1. Pastor Book Reviews
Claudia Wahrisch-Oblau, The Missionary Self-Perception of Pentecostal /Charismatic Church Leaders from the Global South in Europe (Brill, 2012) €35.00 428pp
This ground-breaking study based on extensive interviews and interaction with more than a hundred representative church leaders originally from the Global South explains how they view their calling in ministry; how their churches are organised and led and how they understand and carry out the work of evangelism in a different cultural context. Although a witness primarily focussed on migrant communities, there is also an intention to re-evangelise the majority community and present in a vibrant and creative way the claims of the Christian faith. This book is a vital contribution to our understanding of a growing part of the Christian community in Europe. Anyone ministering in a major city in Europe will
be increasingly aware of the growing number of churches being planted by pastors and laypeople from this region of the world. This author, a German Lutheran mission specialist, has placed us in her debt as she allows her readers to learn so much about this major branch of the Christian Church in Europe.
Brian Talbot Broughty Ferry Baptist Church
Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilisation The Conquest of the Middle East, (London: Harper Perennial, 2006) 1368pp £9.99
Robert Fisk, the Middle Eastern correspondent of first The Times and then The Independent for more than thirty years is possibly the best placed Western journalist to guide us through the Western nations’ military and colonial adventures through this region of the world. This book covers a range of conflicts on which he has reported since 1976 in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as describing earlier twentieth century conflicts through the eyes of surviving witnesses. At a time in April 2013 when British and American Governments appear to be considering yet another military intervention, this time in Syria, Fisk provides all the moral and political information we need to enable us to cry out with a passion –‘not in my name’. If you have time to read only one book on the Middle East to understand the perception of Western Governments in the eyes of the peoples of that region then this is probably the one to choose. One does not have to be in agreement with every political judgement the author makes to view this book as one of the most important works of the last decade. It ought to be required reading for leading British and American politicians, but it is also of great profit to ordinary citizens as well.
Brian Talbot Broughty Ferry Baptist Church
John Olley, The Message of Kings BST series, IVP, 2011, 374 pp £12.99
John Olley’s’ The Message of Kings’ provides a useful and very helpful addition to the Bible Speaks Today commentary series. His commentary charts the historical panorama of 1 and 2 Kings that documents the decline of Israel from the glories of the reign of Solomon to the division of the kingdoms and the eventual exiles. He approaches these books as a form of preached history that was designed to draw lessons from the past for the exiled Jewish community. He effectively charts the theme of God’s continuing presence with his people and the need to trust in that presence.
The work is written in a highly accessible manner without compromising its scholarly credentials. Olley, unlike other commentators that become preoccupied with the minutia of the text, focuses very much on the narrative flow of the passage. He provides highly insightful over views of the narrative flow and structure of a story. He then seeks to identify the underlying purpose that this flow and structure serves. ‘What is the writer’s purpose in telling this story to subsequent generations?’This approach makes for a very lively and insightful commentary as Olley highlights the various nuances of the text and then seeks to answer why this story should be presented in this way. It also makes the commentary very accessible for anyone preaching through these books. In his consideration of each passage Olley sets out a very easy to follow pattern that translates well to the pulpit. He observes
what is going on in the passage, raises pertinent questions and insights and then brings the application. However, if one is looking for a more through and detailed consideration of the Hebrew text the reader may find Olley’s approach a little frustrating. But that said, I think it would be hard to find a more accessible and readable overview of these important books that draws out so effectively the meaning and purpose of the text. Great for anyone who is preaching through Kings or just wants to get a sense of the original context of these historical books.
Alasdair Black Senior Pastor Stirling Baptist Church
Amy Orr-Ewing, Why Trust the Bible? (KJV Anniversary edition) IVP 2011, 144pp £7.99
This is a very useful volume as an introduction to the subject. Amy Orr-Ewing is an apologist and structures the book around ten questions which might be asked regarding the significance of the Bible to our faith. She first looks at postmodern approaches to language and interpretation then deals with content, reliability, and canonicity.
