What Books Should Young Christian Scholars Read?

Later this month, I’ll be representing the Emerging Scholars Network at Urbana 12, InterVarsity’s triennial student missions conference. I’m leading a seminar called “Serving Christ as a Professor,” and I’m looking for books to add to our recommended reading list for undergraduates. From my post at the Emerging Scholars Blog:

One of my favorite things about conferences is learning about new books — or, even better, old books that I somehow hadn’t known about. Most of the attendees at Urbana are undergraduates, so the conference is a great opportunity to send them away with a fresh reading list for the new year.

What books about the life of the mind, the academy, and spiritual formation should we recommend?

Visit the Emerging Scholars Blog to see the list of books we recommended at Urbana 09, as well as the great suggestions we’ve received from the ESN community.

Seeing the Fruit of ESN

My work with the Emerging Scholars Network helps students become professors. This process takes years, sometimes more than a decade, so it is rare to see short-term results. Our work is more like a grape vine than a summer vegetable garden. Grape vines take far more investment, preparation, and patience than tomato vines, but grape vines will produce fruit for an entire generation. (The average grape vine lives for 25 years. Here’s a story about a grape vine that has been growing for over 400 years!)

Just this week, I received an email from a young woman named Heather[*]. Three years ago, she attended Urbana, InterVarsity’s triennial student missions conference, and came to a seminar I gave called “Serving Christ as a Professor.” She had been involved with InterVarsity as an undergraduate, and, at the time, she was a PhD student at a major research university. Though she didn’t tell me at the time, she was in the process of deciding whether to pursue a career as a professor.

Urbana confirmed her decision. Today, she’s a first-year professor at one of the famous “Public Ivies” – public universities that give students an Ivy League-quality education. She’s become involved with a community of Christian faculty that InterVarsity sponsors on her campus, and her research and teaching are influencing the next generation of our nation’s leaders.

Why was she emailing me? She’s looking for a mentor to help her in the next stage of her life and career. Heather is coming to Urbana again this year, and I’m working on finding just the right faculty member for her to meet with.

It’s so exciting to see God work through so many people over so many years. I’m sure my ESN seminar was just one of several factors that influenced Heather, but I know that ESN gave her the message that God honors the work of Christian faculty members.

I will present this same seminar — “Serving Christ as a Professor” — at this year’s Urbana. In fact, it will be part of a special series of seminars called “In the Workplace and in the Academy.” This is the first time that Urbana has devoted a seminar series to missions in these important arenas. Who knows how many future professors, businesspeople, and Christian leaders will hear God’s call in these seminars?

Prayer Requests

  • Praise God for his work in Heather’s life!
  • Pray that God will be bring me the right person to help Heather in this new stage of her life.
  • Pray for my seminar, that God will bring the right students to hear my message and that the Holy Spirit will give me the right words to speak into their lives.
  • Pray for future opportunities to work with Heather. Her research deals directly with issues that affect ESN, and her past and present universities are schools where ESN hopes to have an impact.

[*]I’ve changed her name to protect her identity. Some university departments are friendlier to Christians than others.

Preparing for Urbana


Every three years, just after Christmas, over 20,000 college students gather for Urbana – InterVarsity’s student missions conference. Missionaries, missions agencies, and Christian leaders from around the world share their vision for bringing the Gospel to the world world. Every year, students commit their lives to Christ for the first time, renew their commitments to God, and hear God’s call to join the mission field.

This year, at Urbana 09, the Emerging Scholars Network will be calling students to a different kind of mission field: the university. Continue reading