Puritans and Pastoring: Who were they and why study them?

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I have recorded the first episode of my new podcast Puritans and Pastoring. This first episode provides a brief look at who they were and why we should study them. Listen and let me know what topics you would like to hear about in future episodes.

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Graciousness: A Review

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love Book Cover

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love by John Crotts

This book addresses one of the most important characteristics in the life of the believer and the local church, graciousness. One doesn’t need to look far to see that there is a great imbalance among Christian in regards to grace and truth. This book helps demonstrate the great importance God places on graciousness and calls the reader cultivate that quality.

This book begins with addressing the importance of graciousness in that it is essential to being a loving person. The author the provides a practical understanding of graciousness and its value in the believers life. Following that Crotts points to the examples of graciousness found in Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul. In the fifth chapter we see the danger faced by ungracious churches as evidenced by the church in Ephesus and the warning given to it in Revelation. The final chapters of the book address provide practical ways of cultivating and practicing graciousness internally, individually, and corporately.

It’s my firm belief that the key cause of decline in local churches in America isn’t owing to the changes in our surrounding culture, it is owing to a loss of graciousness at both the level of the individual and the level of the local church. As Crotts points out the church in Ephesus was the supreme example of a church who was active and doctrinally correct but unloving. I heartily commend this book to all 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.

Building the Body: A Review

Building the Body by Gary McIntosh and Phil Stevenson

This book had  a lot of potential but falls short because of wrong prioritization in the church. The authors intended goal is to guide churches to greater levels of fitness as a church body.

The first section addresses the evangelistic fitness of the church. The second, member engagement  in the ministry of the church. The third, the worship and leadership of the church. The fourth section focuses on love, church systems, and prayer. With the final section giving practical ways to measure progress in the different areas addressed.

I would argue that chapters 10 and 12 should have been placed up front and that they should have been prioritized as a greater marker of the fitness of a church than flexibility.  In fact these two loving community are not just markers of fitness but they are markers of whether a church is indeed a biblical church. If a church is not a loving community it is not in any sense healthy or a biblical church. If a church lacks divine empowerment it may be many things but it is not a healthy church, if it is a church at all. This book would have been much better if it had not placed numbers as the greatest metric of a church’s fitness level.

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.

 

Theology, Church and Ministry: A Review

Theology, Church, and Ministry: A Handbook for Theological Education edited by David Dockery

In the past I have reviewed books directed at pointing pastors back to the importance of theology for pastoral ministry viewing the local church as primary sphere for theology. In this book edited by Dr. David Dockery the various contributors a resource that points to how theological education can be done in service to the church.

The first section of this book consisting of five chapters from five contributors provides an introduction to the basis and purpose of theological education in regards to preparation for ministry.  Michael Duduit’s chapter on theological education and ministry calling provides helpful insight into some recent trends in theological education as well as a reminder of the primacy of calling.

The second section addresses the content of theological education with chapters from experts in each area of theology. The authors of these chapters make clear there is no shortcut to theological education. I think the two most important chapters are on the two on biblical languages. Kenneth Matthews helps show the importance of the original languages of the Old Testament and the the value they have for ministry especially as pastors spiritual life is deepened in his reading the original Hebrew. Constantine Campbell’s chapter is equally helpful in regards to the importance and value of Greek.

The third and final section shows the importance of theological education for the ministry of the church from the work of the pastor to missions and its significance for the global church. Lawless’s chapter on theology, evangelism, and mission is significant for his attention to both the local church especially as in regards to preparing students to lead and equip congregations for evangelism in the future. I think the most important contribution in the whole volume is the chapter written by Dr. Daniel Akin, his axioms should in my opinion govern the actions and plans of all of our SBC seminaries.

We live in a time where two things have happened and continue to happen. One is the continuing lowering of commitment to theology among pastors, many pastors could care less about theology and this is wrong. The second is many in academia see theology as an engagement done for those in academia with no attention to the local church. This book is a helpful corrective in both areas. I hope that every faculty member of every SBC seminary gets this book and reads it. I would commend this book to those beginning their theological education as it will help show the value and importance of the task of theological preparation. Pastors who might have neglected their studies might be stirred from that neglect through this book.

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.

8 Hours or Less: A Review

8 Hours or Less: Writing faithful sermons faster by [Huguley, Ryan]

8 Hours or Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster by Ryan Huguley

In this book Ryan Huguley puts forward steps he thinks will cut down time studying and preparing for sermons. In his introduction he draws from his experience of being one who loved preaching but hated preparation, something that I cannot in any way relate to. I enjoy sermon preparation I agree with many who say there is both an art and science to preaching. That being said I don’t think the problem most pastors face is that they are spending too much time in the study, given the weak and anemic condition of the pulpit in America it seems pastors are not spending enough time wrestling with the text and in prayer.

Hugley’s steps are based on his idea of five days of preparation and the preaching of the sermon itself. Day one is developing the outline, day two finalizing the outline with the help of a group,  day three write the introduction, day four write the conclusion, an day five complete the preaching notes. With the sermon preached on Sunday. While I appreciate his logical order of sermon preparation, I do take issue with the idea of faster being better. John Macarthur has said many times deep is better than shallow and slow is better than fast, and I believe that to be true for pastors in the and out of the pulpit.

