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 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 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 Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb

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The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel is a much-needed book. One doesn’t have to look to far to see how many have fallen in their chase after fame in evangelical circles.

There is a subtle line in ministry between a desire to have a wide reach for the sake of making the gospel known and having a wide reach so that we are known. In this work wisdom and insight is drawn from J.I. Packer, Dallas Willard, Marva Dawn, John Perkins, Jean Vanier, James Houston, and Eugene Peterson. In a day and age where evangelical leaders are more concerned in building personal platforms based on their personalities the authors and those they draw from provide a helpful corrective.

The first part of this book in which the authors interact with J.I. Packer, Marva Dawn, and John Perkins provides a helpful contrast between a worldly pursuit of power and God’s power demonstrated in human weakness and love. The second section of the book helps the reader understand how to embrace way of Christ in ministry. In a church culture that entices pastors to fixate on platforms and popularity this serves as a powerful corrective.

The most important chapter in this book in my opinion is the seventh chapter as it fully explores the terrible reality that many churches and leaders have adopted the posturing of the dragon as seen in revelation as opposed to way of ministry that is faithful to Christ. Small church pastors might think themselves immune to the temptations for power that are evident in many mega church personalities, but the truth is the temptation to build a ministry that elevates self is found in churches of all shapes and sizes. This book should be required reading for anyone in ministry.

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: After 50 Years of Ministry

After 50 Years of Ministry  by Bob Russell is helpful resource drawing from a wealth of pastoral experience. In a day when it seems so many pastors are stumbling and spotlight Bob Russell and the example of his ministry is a refreshing exception.

This book is born out of a reflection upon 50 years of pastoral ministry. Bob Russell in addressing the things he would do differently hits upon important challenges those in ministry face. I would highly commend his chapter on watching less TV to other pastors. It seems that many pastors in my generation want to argue for the liberty they have to watch programs like Game of Thrones, Bob Russell provides a compelling argument why we should not allow that and other content like it to fill our minds and homes. In  addressing the things he would do the same he draws out principals which demonstrate the roots of his pastoral longevity and effectiveness.

Nothing Bob Russell addresses in this book is unique to the reality of ministry in a megachurch. If you’re a pastor of a normative sized church, that is under 200, this book has pastoral wisdom for you. If you pastor a megachurch this is a book for you as well. While I have never sat under his preaching during my time in Louisville I could see the difference Southeast Christian and the ministry of Bob Russell made in the city. Our communities and churches would be blessed greatly by pastors who took seriously the things said in this book.

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: Becoming a Pastor Theologian

The past two years have brought with them a call to  returning to the historic precedent of the pastor as a theologian. Editors of Becoming a Pastor Theologian, Todd Wilson and Gerald Hiestand,   also released The Pastor Theologian last year which was reviewed here as well. The essays contained in this work are the product of The Center for Pastor Theologians first annual conference which met last year.

The first section of this work has a broad focus on the identities of the pastor theologian, many of which are complimentary and overlapping. Rightly the first identity addressed is that of the pastor theologian as biblical theologian. Leithart demonstrates the importance of being rooted in the Scriptures and provides three horizons for the pastor theologian in biblical theology those being the hermeneutical,   homiletical, and  liturgical. Also of note ,and this is illustrative of the movement of those seeking a resurgence of the role of the pastor-theologian, is the practicality of it all in that pastor-theologians are called to be generalists in human suffering and specialists in death. James K.A. Smith draws on Augustine of what it means for a pastor theologian to be a political theologian, Smith’s understanding of this is a helpful correction to many pastors in his addressing the need for political theologies to shape habit and desire. Vanhoozer’s essay draws on his previous work in focusing on the role of the pastor as public theologian. Hiestand’s chapter draws on the previous title he and Wilson published in calling for the pastor as an ecclesial theologian who does theology not just with the church or the larger public in mind but as with the intention of interacting with other theologians. Wilson’s chapter should be recommended reading for every pastor and every seminary student. I believe there is no greater need for the Church today than for the pastors of churches to cruciform theologians.

The second section of this work draws in historical examples of the pastor theologian. First with Manetch’s work on Calvin. It is easy to forget that Calvin was no ivory tower intellectual, he was one who did his theology in the midst of and for the church. I think most of us will benefit from Philip Graham Ryken’s treatment of Thomas Boston. Boston was an ordinary pastor in a small church, his theological contributions arose from his pastoral ministry. Castaldo highlights the importance of mentoring by drawing from the example of John Henry Newman. A final look is given to Bonhoeffer and his role as a case study of the ecclesial theologian.

The final section addresses the pastor theologian and the Bible and there are three chapters in this section that stand out. Jason Nicholls provides an important look at the pastoral epistles and draws five mandates for the pastor theologian from them. Eric Redmond focuses on the pastor theologian as giver of wisdom, something greatly needed in the realm of theology and the absence of which he clearly highlights. The final chapter looks at John the apostle and what can be learned from his second epistle in regards to creativity in writing theology.

This is a rich resource which compliments previous works in regard to the pastor as theologian. In a  day and age when pastors are encouraged to sell there birthright as theologians for a bowl of pragmatism this book is sorely needed. If you’re a pastor you might fear that expressing a greater interest in theology is impractical, the contributors of this volume prove the contrary that theology essential to the vitality of your ministry. Get this book and read it. I plan on interacting further with several of the chapters further on this blog at a later point in time.

