One of the most common questions I receive regards which books I would recommend Christians to give their non-Christian friends who they hope may become believers. While there are many excellent books, these six come from both my personal experience of hearing stories of how people have become believers, and also an assessment of the apologetic and evangelistic value of each book.
- The Gospel of John. In our desire to convince people that Christianity is true, we sometimes miss the power of personally encountering God’s word. If I could just recommend one book for non-Christians to read, it would be the Gospel of John. If someone is open to spiritual truth, there’s nothing more powerful than being confronted with the teachings, miracles, and person of Jesus Christ.
- Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. There are few books, if any, that have drawn more people to Christ than this impressive, classical, and insightful book. For instance, the great scientist Francis Collins credits it as key in his salvation. Lewis does a masterful job of articulating and defending core Christian beliefs (hence “mere Christianity”) and not getting bogged down on secondary issues. His articulation of the moral argument for God’s existence is simple, clear, and powerful.
- More Than A Carpenter, by Josh McDowell (I helped update this book in 2009). I am undeniably biased on this one, but I hear stories weekly from people who have come to faith through reading this book. The book is framed through my dad’s personal journey attempting to disprove Christianity, as well as his search for happiness. The real power in the book comes when he discusses how thetruth of Christianity personally changed his life, which included how God’s love enabled him to forgive his alcoholic father as well as the man who sexually abused him for seven years.
- The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. Pastor Keller deeply understands the barriers that often prevent people from becoming believers today. He addresses these issues—such as the particularity of Christ, and the claim that Christianity should be more inclusive—with both clearness and force. He also provides positive evidence for Christianity from science, history and philosophy.
- Simply Christian, by N.T. Wright. Wright is a rare author who can speak truth in a poetic and compelling manner. In my experience, many people reject Christianity because they don’t really understand what it is about (i.e., they reject a straw-man). Thus, a book like Simply Christian provides evidence for Christianity, but clarifies the heart of the Christian message and explains what it means to follow Jesus.
- The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. Even though this book has been out less than two decades, it is already a classic. Strobel is both a great thinker and an excellent storyteller. Since it is written in conversational style, The Case for Christ draws readers into Strobel’s personal journey to the faith and presents the Gospel with clarity and force.
Giving a book to a non-Christian is a great means of evangelism. But keep a couple things in mind. First, don’t let it replace genuine interaction. It’s easy to give a book to people withouth truly sharing our lives and beliefs with them. If you give someone a book, then follow up and be willing to discuss it in more depth, even if you don’t have all the answers.
Second, be willing to read a book someone else gives you. I have had many people of other faiths give me books to read. I am always touched when people do this because I know its their way of showing genuine care. I will read the book charitably and then follow up with questions. In my experience, its amazing how many people are truly willing to engage spiritual issues when we approach them with genuine love, care, and openness. Go for it!