Here’s a rundown of the 7 books I read in September. The total is low because I’m still working my way through the 1,300 page third volume in the Robert Caro LBJ series and I also started George Marsden’s 600 page volume of Jonathan Edwards. Happy reading!
The Doctrines Baptist Believe by Roy Edgemon
Dr. Roy T. Edgemon, led the Southern Baptists’ discipleship training program for 22 years. In April of 2000 he retired as director of the discipleship and family group of LifeWay Christian Resources. During his tenure, the concept of undated discipleship courses was introduced in 1978. He was influential in the development and writing of The MasterLife course, now used throughout the world to disciple followers of Jesus Christ. It was this very course that changed my life when I was a college freshman.
I now have the extreme honor of serving as pastor to Dr. Edgemon. A number of weeks ago I informed him that I discovered his book “The Ways of God” in a pile of giveaway books. The next church meeting he handed me ‘The Doctrines Baptist Believe” and said, “You don’t have to dig around to find this one.” He signed it “To Pastor Jeff from Roy Edgemon” and dated it 9-4-19. I’ll treasure it.
I’ll treasure the book not only for sentimental value but because of its tremendous content. Edgemon provides a deeply theological work. Most books on baptist speak of polity but this one focuses on doctrine. Edgemon covers the baptist view on the Bible, the doctrine of God, the atoning work of Christ, the doctrine fo salvation, priesthood of the believer, and the church (among many others). If you can find it – pick it up.
PIONEERING MOVEMENTS: LEADERSHIP THAT MULTIPLIES DISCIPLES AND CHURCHES BY STEVE ADDISON
This is my third time reading this book cover to cover. It has challenged me every time. I feel as if it is still kicking me in the teeth.
This is not a book about church. This is a book about movements. This is not a book about church growth. This is a book about multiplication. Addison argues for multiplication of disciples and churches through movement leadership. Here are Addison’s 5 stages of movement leadership: seed sower, church planter, church multiplier, multiplication trainer, and movement catalyst. These are not simply hip and catchy titles. The book provides substance and numerous real life examples.
Here’s a glance at a few of the terms that might be unfamiliar. Church multipliers are church planters who have learned how to start churches that reproduce generations of new churches. These people move beyond adding new churches to multiplying them to fourth generations and beyond. Multiplication trainers are church multipliers who have learned to equip other church multipliers to achieve third and fourth generation churches. Movement catalysts are those who take on a broad responsibility to reach an unreached population segment or region. They are the catalysts for multiple streams of church planting within a previously unengaged and unreached people group.
The book challenges the well-established way to “do church.” I’ve read it three times and my head continues to spin.
The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church Team, and the World by Peter Scazzero
I’m always skeptical of leadership books. They are often very nicely packaged fluff. They’re usually fun to read but lack substance. This book offers a break from the norm. This was my second time reading it. In the midst of a new ministry setting, I’m looking to develop healthy spiritual habits. The first 5 months have seen great successes … and a few bumps in the healthy spiritual habits road.
Scazzero provides numerous helpful examples from his seasoned ministry. Yet, the examples are not merely anecdotes but guides that aid the reader in understanding the material. The premise of the book can be gathered from the subtitle. Scazzero spends much time discussing sabbath and boundaries. All of it is practical and helpful. Included in each chapter is a brief assessment of your personal health in regards to the topic at hand. I’m not a fan of assessments because I believe we are not honest when taking them. Yet, these assessments are short and to the point. I found them to be a quick way to engage the material and find ways to implement suggestions. To test my own honesty, I had my wife rate my answers.
I think this is a go-to read for a pastor (in particular) looking into the topic of self-care for the purpose of strengthening and extending ministry.
BASIC CHRISTIANITY BY JOHN STOTT
I appreciated John Stott as a scholar and an evangelical leader. I long for a voice like his to speak to our current times. We need a clear, well-respected, scholarly, evangelical voice crying out in the wilderness.
