A recent spate of new titles now fit the bill nicely, so I suggest them here.
Top of the list is Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and his Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer. Among its many merits, it is brief, winsome, well-written, and focused. It is wholesome, in a good way.
Next up is Peter Enns and his The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. Often when people are looking for an introduction to Christianity, what they really mean is they want an introduction to reading Scripture. This fits the bill nicely.
If people are wondering what life could look like in 21st century congregational life, my new favorite book is a team written volume, The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community. It focuses on how congregations fit into the ecology of life in local communities.
For similar reasons, I also love Sara Miles' book, City of God: Faith in the Streets
Now, if readers are looking for a challenge relative to social justice, calling out the church for its failures but paving a way forward for re-conceptualizing Christian faith in contemporary North America, I truly think the best place to start is James Cone's The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Christians in our nation need to look race and faith head on, and this work does so.
Similarly, for faith in the face of empire, faith in the Middle East, I can't suggest strongly enough Mitri Raheb's wonderful Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes.
If readers are interested in class issues and faith, Tex Sample has done a lot on working class spirituality, and I love his Earthy Mysticism: Spirituality for Unspiritual People
However, if readers are interested in the rise of secularity and its impact on faith, James K.A. Smith's brief introduction to the work of Charles Taylor may be an even better place to start, How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.
Second, Philip Jenkin's The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Future of Christianity Trilogy)
And third, T.M. Luhrmann's When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God (Vintage).
All of these have the merits of being eminently readable, brief, and strong as introductions to their topics. Consider this a contemporary resource for exploring Christian faith (again) as if for the first time. Which reminds me, sometimes the elephant in the room for an awakening desire to connect or re-connect with Christian faith, is the topic of same-gender marriage. As an advocate for the LGBTQ community and their full inclusion and rights in the life of the church, I know of no better book than Justin Lee's Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate
|This is a NY Times photo, and includes some of my|
favorite books of all time, including Alex Ross, Denis Johnson,
Little Heathens, Roberto Bolano, and Out Stealing Horses