21st Annual Outreach Resources of the Year

The Outreach Resources of the Year honors the past year’s best books that emphasize outreach-oriented ideas.

Last fall we invited publishers and authors to submit resources that released between Nov. 1, 2022, and Oct. 31, 2023. The Outreach magazine editorial team then placed the qualifying titles into 13 key categories for review by expert panelists in each field. After thoughtful consideration, they selected one or more entries as an Outreach Resource of the Year and spotlighted some titles as “Also Recommended.”

In this section you will discover valuable tools that belong on your bookshelf. You will reach for them time and again as they enhance your effectiveness in ministry through the years.                                                                      

APOLOGETICS

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

RESOURCE OF THE YEAR

The Augustine Way: Retrieving a Vision for the Church’s Apologetic Witness by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen (Baker Academic)

Chatraw and Allen break new ground in apologetics by looking back in The Augustine Way. Both authors apply recent work on theological retrieval to the field of apologetics, using Augustine’s writings amid societal upheaval to shed light on our own culture. This unique work offers an innovative approach to apologetics, deploying the historic Christian faith to answer familiar questions and fears. The result is a robust analysis of our current cultural moment with a confidence rooted in our past.

ALSO RECOMMENDED

Humble Confidence: A Model for Interfaith Apologetics by Benno van den Toren and Kang-San Tan (IVP Academic)

Pastors and leaders looking for help in engaging across faiths would do well to read Humble Confidence. But this book goes beyond that purpose—it is a valuable resource for understanding religious pluralism as it relates to contextualizing our witness.

 

EVANGELISM 

Evaluated by R. York Moore, CEO and president of the Coalition for Christian Outreach; co-founder of the EveryCampus movement; and co-author of Seen. Known. Loved.

RESOURCES OF THE YEAR 

Evangelism: For the Care of Souls by Sean McGever (Lexham Press)

McGever points us back to the motive for evangelism—the love of God—and then invites us to practice caring for others through evangelism that is powered by that love.

Too often, personal evangelism books overemphasize the care for people at the expense of what McGever refers to as “patient urgency”—an urgency that recognizes the lostness of people and the absolute necessity of Christian witness in their lives to point them to God’s solution of Jesus Christ. This balanced, convicting book, however, reenergizes readers toward authentically walking with those around them with passion and pastoral care.

9780310141938The Gospel Invitation: Why Publicly Inviting People to Receive Christ Still Matters by O.S. Hawkins and Matt Queen (Thomas Nelson)

Far too often, the church and even leaders in the church diminish the need for public proclamation and question the legitimacy of its impact, but in The Gospel Invitation, we are reminded of God’s promises and power to work through the public declaration of the gospel.

The authors masterfully provide details on how to plan, prepare and extend a public invitation to Christ. Hawkins and Queen remind us not only of the biblical mandate to publicly invite people to Jesus, but also of the contemporary relevance of doing so.

This book is a must-read for any and all who stand at the pulpit or simply want to witness the power of God in a demonstrative way through the proclamation of the gospel.

 

CHURCH

Evaluated by Knute Larson, pastoral coach; founder of Adult Bible Fellowships; and former pastor of The Chapel in Akron, Ohio.

RESOURCES OF THE YEAR

9780310145875The Great Dechurching: Who’s Leaving, Why Are They Going, and What Will It Take to Bring Them Back? by Jim Davis and Michael Graham with Ryan P. Burge (Zondervan)

While too many people have waved goodbye to the church in recent years; this book brings to light research-based reasons as to why they left. But The Great Dechurching goes a step further by detailing excellent pastoral opportunities to bring them back.

The graphs throughout the book showing why attendees quit offer very good warnings to today’s church. The chapters on engaging the unchurched and lessons for the church will cause any serious believer or church leader to rethink their strategy. This carefully researched study and the accompanying suggestions should help close the back doors of many churches.

9780310142966Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age by James Emery White (Zondervan Reflective)

Post-pandemic, many churches wondered when all the people were going to return. The truth was and is that church leaders need a hybrid strategy to reach those in the pews and those watching online.