This book and its advice might work for some pastors. But in preaching and preparation there can be no hard and fast rules for how long a pastor should prepare as each pastor is different in how they prepare and process the content of their sermon. I think many pastors, if they follow this book strictly, will go a great disservice to their preaching ministry. There are some good aspects to the  book, but overall I think there is a lack of balance in the emphasis on speed.

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.

Preaching as Reminding: A Review

Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by [Arthurs, Jeffrey D.]

Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by Jeffrey D. Arthurs

While there are many good books written on the subject of preaching of them are rather unremarkable and fail to leave a lasting impression. Preaching as Reminding is both a good book and a remarkable one and I believe will leave a lasting impression on the preaching ministry of those who read it.

The basic premise of the book is that one of the primary roles of the preacher is that of remembrancer a title derived from Lancelot Andrewes sermon “Remember Lot’s wife.” As Arthurs notes in his introduction the role of stirring memory through preaching receives little attention although there many examples of that very role in Scripture. Arthurs states, “Ministers must serves as the Lord’s remembrancers because things learned can be buried, lost, amputated, or corrupted (p. 6).” In the first three chapters of the book Arthurs fleshes out a biblical theology of memory. In chapters one and two the importance and meaning of God remembering is developed. In the second our forgetfulness and the way to remember are addressed. In the third chapter Arthurs begins to address the role of preaching in stirring memory. Andrews makes the statement, “In a sense, all biblical preaching is in the context of a worship service is an act of reminding (pp. 48-49).” Andrews proceeds to argue the importance of memory in stirring the affection. In the closing chapters Arthurs draws out the implications of the importance of memory in the areas of style, the use of story, delivery, and ceremony and symbol in the context of preaching and worship.

I think Arthurs makes a sound case for the importance of stirring memory in the preaching of the word. His chapters on style on delivery have been truly helpful to me in thinking through and evaluating my preaching ministry. I would commend this book to all those called to be preachers called to be the Lord’s remembrancers.

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.

Portraits of a Pastor -A Review

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Portraits of A Pastor: The 9 Essential Roles of a Church Leader

While there are many books on pastoral ministry most focus in on one aspect or roll of the pastor. Jason Allen has brought together a group of contributors to to give a well rounded understanding of pastoral ministry.

This book addresses the pastor in his role as shepherd, husband & father, preacher, theologian, church historian,  evangelist, missionary, leader, and man of God. The contributors all derive their understanding of the roles of the pastor from the instruction and examples found throughout the pages of Scripture.

In my opinion the three most significant chapters in this book are Strachan’s chapter on the pastor as a theologian, George’s on the pastor as a church historian, and Whitney’s on the pastor as man of God. These chapters help address and correct current problems in the understanding of the role of the pastor. Many pastors are theologically anemic an suffer from ecclesial amnesia, they have neglected life giving sound doctrine and are ignorant of the great cloud of witnesses that have come before. Whitney’s chapter is the most important because if a pastor takes to heart what it means to be a man of God  all the other roles found in this book will most likely come into practice in the pastor’s ministry.

I would recommend this book to any pastor I know and would encourage church members to get this book for their pastor.

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 Encountering God Through Expository Preaching

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Encountering God through Expository Preaching by Jim Scott Orrick, Brian Payne, and Ryan Fullerton is a masterful treatment on the issue of expository preaching. While many books have been written on the subject of preaching in general and expository preaching in particular, in the church there is still a continued drift away from giving expository preaching its proper place in the life of the local church. As noted in the introduction expository preaching is central and indispensable to true worship.

This book is divided into three main sections. The first section addresses the character and life of the man called to preach God’s word, proper Scripture interpretation, the benefits of exposition and the value of topical messages when done in a biblical manner. The final three chapters of the first section cover the role of the Spirit in the sermon and preaching, these chapters elevate the overall contribution this book makes to the vast collection of books on preaching as far too often attention is paid to the mechanics of preaching at the expense of attention to the necessity of God’s work in preaching.  The second section addresses delivery, Scripture reading, and understanding the structure and genre of biblical texts. The final section covers the use of manuscripts, outlines, and preaching without notes.

This book  highlight the intended purpose of preaching as a means of encountering God through his word as it is faithfully expounded. I would highly recommend this book to any pastor.

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 Progress in the Pulpit

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Progress in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix have written a resources that belongs on every preacher’s reading list. As one who benefited from their previous work Power in the Pulpit during my college years I was excited to see this work come to print.

This book is comprised of four main sections. The first section defines the task of preaching and the factors that shape it in and out of the pulpit with attention given to the cultivation of godliness, developing a preaching plan, and discipleship in and out of the pulpit. The second section addresses development of the sermon covering issues such as Bible translation, sermon points, word studies, and most importantly how to preach Christ-centered sermons. The third and final section addresses issues regarding delivery such as clarity of communication, giving an invitation, evaluating preaching, and teaching about preaching.

One of the most important chapters in this book is chapter 4 in which Jim Shaddix addresses the relationship between personal discipleship and pulpit discipleship. As Shaddix notes in his introduction to the chapter there is an assumed division between the pulpit and discipleship which in my opinion has probably contributed greatly to unhealthy churches. The last chapter was also particularly helpful in explaining the importance of teaching people the importance of preaching and how preaching is itself and act of worship.

Whether you’ve been in the pulpit for weeks or for years there is something in this book that will help you make progress in the pulpit.

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.