Puritans and Pastoring: Who were they and why study them?

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I have recorded the first episode of my new podcast Puritans and Pastoring. This first episode provides a brief look at who they were and why we should study them. Listen and let me know what topics you would like to hear about in future episodes.

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Graciousness: A Review

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love Book Cover

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love by John Crotts

This book addresses one of the most important characteristics in the life of the believer and the local church, graciousness. One doesn’t need to look far to see that there is a great imbalance among Christian in regards to grace and truth. This book helps demonstrate the great importance God places on graciousness and calls the reader cultivate that quality.

This book begins with addressing the importance of graciousness in that it is essential to being a loving person. The author the provides a practical understanding of graciousness and its value in the believers life. Following that Crotts points to the examples of graciousness found in Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul. In the fifth chapter we see the danger faced by ungracious churches as evidenced by the church in Ephesus and the warning given to it in Revelation. The final chapters of the book address provide practical ways of cultivating and practicing graciousness internally, individually, and corporately.

It’s my firm belief that the key cause of decline in local churches in America isn’t owing to the changes in our surrounding culture, it is owing to a loss of graciousness at both the level of the individual and the level of the local church. As Crotts points out the church in Ephesus was the supreme example of a church who was active and doctrinally correct but unloving. I heartily commend this book to all believers.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Bearded Gospel Men: A Review

Bearded Gospel Men by Jared Brock and Aaron Alford

Beards have recently become popular, but as authors Jared Brock and Aaron Alford demonstrate in this book there is a long line of long bearded gospel men who can be looked to as examples of faithfulness.

The authors in this book 31 miniature biographies of bearded followers of Christ from a range of Christian traditions throughout the history of Christianity. Each chapter comes with reflection questions to help the reader better appreciate the legacy of the individuals addressed in the book. Each entry is well written and engaging and provides an introduction to historical figures that often go unnoticed in church history. Some might object to the wide range of traditions represented in this book from Catholic to Anabaptist and all points in between but that only helps to ensure that the book will have a wide range of readership.

What pleases me most about this book is that it packages church history in an accessible and interesting format that the average guy would be interested in reading. Young men living in a culture likes ours with so few heroes would do well to read this book and reflect on the legacy of the bearded gospel men who have helped shape the history of Christianity. I would commend this book to any man in my church, even the ones without beards.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

Building the Body: A Review

Building the Body by Gary McIntosh and Phil Stevenson

This book had  a lot of potential but falls short because of wrong prioritization in the church. The authors intended goal is to guide churches to greater levels of fitness as a church body.

The first section addresses the evangelistic fitness of the church. The second, member engagement  in the ministry of the church. The third, the worship and leadership of the church. The fourth section focuses on love, church systems, and prayer. With the final section giving practical ways to measure progress in the different areas addressed.

I would argue that chapters 10 and 12 should have been placed up front and that they should have been prioritized as a greater marker of the fitness of a church than flexibility.  In fact these two loving community are not just markers of fitness but they are markers of whether a church is indeed a biblical church. If a church is not a loving community it is not in any sense healthy or a biblical church. If a church lacks divine empowerment it may be many things but it is not a healthy church, if it is a church at all. This book would have been much better if it had not placed numbers as the greatest metric of a church’s fitness level.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

How to Think: A Review

How to Think by Alan Jacobs

In this book author and professor Alan Jacobs provides a thoughtful guide to thinking, a subject many don’t give much thought to if comment sections on social media are any indication. Not only does this book help us think about how little we think it also helps in understanding how we understand and communicate with others.

I seven chapters Jacobs provides helpful clarity to the life of the mind. The first chapter helps shed light on the communal nature of thinking and the interaction between thinking and feeling. Jacobs provides a helpful definition for thinking, “the power to finely aware and richly responsible (p. 49).” Chapters two and three address why we are attracted to others and yet repelled and often times intolerant of others.  Chapter four addresses the issue of language. Chapter five addresses how and why we categorize people and ideas and also the importance of thinking critically about who and what we categorize. Chapter six points to the importance of an open mind being opened to close upon settled convictions. The final chapter is a reminder of the place of self-examination in regards to thinking.

You’ve probably read or commented on a comments section on the internet. If you have then you’ve seen how little critical thought is engaged in in our culture. This book is a helpful guide and corrective in that regard.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Theology, Church and Ministry: A Review

Theology, Church, and Ministry: A Handbook for Theological Education edited by David Dockery

In the past I have reviewed books directed at pointing pastors back to the importance of theology for pastoral ministry viewing the local church as primary sphere for theology. In this book edited by Dr. David Dockery the various contributors a resource that points to how theological education can be done in service to the church.

The first section of this book consisting of five chapters from five contributors provides an introduction to the basis and purpose of theological education in regards to preparation for ministry.  Michael Duduit’s chapter on theological education and ministry calling provides helpful insight into some recent trends in theological education as well as a reminder of the primacy of calling.

The second section addresses the content of theological education with chapters from experts in each area of theology. The authors of these chapters make clear there is no shortcut to theological education. I think the two most important chapters are on the two on biblical languages. Kenneth Matthews helps show the importance of the original languages of the Old Testament and the the value they have for ministry especially as pastors spiritual life is deepened in his reading the original Hebrew. Constantine Campbell’s chapter is equally helpful in regards to the importance and value of Greek.

The third and final section shows the importance of theological education for the ministry of the church from the work of the pastor to missions and its significance for the global church. Lawless’s chapter on theology, evangelism, and mission is significant for his attention to both the local church especially as in regards to preparing students to lead and equip congregations for evangelism in the future. I think the most important contribution in the whole volume is the chapter written by Dr. Daniel Akin, his axioms should in my opinion govern the actions and plans of all of our SBC seminaries.

