20th Annual Outreach Resources of the Year

Now in its 20th year, the 2023 Outreach Resources of the Year honors the past year’s best books that emphasize outreach-oriented ministries.

Last fall we invited publishers and authors to submit resources with release dates between Nov. 1, 2021, and Oct. 31, 2022. The Outreach magazine editorial team then sorted qualifying titles into 10 key categories for review by expert panelists in each field.

The panelists thoughtfully evaluated each submission and chose one or more as an Outreach Resource of the Year, then highlighted other titles as “Also Recommended.”

In this section you will discover new favorites and valuable tools that will enhance your effectiveness in ministry. We welcome your comments about these and other titles you have found particularly helpful —TellUs@Outreach.com.


Evaluated by Andrew MacDonald, associate director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Research Institute.


Wandering Toward God: Finding Faith amid Doubts and Big Questions:  Dickinson, Travis: 9780830847174: Amazon.com: Books

Wandering Toward God: Finding Faith Amid Doubts and Big Questions by Travis Dickinson (IVP)

Travis Dickinson’s Wandering Toward God is a vital apologetic resource for church leaders who navigate our age of deconstruction. This book not only provides answers to pressing questions, but also sorts through the central challenge of doubts.

As the genre of apologetics continues to undergo a revolution, turning greater attention to the importance of story and persuasion, Dickinson’s work stands out for its analysis of the underlying problems of doubt, and how our response to this reality can actually fuel rather than damage our faith and mission. More of an apologetic to rather than for Christians, Dickinson hits a critical need for many in the church who are fearful of where their challenging questions might lead them.


A Doubter’s Guide to World Religions: A Fair and Friendly Introduction to the History, Beliefs and Practices of the Big Five by John Dickson (Zondervan Reflective)

This book is worthy of mention as a vital reference guide for church leaders ministering in religiously diverse communities. It offers accessible primers that help provide an initial orientation.


Evaluated by Ken Wytsma, award-winning author of The Myth of Equality and Pursuing Justice.


Rembrandt Is in the Wind: Learning to Love Art through the Eyes of Faith:  Ramsey, Russ, Makoto Fujimura: 9780310129721: Amazon.com: Books

Rembrandt Is in the Wind: Learning to Love Art Through the Eyes of Faith by Russ Ramsey (Zondervan Reflective)

There are books on spiritual matters, and there are books on art. Rarely, however, does one come across a book that tells such a beautiful story on the relation of art and faith. Russ Ramsey’s book, Rembrandt Is in the Wind, is a unique crossover work that will appeal to artists, history lovers and anyone interested in developing an oft-neglected means of understanding Christian spirituality.

Not only is the content of Ramsey’s book captivating, but how he structured the chapters and themes along with the stunning cover and interior art representations are also sure to inspire. Rembrandt Is in the Wind will surely be recognized alongside works by other standout authors in this space such as Makoto Fujimura (who wrote the Foreword), Terry Glaspey and Madeleine L’Engle.


How to Inhabit Time: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now by James K.A. Smith (Brazos Press)

In a crowded field of books on time and being present in the moment comes a standout work by the always thought-provoking philosopher James K.A. Smith. He finds a way to usher readers into the topic of time and temporal awareness, while simultaneously mentoring them into a mode of critical reflection and appreciation for wisdom passed down through history.


Evaluated by R. York Moore, national evangelist and executive director for catalytic partnerships for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and co-founder of EveryCampus.


The Church after Innovation: Questioning Our Obsession with Work,  Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (Ministry in a Secular Age): Root, Andrew:  9781540964823: Amazon.com: Books

The Church After Innovation: Questioning Our Obsession with Work, Creativity and Entrepreneurship by Andrew Root (Baker Academic)

Andrew Root raises several questions lurking under the suspicions many church leaders are now asking themselves. The Church After Innovation is a fresh and thorough look at the difference between real, enduring kingdom fruit and worldly success. Root invites readers to question the role innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship have in relationship to things like authenticity and true, transparent community. He exposes the propensity for an innovation culture in our church settings to produce idolatry and the never-ending demand to justify our worth as church leaders.


Evaluated by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, founders of the marriage assessment SYMBIS.com and authors of Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.


Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God: Challies, Tim:  9780310136736: Amazon.com: Books

Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God by Tim Challies (Zondervan Reflective)

You’re a counselor? A minister? Then consider a few numbers: 2.6 million deaths occur per year in the U.S. For every death, there are at least five grievers (13 million annually). About 20% of those who lose a loved one experience an unrelenting mental health condition known as “complicated grief.” Of course, these numbers do not even touch the grief resulting from job loss, the pandemic and other bereavements. Grief abounds. That’s why Tim Challies’ Seasons of Sorrow is particularly relevant for anyone in ministry and counseling.

