Review of The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb

_225_350_book-2132-cover

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

On Preaching

H.B. Charles, Jr. has provided a short and helpful resource for preachers in his book On PreachingCharles from the very beginning of the book demonstrates his understanding of the vital importance of preaching for pastoral ministry.

Charles addresses three main areas surrounding preaching preparation for preaching, the practice of preaching, and general points of wisdom for preaching. Charles in addressing the need for preparation recommends that if one is able to get theological training at seminary they should, while also emphasizing that whether one attends formal schooling or not one should still be a student. He also addresses a bias towards candidates with a master’s degree in churches. This is a needed word for the church and for pastors. I know men who have graduated with a M.Div. and have departed the faith while on the other hand I know men who have never completed college who are faithfully serving the Lord in pastoral ministry. His focus on preparation focuses on preparing a preaching calendar, studying the text, and praying before preaching.

In his advice on preaching itself he recommends writing out a full manuscript before for clarity of communication and becoming familiar with the material in such a way that neither a manuscript or notes are needed. The overall focus of the final section is becoming comfortable with being yourself as a preacher and not trying to imitate or steal another preacher’s sermons or style. His last two chapters are probably ones that bear repeated reading as reminds preachers that we are not to seek to be somebody and that the aim of our charge is to be men of God who faithfully and rightly handle the word of God.

I think there is much to commend this book to wide audience of preachers and pastors. Rather than focusing on mechanics the author addresses the heart and soul of preaching ministry. He does not seek to give a one size fits all model of preaching and preparation but provides principals that would be applicable to any pastor of any background.

Disclosure: I received this book free from 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

 

 

Don’t Fire Your Church Members

https://i1.wp.com/images.contentreserve.com/ImageType-400/1922-1/EFC/E80/70/%7BEFCE8070-8CE1-4D5F-8C77-CBAFF0DD742E%7DImg400.jpg

In writing Don’t Fire Your Church Members Jonathan Leeman has provided a needed exploration and defense of biblical congregationalism. From my experience in seminary and in pastoring a local church I have seen a wide range of mistaken concepts of congregationalism, and seen congregationalism rejected in favor of an elder or pastor ruled church structure.

Leeman makes a foundational statement that should truly transform how people look at the local church and their involvement in his introduction. Leeman states, “The church is its members. Membership is an office. And members never step out of that office because they are the church, and because theirs is the work of representing Jesus and projecting his gospel in each other’s lives every day (2).” In the first two chapters of the book Leeman provides what is in essence the biblical theology of congregationalism and the ways that authority is invested in individuals as found in Scripture. Chapters 3 and 4 address the issue of the concept of the keys of the kingdom and how they are entrusted to the local congregation as evidenced in Scripture. Chapter 5 addresses how pastoral authority is invested and balanced in biblical congregationalism Leeman addresses the areas that are entrusted to pastoral leadership, while also acknowledging there are some areas that are not fully clear and would depend upon the church itself such as expenditures. Chapter 6 addresses how autonomous local churches can and should work together demonstrating their interdependence and their common faith, Lord, and mission. The final chapter provides the structures needed for for healthy biblical congregationalism to flourish.

I cannot commend this book enough to those preparing for minister or who are currently serving in ministry. From my experience it seems there is a growing reluctance among pastors of my generation to fully embrace biblical congregationalism. I have heard fellow seminarians argue that when Jesus makes the congregation the final authority for church discipline that Jesus really meant the elders/pastors of the church. Many Baptist churches are in terrible situations because they very truths explored in this book have been ignored by local church leaders. This book has helped me to take more seriously the nature of church membership as an office that requires carrying out certain responsibilities.

Disclosure: I received this book free from 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

Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Holiness Needed

Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s life could be summed up in one phrase, holiness unto the Lord. It is not what he said of holiness or his own view of his attainments that sets him as a model of holiness but what others have said of him. His friend and biographer said:

I was often reproved by his unabated attention to personal holiness; for this care was never absent from his mind, whether he was at home in his quiet chamber, or on the sea, or in the desert. Holiness in him was manifested, not by efforts to perform duty, but in a way so natural, that you recognized therein the easy outflowing of the indwelling Spirit (Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, p. 94).

Holiness in the Christian, if it is real will evidence its reality in a natural way, as the glory of the Lord was naturally reflected in Moses. If we are walking with God others will know. If we are not walking in fellowship with God, this too will be known.

Holiness is not like a coat which we can put on and off when ever we like. M’Cheyne’s usefulness is owed to his consistency in holiness. True holiness will be lived out daily. Bonar again points to this reality in M’Cheyne:

There was still another means of enforcing what he preached, in the use of which he excelled all his brethren, namely, the holy consistency of his daily walk. Aware that one idle word, one needless contention, one covetous act, may destroy in our people the effect of many a solemn expostulation and earnest warning, he was peculiarly circumspect is his every day walk. He wished to always be in the presence of God ( Bonar, pp. 73-74)

M’Cheyne said at the ordination of his childhood friend P.L Miller:

But oh, study universal holiness of life! Your whole usefulness depends on this. Your sermon on Sabbath lasts but an hour our two, -your life preaches all the week…Dear brother, cast yourself at the feet of Christ, implore His Spirit to make you a holy man. Take heed to thyself, and to they doctrine (Bonar, pp. 406-407).

Brothers our lives, the souls of those we minister to are dependent upon our personal holiness. I close with M’Cheyne’s reminder:

Remember you are God’s sword, His instrument-I trust, a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.(Bonar, 282).