While the use of communication techniques is prominent in this book—the reason to use a church app alone is convincing—this pastor’s warnings about the “limited gospel” instead of the whole Christian manner of caring like Jesus did is as strong as can be. The extra thoughts about being missional with the digital are practical and doable. And the five challenges that close this excellent how-to book should be embraced by every church leader.

ALSO RECOMMENDED

Planting by Pastoring: A Vision for Starting a Healthy Church by Nathan Knight (Crossway)

This specialty study not only is great for leaders who start churches from scratch, but it also is a wonderful challenge for every person who seeks to walk with Christ.

 

MISSIONAL AND CROSS-CULTURAL

Evaluated by Robert Gallagher, professor of intercultural studies emeritus at Wheaton College Graduate School and affiliate professor of intercultural studies at Fuller Theological Seminary.

RESOURCE OF THE YEAR 

The Great Story and the Great Commission: Participating in the Biblical Drama of Mission by Christopher J.H. Wright (Baker Academic)

Wright explains the breadth of God’s mission to the world using the whole Bible, and holistically challenges the Lord’s global people to make his story our story by our participation in the seven-act drama of Scripture. Wright helps integrate our missional life with the purposes of God in the narrative biblical drama by centering our witness around the kingdom of God and the lordship of Christ through the Great Commission and the five marks of mission: evangelism, teaching, compassion, justice and responsible use and care of creation.

 

DISCIPLESHIP

Evaluated by Bobby Harrington, point leader of Discipleship.org and Renew.org.

RESOURCES OF THE YEAR 

Don’t Hold Back: Leaving Behind the American Gospel to Follow Jesus Fully by David Platt (Multnomah)

I loved this book because it focuses on what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus. Platt’s exposition makes it really clear that surrendering to the kingship of Jesus means truly and authentically following him by following Scripture. He shows how the teachings of Jesus are independent of American political debates—on some things Jesus’ teachings align more with the concerns of one side, and on other things, Jesus’ teachings align more with the other.

9780310155201Intentional: Living Out the Eight Principles of Disciple Making by Brandon Guindon (Zondervan Reflective)

Intentional is the most practical book published in 2023 on what it takes to make disciples. Guindon is a highly experienced church leader who has served at all levels of church leadership, so he understands that intentionality is the key mindset in making disciples as Jesus teaches.

 

 

SPIRITUAL GROWTH

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

RESOURCES OF THE YEAR

Learning Humility: A Year of Searching for a Vanishing Virtue, By Richard J. FosterLearning Humility: A Year of Searching for a Vanishing Virtue by Richard J. Foster (IVP)

Not since the short work on Andrew Murray’s thoughts on humility has there been a book destined to be a classic focused on this oft-overlooked virtue. In Learning Humility, Foster organizes his yearlong thoughts around the Lakota calendar and delivers his reflections in short, personal, journal-style writings. His broad knowledge of a wide range of authors and their thoughts naturally flows through and accentuates this deeply personal work. Foster’s life experience, theological depth and commitment to spiritual disciplines makes this book not only highly readable, but profoundly life-changing.

Experiencing Friendship with God: How the Wilderness Draws Us to His Presence by Faith Eury Cho (WaterBrook)

This short and punchy book on experiencing God is full of powerful language and deep exploration of metaphor and meaning. Experiencing Friendship with God stands alongside Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God, while being more accessible and having greater theological depth. In many respects, this treatment of the messiness of life and the wilderness experience is a book everyone would grow from.

 

ALSO RECOMMENDED

Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith by Jennifer L. Holberg (IVP Academic)

This book is a treatment on the power of words and story in helping us understand God’s creation and his plan in and through our lives. It comes from the life studies and teachings of a professor deeply focused on the intersection of art and faith, and is one of the more intellectually satisfying works on the power of stories to arrive in recent years.

Made to Belong: Five Practices for Cultivating Community in a Disconnected World by David Kim (Thomas Nelson)

Made to Belong is an easy-to-follow and graciously written plan for churches, communities and families looking to navigate the complexities of modern life and the distractions that keep us isolated from God, self, others and creation. Kim is from a new school of Christian writers who speak from and not at the younger genera