Review of Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention

In Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention Jarvis Williams and Kevin Jones have gathered voices from across the SBC to speak to a vital issue in Baptist life. Anyone familiar with the history of the convention knows that the SBC came to existence because of a disagreement with northern Baptists over the appointment of slaveholders as missionaries. As a Southern Baptist I readily acknowledge that the Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of the issue, slaveholders should not have been permitted to serve as missionaries, in fact were the churches in step with the New Testament ethic it would have condemned the slavery practiced in their midst.

In the first two chapters of this book Albert Mohler and Matt Hall address the root and historical causes of racism in the convention. Jarvis Williams draws on biblical steps toward remedying racism. Walter Strickland addresses the theological nature of racism. Craig Mitchell addresses the issue in light of Christian ethics. Kevin Smith’s chapter which stands out addresses the importance of the pulpit and the pastor’s personal example in addressing racism. The closing chapters of the book address steps needed to address racism in the more institutional aspects of Baptist life with attention given to the progress that has been made in Baptist life.

You might ask why this book is needed. I would point to that fact that I know pastors who have in their ministry had to push back against racism in the local church. One particular pastor at one point in his ministry had deacons who wanted a bylaws revision that would require the dismissal of a worship service should an African-American show up. I’ve had members of my own church admit to the fact that the world they group up in was blatantly racist. We can also look at our present, I pastor a church in an area that is half white and half black but my church isn’t. I am absolutely convinced that the ongoing segregated nature of Sunday morning worship speaks volumes about the fact that work is needed in this area. I hope many pastors will pick this book up and take the work of racial reconciliation seriously.

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 Pray about Everything

Pray about Everything is a classic under a new title. This work was previously published by Day One under the title Teach them to Pray.  This is one of the best resources to guide pastors in placing an emphasis upon prayer in the life of the church.

Chapters one and two address the importance of constant regular prayer for regular everyday believers. Chapters 3 through 9 provide reflections on important passages involving prayer. The appendices which is worth the price of the book provide valuable resources to help pastors cultivate prayer in every aspect of the church’s life from the pulpit to small group gatherings.

I would recommend this book to every pastor I know. If we’re honest with ourselves one thing that most churches struggle with is placing a proper emphasis on prayer. As it is many churches have a prayer meeting where prayer, real prayer rarely happens. I firmly believe that the church will never rise above the prayer life of its members and if this is true it would explain much of the decline facing many churches as we seem to have lost focus on our dependence upon God. I hope that other pastors will read this book and be inspired to place a renewed emphasis on prayer in their churches.

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 How to Break Growth Barriers

How to Break Growth Barriers by Carl George and Warren Bird is a book about equipping church members to carry out ministry. Equipping and releasing church members is the key to church growth according to the authors.

This book has been a helpful reminder of many things I learned in Intro to Evangelism and Church Growth. Like that class the authors argue for what could be called a shepherd-equiper model of ministry. This is crucial because if the members are not equipped to do the work of ministry the size of the church and the impact it has will be contingent upon the number of people the pastor is able to personally minister to.

I believe many churches would push back against the recommendations made in this book as many have a mentality that they hire staff to do ministry rather than seeing a need for all members to be involved in ministry. I would recommend this book as I think it provides valuable insight in how to think about the important connection between facilitating ministry on the part of church members and church growth itself.

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 Biblical Doctrine

This book belongs on the shelf or ereader of anyone who has benefited from the preaching and writing ministry of John MacArthur. Biblical Doctrine is a book that truly lives up to its name.

This systematic theology covers all the major categories that would be expected. In every doctrine that is explored and expounded one sees MacArthur’s pastoral heart and eye for application. From the very beginning of this work the importance of doctrine for spiritual growth is emphasized as it says , “Spirituality involves God’s Spirit taking God’s Word and maturing God’s people through the ministry of God’s servant for the spiritual growth of individual believers, which results in the growth of Christ’s body.” The second chapter of the book is in my opinion of the greatest in this work. In this chapter on sees the high view of Scripture that has been the bedrock of MacArthur’s ministry explored and defended.

Whether you agree with MacArthur on every point of doctrine or not you will find this a valuable resource. Each chapter begins with a hymn related to the doctrine addressed and closes with a prayer and recommended resources. The charts found throughout the chapters also add to the usefulness of this work.  I would say if you’re a pastor or student of the Word you can’t go wrong in adding Biblical Doctrine to your library.

Disclosure: I received an 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.

Review of The Resurrection Fact

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The Resurrection Fact edited by John Bombaro and Adam Fransisco, released in time for Easter this year, provides an excellent defense of the resurrection of Christ against some of the more recent challengers.

