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City Church Summer Reading List *UPDATE*

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By: Whitney Nadeau

As school comes to an end and people begin to select their summer reading lists, take a look at the suggested reading below by the leadership of City Church.


We've added some titles to this list that might spur you on this summer. You'll likely recognize the themes present in these books as the ones we've been talking about and praying over this past year.

Summer 2019 Reading LisT

*End of update

The categories below are organized by City Church’s prayer points in 2018 and beyond.

As a church, we are praying to become sacrificially diverse (Rev. 7:9-10; Phil. 2:1-4) and theologically healthy (1 Tim. 4:16).

If you are interested in understanding what those prayers look like biblically or how we can begin to move in that direction, please select a few books below to read.  

Sacrificially Diverse

The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change by Brenda McNeil

The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah

White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to be White by Daniel Hill

Free at Last?: The Gospel in the African-American Experience by Carl Ellis Jr.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist

A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland

Theologically Healthy

Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians by J.A. Medders and Brandon Smith

None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin

The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words by Chris Bruno

The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno

What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles’ Creed by Michael Bird

The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund

As a church, we are also praying to intentionally multiply (Matt 28:18-20) and to do justice (Micah 6:8).

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Reading the Bible: Find Patterns and Weird Stuff

By Trevor Atwood

“Patterns and weird stuff. That’s what to look for if you want to understand the Bible.”

One of my favorite seminary professors used to say this to his students on a regular basis. I’ve never forgotten it, and it has produced some of the most fruitful Scripture reading in my life. When I started using this grid, I sort of felt like I was maturing from reading the bible like a kid, and starting to read it like a grown-up (not always a good thing…I’ll get to that at the end.).

The book of Mark is no exception to this helpful interpretive paradigm. We are now five-and-a-half chapters into Mark and “Patterns and Weird Stuff” have yielded some beautiful truths.


In the category of patterns, we’ve talked nearly every week about "Markan Sandwiches." This is a literary tool Mark uses to help expound on a story he is telling. He starts a story, then pauses it to tell another story, and then finishes his original story. The example or the point of the story in the middle (the meat) is designed to help us better understand the story told on the ends (the bread).

Mark 5:21-43 is a great example of this. Mark first tells the story of Jairus who comes to Jesus looking for healing for his dying daughter. Then he interrupts that story to talk about the woman with the issue of blood who touches Jesus’ garment. Finally, he goes back to Jairus’ daughter, who is now dead, and whom Jesus will resurrect. The point? When Jesus tells Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.,” the sort of fearlessness and faith he needs is fully shown to him by the sick woman. She is the meat on the sandwich. 

In five-and-a-half chapters, Mark has already used four or five sandwiches—Mark’s other name is Jimmy John.

If you don’t know to look for patterns, you probably will read all of these little stories as individual reports. But don’t forget, that while the Gospels are indeed eye-witness accounts, the authors are also inspired in the way they each put their accounts together. They aren’t just reporting history. They’re delivering theology. So we have to pay attention to the patterns the authors use to better understand the point they are making about Jesus.


In the category of weird stuff, take a look at Mark 6:20. Even though Herod was perplexed and even offended by what John the Baptist preached, he was still “glad to hear him.” That’s strange. Usually, when something perplexes and offends us, we want to move on from it, but Herod wanted more of it. In fact, in the stories prior to this, when people are perplexed and offended by the message of Jesus and his disciples, they dismiss it. So, in this case, Herod breaks the pattern.

In other words…it’s weird. And, in fact, Mark 6:20 shows us the heart of what hearing the gospel does to us. It perplexes and offends, because it calls us to change. Yet, we long for the hope it promises, so we want to keep hearing it.


While looking for “Patterns and Weird Stuff” is a great interpretive tool, we have to be careful not to miss the plain meaning of a text because we commit ourselves to a “cool new trick.”

Interpretation is a necessary, yet dangerous discipline. We have to take into account genre, historical context, biblical context and a host of other factors. If you commit yourself too much to one sort of grid, you are liable to strain gnats while you swallow camels.

So look for patterns and weird stuff while you read the Bible, but also keep reading it like a child—simply and humbly. After all, the kingdom of God belongs to the kids.

For more helpful tools on interpreting Scripture read this book

Posted by Trevor Atwood with