The Heart of the Preacher (Books on Ministry #25)

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This book for the preacher is one of the best I’ve seen come along in a long time. Rick Reed from his own preaching experience and that of teaching homiletics knows precisely the path to the heart of the preacher as well as the deadends away from it. His mantra of the preacher preparing his soul is no hyperbole. This isn’t self-help pointers but vital issues that throb the preacher’s heart. Mr. Reed does something for preachers today that Ralph Turnbull did for others in previous generations in his A Minister’s Obstacles. Some of those obstacles are exactly the same while others are peculiar to our day and Mr. Reed knows the difference.

The book is divided into two parts, which he defines as the testing and the strengthening of the preacher’s heart, that could just as easily be called the negative and positive heart issues preacher’s face. After Brian Chapell’s foreword that is itself worth reading, Mr. Reed gives a clear introduction to what he is attempting to do. Some of the chapters include key subjects like ambition, comparison, insignificance, laziness (one of the best and not at all what you expect), fear, criticism, failure, and pain (another jewel). Part two continues at the high level he began by explaining personal soul care, championing expository preaching, developing internal security, doing the work of an evangelist, and in a timely chapter on taking care of yourself that he creatively calls “don’t kill the horse”. There wasn’t a dud in any of these 25 chapters and everything he discussed made you want to re-dedicate your efforts to the work of preaching for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Reed wrote with the humbleness that pushed his material deeper into your heart. He was never afraid to say that he struggled in some of these areas. You felt like you were listening to a brother in arms! The book is easy-to-read but never shallow. Every preacher ought to read it. I’m glad I did.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir by Ned Stonehouse

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Banner of Truth bolsters their impressive array of Christian biographies with this reprint of Ned Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen. While I was aware of Machen’s reputation as a stalwart defender of conservative Christianity, I really didn’t know much about his life. Perhaps my not being a Presbyterian had me more out of the loop on Machen’s impressive career, though I had read some of his works with profit before. Don’t worry if your beliefs don’t exactly line up with that of a reformed Presbyterian, because his contribution to the faith extends to all who hold unwaveringly to the veracity of the Bible and a vibrant personal relationship with Christ.

Stonehouse was a colleague of Machen over the last years of Machen’s life when they served together at Westminster Theological Seminary. Without a doubt, Stonehouse is as sympathetic a biographer as you could have and clearly reveres his subject. I realize that can derail some biographies, but I felt I knew Machen so well by the time I finished this volume and Stonehouse proved to be an excellent biographer. If you find the first few chapters on the Gresham and Machen families a little slow, just hang on because I promise the life of Machen proves enjoyable reading.

I’d be tempted to describe Machen as a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but there was enough spirituality, particularly in his mother, to have greatly strengthened Machen for his extensive ministry. There was enough money in the family, however, for him to get whatever level of education he wanted and he made the most of it. His time in Germany and the wrestling of his faith was extremely interesting as all the learned names of Germany in that generation popped up in the story. When his faith became more settled, he had as much struggle determining his career path. In both these cases, the sympathetic biographer did an outstanding job opening up these facets of Machen’s life. Since many people wrestle with similar issues, this was powerful spiritual reading.

After he got on his feet at Princeton and was ordained to the ministry, World War I came up. That part of his life story though he was neither a soldier nor an actual chaplain was absolutely riveting. It was so unusual and yet it really helped the reader to understand Machen’s character. As a side note, after proving so adept with both the German and the biblical languages, I was amazed to see that he gave some theological lectures in French before he left France!

His ongoing career and his book writing showed an upward career path with outstanding literary accomplishment. The demise of Princeton’s allegiance to orthodoxy could almost serve as a parable of religious corruption. This same battle has played itself out in so many cases and places. You might find this portion of his life as a blueprint for how to stand when everyone around you wants to run away from God and his word. The ultimate step of creating Westminster showed the thoroughness of his dedication. He wisely saw that orthodoxy in missions was as important as orthodoxy at the academy and he fought valiantly on that front as well. His early death in an unexpected place and way was sad history but interesting biography.