This is a primer on the essentials of the Christian faith or what CS Lewis described as “mere Christianity.” In fact, I would recommend Basic Christianity long before I would recommend Mere Christianity. It is an excellent, concise work and divided into four parts. Part one: the claims of Christ, the character of Christ, the resurrection of Christ. Part two: the fact and nature of sin, the consequences of sin. Part three: the death of Christ, the salvation of Christ. Part four: counting the cost, reaching a decision, being a Christian. I don’t know of a book with a similar aim that does a better job.
I would recommend that new Christians and long-time Christians read it alike. If every church member could grasp these concepts and speak them in their own words, the church would be a much stronger and healthier community.
Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need by David Platt
I have a great deal of respect for David Platt. He currently serves as lead pastor of McLean Bible Church in metro Washington, DC after stepping down as president of the International Mission Board. He’s also the founder of Radical, a global center for the unreached that serves churches around the world. My previous church loved the Secret Church simulcast hosted by Radical. I deeply appreciate Platt’s heart for exegetical preaching and his passion for missions.
This volume is perhaps best described as a spiritual travelogue. Platt takes the reader on a weeklong hike in the Himalayas and provides insights on his encounters, Biblical reflections, and prayers. Through the trek in the Himalayas, Platt experiences tremendous human needs and provides a first hand account. He also provides significant questions. If the gospel is true and good, then where is God amid extreme poverty and pain? Where is God’s protection for the oppressed and exploited? Is hell really a place, and does it actually last forever? Is Jesus really the hope of the world? Yet, he does not ask questions for the sake of questions. He points us toward action.
While his challenges toward action are not fully developed, they do provide a place to start. Platt calls readers to work hard to help well amid earthly suffering, work hardest to keep people from eternal suffering, be the church God calls us to be, and run the race God calls you to run.
Optimism by Helen Keller
Our church library is currently getting updated. Older and unused books are getting filtered out. I was overjoyed when this little volume was brought to my office when it was discovered. Helen Keller penned this essay on optimism in 1903. Here is a taste of the prose: “A man must understand evil and be acquainted with sorrow before he can write himself an optimist and expect others to believe that he has reason for the faith that is in him.”
Here is a bit more: “I know what evil is. Once or twice I have wrestled with it, and for a time felt its chilling touch on my life; so I speak with knowledge when I say that evil is of no consequence , except as a sort of mental gymnastics . For the very reason, I have come in contact with it, I am more truly an optimist. I can say with conviction that the struggle with which evil necessitates is one of the greatest blessings. It makes us strong, patient, and helpful men and women. It lets us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of overcoming of it. My optimism then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with good that it may prevail.”
Throughout the book Helen Keller provides insight into her faith perspective. At times it seemed on target and some times it seemed to miss the entire shooting range. After a little internet digging, I found that Helen Keller was a follower of the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. During a “spiritual awakening” Swedenborg received a revelation in which he was appointed by the Jesus Christ to write The Heavenly Doctrine to reform Christianity. According to The Heavenly Doctrine, the Lord had opened Swedenborg’s spiritual eyes so that from then on, he could freely visit heaven and hell to converse with angels and demons. Thanks, but no thanks.
Tracks of a Fellow Struggler: How to Handle Grief by John Claypool
John Claypool had spent decades ministering to others who suffered through the loss of loved ones, when loss hit home with the death of his eight-year-old daughter. In this volume Claypool shares his own journey through the darkness of heartbreaking grief. He does so through four sermons. The first was delivered just eleven days after his daughter’s diagnosis of leukemia, the second after her first major relapse nine months later, and the third weeks after her death. The final sermon – an inspiring reflection on the process of grieving – three years after the tragedy.
This volume will remind readers of A Grief Observed by CS Lewis. Yet, Claypool’s book is the one I’d recommend (Yikes! That’s twice I’ve recommended a book over a Lewis work in this log!) I prefer Claypool due to the sermonic form of the book. CS Lewis provides scattered reflections while Claypool provides fully formed and highly theological sermons.
While I acknowledge that preaching is an event in time, I have a profound love for a collection of written sermons.