Becoming a Welcoming Church : A Review

Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom Rainer

This latest title by Thom Rainer addresses the importance of the church being a welcoming place for new guests. What stands out is that as true in many areas of life common sense is not that common. Rainer draws from his experience in consulting churches to provide basic guidelines in regards to becoming a welcoming church. If you’ve followed Rainer’s blog over the year there really isn’t anything new or unheard of in this book but it is still a useful resource nonetheless.

In six chapters Rainer walks the reader from self-examination regarding whether the local church is as welcoming as we think it is, to seeing how outsiders experience church, to practical steps that help in being a truly welcoming church. What Rainer points to isn’t a seeker-sensitive understanding of the church, he’s pointing readers to simple things like clear communication and cleanliness.

As I said if you’ve followed Rainer for any amount of time you’ve probably seen much of this information in some form on his blog. While my church does practice most of the things he points to as being important for a welcoming church this book has given me some things to think about. This is especially true in regards to the meet and greet time, I think it’s too easy to forget what those times are like for someone who is a first time guest and the danger of coming across as disinterested in them or desperate for them to stick around neither of which are good. Over all I think this is a good resource for pastors and for church leaders especially those who might not get on the internet.

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.

 

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Not God Enough: A Review

Not God Enough by J.D. Greear

J.D. Greear in this book addresses a problem all to common among professing Christians, a small view of God. In this book Greear directly challenges the small view of God held by many with the biblical view of God in all his majesty.

In two parts comprised of seventeen short chapters Greear explores the biblical attributes and character of God. Greear points to his own challenges in his journey of understanding God in all His greatness and bigness in such a way that moved him to bold faith. Greear does a great job in pointing out the importance of a right view of God for the life of the believer.

While many seem to think theology is unimportant this book helps show how wrong that understanding is. The most important thing we can know about someone is what they believe about God. Greear rightly points that the Bible does not allow for the small or personalized God many people claim to have, instead he puts to a God who is awesome in every way. I highly recommend this book, get it, read it, and give it as a gift you won’t regret it.

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.

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Review

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith by Gregg R. Allison

This latest title by SBTS theology professor Dr. Gregg Allison is a true gift to all pastors and teachers in the local church. Many pastors strugggle knowing they should teach their people the major doctrines of the Bible but lack a suitable plan or outline to do so. In this book Allison has provided a must have resource that will enable pastors to lay a foundation of theological soundness in the lives of their people.

In eight sections comprised of 50 chapters Allison walks through all the most important doctrines beginning with the doctrine of God and going all the way to eschatology. Each chapter provides a general overview of the doctrine in question, a general guide to teaching the doctrine, and a teaching outline with a list of recommended resources.

This might be one the most helpful resources for pastors published this year. My recommendation would be to get it and use it to teach your church or a class in your 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.

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: A Review

The Prayer That Turns The World Upside Down by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

This latest title from Dr. Mohler on the Lord’s prayer is one of his best books to date. The material behind this book grew out of a series of chapel messages that Dr. Mohler delivered when I was a student at SBTS. He later adapted that material into a teaching series for Ligonier Ministries. Now his insight into the Lord’s prayer has been turned into a book that I am certain all readers will profit from.

In th first chapter of this book Dr. Mohler addresses the nature of prayer and how prayer serves as an accurate reflection of what we really believe about God. Mohler makes very clear what prayer is not setting aside subbiblical and unbiblical understandings of prayer. The second chapter addresses Jesus’s preliminary teaching on prayer with a focus on the absolute necessity of prayer in the believer’s life. In the following chapters Mohler addresses each part of the Lord’s prayer showing how each petition should shape our prayer life.

While there are many books on prayer out there many of them depart from Scripture as the basis for understanding prayer. Dr. Mohler’s book is a throughly biblical resource that I highly commend.

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.

Puritans and Pastoring Episode 3: A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine

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In the latest episode of Puritans and Pastoring I look at A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine a work exemplary of Puritan evangelism. Alleine like many of the luminaries of the Christian church passed away at an extremely early age dying at the age of 34, though dead his work still speaks today.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Eats With Sinners: A Review

Eats with Sinners by Arron Chambers

Arron Chambers in this book, that arose from a sermon series that made a great impact on the church he pastors, draws on the example of Christ in the gospels in pointing readers in how to practically engage the lost.

In this book Chambers draws out thirteen characteristics that marked Jesus and his outreach to sinners. In his chapter on urgency Chambers makes the argument that the church in America largely lacks a sense of urgency to reach out to the lost, whereas Jesus instilled a sense of urgency in his disciples in pointing out the harvest is ready. This also ties into his last chapter on vision, too often we don’t see or care to see the lost around us which in turn kills our sense of urgency.

More than a book on evangelism and outreach this book gives us a reminder of what Christ’s character was like in his earthly ministry. I think far too often our evangelism is stifled by the simple fact that we are not striving to be like the one who saved us by His grace. This book has far greater implications than simply evangelism as it touches upon qualities that are essential for us to be fruitful 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.

Top 10 books of 2017

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I have read over 60 books this year and reviewed 58 books and of the new books that have been published in this past year this is my top ten list. Being a pastor a lot of my reading is in the direction of pastoral ministry and preaching. Last year’s list of top books can be found here.

  1. Revitalize by Andy Davis
  2. Walking through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis
  3. Church series: Life of the Church, Heart of the Church, Character of the Church by Joe Thorn
  4. Preaching in the New Testament by Jonathan Griffiths
  5. Preaching as Reminding by Jeffrey D. Arthurs
  6. Portraits of a Pastor edited by Jason Allen
  7. Pray about Everything by Paul Tautges
  8. Pastoral Theology by Daniel Akin and R. Scott Pace
  9. Progress in the Pulpit by Jim Shaddix and Jerry Vines
  10. Encountering God Through Expository Preaching by Ryan Fullerton, Jim Scott Orick, and Brian Payne