I thank InterVarsity Press for sending me this book and hope it reaches a wide audience.

Ten Book Recommendations for Pastor Appreciation 2016

Last year I posted a list of recommended books for Pastor Appreciation Month. Every pastor worth anything reads books, has books, and will be blessed by books. When you buy your pastor a good book for pastor appreciation month you bless him and yourself by deepening and broadening his ministry. Below are my ten recommendations.

  1. The Christian MinistryThe Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges.

2. The Imperfect Pastor by Zach Eswine.

3. The Pastor’s Book by R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O,Donnell.

4. The Passionate Preaching of Martyn-Lloyd-Jones by Steven J. Lawson

5. Family Worship by Donald Whitney.

6. John Knox by Jane Dawson.

7. The Pastor as Public Theologian by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan

8. Living by Revealed Truth by Tom Nettles.

9. On Pastoring by H.B. Charles Jr.

10. Holiness by J.C. Ryle

Bonus: Pastor’s should have recreational reading. One author I would recommend is Cormac McCarthy. No County for Old Men is an engaging novel.

Extra bonus: Ok let’s say your pastor has all these books or you’re not sure what books he has and don’t want to risk buying a book he already owns. Get him this documentary on David Brainerd.

The Life of David Brainerd: A Documentary, DVD   -

Review: On Pastoring

Following up his last book On Preaching, which I have reviewed here, H.B. Charles Jr. has written On Pastoring which would has proven to be a wonderful resource for pastors. What H.B. Charles Jr. recounts of his entrance into the pastorate makes him a voice worthy of listening to. He began preaching under the tutelage of his father, and became the man who succeeded his father at the age of 17 as pastor following his father’s death. Any man who can pastor well, earn the respect of the people, and stay for a significant period of time in the church his father pastored for over forty years should be heard.

H.B. Charles Jr. walks the reader through crucial issues of pastoral ministry for today. Where God would have us serve, how to discern whether to stay or go. He reminds the reader that we’re players and that God is the coach, and we should be happy to play/serve wherever God would have us. Some of the material in the third section is paralleled in his book On Preaching.  His third section addresses the tip of the iceberg the pastor’s public ministry from planning the worship service to making meetings count as ministry.

So many works directed towards pastors today are largely pragmatic and programmatic which is altogether problematic. This book focuses on being and doing what God has called us to do and trusting Him for the results. Who we are matters more to God and in the long run of our ministry than the crowds we draw and the programs we implement, any doubt of that can be seen in the number of pastors who have neglected being who God has called them to be and destroyed the ministry God had entrusted to them.

If you’re a pastor read this book. If you want to bless your pastor get him this book, no better time to do it than now because it’s Pastor Appreciation month.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

 

Church in Hard Places (A Review)

There’s a sad reality that there are few solid resources that help inform and instruct in ministering poverty stricken areas. Mez McConnell and Mike McKinley have helped fill that need in Church in Hard Places: How the Local Church Brings Life to the Poor and Needy.

Mez and Mike challenge many of the prevailing notions surrounding ministry to the poor. It’s often assumed that the poor don’t need to be bogged down with things like doctrine. Some often see the church as being more of a hindrance in ministering to the poor, often favoring  the ministry of parachurch ministries over those of the church. The authors demonstrate that in jettisoning doctrine in ministering to the poor a disservice is being done. They demonstrate from their ministry experience that when ministry to the poor occurs in and through the local church that real transformation occurs, as this is a ministry the church cannot delegate to an outside organization.

Much of what the authors point out seems so counter-intuitive. It’s easy to think that the before one can minister to those affected by poverty their material needs must be the first priority. This however isn’t the greatest need on anyone rich or poor the greatest need is a need that can only be met with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for this book because it addresses a ministry context often ignored. Many of the areas in need of gospel-centered ministry are hard places. I’ve personally been challenged by this book and hope other pastors and church planters will take up the challenge presented by this book.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (A Review)

 

There are several biographies available on the Doctor, The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Steven J. Lawson stands apart in its laser focus on his preaching ministry. Lawson in the work demonstrates clearly that Lloyd-Jones stands as a much-needed model of expositional ministry for our days.

Lawson begins the book with a summary overview of Lloyd-Jones’s life and ministry. In his second chapter he addresses Lloyd-Jones’s call to the preaching ministry and the self-understanding the Doctor had of the preaching ministry. The third chapter addresses the importance of Lloyd-Jones’s emphasis upon biblical authority in light of the spiritual and theological decline which was characteristic of the church in Lloyd-Jones day. Lloyd-Jones did not merely verbally assent to the authority of Scripture but as Lawson demonstrates lived a life reflective of that commitment. Chapters four and five delve into the nature of his preaching and his preparation. Chapters six and seven address the God-focused nature of his preaching and the commitment to sound doctrine which framed his preaching ministry. Chapter eight addresses how his understanding of the doctrines of grace shaped his preaching ministry. The final chapter in my opinion focuses on an important emphasis upon the work of the Spirit in preaching. Lloyd-Jones had an understanding of divine unction which is often neglected in works on preaching.

Lawson’s work in focusing on the preaching ministry of the doctor is commendable. Lawson does a wonderful job of distilling from various sources the things that set Lloyd-Jones apart as a model preacher. In light of the decline of preaching in America this work could not be more timely. Lawson demonstrates areas where preachers would do well in imitating the Doctor.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html