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8 of the Best Books at THINK|21

Written by Mark Riner on

The thought behind the name of the THINK conference is purposeful. The aim of the conference is to help us think well through rich, biblical teaching in clear and understandable ways. If you have ever attended a THINK conference, you know that’s true. But the conference lasts only one weekend, so how do we incorporate this concept through the rest of the year?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.”

The message behind Spurgeon’swords is this: reading good books helps us think well, learn deeply, and grow in our faith. In essence, reading good books helps us carry the emphasis of the THINK conference into our daily lives throughout the year.

With that thought in mind, here are eight books I am most excited about at THINK|21:

Side by Side by Ed Welch

Life is hard. We all know it, but we often try to hide it. This book lays out how we are both needy and needed. Because we all struggle through life, we need to acknowledge and lean into our need of God and others, as well as to press into loving and caring for others through genuine relationships. We need to walk through life side by side with one another. The short chapters and thoughtful discussion questions make this book a great one to study with your spouse, friends, or Small Group.

Side by side

Reset by David Murray

There’s no denying that life is busy. We have to send three emails before the next meeting, mow the yard, finish the laundry, go to class, complete that assignment, drive the kids to practice, etc. It can be overwhelming, and we can get burnt out. Statistics reflect this reality—over 225 million workdays are lost each year because of stress. David Murray, in this insightful book, helps us see our lives in terms of an automobile. If we don’t do regular maintenance, he says, warning lights go off and things break. Through a series of “repair bays,” he shows how we, as finite beings, need to go through a series of checkups that help us, as God’s children, to reset and rest in his gracious care.



Finding the Right Hills to Die On by Gavin Ortlund

Have you ever disagreed with a lyric your church sings and wondered how you should think about it? Have you ever wondered how you should think about or act toward someone in a different denomination? Or have you simply wondered how we should handle disagreements in the church? In this timely and helpful book, Gavin Ortlund helps us process questions like these as he examines the pitfalls that arise in doctrinal and theological disagreements, advises how to prioritize issues, and shows us how to stand firm in truth and conviction while striving for unity and avoiding quarrelsome situations. His transparency with disagreements in his own life help the reader apply these principles to their own life situations in a refreshing way.

Finding the Right Hills to Die On


In His Image by Jen Wilkin

“What is God’s will for my life?” Whether you are a junior in high school or retiring from a forty-year career next month, this question is one that we all ask and struggle to understand. We wrestle with knowing who we should marry, where we should live, and what we should do. As Jen Wilkin explains, “God is always more concerned about the decision-maker than the decision itself. In His Image takes the truths that many of us know about God’s character and explains how those truths are God’s will for our lives. Because we are made in the image of a God who is holy, loving, just, etc., his will is for us to be those things as well. If you are a man, don’t be turned off by the flowery cover. This book is useful for everyone!

In His Image


Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund

It is easy for Christians to think that although God loves them, he is continually frustrated, upset, or disappointed in them. This can lead people to a continual cycle of failure and penance, thinking one more mistake might be the one that causes God to give up on them. But what is the heart of Christ? Centered around Matthew 11:29’s “I am gentle and lowly in heart,” Dane Ortlund expounds on the biblical truth that Christ is not just gentle, loving, compassionate, and tender, that is who he is—his very heart. This book will calm the anxious heart, soothe the weary soul, and help you see God’s love in a clearer way. This book was named the 2020 WORLD Magazine Accessible Theology Book of the Year and was a specific point of study for the College Park Church staff last year. It is a book you don’t want to miss! [Read a Book Brief on Gentle and Lowly]

Gentle and Lowly


When People Are Big and God Is Small by Ed Welch

Fear of man is something we all struggle with. Don’t believe me? If you have ever struggled with peer-pressure, over-committed your life, “needed” something from your spouse, focused on your self-esteem, second-guessed decisions when others don’t agree, felt empty or meaningless, been jealous of others, or even gone on a diet . . . most likely have done those things because you have, in some way, replaced God with people. This book is one I would recommend for anyone in any walk of life. Through Scripture and biblical stories, personal examples, and case studies; Ed Welch shows us seven steps to help us understand our fear of man and move to freedom from it.

When People Are Big and God Is Small

Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine

Need convincing to pick up Spurgeon’s Sorrows? This is how Eswine’s book begins: “How do we get through them? The times that knock our breath out [. . .] do we get through such times, when silences trump sentences? It is as if our words have no life jackets. They must stay, tread water in the shallows, and watch us from a distance. Words have no strength to venture with us into the heaving deeps that swallow us.” In this poetic and timely book, Zack Eswine encourages those battling depression by drawing from the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, who spoke openly about his severe battles with anxiety and depression.

Spurgeon's Sorrows

Henry Says Good-Bye by Ed Welch

The hard things in life, and the emotions that come with them, are not just for adults. How can we as parents help our children process those things? This beautifully illustrated book, written by Ed Welch, is an excellent resource to do just that. Through the story of Henry the hedgehog and his pet ladybug, who passes away, we are taught that in times of loss and sadness, it is important to feel our sadness, talk about it with others, and run to God who is close to the brokenhearted. The book also includes an easy-to-follow guide for parents as they help their children deal with sadness.

Henry Says Good-Bye


The THINK|21 digital bookstore is a unique facet of the annual THINK theology conference at College Park Church. The bookstore will open on Friday, Mar. 5 at 5 p.m. We hope you’ll take advantage of the limited-time, exclusive deals the bookstore will offer!

Mark Riner

Mark serves College Park as the Leadership Development Pastoral Resident. He is passionate about helping others understand and apply the Bible and theology to their everyday lives. Mark loves spending time with his wife, Brittany; their two children, Maggie and Calvin; and other friends and family.

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