A wide range of contributors address key objections to the resurrection, for example Mark Pierson provides excellent insight in historical matters surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ. Contrary to many skeptics the best historical evidence does demonstrate that it would be unlikely for Jesus body to have been left for scavengers. He did die and He was buried. Many of the chapters a list of recommended resources to dig deeper. Reading the modern ideas put forward in challenge to the resurrection of Christ it becomes clearly that the alternative explanations such as the swoon theory, mass hallucination, etc. all require a blind faith that ignores the clear historical evidence surrounding Christ.

Overall this book provides a good defense of the resurrection with each contributors demonstrating attention to details. I think this book would be a good one to place in the hands of students today as many will be confronted with objections that parallel those dealt with in this book.

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 Finding Forgiveness

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Finding Forgiveness by author Stanley Gale is a concise and helpful work on the issue of forgiveness. The topic of forgiveness is one of the most important themes in Scripture touching upon the promise of forgiveness in the gospel and extending to our responsibility to forgive others.

In five chapters the author is able to bring much needed clarity to important aspects of forgiveness. In the first chapter addresses the gospel and the joy found in knowing the forgiveness of sin made possible by Christ and his work. In the second chapter the importance of forgiveness in the Christian life is highlighted. Chapter three addresses the actual how of forgiveness addressing how forgiveness is to be practiced in relationships. Chapter four addresses the issue of what makes forgiveness real and genuine. The final chapter addresses the new concept of self-forgiveness.

This book stands out in how the author is able to draw out the principals of forgiveness clearly and concisely while also addressing important misconceptions that have crept into the church. This book would help anyone seeking to understand what biblical forgiveness is.

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 of The Family Life of a Christian Leader

The Family Life of a Christian Leader by Ajith Fernando is a resource that provides a biblical understanding of every aspect family life. While the title may direct it towards Christian leaders, it should be beneficial for any Christian whether they view themselves as a leader or not.

Fernando begins with the foundational truths of family life as they are built on the reality of God. He reminds that family is not a human institution but one divinely ordained. This truth and the fact that God desires to uphold our families is a good incentive to prayer. In the second chapter points to the importance of dying to self in our family relationships. Chapter three provides a biblical understanding of the love we are to have in our families, not the love of the world which is self-serving but the others-focused love which the New Testament calls us to. Chapters four and five focus in on the nature of marriage and the marriage bed. He moves on to address the fact that there is both joy in the family as well as pain and disappointment in the family. The importance of unity and the how to handle conflict in a way that promotes unity is explored. The closing chapters of the book address children in the life of the family.

There are some aspects of this book that are geared specifically for Christian leaders, however most of the instruction found is applicable and needed in the larger Christian culture. Fernando is able to address a wide range of issues in the family in a way that is both encouraging and convicting at times. In my reading I can’t remember a single book that addresses all the areas of family life as well as this one does. I would commend this book to any Christian seeking to understand what the Bible says about our family life as this work reflect a depth of biblical wisdom needed in order to address the issues facing families today.

Disclosure: I received an 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.

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: The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

In The Historical Reliability of the New Testament scholar and author Craig L. Blomberg has provided a resource that should be in every pastor’s library. Building on his earlier work in defending the historicity of the gospels in The Historical Reliability of the Gospels Blomberg explores the origins and the evidence for the historicity of the books of the New Testament.

Blomberg’s work begins with the Synoptic gospels addressing their formation. Blomberg makes a solid defense of the use of oral traditions by the gospel writers, demonstrating that in the Middle Eastern world in which the gospels were written oral transmission was a reliable way of passing on information. He moves from addressing the supposed contradictions in the gospels showing how they can easily be reconciled if understood properly to addressing the Acts and the ministry of Paul. Blomberg presents a strong defense in favor of Pauline authorship for all of his epistles. Blomberg also addresses the argument that would see a division between Pauline Christianity and the teaching of Jesus, demonstrating Paul’s dependence on the teaching Jesus showing clearly that Paul built on the foundation already laid by Christ himself and was not some religious innovator. I highly recommend the 13th chapter addressing the transmission of the New Testament. In this chapter Blomberg clearly addresses the challenges put forward by Bart Ehrman and shows how weak the claims of Bart Ehrman really are when they use textual variants as a reason to discount the reliability of the Bible.

This isn’t a book you’ll normally read cover to cover, maybe it should be though. Every Christmas and Easter people are inundated with documentaries claiming that the gospels and the New Testaments are suspect in their reliability. As a pastor I believe it is my responsibility to address challenges to the Bible and its truthfulness that might undermine the confidence my hearers have in the Bible. This book is a tool that every pastor should make use if in teaching in preaching. If I were to provide a complaint about this book it would be in regard to binding, I mean who thought it was a good idea to print a reference work of this size as a paperback, hopefully in future printings the publishers will print a version in hardcover.

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.