Review of Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention

In Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention Jarvis Williams and Kevin Jones have gathered voices from across the SBC to speak to a vital issue in Baptist life. Anyone familiar with the history of the convention knows that the SBC came to existence because of a disagreement with northern Baptists over the appointment of slaveholders as missionaries. As a Southern Baptist I readily acknowledge that the Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of the issue, slaveholders should not have been permitted to serve as missionaries, in fact were the churches in step with the New Testament ethic it would have condemned the slavery practiced in their midst.

In the first two chapters of this book Albert Mohler and Matt Hall address the root and historical causes of racism in the convention. Jarvis Williams draws on biblical steps toward remedying racism. Walter Strickland addresses the theological nature of racism. Craig Mitchell addresses the issue in light of Christian ethics. Kevin Smith’s chapter which stands out addresses the importance of the pulpit and the pastor’s personal example in addressing racism. The closing chapters of the book address steps needed to address racism in the more institutional aspects of Baptist life with attention given to the progress that has been made in Baptist life.

You might ask why this book is needed. I would point to that fact that I know pastors who have in their ministry had to push back against racism in the local church. One particular pastor at one point in his ministry had deacons who wanted a bylaws revision that would require the dismissal of a worship service should an African-American show up. I’ve had members of my own church admit to the fact that the world they group up in was blatantly racist. We can also look at our present, I pastor a church in an area that is half white and half black but my church isn’t. I am absolutely convinced that the ongoing segregated nature of Sunday morning worship speaks volumes about the fact that work is needed in this area. I hope many pastors will pick this book up and take the work of racial reconciliation seriously.

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 Jefferson’s America

Jefferson’s America by Julie Fenster tells the story of a pivotal and defining period of American history. This book looks at the influence of explorers whose exploits set the course for America’s westward expansion following the Louisiana purchase.

While most are familiar with the expedition of Lewis and Clark Fenster helps readers become more familiar with other important explorers and heroes of early America who oftentimes do not receive the attention they are due.

This book sheds light on both the politics and the adventure during Jefferson’s time as president. It is an exciting, well written, and well researched work. I enjoyed reading it and know others will too.

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 Word Centered Church

Word Centered Church a revised edition of Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman demonstrates the vital role the Bible should and must have in the life a local church. Given the fact that by and large the Bible does not have a central place in the life of many local churches this is a timely book.

This book is composed of three main sections. The first section addresses the ways in which God’s word functions. The second section addresses the role of the sermon which is to come from the Word. The final section addresses the word’s place in the life of the local church. Churches are to sing the word, pray the word, disciple with the word, and spread the word through personal evangelism.

While many pastors I know might agree with the centrality of the word in preaching I think the attention that Leeman gives to singing and praying the word are helpful correctives given the current conditions in many churches. Many leaders in the church would be greatly helped if they considered the importance of affirming the word of God in what is sung by the congregation. Leeman also addresses a clear problem in the prayer life of local churches in how divorced it is from biblical example and precept. In many church prayer meetings one would be hard pressed to hear the reverberation of God’s word in the prayers made.

Whether pastor or layman this book will prove to be helpful in thinking through the central place the Bible should and must have in the local church if we are to be faithful to God.

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 Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation is a helpful resource that guides readers into allowing the word of God to have its proper place in our lives. Morgan helpfully provides readers a biblical understanding of meditation which is in stark contrast to eastern and  New Age meditation practices that focus on emptying one’s mind. Rather than having an empty head we are to have a head that stores up God’s word to think it through and apply it to our life.

In nine chapters Morgan addresses the importance of biblical meditation and provides practical steps to put this spiritual discipline into practice.  Throughout the book there are quick tips which provide simple ideas that help make biblical meditation something that any reader can easily implement in their day-to-day life. In chapters 2 through 8 Morgan helps readers understand how to think about Scripture as they meditate on it as well as providing techniques that can be used. The final chapter addresses Bible memorization which is really foundational to meditation as one cannot meditate on Scripture that has not be stored in memory.

Given the lack of priority professing Christians place on the Bible Morgan’s book is both timely and valuable. It’s written at a level where most readers will find it accessible and understandable.

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 Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching

In Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching the various contributors have provided an important resource for pastors. Many pastors avoid preaching the Old Testament for the simple fact they don’t know how to preach it.

A large chunk of the Old Testament is narrative, and often when it is preached it is mishandled. Lawrence Turner helps pastors understand the importance of plot in preaching the narrative passages. Paul Kissling likewise focuses in on narrative but with an eye toward preaching on characters. Christopher Wright’s work on preaching the law is particularly helpful in understanding the principles which apply to today. Through each chapter of the book every major genre and the major sections of the Old Testament are addressed with the closing chapters providing guidance in how to deal with difficult texts and how to preach Christ from the Old Testament in such a way that one does not butcher the text.