Challies traces his own journey of traumatic grief through four seasons, beginning in the fall and advancing through winter, spring and summer. And in the end, there’s no mistaking his message: “We are fitted to the ministry of sorrow by suffering loss.” He calls those of us who wade into the murky waters of sorrow with others to bear witness to God’s goodness in grief—and to grieve faithfully. 


Evaluated by A.J. Swoboda, associate professor of Bible, theology and World Christianity at Bushnell University and lead mentor for the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary on the Holy Spirit and Leadership. He is the author of many books, including last year’s Spiritual Growth resource of the year After Doubt (Brazos).


Preaching to a Divided Nation: A Seven-Step Model for Promoting Reconciliation and Unity  -     By: Matthew D. Kim, Paul A. Hoffman

Preaching to a Divided Nation: A Seven-Step Model for Promoting Reconciliation and Unity by Matthew D. Kim and Paul A. Hoffman (Baker Academic)

Preaching at our moment in history is perilous. People find offense and can easily find some other voice that will say what they want to hear. How do we move forward? In this excellent and insightful treatment on the topic of homiletical theory and practice in the cultural milieu of our own time—a moment marked by polarization, division and hyperawareness of systemic sin—theologians and practitioners Matthew Kim and Paul Hoffman have paved a faithful and thoughtful way forward.

Weaving historically orthodox theology with incisive and penetrating cultural analysis, the authors have given much-needed language to the task of preaching for the 21st century. Highly recommended for pastors and preachers.


When Women Lead: Embrace Your Authority, Move Beyond Barriers, and Find Joy in Leading Others by Carolyn Moore (Zondervan Reflective)

Carolyn Moore offers a penetrating vision of women in leadership with insightful thoughts on a biblical theology for the church. An excellent read. 


Evaluated by Robert Gallagher, professor emeritus of intercultural studies at Wheaton College Graduate School and teaching pastor at Lombard Bible Church in Lombard, Illinois.


Virtuous Persuasion: A Theology of Christian Mission (Studies in Historical  and Systematic Theology): Niebauer, Michael: 9781683595052: Amazon.com:  Books

Virtuous Persuasion: A Theology of Christian Mission by Michael Niebauer (Lexham Academic)

In Virtuous Persuasion, Michael Niebauer delves deep into the basic questions of the mission of God, connecting it to the life we live. He argues that missio Dei, church planting and dialogue fail to provide adequate thinking on human morality. To counter this deficiency, Niebauer offers a theology of mission grounded in Scripture and virtue: a rich understanding of mission as virtuous practice as it demonstrates the goodness of missional proclamation and the Spirit-promotion of joy, hope and love through faithful witness.

In the discussion are topics such as the nature of conversion; the difference between persuasion and coercion; how to measure church growth; the role of prayer, worship and spiritual formation; faithful evangelism; and pastoral ministry, producing a fresh account of church mission. As you read this volume, be prepared to experience the reward of developing virtue as mission practitioners and seeing the Lord Jesus.


Evaluated by Mark DeYmaz, directional leader of Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas and convener of the National Multiethnic Church Conference.


Agents of Flourishing - InterVarsity Press

Agents of Flourishing: Pursuing Shalom in Every Corner of Society by Amy L. Sherman (IVP Praxis)

Well-reasoned, researched, comprehensive and pragmatic, this book goes beyond the dreamy idealism often associated with notions of pursuing shalom or seeking the peace and prosperity of the city. Rather, Agents of Flourishing provides biblically and historically informed guidance for pastors and ministry leaders seeking to effectively engage communities and lead their organizations beyond rhetoric to results.

While many passionately explain why the church and other Christ-centered organizations should pursue community transformation and human flourishing, and advance the common good, this book provides the “how” and “what”—proven, credible strategies to help leaders realize such dreams for the glory of God.

Inalienable: How Marginalized Kingdom Voices Can Help Save the American  Church - Kindle edition by Costanzo, Eric, Yang, Daniel, Soerens, Matthew.  Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Inalienable: How Marginalized Kingdom Voices Can Help Save the American Church by Eric Costanzo, Daniel Yang and Matthew Soerens (IVP)

A vocationally and experientially diverse group of co-authors provide a 360° rationale and recommendations for (essentially) reinventing the S-curve of the American church’s growth and decline. While acknowledging hits to the credibility, reputation and psyche of the church’s collective witness, they passionately and practically encourage readers to see this not so much as a problem but an opportunity for the church to understand the times and know what is the best course of action to take (1 Chron. 12:32) in pursuit of systemic transformation for the sake of the gospel.