This edition adds a section on the KJV which might have been enhanced by engaging a little more with the ‘King James Only’ argument, though this view is perhaps restricted to a fundamentalist minority and not part of the intended readership.
Whilst it is an accessible read, her easily understood approach could well have produced a larger work which, at the end, one is left looking for.
Rev Peter Dick Minister Erskine Baptist Church
Marcus Honeysett, fruitful leaders: how to make, grow, love and keep them. Nottingham: IVP Living Leadership, 2011 £8.99 216pp
Marcus Honeysett is the founding director of Living Leadership, a network encouraging evangelicals of various expressions to work together in training and equipping leaders. fruitful leaders (why do publishers think something is more enticing without capitals?) is a solid and fairly basic approach to leadership in the local church. The carefully nuanced language of the book, emphasising grace and generally avoiding reference to the active ministry of the Holy Spirit,* betrays its bias in the Word and Spirit balance. Honeysett is fond of the adjective spiritual and uses it as if our spiritual life, leadership, gifts are somehow separate from the rest of life. We do not have spiritual lives; we have lives which we learn to live spiritually, that are lived in full awareness of the presence of God. A very useful feature of the book is the clear statement of a main principle at the beginning of each chapter and its development both biblically and practically.
Rev. Michael Bonser, Minister, Viewfield Baptist Church Dunfermline
Guy Brandon,Just Sex: Is it ever just sex? IVP 224pp £9.99
As the title suggests, Guy Brandon persuasively argues that our cultural belief in ‘consensus only’ sex which, it is claimed, affects nobody but the two humans engaged in it, is erroneous and is currently causing widespread human and relational damage right across society in the UK. Citing British up-to-date research, Brandon delineates a vivid picture and strong argument that all sexual encounters outside of the biblical mandate of covenant commitment and fidelity have huge knock-on effects on many aspects of society and human relationships.
As the church faces increasing pressure to conform to culture on issues such as same-sex marriage, co-habitation, etc., this book is a well-written wake-up call and challenge to defend, and remain within, the biblical parameters of heterosexual marriage as the only context for sexual union, for the good of both the individuals involved and also society-at-large.
Rev Alistair J Cuthbert. Pastor of Family Life, Stirling Baptist Church
Bill Hybels, "Too Busy Not to Pray", IVP 2011, 206pp, £9.99
This is a new edition of his 1988 classic, and includes study questions, which makes it a good resource for a house-group to work through. The sub title is "Slowing down to be with God." It is readable, practical, with live illustrations and personal admissions of failure, which makes it suitable for relatively new Christians through to older Christians who have lost their first love, and over-busy Church leaders.
It is helpfully divided into five sections: God calls us into His presence; God invites us to talk to Him; God break down the barriers between us (including our loss of faith through unanswered prayer); God speaks to our hearts (how to listen to God); and a surprise at the end is God prompts us to action, which encourages our response in practical action.
Rev. Harry Sprange, Minister, Bathgate Baptist Church
Rhona J Tolchard, Cara: A hope and a Future, IVP 2010 192pp £7.99
This is a very challenging book written by a Christian couple detailing their struggles to care for their severely handicapped daughter, Cara. As Cara grew, the couple faced enormous difficulties getting the Education Authorities to provide adequate schooling. It was a battle which consumed them and which they never won before Cara died at age 9. The book outlines their struggle to make sense of what they were going through from a Christian perspective. The themes of the book are hope and the need for Christians to challenge injustice. It is a must read for anyone who has a handicapped child or for a church which has parents facing such a struggle, either within the church or the wider community.
Rev. Ian M Reed, member, St Mary’s Community Church Dundee
Book: The Great Emergence (Click for review)
Author: By Phyllis Tickle, published by Baker Books 2008
Reviewer: Norman Graham, Denny Baptist Church.