We live in a time where two things have happened and continue to happen. One is the continuing lowering of commitment to theology among pastors, many pastors could care less about theology and this is wrong. The second is many in academia see theology as an engagement done for those in academia with no attention to the local church. This book is a helpful corrective in both areas. I hope that every faculty member of every SBC seminary gets this book and reads it. I would commend this book to those beginning their theological education as it will help show the value and importance of the task of theological preparation. Pastors who might have neglected their studies might be stirred from that neglect through this book.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

8 Hours or Less: A Review

8 Hours or Less: Writing faithful sermons faster by [Huguley, Ryan]

8 Hours or Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster by Ryan Huguley

In this book Ryan Huguley puts forward steps he thinks will cut down time studying and preparing for sermons. In his introduction he draws from his experience of being one who loved preaching but hated preparation, something that I cannot in any way relate to. I enjoy sermon preparation I agree with many who say there is both an art and science to preaching. That being said I don’t think the problem most pastors face is that they are spending too much time in the study, given the weak and anemic condition of the pulpit in America it seems pastors are not spending enough time wrestling with the text and in prayer.

Hugley’s steps are based on his idea of five days of preparation and the preaching of the sermon itself. Day one is developing the outline, day two finalizing the outline with the help of a group,  day three write the introduction, day four write the conclusion, an day five complete the preaching notes. With the sermon preached on Sunday. While I appreciate his logical order of sermon preparation, I do take issue with the idea of faster being better. John Macarthur has said many times deep is better than shallow and slow is better than fast, and I believe that to be true for pastors in the and out of the pulpit.

This book and its advice might work for some pastors. But in preaching and preparation there can be no hard and fast rules for how long a pastor should prepare as each pastor is different in how they prepare and process the content of their sermon. I think many pastors, if they follow this book strictly, will go a great disservice to their preaching ministry. There are some good aspects to the  book, but overall I think there is a lack of balance in the emphasis on speed.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

They Came for Freedom: A Review

They Came for Freedom by Jay Milbrandt

Much myth surrounds the Pilgrims and what led up to the first Thanksgiving. In his latest title Jay Milbrandt provides an engaging look at the Pilgrims and the events that surrounded them.  Well researched and well written this is history that makes that past come alive.

Throughout this book Milbrandt traces the journeys of both the Pilgrims and Squanto. Milbrandt faithfully records the pressures and persecutions that led the Pilgrims to leave England for Amsterdam and then from Amsterdam to America. One sees in the life of Squanto which in my opinion demonstrate  God’s providence. We often romanticize the Pilgrims but Milbrandt demonstrates the harsh realities they faced in the new world. In many ways I am convinced that it was the Pilgrims religious convictions that separated Plymouth colony from all the failed colonies that came before them.

This book is one I would recommend to anyone who wants to better understand the Pilgrims or earlier colonial America. While sometimes authors add more fiction that history or make history dull this is not the case with this book. There’s plenty of time to read it before Thanksgiving this year so make sure you add it to your reading list.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Love Thy Body: A Review

Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality by Nancy Pearcey

In her latest book Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey addresses some of the key issues of controversy of our day particularly in regards to life and personhood. Pearcey in this book continues in the legacy of Francis Schaeffer in addressing the problems of our day from a biblical worldview. Pearcey addresses what Schaeffer once called “the loss of humanness” as it has continued to expand into our own present day.

In seven chapters Pearcey addresses issues ranging from the concept of personhood, the sanctity of life, to matters of human sexuality. Pearcy rightly points out modern personhood theory which seeks to divorce what it means to be a person from what it means to be a human. Personhood theory in essence argues that the question of humanness is one of fact relating to biology whereas the issue of what constitutes a person is a value definition. It should come as no surprise where such a mindset has take root has no problem with abortion, euthanasia, or any of the sexual confusion prevalent in the west. In each of the chapters Pearcey not only addresses the problem but she clearly points how the church can address these problems in a manner that is both redemptive and honoring to Christ.

Schaeffer once said, “If we ache and have compassion for humanity today in our own country and across the world, we must do all we can to help people see the truth of Christianity and accept Christ as Savior. And we must stand against the loss of humanness in all its forms.” This book will be an invaluable tool in doing that very thing. If you are a parent a I would encourage you to read through this book with your older children and work through the study questions in the back. Pastors get this book read it, recommend it, put it in the hands of others but mostly importantly let it open your eyes to how to practically minister to people in great need of grace and truth.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it as part of the launch team. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

How Does Sanctification Work?: A Review

How does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison

In this latest title from David Powlison he  addresses one area of the Christian life that is often deeply misunderstood with the clarity and biblical insight that mark his previous books.

Powlison in the early portions of the book ably addresses the careful balance between the biblical promise of sanctification and the biblical commands concerning our pursuit of sanctification. As Powlsion notes often we can become unbalanced in our view of sanctification and must seek to re-balance it in light of Scripture. Powlison helpfully reminds readers that there are multiples avenues by which God brings about sanctification in our lives. Powlison provides multiples case studies including his own personal experience demonstrating how sanctification practically works in the life of a believer.

I do think in addressing the subject of sanctification attention to distorted views such as Keswick theology and Christian Perfectionism would have greatly contributed to the value of the book. Those understandings of sanctification are still prevalent in evangelicalism and have demonstrably caused great harm driving believers to dispair rather than a hopeful pursuit of conformity to Christ. With that aside I do think this is one of the most helpful resources on sanctification I have come across. This book is greatly helped by the fact that Powlison provides personal examples to help readers better see and understanding the process of sanctification.

Disclosure: I received a review ecopy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.