This book holds attention throughout. Perhaps all it lacked was an appendix of all his literary works, but it was thorough without ever falling victim to being boring. The book itself is another of those exquisitely produced hardback editions that we so appreciate from Banner. This book was insightful on how to deal with corruption, spiritual on how one man so well lived the Christian life, and interesting as a biography. I must say that I really enjoyed this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Pastor of Kilsyth by Islay Burns–A Nice Biography

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So you’re never heard of W. H. Burns? Neither had I. Before I began reading this lovely biography, I noticed that the publishers put out an advertising blurb about this being a great biography for our celebrity-driven age. It’s clear what they meant. I can be challenged by a biography of a Christian celebrity to some degree, but not in the sense that I can ever do what they have done or will be what they have been. This biography is of a simple believer who was a pastor whose faithful life though unknown to the world gave off a glory that redounds unto the Lord Jesus Christ. That you and I can do. And that is why this biography is of the stripe that is especially needed today.

W. H. Burns was a pastor from the heralded Scottish orbit of outstanding preachers. That Iain Murray called this one of the best Scottish ministerial biographies we have carries much weight as his own biographies that are so often unassuming still have more impact than so many modern biographies.

Not only will you trace faithful ministry, but this volume can also be placed in your revival literature. God blessed Kilsyth with revival. I don’t know about you, but I always am blessed by that type of reading. Later chapters even give insight on what is needed for revival, though the perspective that revivals come from God is never denied. There are descriptions of how the revivals were carried out as well that can be insightful. The book even ends with four sermons that are imbibed with a revival atmosphere.

Banner of Truth is one of the modern Christian publishers that most takes publishing books seriously. Their hardbacks are of a quality that has surpassed most others and their dust jackets are always attractive. They still produce books that your grandchildren can own. I’m glad not everyone has caved to the idea that digital will own the future. I believe there still is a market and a future for books like this one. This book is a great biography for pastors and Christian families!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Hearers & Doers by Kevin Vanhoozer

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Kevin Vanhoozer is one of our sharpest theological minds today. He so often breaks into territory that no one else tackles. He may wrestle with a multitude of heavy theological works, but he is the guy to bring it to the rest of us. Since his latest subject here is that of making disciples, particularly from a pastor’s point of view, and since there’s a glut in the market on discipleship, he shows the league apart that he works in amongst a world of works that all say the same thing. Make room among all the dime-a-dozen discipleship titles on your shelves for this provocative volume to have a prominent place. This book is one for a pastor to lay as a foundation for our work. The subtitle accurately lets you know what you are getting yourself into: A pastor’s guide to making disciples through Scripture and doctrine.

After a clear introduction, Part One that is made up of four chapters explains why discipleship matters. He champions the importance of theology in making disciples. Chapter 2 is so profound that it could be pulled out of this book and presented as commentary on our age, at least involving fitness and body image which has taken on its own religious pretensions. I shared that chapter with some in my family as making clear things that I was ashamed I had never thought of. The next chapters explain the importance of taking disciples from hearing to doing and in building up the body of Christ.

Part Two in four more chapters digs into working out discipleship. Pastors should be challenged by his analogy of our being the eye doctor and general practitioner of the church. Next, he looks at the disciple as a member of the church, which is sadly so de-emphasized in our day. I found myself not fully agreeing with all he said in the chapter on the communion of saints, but there are some fair correctives there that may keep us from running off into the other ditch. The final chapter, wisely, looks at us as children of God who are disciples as “fitting image of Jesus Christ”.

You can often judge how much I find value in a book by how much I underline and notate throughout. My volume of this book is marked all over with usually something on every page. This book is for those who want to think, so pick it up and read slowly and you will be in for a treat.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Preaching As Reminding by Jeffrey Arthurs (Books on Ministry #24)

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We’ve been blessed with many fine books on preaching. There are classics from previous centuries as well as winners from our day. I should know as I’ve been blessed by many of them. On the other hand, because it’s such a popular subject the inundation of titles has led to a few dull books that say nothing new at all. Fortunately, Jeffrey Arthurs stepped into a niche that I don’t feel other authors have properly addressed and has given us something beautiful to help us as we preach God’s word. Since we live in an age of rampant forgetfulness, his work is extremely timely as well.

The help he gives has been meticulously studied out and thoughtfully presented. He makes a powerful case for his premise that preaching is an act of helping people remember before he jumps into practical guidance for preaching itself. He traces both remembering and forgetting through Scripture and proves its prominence. He even handles the science behind memory adeptly though I imagine that is not his normal field of work as a professor of preaching and communication. You will likely so agree with his reasoning that you will find him a trusted guide by the time he gets around to telling you how to improve your preaching.