As expressed in the subtitle, Inalienable will require empowered leadership to embrace disruptive innovation where 20th century mindsets persist that may be unintentionally (yet nevertheless) preventing the emerging voices of the best, brightest and marginalized of the next generation from shaping things both now and in years to come.


Called to Reconciliation: How the Church Can Model Justice, Diversity and Inclusion by Jonathan C. Augustine (Baker Academic)

An AME pastor and professor of law argues a biblical, sociological and rational case for why and how to pursue “Revelation 7” unity in the church for the sake of the gospel. 

Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness and Hope in a World Longing for Justice Edited by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson* (Revell)

A collective work informed by some of the most insightful women in leadership today impacting the American church with tomorrow in mind.

* Editor’s Note: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a columnist and contributing editor for Outreach magazine.


Evaluated by Thomas Bandy, director of Thriving Church Consulting and the author of more than 60 books and articles.


Analog Christian - InterVarsity Press

Analog Christian: Cultivating Contentment, Resilience and Wisdom in the Digital Age by Jay Y. Kim (IVP)

Jay Y. Kim confronts the negative impact of the pandemic, politics and polarization which have contributed to social media becoming toxic. Kim helps Christians who go online practice patience, kindness, faithfulness and self-control to overcome impatience, hostility and self-indulgence they may encounter.

How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Normal People - Kindle edition by  Greig, Pete, Comer, John Mark. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @  Amazon.com.

How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Normal People by Pete Greig (Zondervan Reflective)

Isn’t it wonderful to discover a book that you cannot skim? How to Hear God is not particularly dense. Instead, it is very wise. And you need to pray and ponder each chapter. Step-by-step, Pete Greig guides readers to hear God’s Word (biblically, prayerfully and prophetically) and to listen for God’s whisper (psychologically, theologically and culturally).


Evaluated by Scot McKnight, author or editor of some 60 books and the Julius R. Mantey Chair of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois.


The Lord Roars: Recovering the Prophetic Voice for Today (Theological  Explorations for the Church Catholic): Carroll R., M. Daniel:  9781540965080: Amazon.com: Books

The Lord Roars: Recovering the Prophetic Voice for Today by M. Daniel Carroll R. (Baker Academic)

Times shift with regard to what makes the gospel appealing, relevant and resonant in our society, culture and world. Nothing captures people’s attention today more than a social vision concerned with justice, peace, grace and equity. M. Daniel Carroll R.’s potent book, The Lord Roars, is a reader-friendly sketch of the prophetic vision that can capture the attention of the current generation of almost-Christians.

In this book, the unacceptable is deconstructed, worship and social vision are connected, and a biblical picture of the kingdom of God stirs the imagination of all who care to listen. What we need most is an unwavering honesty about our world and our nation, and the prophets have the courage to be that honest.


Evaluated by Russell St. Bernard, an Outreach magazine contributing editor; director of strategic ministry operations at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church in Calverton, Maryland; and founder of After the Music Stops, Ministry Pivot and The Pivot University.


The Apostles' Creed: For All God's Children (A FatCat Book): Myers, Ben,  Kennedy, Natasha: 9781683595748: Amazon.com: Books

The Apostles’ Creed: For All God’s Children by Ben Myers; illustrated by Natasha Kennedy (Lexham Press)

The authors have done an amazing job, from the illustrations to the explanation of the Apostles’ Creed, which is such an important part of our Christian faith. Each part of the Apostles’ Creed is explained and illustrated with images that are culturally inclusive. This book would be a great daily resource for parents and youth ministry leaders to use. It will help to develop young believers.

Gentegration: Connecting Leaders Across Generations - Kindle edition by  Manning, Bobby, Jenkins, John K.. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @  Amazon.com.

Gentegration: Connecting Leaders Across Generations by Bobby Manning (StreetLight Ministries)

One key to an effective youth ministry is how the different generations work together. Bobby Manning does a great job in this book from his research to his practical situations in outlining ways to connect the generations in the church and community. Gentegration gives a historical outline of each generation, how they can and should work together, and ways leadership can be more effective in engaging each generation, including children. This is a great tool and resource for your ministry team.


How to Fight Racism (Young Reader’s Edition): A Guide to Standing Up for Racial Justice by Jemar Tisby (Zonderkidz)

Jemar Tisby expands his book of the same title for younger readers, and it is great. He walks through racism historically, biblically and socially in order to help readers not just see the issue but its many causes and some solutions.

The Case for Heaven (Young Reader’s Edition): Investigating What Happens After Our Life on Earth by Lee Strobel (Zonderkidz)

Based on his book of the same title, Lee Strobel encourages young readers to ask the hard questions about heaven and their lives.