“He that walketh with the wise men shall be wise”
Philip Brooks, preacher and author, said, “A biography is, indeed, a book; but far more than a book, it is a man… Never lay the biography down until the man is a living, breathing, acting person to you.” We who are in the ministry – of all people – ought to read biography. We minister to real people, and the better we understand great men and their times, the better we can minister to our people in our times. A truly good biography of a great person “has a universal quality about it that makes it touch life at many points” writes Warren W. Wiersbe.
But I have to warn us (and to remind myself) that after reading a biography of a great man we must never try to merely imitate him. To be honest, today there are many pastors and preachers who are carbon copies of great men, who try to be someone else but themselves. I’m convince that God wants each one of us to be ourselves. There is no need for us to imitate others – yes, to imitate their faith and passion for Christ; but no, to imitate their ministries and gifts – when God has a work for each of us to do in His own special way. Again, Brooks’ advices, “The object of reading biography… is not imitation but inspiration.” Oh yes, for inspiration!
Here are my 20 top biographies and autobiographies at this writing. The possibilities of Christian biography/autography are limitless, and obviously I only read as much as I can from the vast library of great biographies out there. My purpose of sharing my ‘top’ list of books are to get you, the reader, to start discovering Christian biography for yourself by giving you suggestions of what books to read, in other word, to inspire you to read book. And to cultivate your passion for great literatures. By the way, here are my lists:
1) Walking with the Giants: A Minster’s Guide to Good Reading and Great Preaching (1976) by Warren W. Wiersbe. This book covers 18 great preacher-authors such as Samuel Rutherford, F.W. Robertson, Alexander Maclaren, R.W. Dale, Joseph Parker, J. Hudson Taylor, Charles H. Spurgeon, Phillips Brooks, Alexander Whyte, W. Robertson Nicoll, Charles E. Jefferson, A.C. Gaebelein, B.H. Carroll, G. Champbell Morgan, J.D. Jones, George H. Morrison, Frank W. Boreham, A.W. Tozer, and W.E. Sangster. I read this long time ago, need to read it again.
2) More than Conquerors: Portraits of Believers from All Walks of Life (1992) edited by John Woodbridge. This book covers about 69 great men and women of God. I like reading particularly about George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, Hudson Tailor, Jim Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Ken Taylor, D.L. Moody, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Billy Sunday, John Sung, Billy Graham, C.H. Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J.I. Packer, etc.
3) Spurgeon, A New Biography (1988) by Arnold Dallimore. What can I say, this is very inspiring book about Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 – 1892), a great Baptist preacher and writer. My favourite!
4) Charles Spurgeon: The Prince of Preachers (1997) by Dan Harmon, under Barbour Publishing Heroes of the Faith series.
5) John Calvin: Father of Reformed Theology (2001) by Sam Wellman. Heroes of the Faith Series.
6) John Wycliffe: Herald of the Reformation (?) by Ellen Caughey. Heroes of the Faith Series
7) Jonathan Edwards: The Great Awakener (?) by Helen K. Hosier. Heroes of the Faith Series
8) Martin Luther: The Great Reformer (1995) by Edwin P. Booth. Heroes of the Faith Series
9) William Tyndale: Bible Translator and Martyr (?) by Bruce Fish. Heroes of the Faith Series
10) God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (1998) by John Piper. The first part of this book tells the story of Jonathan Edward’s life.
11) A Could of Witnesses: The Great Christian Thinkers (1990) by Alister McGrath. He covers the life and theology of Athanasius, Augustine of Hippo, Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Karl Barth, and C.S. Lewis. Wonderful!
12) Five Leading Reformers: Live at a Watershed of History (2000) by Christopher Caterwood. This book covers five most influencial reformers who shape the theology and thinking of the Reformed. They are Martin Luther, Thomas Cranmer, John Calvin, John Knox and Ulrich Zwingli.
13) Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (2007) by Brian Kolodiejchuk. This work reveals the inner spiritual life of Mother Teresa and her private writings.
14) The Confessions (actually written in Latin between AD 397 and 400) by Saint Augustine. This is his autobiography in a form of prayer to God to tell about the conflict of good and evil in his life and of how he found spiritual growth and unshakeable faith in Christ alone.
15) Tortured for Christ (1969) by Richard Wurmbrand. This is an autobiography about a Romanian pastor who physically torture for his faith, who constantly suffer from hunger and cold, and who went through anguish brainwashing and mental cruelty and yet survived to tell the story. Very touching and inspiring!
16) The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun (2002) by Paul Hattaway and Brother Yun. A dramatic autobiography of one of China's dedicated, courageous, and intensely persecuted house church leaders.
17) Sadhu Sundar Singh: A Biography of the Remarkable Indian Disciple of Jesus Christ (1992) by Phyllis Thompson. He is one of the most influence Indian preacher.
18) Revolution in World Missions: One Man's Journey to Change a Generation (2009) by K. P. Yohannan. I fully recommend this book. Period.
19) 50 People Every Christian Should Know (2009) by Warren W. Wiersbe. This book combined stories of fifty faithful men and women in Christian history. Very simple, short and compact.
20) Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (1950) by Ronald H. Bainton. You’re not really Luther’s follower if you haven’t read this book. As it was said that this book is “a vivid portrait of Martin Luther, the man of unshakeable faith in God who helped bring about the Protestant Reformation.” I will read it a second time this year.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.