There is no letdown at all when he transitions to practical help in preaching. Beginning in chapter 4 when he discusses style as a tool for stirring memory, he explains how style is a tool of persuasion and how each preacher needs his own style as well as to improve that style. He gives wonderful suggestions to that end. Next, he reminds us that story or narrative is especially effective in helping people remember. His chapter on delivery is a great reminder for us all as he digs into the details including the important nonverbal signals that we send.

If I were assembling a list of the key books on preaching, I would have to include this perceptive volume. I’m thoroughly impressed with what Mr. Arthurs had to say between these covers.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Pastoral Rule for Today by Burgess, Andrews, and Small

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This book is designed to bring pastors back to our core work. A trio of authors, John Burgess, Jerry Andrews, and Joseph Small, take seven historical characters to remind us of what ministry is supposed to look like. This work was an initiative by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and certainly has the flavor of that body throughout the book. Since I’m not a Presbyterian, I found myself at odds with the authors on some of their conclusions. On a more important note, however, I did pause to reflect on some areas of my own ministry that I feel was truly profitable for me. The biographical section on the historical theological figures was enjoyable as were several of the ultimate admonitions for those in ministry. Sometimes the path by which they reached those admonitions was something not particularly scriptural to my mind. Further, the authors seem to have an overblown reverence for the monastic lifestyle. While taking the time to truly meditate on God’s word and remove yourself from the hustle of life is of the utmost value, monastic life has not led to a superior spirituality in many documented cases. It is, then, with a caveat that I recommend this book.

The historical figures used to illustrate what the authors call pastoral “rule” were Augustine, Benedict, Gregory the Great, John Calvin (no surprise), John Wesley (a little bit of a surprise), John Henry Newman (a questionable choice for some of us), and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (one of the best chapters in the book). The introductory chapter on why pastors need a “rule” was intriguing. Augustine was used to describe that monastic life while Benedict was used to illustrate obedience “in the context of community”. That obedience as well as what was shown in the life of John Calvin turned out to be the most overtly Presbyterian chapters in the book as it pushed a church hierarchy that fits well with their system. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think of its lack of scriptural support. Gregory the Great was mined to show the importance of disciplined prayer. The chapter on John Wesley was extremely timely for our generation as it showed the importance of choosing your words carefully. While I’m not a big fan of John Henry Newman, the principal shared about the need for serious study of the Scripture was well taken. The chapter on Bonhoeffer, who wrote Life Together, had the best insights on community in the book. The concluding chapter on making a contemporary pastoral rule had many helpful insights.

As I said above, this book did get me to thinking about some things that needed addressing in my own life and ministry. You can add a star if you are Presbyterian or hold to the author’s overall views about ministry. Worth pondering!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Legacy of Preaching–A Great Two-Volume Set!

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Every preacher will want this set! Occasionally, a book about the history of preaching will come along and serve as a mighty motivating force for preachers. Dedication, zeal, power—all put on display in the lives of the best preachers of days gone by. It’s been at least 20 years since a book that blends biography and preaching counsel in a way that makes you want to grab a biblical text and get going has come along. This set, edited by Benjamin K. Forrest, Kevin L. King, Bill Curtis, and Dwayne Milioni, has filled that lacuna for our generation.

Improving on the works of previous decades, this book employs a winning design. First, specialists on the subject were secured to pen each entry. Second, each writer had to follow the same format: historical background (biography), theology of preaching, methodology for preaching, and contributions to preaching. There’s even a helpful bibliography for each entry. This format was particularly helpful. You got to know the preacher and his preaching. You could say that the approach maximized the impact you could glean from each one.

Volume One covered the Apostles to the Revivalists. You got to think of Paul and Peter as preachers before heading into some of the Church Fathers. Next, Medieval times were covered including Bernard of Clairvaux, John Huss, and Girolamo Savonarola. The Reformers including Luther, Tyndale, and Calvin as preachers were given a look next. Puritan greats Perkins, Baxter, Owen, Bunyan, and Henry were great selections in that group of preachers. Only four revivalists were covered including Edwards, Wesley, and Whitefield, but they were preaching giants.

