As a pastor I find myself reading and rereading books on pastoral ministry. When written well these pastors serve others in the fraternity by providing thoughtful and practical insights into their own ministries. Sometimes the smallest detail can translate to a large impact in other setting.
I recently read through On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg. Most likely you have heard of Begg while perhaps you are not familiar with Prime. Derek Prime served at Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh for over 30 years. In fact, it was here that Alistair Begg served as an assistant pastor. This book was originally written in 1989 towards the end of Prime’s ministry and served to capture many items that he did well while also exhorting a new generation unto faithfulness. Later it was decided that the original should be revised and expanded a bit to fit a wider context. Begg joined the team and they labored together to produce this volume.
Like most books on pastoral ministry there is detailed treatment of the qualifications for ministry as well as the responsibilities of ministry. This book also spends time talking about things such as leadership, delegation, leading a worship service, family life, and leisure. If that sounds ambitious it is—and it’s not a short book (weighing in at nearly 300 pages).
“If you abandon Israel, God will never forgive you…it is God’s will that Israel, the biblical home of the people of Israel, continue for ever and ever.”
This is how O. Palmer Robertson begins his book The Israel of God. Robertson puts his finger on the issue in these opening words. The quote is from President Clinton in 1997 before the Israeli Knesset. He went on to say, “Your journey is our journey, and America will stand with you now and always.”
The Nation of Israel remains a popular topic for this within and outside of the church. Is the modern state of Israel the fulfillment of biblical prophecy? Do Jewish people have a biblical right to the land of Israel? Are Jewish people saved because they are God’s chosen nation? What is the relationship between the Nation of Israel and the church? How does our Bible reading impact our News watching?
As an elder in a local church I am always on the look out for books that will help me and my team better serve our congregation. At the same time, I have been looking for a book that would serve church members by encapsulating what to expect from their elders. In this concise and lucid book, Church Elders, Jeramie Rinne has done both. Written to the new elder who asks the question after installation, “Now what?” it serves to outline basics of pastoral ministry.
I mentioned Rinne’s writing style. It is clear and memorable. For example, to make his point that the elders need to know the sheep he has a chapter titled, “Smell like Sheep.” His point is clear: the elders are not to be separated from but intimately involved in the lives of the sheep, even like Jesus, our Great Shepherd (Jn. 21:15-16).
“How did the Holy Spirit work in the Old Testament and how is this different from the New?” Surprisingly, this is a question that I have gotten many times as a pastor. And, it is an important question. After all, we are talking about the activity of God in history, specifically salvation history. Believers should ask the question and pastors should be able to answer it.
Dr. Jim Hamiliton aims to help both. In this book God’s Indwelling Presence he embarks upon a study of the Holy Spirit’s activity in salvation history. To do this Hamilton had to interact with the work of indwelling, regeneration, baptism, and empowering. While the author spends sufficient time working through each, he spends most of his time contending that while old covenant believers were regenerated by the Holy Spirit they were not indwelt. This ministry (indwelling) is specific to the New Covenant. In an interesting disclosure he writes,
As I embarked upon this study I planned to argue that Old Testament saints were indwelt, but the evidence to the contrary forced me to abandon that position. Those who hold that old covenant believers were indwell have not given satisfactory explanations of the salvation-historical aspects of John’s Gospel, particularly 7:39 and 16:7.
A strength of this work is Hamilton’s detailed work in the text while maintaining a strong emphasis upon biblical theology. He dives deeply underwater to find textual treasure but then comes up to the surface after every find to show how it connects to both “shores” …
Whenever I hear that someone has written something on or given a lecture concerning Charles Spurgeon, I am drawn in. I feel like I am familiar with the stories and most of his work but yet, I can never get enough. I just want to “hear it again.” So, naturally, I was drawn in with this book from Steve Lawson’s A Long Line of Godly Men series.
The book is more theological and philosophical than biographical. Lawson labors to highlight Spurgeon’s theological convictions that shaped his ministry. He does provide some biographical detail, however, the focus is upon what Spurgeon believed and how he applied it.
As you might expect there are quotes abounding in this book. Every sermon and book dripped gospel and was a like neon sign pointing to Christ.
