Review of Preaching in the New Testament

Among the many books that have been published on the issue of preaching Preaching in the New Testament by Jonathan Griffiths truly stands apart. Most of the recent publications on preaching in recent years have focused more on the how to of preaching. In contrast to those work Griffiths seeks to explore what the New Testament has to say about preaching and its priority in the local church.

This book is divided into three main sections. In the first section a biblical theology of the word is presented, the key terms used to describe preaching in the New Testament are explored, and the word ministry of all believers is addressed. In the second section of the book Griffiths narrows in with laser focus on six of the most prominent New Testament passages that address the issue of preaching the word, his work addressing Hebrews and its implications for the church are worth the price of the book. Th third and final section provides an overview of the material covered in previous chapters with some important implications of this work explored.

Biblical preaching has fallen on hard times, and rather than argue for the importance of preaching simply based on its importance in church history we must have a biblical foundation for preaching in the church. Griffiths in this work points to the solid foundation for understanding the enduring importance of preaching in the life of the church which is found in the New Testament.

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

Review of The Heart of the Church

The Heart of the Gospel, part of Joe Thorn’s three part series on the church, focuses in on  the most important aspect of the church the gospel. Thorn in his introduction demonstrates the fact that one of the primary problems the church has is the fact that it is not driven by the gospel which should be the central driving force of the church.

This book is comprised of three parts divided into twelve short and easy to read chapters. In the first section of this book Thorn addresses the gospel as the central theme running from Old to New Testament. In the closing two chapters of the first part the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are addressed. The third part of this book addresses the doctrinal truths of the gospel beginning with justification and its consequences and ending with sanctification and good works. The final section addresses the character and nature of God as revealed in the gospel.

Of the books in this series I think this one stands as the most important as it reminds pastors and church leaders of the central place the gospel is to have in the church, a place that it does not have in many churches. Without the gospel being central the aspects of character and life will never be what they need to be. In a day where there is increasing abandonment of the biblical gospel Thorn has given the church a wake up call to the supreme importance of the gospel, the whole gospel, for the very existence of the church.

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.

Review of Revitalize

My first awareness of Andrew Davis’s ministry came through a pamphlet I received in seminary entitled “An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.”  In Revitalize his commitment to Scripture and love for the local church are clearly evident. In this work Davis provides biblical principals required for church revitalization. He doesn’t seek to provide some one size fits all program, he describes the biblical character and understanding that must exist in the heart and mind of the pastor for revitalization to occur.

I greatly appreciate the transparency seen throughout this book. Davis throughout the book illustrates the points he make either through his personal experience or through the history of the church. His emphasis on personal holiness and dependence on God to do a work only He can do are refreshing to read in a book of this sort. Too often it seems ministry leaders put forward programs as infallible tools to bring about revitalization in the local church, an error that Davis avoids in this book.

I think this book should be on every pastor’s book shelf. Some might hear about this book and think they have know need of a book like this and they would be greatly mistaken. First the vast majority of churches in North America or plateaued or declining and in need of  revitalization. Second even if one found themselves in one of the very few churches doing well the principals puts forward by Davis in this book are applicable to any pastor in any church context. It would be plain stupidity not to get this book and learn from one who has plodded through the difficult and dangerous journey of church revitalization.

Disclosure: I received an advanced 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

Review of The Character of the Church

 

The Character of the Church by Joe Thorn is great introduction to the marks of a health biblical local church.

The concept of the the marks of a church goes back to the time of the Reformation and standing firmly in that tradition Joe Thorn provide five marks that are essential to the health and existence of a local church. The five marks put forward in this book are right preaching of the Word, right observance of the ordinances, biblical leadership, church discipline, and the Great Commission.

Thorn shows the importance of each mark for the life of the church from the Bible itself. He at times addresses how some of the marks have been ignored or confused in contemporary evangelicalism to the detriment of local churches everywhere.

This has been the second book I have read in this series and must say I am impressed at the quality of each book so far. As a local church pastor I have been keenly aware that up until recently there have not been a great number of resources that one would recommend to the the average church member to better understand the local church. I think Thorn’s three part series is a much needed resource that would lend itself to many uses within the local church by pastors and church leaders.

Disclosure: I received an advanced 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

 

 

Review of As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Readers who have befitted from Eugene Peterson’s prolific writing ministry will want to read his latest book As Kingfishers Catch Fire, a collection of his sermons.

This book is divided into seven sections with each section containing sermons based on the books of seven different biblical authors. The first part of the book contains sermons from Genesis through Deuteronomy. The second contains sermons based on various Psalms by David. The third comes from sermons on Isaiah. The fourth draws on Solomon with an emphasis on wisdom literature including Job. The fifth contains sermons drawing on Peter as recounted in the gospels. The sixth contains sermons from Paul’s epistles. The seventh and final section draws on sermons based on John, 1 John, and Revelation.

Eugene Peterson’s pastoral heart and his skill as a pastor-poet are on full display in the sermons contained in this volume. The context that is given for the sermons helps shed light onto the work and challenges involved in preaching God’s word. I don’t think there isn’t a pastor out there who won’t gain some benefit from this latest work.

Disclosure: I received an advanced 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.

Review of the Dawn of Christianity

Author Robert Hutchinson most recent title  The Dawn of Christianity provides a narrative account of the origin of Christianity beginning with the start of Jesus’s ministry and concluding with the Jerusalem Counsel which is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles. In this work Hutchinson draws heavily on the Scriptures and uses some secondary material to to shed light on the historical background of Jesus and the early church.

