian spirituality through different eras and contexts in Church History. I like this book because it challenges us to consider other Christians who are different than we are. It pulls us outside of our cultural hypnosis by startling us with the wickedness of our culturally normative sins. It invites us to see (orthodox) postures of Christian spirituality that seem so remarkably different than those we see daily. This book is beautifully written and refreshing. Recommended for someone who has already had some basic theology (see above) and/or is interested in history.
Nate grew up in Arlington and was a camper at Camp Thurman. In 2012, he became a counselor and has been here ever since. He is a ThM candidate at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies and Biblical Languages. Nate loves his wife, his son, and specialty coffee.
Jason W. Hinrichs
Creative Media & Marketing
Jason has been serving at Camp Thurman since he was 15 years old and is passionate about utilizing excellence in creativity to the glory of God. His first passion is making disciples of Jesus in and for the local church, and hopes to see staff, campers, and family find deep discipleship in the their congregations. He is a coffee snob, passionate musician, and hates reading but spends a lot of time doing it anyways.