As a preacher I have to be honest that until I read this book I had not given the Old Testament the attention it deserves in my preaching ministry and had thus robbed my hearers of a balanced diet so to speak. This resource has reminded me of the importance of preaching the Old Testament and has helped me to think through how to actually preach the Old Testament in such a way that is faithful to the text and beneficial to the hearers.

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 Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out

Alvin Reid is a go to author for me when it comes to the issue of evangelism since I first read his earlier title Introduction to Evangelism. If we’re honest it seems we’ve made evangelism so complicated and so frightening that most professing Christians would rather have a root canal than attempt to evangelize someone. Reid’s latest title helps remove some of the fear that holds back many from being faithful witnesses to Christ.

What Reid presents in this book is a common sense approach to evangelism that is often missed in the church. Chapter one addresses the need to focus on the simple message of the gospel. Chapter two  provides a good overview of the biblical gospel message. Chapter three focuses on moving to an more natural evangelism where we converse with people rather than lecturing them. Chapter four shows that the power lies in God and how we as individuals are instrumental in evangelism. Chapters five and six addresses prayer and how to engage in gospel conversation. Chapters eight and nine address the importance of developing the relationships we have with those we are seeking to share the gospel with.

I think this book needs to be read by every Southern Baptist pastor. As it is we are a denomination in decline and that decline is owing to an absence of evangelism and discipleship in local churches. Reid helps us to see evangelism as what it was in the New Testament the regular lifestyle of all believers seeking to be salt and light.

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 Abandoned Faith

In Abandoned Faith authors Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez explore the influences that have led to an increasing number of millennials distancing themselves from biblical Christianity.  I will admit that I’m not sure that lumping a group of people born in a 30 year window together as a generation is entirely helpful. As one who would fall into the age range of millennials  I think it is important to point out that as technology has rapidly progressed those born in the 80’s grew up in very different world that those born in the late 90’s or even in 2000.

Th first part of this book addresses some of the main causes behind the shift away from Christianity. Some of the causes addressed are the lack of parental involvement in shaping children’s faith in the home, increasing exposure to immoral influences such as pornography, and delayed maturity. The second section addresses challenges and forces influencing millennials. Sections three and four provide practical steps for parents to reach out to millennial children and instill a foundation of biblical faithfulness.

I think the authors provide some valuable insights but as with any book addressing such a wide range of individuals whether what is said will depend on the person in question. One thing is certain is that Christian parents and church leaders cannot continue to ignore the fact that many are growing up and failing to develop a biblical understanding of Christianity.

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 Pray about Everything

Pray about Everything is a classic under a new title. This work was previously published by Day One under the title Teach them to Pray.  This is one of the best resources to guide pastors in placing an emphasis upon prayer in the life of the church.

Chapters one and two address the importance of constant regular prayer for regular everyday believers. Chapters 3 through 9 provide reflections on important passages involving prayer. The appendices which is worth the price of the book provide valuable resources to help pastors cultivate prayer in every aspect of the church’s life from the pulpit to small group gatherings.

I would recommend this book to every pastor I know. If we’re honest with ourselves one thing that most churches struggle with is placing a proper emphasis on prayer. As it is many churches have a prayer meeting where prayer, real prayer rarely happens. I firmly believe that the church will never rise above the prayer life of its members and if this is true it would explain much of the decline facing many churches as we seem to have lost focus on our dependence upon God. I hope that other pastors will read this book and be inspired to place a renewed emphasis on prayer in their churches.

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 How to Break Growth Barriers

How to Break Growth Barriers by Carl George and Warren Bird is a book about equipping church members to carry out ministry. Equipping and releasing church members is the key to church growth according to the authors.

This book has been a helpful reminder of many things I learned in Intro to Evangelism and Church Growth. Like that class the authors argue for what could be called a shepherd-equiper model of ministry. This is crucial because if the members are not equipped to do the work of ministry the size of the church and the impact it has will be contingent upon the number of people the pastor is able to personally minister to.

I believe many churches would push back against the recommendations made in this book as many have a mentality that they hire staff to do ministry rather than seeing a need for all members to be involved in ministry. I would recommend this book as I think it provides valuable insight in how to think about the important connection between facilitating ministry on the part of church members and church growth itself.

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

Lloyd-Jones and Pastoring Through Preaching

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones points to the example of peaching in dealing with the personal problems church members face. In pointing to the Puritans as an example of this the Doctor says:

The Puritans are justly famous for their pastoral preaching. They would take up what they called ‘cases of conscience’ and deal with them in their sermons; and as they dealt with the problems they were solving the personal problems of those who were listening to them. That has constantly been my experience. The preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit, applied by the Holy Spirit to the individuals who are listening, has been the means of dealing with personal problems of which I as the preacher knew nothing…1

The Doctor shows us that in this way member care is being done. That the Holy Spirit can and does apply the truth in general to the particular individual through preaching. It is through expositional preaching of the word of God that the church is faithful to the Great Commission command to teach disciples to obey all that Christ has commanded. For all of the commands of Christ are to be found in Scripture.

1Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 37.