Book: Imagine Church: Releasing Whole-Life Disciples Author: Neil Hudson IVP 2012
The theme of this book will hardly be new but it is a theme we constantly need to put at the very centre of our ministries; namely, equipping each member of our congregation to be effective disciples of Christ in the context of everyday work, leisure and home. Neil Hudson notes how relatively easy it is to find good models of church when it comes to preaching or social action or worship - ‘yet it is rare, very rare, to find a church where the main thing is exactly what Jesus identified as the main thing - ‘go and make disciples’. And yet, as the book argues, ‘Making whole-life missionary disciples is the core vocation of the church.’ It is nothing short of a call ‘to see the whole of the people of God live out the whole of their lives under the Lordship of Christ for the sake of the wholeness of God’s mission for the whole world’
One of the many strengths of this book is that it has come out of a three year project working with a number of churches of different denominations, sponsored by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Thus the book is both realistic and practical without at all being prescriptive or programmatic.
The heart of the book is a plea for the deep culture of our churches (‘the way we do things around here’) to be radically changed. This happens through re-envisioning each of us to see that God is already present and at work in the everyday moments of life in the office, at the school and in the golf club. There are 168 hours in a week and Hudson argues that if 48 are spent sleeping (an insomniac I presume!) and 10 are involved in church gathered, that leaves 110 hours per week for work, family and leisure. It is seeing God at work in the 110 that is critical for discipleship. So often we are far too focussed on what happens in the church gathered and (quoting Mark Green) ‘recruiting the people of God to use some of their leisure time to join the mission initiative of church-paid workers’! The role of leaders is not to encourage people to do more but to model and teach how they can live fruitfully and creatively just where they are, to reclaim their everyday lives as their frontline, the place where God can use them. However, it would be wrong to see the emphasis here as simply God using us in mission. Whole-life discipleship is not just about being released for service but about the whole of life being the context for growing into maturity.
The book helpfully outlines the key stages in the process needed to become a whole–life discipleship-making church. One of the most helpful aspects of this is the significance he gives to the small but strategic changes which are needed to begin to change the culture and perspective of a church. The ideas, in themselves, often sound trite but their effect can be telling indeed. They range from having a mirror on the missionary notice board (!), to making sure the pictures of the church members in the entrance are pictures of them at work (their mission frontline) to a strong emphasis on telling stories of what God is doing in everyday life.
Rev Andrew Rollinson, St Andrews Baptist Church
Book: The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel
Author: Mark Dever and Paul Alexander
This book is unofficially the second part of 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (terrible title, great book). In that book Mark Dever argues persuasively that there should be certain distinctives that shape what we do. In addition to prayer, churches should be marked by expository preaching; Biblical theology; the Gospel; a Biblical understanding of – conversion, evangelism, Church membership, Church discipline, and Church leadership; and a concern for discipleship & growth.
What Deliberate Church does is put the meat on the bones of 9 Marks of a Healthy Church . The book is split into 4 sections – Gathering the Church, When the Church gathers, Gathering elders and When the elders gather.
This book is so refreshing. At no point does it encourage us to adopt the latest fad. At no point does it suggest that what we really need to do is simply borrow principals from the business world and spiritualise them. And at no point does it encourage us to be trendy in order to draw in a crowd.
Instead, what this book so ably does is get us back to basics. It outlines what we should be doing – not because ‘Mark Dever says’ but because the Bible says. For pastors – this book will give us the only model that we need – that of Scripture. This book calls pastors to be faithful in preaching, praying and being deliberate in investing in personal discipleship relationships.
This book calls us to ensure that the Gospel is central to all that we do. It helps us to realise the importance of church membership –noting that we must ‘guard the front door’ in order to protect the purity of the local church. This book will also motivate us in our evangelism, in helping us to be deliberate in our discipleship and will also help us to understand the important role of the ordinances.
This book helps us understand what Biblical leadership is, giving practical guidance on the qualifications and role of elders. All in all, this book encourages us to get excited about the Lord’s Church by painting the Biblical picture of the Lord’s Church. It will help heighten our ecclesiology by rooting us in the Bible. By the end of the book therefore, we will deeply desire our local churches to be places where there is an increasingly clear display of God’s wisdom and glory!
