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 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.

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: Resolving Conflict

Last year was a year that brought many great resources in the field of biblical counseling. One that I was excited  to receive and have been greatly helped by is Resolving Conflict by Lou Priolo.

Lou Priolo’s introduction itself provides as a helpful corrective to current attitudes surrounding conflict. In my experience as a pastor I have seen what Priolo addresses in regards to viewing all conflict as inherently negative. This attitude leads to an unhealthy conflict avoidance which almost always makes problems worse. Rather than be avoided conflicts should be resolved in a biblical manner.

Priolo’s first section addresses the key characteristics that should exist for conflicts to be resolved in a biblical manner those being; humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance. With that foundation laid Priolo looks at the biblical understanding of conflict. He addresses types of conflicts that can occur, the importance of communicating. Priolo examines the unbiblical ways we often handle conflict both in how we internally and externally respond. Priolo makes clear that biblical conflict resolution is hard work which is why it calls for diligence.

If you are a living breathing person you have had to deal with conflict in your life. Much as we try to avoid conflict it still happens. The question is not if conflict will occur at home, work, or in the church the question is how will it be handled. Priolo’s work provides a resource that gets to the heart of how to address conflict in a biblical manner with a desire for unity and peace.

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.