Volume Two that covered the Enlightenment through modern times was even better. I love Nineteenth-Century British preaching and so was Part One here was my favorite in either volume. Alexander Maclaren and Charles Spurgeon are two of my favorite preaching heroes and real insights could be gained from their entries. I’ve read much on both of them, but I learned more here. The story of Gipsy Smith surprised me too.

Many more outstanding entries finished out the book. You might quibble over a few selections or omissions, (Where was G. Campbell Morgan?), but these volumes are pure gold. Mark them off as must-have books for the preacher! I’ll be consulting my set many times in the coming years I’m sure.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Scrappy Church by Thom Rainer

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Scrappy Church continues a series of wildly popular small hardbacks on church issues by Thom Rainer. This one strikes me as different than some of the earlier ones. It’s less practical this time, yet much more a plea. He seems to be asking us to take what he has been saying over several of his previous books and have the courage to just do it. It reads something like a don’t-give-up entreaty or maybe a start-now appeal. There could be, then, a little less information in this title, but more persuasion.

Rainer is in his wheelhouse in his declaration that God isn’t done with churches yet. He sees the issues and is well aware of the difficulties, but there’s no doubt he believes what he’s saying. There’s no sugarcoating in these pages, but no excuses either. Being a megachurch may not be in a church’s future, but distinct progress is possible to his mind.

The approach that’s given beyond the appeal is wrapped up in a turnaround cycle of outward deluge, welcome readiness, and backdoor closure. After you read this book you will likely agree that these three are the outline of the work that’s needed. I know I got some ideas out of this book and some challenge too. Another winner!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

Counseling Techniques: A Comprehensive Resource for Christian Counselors

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This book is the best resource on Christian counseling that I’ve seen. I’m sure it would be a winning textbook for students and a major resource for counselors. Let me add, though, that as a pastor, I found the book fascinating as well. I’m not ready to be a professional counselor just because I have this book at my fingertips, but I can much better grasp what help they might be able to accomplish in a variety of difficult situations. What was offered in this volume was so clear and well written. The amazing consistency across the book shows an excellent editorial effort too. You could easily forget that every chapter was written by a different author as the continuity was seamless. It didn’t read like a dry textbook at all.

The book is divided into three main parts: theory-based strategies, population-based strategies, and clinical-based strategies. All three have captivating subjects to reveal. Coping skills strategies, attachment-oriented strategies, couple-focused strategies, and the last 4 chapters on special marriage issues were among the most helpful. The REACH forgives model in chapter 20 was as biblical as it was stimulating for counseling sessions.

Each article points to the literature without stalling in it. Summaries are refreshing and to the point. Examples that bring concepts alive are often provided. Compassion is always evident as is grace for our brokenness. Again, it’s not my field, but I can’t imagine how a book that covers such a wide swath of counseling issues could be any better. I predict I’ll always be glad to have this resource within reach!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

An All-Round Ministry by Spurgeon–A Beautiful Reprint! (Books on Ministry #23)

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What a beautiful reprint of a classic has Banner of Truth given us in this volume! What a wonderful book worthy of this first-rate presentation! This book has been reprinted repeatedly since it was put together after Spurgeon’s death from his passionate addresses to preachers and those training to be. This hardback, though, is the nicest I’ve ever seen. It’s the one you will want on your shelves—one that will last for years and can be passed on.

If you are not already familiar with this book, you should understand that it differs from his famous Lectures To My Students. That fine book is more practical about ministry and is something of a handbook. An All-Round Ministry is all feeling and fire. Spurgeon became more isolated among English Christian academia as liberal headwinds began shifting and strengthening in his day. For him, it was Christ, the Gospel, and souls! The Gospel had not lost its power and he gives one impassioned plea after another in this book for preachers to not become unmoored from what we were called to do by Christ.

Be sure to read the fine introduction by Iain Murray. He excels in this kind of writing and enriches what you are about to read from Spurgeon.

All twelve addresses strike at the preacher’s heart. All call for loyalty to Christ and zeal. A few of the later ones reflect the battles he endured regarding the Downgrade Movement, but all speak to our passing opportunities. This book contains the exact encouragement we all need from time to time! It’s an essential book for preachers.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.