Rev Mark Schenk, Duncan Street Baptist Church, Edinburgh
Book: Deep Church – A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional.
Author: Jim Belcher, Founding/Lead Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, California. IVP.
It is with despair over recent times that I have listened to and read about the clash between two brothers in Christ, namely Rob Bell and John Piper. Rob would be seen as representing the emergent church and John the traditional church. Personally I don’t think either of them has helped the cause of the church in recent days after clashing over the content of Rob’s latest book ‘Love Wins’. Whatever the rights and wrongs it seems unwise to me to converse with one another in such a public way. I think the Bible says something about going to your brother if you have a grievance! Twitter does not constitute the Biblical model and frankly I expected better from both of them.
I have experienced equal despair at watching the Bellites and the Piperites get behind their men over the last few weeks and take the opportunity to have a go at one another. It is all very divisive and unhelpful, particularly as many of the ‘ites’ have not yet read the book for themselves.
This whole incident highlights the standoff within evangelicalism right now between those in the emergent church camp and those in the traditional church camp. It has been like this for years, but is becoming more and more difficult. The Bell/Piper incident of recent weeks is symptomatic of a much deeper division that is in danger of inflicting irreparable wounds to the church of Jesus Christ.
I will put my cards on the table and acknowledge that I have spent all my years in the traditional camp (by traditional camp I am thinking about a reformed view of the Scriptures and the gospel etc) but have always remained open to learn from the emergent camp in their desire and ability to find relevant ways to be church in today’s culture in regards to worship, mission etc. I agree with many of the questions that the emergent church ask of traditional church, but I am not always comfortable with or sure about their answers and get very frustrated when they provide no answers to their own questions!
At last I have found a book on the subject of emergent and traditional church that is humming my tune. Why must it be either/or, surely there must be a better way forward. Jim Belcher calls it ‘The Third Way’.
Jim has close friends within the emergent and traditional church. The book therefore benefits from his good relationship and standing with his brothers and sisters within both camps. His appeal, explanation and call to ‘The Third Way’, which he calls ‘Deep Church’, is attractive and compelling. He writes with passion and compassion and I believe his book is timely.
He presents the seven protests of ‘Deep Church’, which are:
1. Deep Truth.
2. Deep Evangelism.
3. Deep Gospel.
4. Deep Worship.
5. Deep Preaching.
6. Deep Ecclesiology.
7. Deep Culture.
He carefully explains each of the seven protests highlighting the position of the emergent and traditional church before going on to describe ‘The Third Way’ which is ‘Deep Church’.
Although the book is short the content has been well researched and is thorough. Belcher is a local church pastor and a practitioner of ‘The Third Way’, although he acknowledges that he and the church he serves are still seeking to work out fully the ‘Deep Church’ which he has written about in this book.
In his conclusion Belcher says; “It is my hope that ‘Deep Church’ will become a platform for working out a third way in the church, that pastors and scholars will use the seven protests I have outlined in this book to instigate conversations, build on my suggestions, do more research and strengthen the deep church. This will bring unity across denominations and theological persuasions.
I trust that his hope will be realised. I am persuaded that the third way is the way to go!
(PS. If you haven’t read John Alan’s or Derek Tidball’s articles on Rob Bell's latest book ‘Love Wins’, please take time to do so through the Partnership website).
Rev Alistair Purss, Dumfries Baptist Church
2. General Book Reviews
“One Lord, One Plan, One People” by Rodger Crooks, Banner of Truth, 2011. 465pp, paperback, £8.50
This is an excellent introduction to the Bible aimed at someone who is totally new to the Christian Faith. Although it seems lengthy, the author actually manages to summarize each book of the Bible into 7 or 8 pages, bringing out the over-all themes, and with the OT explaining how everything points forward to fulfilment in the Lord Jesus. On the whole it is written in a simple style, with just one or two passages that need to be further explained, for example the use of the word “wrath”, which is hardly in common usage in post-modern Scotland. Maybe that’s a hint of his Northern Irish background?.