One of the greatest faults in this work in is Hutchinson’s willingness to discount the clear testimony of the gospel writers as occurs in the third chapter in which he casts some doubt as to whether those Jesus brought back to life were actually dead as is recorded in the gospel accounts. There isn’t much you’ll learn from this that couldn’t be learned through studying Luke and Acts, and in fact Luke in his accounts in Acts narrates more of the early church’s history concluding with Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. While well written there isn’t much to commend this book as ground breaking.

Disclosure: I received a 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.

Review of Biblical Doctrine

This book belongs on the shelf or ereader of anyone who has benefited from the preaching and writing ministry of John MacArthur. Biblical Doctrine is a book that truly lives up to its name.

This systematic theology covers all the major categories that would be expected. In every doctrine that is explored and expounded one sees MacArthur’s pastoral heart and eye for application. From the very beginning of this work the importance of doctrine for spiritual growth is emphasized as it says , “Spirituality involves God’s Spirit taking God’s Word and maturing God’s people through the ministry of God’s servant for the spiritual growth of individual believers, which results in the growth of Christ’s body.” The second chapter of the book is in my opinion of the greatest in this work. In this chapter on sees the high view of Scripture that has been the bedrock of MacArthur’s ministry explored and defended.

Whether you agree with MacArthur on every point of doctrine or not you will find this a valuable resource. Each chapter begins with a hymn related to the doctrine addressed and closes with a prayer and recommended resources. The charts found throughout the chapters also add to the usefulness of this work.  I would say if you’re a pastor or student of the Word you can’t go wrong in adding Biblical Doctrine to your library.

Disclosure: I received an 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.

Review of Practicing the Power

Practicing the Power by Sam Storms has been an eye opening read for myself. Being from a cessationist background myself my only encounters with charismatic worship and use of the gifts have been seeing the types of uses Sam Storms would be critical of as well. One example comes to mind, for my world religions class in college we had to attend a worship service at a place of worship different from our faith background and I chose to attend a nondenominational charismatic church. That day they had a guest speaker who commanded everyone to speak at tongues at the same time, no order no interpretation just unintelligible noise. This book has helped me see that not all those who believe in the ongoing use of the sign gifts are like that or like the televangelist fakes found on TV.

I think the first four chapters of this book are probably the most useful as there are many points of application that would prove valid and useful for those in the cessationist camp. In those chapters he focuses on the importance of the Spirit’s presence in the believers life, the need to have an earnest desire for the work of the Spirit, and the importance of prayer and fasting in regards to the spiritual gifts. In those chapters he shows reflects in his writing the biblical balance between appropriate use of means and an understanding of God’s sovereignty. I did find his chapter on deliverance a help review of an area that seems to be largely neglected in Baptist circles.

The greatest issue I have with this book is the fact that Sam Storms seeks to differentiate between prophecy in the Old and New Testament, having one serve as authoritative while the other it seems to be is more subjective. I do not see anywhere in the New Testament where this distinction is made or where it is so subjective.

The most important thing this book has one for me is to help me understand those coming from a charismatic background better.

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.

Review of This Is Our Time

 

In This Is Our Time author Trevin Wax identifies and explores some of the pervasive false beliefs shaping our culture, and in many ways shaping evangelicals. Wax in this work displays an adeptness for understanding the pervading views and values of our culture.

As Trevin Wax notes in his introduction this book is really divided into two main sections. In the first half of the book he examines the habits that shape our life, and in doing so really explores where and how the false beliefs of our culture are so easily transmitted. In the first chapter he addresses the habits surrounding our usage of smart phones and social media. Chapter two addresses the influence that Hollywood and popular entertainment have and how one can see either a reflection of what society is in entertainment or the vision the maker has for society’s future. The third chapter addresses the idea that happiness has become the ultimate good for many in society. The fourth chapter addresses society’s attempt to find happiness through materialism.

In the section in which the focus shifts to the larger myths of society the problem of feeling to at home in society. Trevin helpfully points to the importance of the needed tension of being in but not of. The next two areas of focus are marriage and sexuality. The final chapter addresses the false beliefs surrounding progress and the equally problematic view that the former times were better.

If you’re looking for book to aid you in exegeting culture than I would recommend this book for you. I do believe that Trevin Wax’s time in Romania has helped him understand American society and culture in a way that is not possible if one has not stepped outside of it. As the saying goes if you want to know what water is like don’t ask the fish, and I think to truly understand any culture one must be able to see it from both an inside and outside perspective, something I think Trevin does in this work.

Disclosure: I received an advanced 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.

 

 

Review of The Life of the Church

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Don’t let size fool you The Life of the Church by Joe Thorn has a depth and practicality to it that will be appreciated by any pastor or church leader. In this book Thorn has addressed three areas of the church’s life in a way that I thought was truly helpful for me as a pastor.

The table represents the community aspect of the church, that believers are in community with another. As Thorn also points out that community is better carried out where believers can gather together in smaller numbers than usually happens on Sunday. Even in smaller churches one can see the need for a greater sense of community than can be found in the typical worship service.

The pulpit represents the worshiping church, being shaped by the Word which has its central place in the life of the the church. His recommendations on preparing for worship are particularly practical.

In addressing the square Thorn helpfully reminds us that the church’s time together in smaller groups and in worship are not an end in themselves, the church is called to be present in the public square. Thorn’s encouragement to believers in regards to having gospel conversations is particularly helpful given the penchant for formulaic evangelism in contemporary evangelicalism. He reminds of the importance of hearing and understanding as opposed to lecturing to people.

I know we’re fairly into the year but I believe that this book and the series it is a part of may prove to be some of the most useful ministry resources published this year.

Disclosure: I received an advanced 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.