The book is also a compelling call to action, specifically to those who share Spurgeon’s theology (Calvinism). Do you believe in a big God who saves a great multitude from the nations? Then get to work in missions. Do you believe that the preaching of the gospel saves people? Then preach. Do you believe a sovereign God hears and answers prayer? Then pray. Do you believe that you are helpless apart from the Holy Spirit? Then pray and rely upon God.
Let me give you a couple more practical uses for this book. First, it is arranged by topic so you can easily keep this for reference if you need a solid Spurgeon quote for a sermon. Second, there a number of references that …
I can remember about a dozen years ago being told by my pastor to listen to a sermon from S. Lewis Johnson. I remember that I was trying to multitask at the time but was unsuccessful. I stopped what I was doing and was riveted. Johnson in his thick but soothing southern drawl unpacked the Bible in a clear, captivating, and compelling way. He modeled what you think about when you think of a preacher: he got out of the way, pointed to Christ and really left an impression. He made difficult passages clear and simple passages profound. In both cases he magnified Christ.
In light of this I am quite pleased over a new publication by Zondervan entitled Discovering Romans: Spiritual Revival for the Soul. The volume is a collection of Johnson’s sermons from Romans. The sermons have been adapted by Mike Abendroth.
I remember talking to someone recently and they said, “Why is it that all you Christians talk about is homosexuality?” I told them, “Everyone is talking about homosexuality, not just Christians.”
The topic is in the paper, in Hollywood, at the water-cooler, and increasingly, at the dinner table. Invariably, the question comes to the Christian, “Is God anti-gay?”
We have to be thoughtful in how we answer questions about God and the Bible. We are always required to be faithful, and part of this requires that we graciously adorn the gospel.
Sam Allberry has written a book to help us think through this question as well as other questions about the Bible and same-sex attraction. What makes this book uncommon is its author. Allberry discloses early on that he has lived with same-sex attraction since his early teen years. This fact enables Allberry a unique voice to speak biblically to an increasingly contentious subject.
If you are active in evangelism then you regularly get questions about whether or not you can trust the Bible. The questions are valid–if we are to put all of our hope and trust in what the Bible says then we should be able to trust it.
This new little book (80 pages) from Barry Cooper is a gem. In it Cooper answers many of the most common questions about the Bible. He does so in a warm, faithful, and understandable way.
Take a look at the chapter titles:
1. Does the Bible claim to be God’s word? The world, the word, and what Jesus thought of the Bible.
2. Does the Bible seem the be God’s word? Consistency, conspiracies, and corruptions.
3. Does the Bible prove to be God’s word? Tasting, seeing, and the sweetness of Scripture.
In such a small book Cooper does a commendable job putting a lot of very helpful material in a very accessible format. He interacts with some apologetics, textual criticism, historical theology, and systematic theology. There are many books that provide the same stuff, but none (that I can think of) that do it so accessibly. It is an ideal book to give to someone who is asking questions about the Bible as well as a newer Christian who requires further study on the topic. It can be used in evangelism and/or discipleship. Further, Cooper writes in a way that is very clear. Since he deals with topics that I regularly deal with, I plan to keep my copy nearby.
The only thing …
In Crossway’s ongoing series “The Theologians on the Christian Life” authors aim to provide an accessible introduction to some of the great teachers on the Christian life. The challenge is present in the goal. If you have a great teacher then accessibility may present a problem. What’s more, many (great) teachers are very interesting people. Their lives fill up pages quickly.
This gets intensified further when we consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer. With a biography named Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy–you can see how the author would have his work cut out for him. In this case, I feel that Stephen Nichols has done a superb job at introducing us to the life and theology of such an intriguing and admirable guy as Bonhoeffer.
We are thankful that the Bible addresses a wide variety of questions and issues. Throughout church history we have been able to have many important questions answered by the Scriptures. At the same time this comprehensive biblical coverage provides answers that occasionally make people uneasy. Often times these topics are referred to as “controversial issues.” Some people want to avoid talking about these things and others enjoy it. The former out of a distaste for controversy and the latter out of a craving for it. Still others find these topics important and aim to cut through the fog to show what the Bible teaches and why it is important for the church to think through.