As someone who is usually cautious about publications from Banner of Truth, this one is to be recommended,
HARRY SPRANGE Pastor Bathgate Baptist Church
The Lion Handbook of Science and Christianity [Hardcover]. UK price £25. Published 2012
“Excellent & Comprehensive. Well Illustrated & Clear Thinking”
Problems are bound to emerge when science and religion appear to be competing over similar explanatory space, so it is particularly refreshing to encounter the thoughts of people who are able to speak with authority on both disciplines. The Lion Handbook of SCIENCE & CHRISTIANITY brings together a group of very distinguished scientists who are also Christians to review the history of science-faith relations and to examine current scientific advances and theological perspectives.
As to be expected from LION Publications the book is well-written with outstanding and relevant illustrations. A feature of Lion publications is the highlighting of specific topics that are given extended treatment in boxed features.
The very helpful opening sections review scientific method and the nature of religious belief considering different types of knowledge and how these can be understood and applied to both scientific thought and religious belief. The contents then go on to deal with each of the principal scientific disciplines. Surveying the history of relations between science and Christianity from the sixteenth century to the present and also to show how Christian thinkers responded to major scientific discoveries and advances such as 'Creation and the beginning of the Universe'; 'Age of the Universe and of the Earth'; 'Theory of Evolution', 'Discovery of DNA'; 'Origin of Life'; 'Artificial Life'; ‘Ethics and Values’; and 'Developments and Understanding of the Human Brain'.
There are many more scientific and religious concepts presented and discussed that guide the reader carefully and clearly through these very interesting and helpful areas of Science and Christianity. It also includes discussions on ‘Intelligent Design’ and on ‘Creationism’.
Experts provide in-depth coverage of a very wide range of modern scientific advances including, stem-cell research, the life of the embryo, quantum mechanics, energy-generation, environmental understanding, nanotechnology, designer body parts and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
In actual fact, there has never really been 'warfare' between science and Christianity, yet the image persists. The various expert contributors to SCIENCE & CHRISTIANITY provide a combination of sturdy Christian theology with equally sturdy scientific knowledge making this a stellar book for reading straight through or a reliable resource for consulting individual topics".
Professor R J [Sam] Berry [Editor] has provided an excellent job in integrating some 26 expert contributors to provide a handbook and forum to help readers understand the issues raised where Christianity meets science.
Whatever your position on SCIENCE and CHRISTIANITY, this book will inform [and maybe challenge] you with the real story of the relation of science and Christianity. DO READ...........
Dr Jim Brooks [Queen’s Park Baptist Church, Glasgow]
3. For Younger Readers
Author: K. C. Murdarasi, Publisher: Troubador
According to the front cover Leda was shortlisted for the Scripture Union New Fiction Prize 2007, and, having read the book I can understand why.
K. C. Murdarasi, a member of Adelaide Place Baptist Church and a former missionary in Albania, writes beautifully and deeply theologically for young people.
Leda is titled after the main character growing up in Albania in 1991 just after the fall of Communism. When visiting missionaries come to a nearby village she hears about Jesus for the first time and puts her trust in Him. However, life circumstances threaten to overwhelm her and her faith at first falters. Yet God continues to reveal Himself to her, and she learns what it really means to put her trust in God and grow in faith with the help of a local pastor helping her understand the Bible.
When the country is thrown into chaos again in 1997, Leda and her best friend run away, to escape to Greece, and once again Leda’s faith is tested - though she knows that God is faithful and will get them through.
Throughout the book Murdarasi cleverly weaves biblical and theological truth into the well thought through narrative addressing issues such as what happens when God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we would like, the challenge to not compromise our faith in our lives, listening to God’s voice and being open to His guiding presence.
As the summer approaches and Sunday School prizegivings loom, Leda is well worth considering, especially for readers over 10 years of age. For more info or to obtain copies then visit K.C. Murdarasi’s website www.kcmurdarasi.com
Rev Mo Gibbs, St Ninian's Baptist Church, Youth Development Coordinator, Baptist Union of Scotland