In my teenage years I found myself involved in a conservative Christian group that shaped much of my personality and habits. In my adult life I’ve struggled with just how conservative I was as a teenager, but one of the perks is it has lead me to my very best friend. The two of us have both separately and together developed into searching and progressive Christians and still send much time trying to reconcile these two parts of ourselves.
I think we can both agree one of the things our evangelical upbringing brought us was the discipline of sitting down daily to allow ourselves to be developed spiritually. Unfortunately, to date there isn’t a whole lot of published material that grows both the mind and the spirit of a progressive Christian.
Below is a list of helpful devotionals that have more of a liberal or intellectual bent. If the book is interesting to you click through the picture to take you to Amazon for more information.
Room to Grow: Meditations on Trying to Live As a Christian by Martin B Copenhaver
Room to Grow is a book of short meditations stitched together by long time United Church of Christ pastor. Each devotional is between five and ten pages and offers a scripture, a story, and something to ponder as you go about your day. What is compelling about this book is it deals with many of the questions those of us who grew up evangelical had a hard time reconciling, such as “what does it mean to pray without ceasing” and “what happens if dementia causes us to forget God?”
Good for people who want a traditional daily devotional as well as for those who find story telling helps them reflect on scripture and their own life.
The Message: Solo: Uncommon Devotional by Katie Peckham and Eugene Peterson
This follows Eugene’s Peterson’s loose Bible translation The Message. The daily formula includes a short passage, an encouragement to reflect, prayer guidance, and suggested ways to apply the content. This is not an exegetical work, rather it allows the reader to develop their own thought and ask their own questions.
Good for those who want a structured Bible reading without having to work in another authors theological framework.
Bold and Brazen: Exploring Biblical Prophets by Barbara J Essex
Essex is another UCC pastor with a heart for scripture and exegesis (the art of delving deeply into scripture). She has several devotional style books each examining personalities of the Bible including bad girls, bad boys, kings, etc. Admittedly, she is one author I haven’t explored yet, but is on my to do list. She comes recommended by the United Church of Christ who tend to put out great progressive material.
Good for those who want a well organized devotional with good content or want a group study.
The Early Christian Letters for Everyone by N.T. Wright
N.T. Wright is a fairly liberal Anglican bishop with a gift for explaining scriptures in an accessible way. I don’t necessarily agree with N.T. on every issue (homosexuality being one), but it is impossible not to respect his wisdom. I find him to be a theologian you can disagree with without feeling like a dirty apostate. His “For Everyone” series has devotionals all through the New Testament (including Revelation), each where he gives a snippet of scripture followed by a short exegesis, typically socio-historical in nature.
Good for those who want something that will give you a little more intellectual understanding of the Bible in an accessible, progressive way.
Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Various Authors
My very favorite commentary, I have many of their additions in hard back because I use them so often to write sermons. This commentary is divided into many volumes, all have been published to date. It cuts scripture up into small segments (pericopes is the ten dollar word for small pieces of scripture!), experts in the field then cut apart the Greek or Hebrew. This is followed by an explanation from a socio-historical context. Since each book of the Bible is examined by a different expert I find some of these writings are better than others, but almost are at least “very good”.
Good for those who want an in depth look at scriptures and are okay moving at a slow pace. Also recommended if you are reading independently and have questions about certain texts.
The Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make it into the New Testament by Bart Ehrman
I read this book at a time I was beginning a searching spiritual journey and it was vastly influential on me. Having grown up in the church Jesus’ stories have lost the magic for me at times. Being able to read these stories with new eyes and hear new ideas about Jesus was incredible, whether or not I believed they were literally true, it allowed me to experienced Jesus again for the first time.
Good for those who want to encounter a different Jesus or those who have always wondered about some of the missing moments of the Gospels.
Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault
Written by a Episcopalian priest this book teaches centering prayer in an understandable way. The author is a little more conservative than I am, but I appreciate her way of teaching prayer (my personal struggle) in a way that is practicable. Interestingly, MRI scans have discovered centering prayer has been found to change your brain path ways, that is to say it literally changes the way you see the world. It has also been found to be helpful for those undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
Good for those who are looking for more of a book than a traditional devotional, those who want improvement in their prayer life, and those who want to understand the psychology of prayer.
Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbrian Community by Northumbrian Community
By far my favorite devotional book. It offers a (very short) liturgy four times a day (morning, noon, evening, and vespers). The meditations are simple, but usually profound. The prayers have been fun to memorize and rely on whenever I need them, I’ve also bookmarked several of the short reflections.
Good for those looking for a way to incorporate prayer/meditation into the movement of life.
Robcast – Rob Bell
Not a book, but if you’re not feeling disciplined enough to set apart time each day this is a great way to connect the world, spirituality, scripture, and God. Bell has an incredible ability to speak to everyone, people who are seeking, and Biblical scholars alike. I’ve had to re-listen more than once even on basic podcasts such as “God”. The podcast comes once or twice a week (depending) and can be downloaded or subscribed to on iTunes. If you haven’t read his books start with the Velvet Elvis, it changed my life.
Good for those who do better hearing than reading, or want the little reminder (in the shape of an annoying red dot) on your phone to take time to listen.
Salvation on the Small Screen: 24 Hours of Christian Television by Nadia Bolz-Webber
A Lutheran pastor and former comedian, this brilliant author has written three books to date. This book is a 24 hour journey through the religious channels on TV. I have found at certain times in my spiritual journey daily devotions do it for me, and sometimes they seem cheesy and almost gross. When they seem cheesy I rely on non fiction books and memoirs to help center me. This book is one that does not read like a typical devotional, but will give you a chance to meditate on exactly what is holy.
Good for those who don’t want a traditional devotional and those who love Rachel Held-Evans (If you haven’t read Held-Even’s she’s deeply recommended as the conservative to liberal manifesto especially if you’re female.)