Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Books for April 2008

The Living Church by John Stott. This was a good book on pastoral ministry in the church by a man who is a hero of Christendom. John Stott has served in ministry for over 60 years, most of those as the Rector of All Souls Church in London. His insights about ministry in the church are made valuable in part because of the testimony that stands behind them-- his many years of faithful service. There are good insights here, and it is worth reading even if it's not the "best" book on pastoral ministry out there. (8+)

The Cross of Christ by John Stott (re-read). That's right-- two books by the same author in one month! Actually, I started reading this one two months ago, and have used it extensively as I prepared my series on the cross. This one was written 20 years before the other, and is THE definitive work on the theology of the cross, in my view. It's quite readable, even though it digs deep, and Stott does a great job of taking in a broad swath, making the scope of his focus quite comprehensive, while still following a clear and direct path to understanding the thrust of the cross. I first read this one for my "Christ and Salvation" class in seminary, but frankly I've read it more thoroughly this time through. (10)

Surviving Your First Year as Pastor by Angie Best-Boss. Especially because of my interest and work with pastoral transition, I really want to like a book like this. But perhaps because of my research in the area of transition, or maybe due to my prior experience in ministry, I found this book to be a disappointment. The coverage is good-- what she talks about is a comprehensive field of topics. But she doesn't present much here that is extraordinary, or that a fairly intuitive seminary graduate wouldn't already be looking for. The best thing about it is the suggested reading at the end of each chapter, which IS quite good. (5)

If It Could Happen Here... by Jeff Patton. This was a nice little book that did a good job of presenting familiar concepts in a new way. The sub-title, "Turning the Small-Membership Church Around," is a fair summary of the content. To a certain degree, if you've read on book on revitalizing small churches, then the concepts in the rest won't be fresh; it's the way they are presented or the additional information that makes them worthwhile. This book tells the story of one pastor and his work with one small congregation-- what they did, how and when they did it, what worked, what didn't. It's not written in a prescriptive way, but more like a memoir or brief history; thus, it's not overbearing, and it leaves the reader free to take what they want and leave the rest. Overall, it's a good read, and I found some useful material there-- especially the first-hand testimony of how effective certain aspects of revitalization can be. (8+)

The House that Jesus Built by Dale Ralph Davis. This one was sent to me in the mail yesterday, and it's a good little introduction to church membership. Davis covers essentially the same things that I would cover in a "new members' class" except, of course, details about the local congregation, and he does it in a very readable and digestible book. It's short (only about 60 pages), yet it touches on the materials in a good introductory manner-- leaving the explanation and expansion on his introduction to pastors and leaders in a congregation. I'm not sure whether I'll use this as required reading for an Introduction to Hickory Withe Church class next time, but it's certainly a good resource to put in the hands of those who miss a class or two. (10)

Eucharistic Bread-Baking as Ministry by Tony Begonja. Although this book was clearly written for more Catholic- (and by that I mean Roman Catholic) leaning churches, it still has obvious value to any church that observes the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Since I've been baking the bread for our congregation's sacrament, I've come to delight in serving my flock in this way; still, I wanted to learn more about the unleavened varieties of sacramental bread, since there is at least some question about using leavened bread. This book offered a good introduction to the spiritual approach to baking bread for sacramental purposes, and the writer showed good sensitivity to matters that might be more pointed in certain environs (like whether a recipe produced very crumbly bread, which might concern those who believe that the bread becomes the actual flesh of Christ!). I haven't tried the recipes yet, but there is good practical advice on baking, as well. Overall, I'm glad to have this one on-hand. (8+)

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