Bring the Books 10
Note: With this post I bring to an end my series on a minister's reading. I may from time to time add book reviews as part of the mix going forward, but for the moment this series is done. As has become my custom, with the arrival of the holiday season I will now take a break from blogging. A new series will begin in January.
Last week we discussed the eight types of reading every minister ought to do. Today, I want to end this series with some recommendations for each of these eight types of reading. Of course, these are simply examples and are by no means meant to be a thorough discussion of all that you should read in a particular category. If you have been reading this blog over the last couple of months and you find yourself with an increasing conviction that you need to grow in this area, today's post, along with Joe Cassada's Puritan recommendations, is a great place to start. So without further ado let us commence.
1) Dennis Corle, "Spiritual Leadership", three volumes
While he could use a bit more organization and seems to think an editor is the first step on the road to liberalism, he also packs an incredible amount of content into this set. There are shorter books, more popular books to begin with in relation to leadership but these volumes really helped me. They drove home the idea that leadership is two things: influence and service. They proceeded to examine a veritable plethora of Scriptures on the subject from a wide variety of angles.
2) John Milton Gregory, "The Seven Laws of Teaching"
Gregory was a fine Christian, and the first president of the University of Illinois. This is an old book, but you all know I like dead guys. It is also rather small, and easily digestible. In this book Gregory lays out the basic essentials that every teacher needs. I am not referring to materials but to a philosophical understanding of how to approach teaching in order to ensure that your pupils are actually learning. It is a fantastic book.
1) R. A. Torrey, "The Fundamentals", four volumes
Of course, if you call yourself a fundamentalist you ought to read this, period. But beyond the intellectual honesty of reading the set that was so influential in our establishment, it is simply good stuff. Torrey pulled together a wide range of ministerial experience, literary talent, and intellectual heft. The result is a genuine classic. You owe it to yourself to think your way through these.
2) J. Dwight Pentecost, "Things to Come"
This classic discussion of eschatology, while a bit dated, has yet to be out done, and remains the best of the one volume books on the subject written from a dispensational perspective. Dallas Theological Seminary has produced some dead preachers, for sure, but it has also produced some excellent books. This is among them. Read it slowly, especially if you are new to the subject.
Areas in Which You Are Weak:
This one is obviously highly personal, but here are two that helped me.
1) Jim Berg, "Changed Into His Image"
Holiness, or sanctification, is an awful weak point for the IFB movement. We generally equate it with standards that are little more than a list of don'ts. Jim Berg, longtime professor at BJU, lays out an excellent case for a complete approach to personal holiness. I have at least 25 books on holiness in my office. I am currently writing one. This one is simply the best of them all. At least until mine comes out… <grin>
2) Jeremy Pierre, Deepak Reju, "The Pastor and Counseling"
Several years ago, after feeling an increasing sense of lack in my own understanding of and ability in counseling, I set out to educate myself. Shortly, I came across the biblical counseling movement. Several seminars and books later, I count myself an appreciater (is that a word?) while not quite a follower. Along the way I came across this little book. It is much more up to date and realistic than Jay Adam's pedantic tomes. It does a good job giving the essentials of a basic approach to counseling, and thus is a great place to start if this happens to be one of the weaknesses you want to improve.
1) Jim Binney, "The Ministry of Marriage"
I fell in love with this book. It is so unflinchingly scriptural. Binney, an independent Baptist pastor with a wide experience in counseling troubled marriages, hammers home the idea that marriage is about ministering to your mate rather than manipulating them for your own ends. It is one of those rare books that has the potential to be life-changing.
2) Denny Kenaston, "The Pursuit of Godly Seed"
Kenaston, who transitioned from an IFB preacher to something a little closer to Mennonite, clearly placed a pre-eminence on his family in both his ministry and his personal life. His approach can be frustrating at times in its advocacy for a rural lifestyle, but setting that aside it is pure gold. It is a warm, thorough treatise, both philosophical and practical. I cannot tell you how often I wept as I read it, as I thought of and prayed for my own children along the way.
1) Michael Kerrigan, "A Dark History: The Roman Emperors"
If you preach the Bible you really need to understand Rome. It colors everything that happens in the New Testament. Now you could, for example, listen to the massive History of Rome podcast or read the equally massive Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I have done both of those and more besides, but for a much quicker introduction to the green screen of the New Testament I offer you this. It is a concise, interesting presentation of the moral, legal, civil, economic, and political walking disaster that was the Roman emperor, for the most part.
2) James R. Beller, "America in Crimson Red"
Aside from the whole George Washington's sword proves he was a Baptist disaster, this book is a helpful introduction to Baptist history in America. Its wisdom is that it confines itself to America, thus avoiding the thorny discussion of origin. Beller did his homework and it shows. It also shows us the important historical influence the Baptists have had here, and to our shame our complete failure to live up to our forefather's church planting efforts.
What Interests You:
Again, as with weaknesses, this is personal, but I offer you two as an illustration.
1) Mickey Hart, "Drumming at the Edge of Magic"
Mickey Hart was for several decades the lead drummer for the Grateful Dead. More than a drummer, however, he spent so much time studying drumming he essentially became an ethno-musicologist. Of course, from his perspective this is all a healthy exercise in learning to let the drum speak. From my perspective it was an impeccably researched, absolutely undeniable, horrific proof of the demonic presence in beat heavy rhythmically oriented music. If you can read this book as a Christian and still see nothing wrong with rock music I doubt I can help you understand anything spiritual at all.
2) Andrew Jukes, "The Names of God"
Another under-rated dead guy, Kregel has given us a gift with this reprint. The Bible is the revelation of God. This is basic to understanding it. It shows me who God is. Thus, as I read and study it I read and study it to see what it shows me about Who God is. One of the most interesting ways God reveals Himself in Scripture is via His self-chosen names. They show us Who He thinks He is – which is who we ought to think He is, naturally. Jukes deals both expositionally and devotionally in so doing. I think three or four of my personal praise lists are directly related to the names of God, and this book was the genesis of that in my life.
What God Emphasizes:
1) Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount"
You are reading a guy who wrote a book on the Sermon on the Mount. I would rather you read his book than mine. Why we independent Baptists so horribly neglect what is Christ's longest, best, and greatest sermon is utterly mystifying to me. Remember what I said above about life-changing books? This is one of those.
2) Andrew Murray, "With Christ in the School of Prayer"
Another dead guy who really ought to be read more, Murray was a warm-hearted South African most associated now with the Keswick Convention. This is a simple book. In fact, I recently read this book over a series of weeks to our Wednesday morning prayer group. I do not agree with all of it, naturally, but he does an excellent job of moving prayer deeper and farther than the average layman has ever viewed it. Read it. Then pass it on to your people.
Did I mention Edersheim yet? Ha! At any rate, here are a couple more very much worth your consideration.
1) J. W. Shepard, "The Christ of the Gospels"
The second best book I have read on the life of Christ, it edges out Pentecost's "Words and Works of Jesus Christ" because of it is simply a stronger book. It is warmer, better written, and more historically based. In places, he is so good he pushes Edersheim. Shepard shows you Jesus, and does it well. And that is awesome.
2) James Stalker, "The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ"
This book does not pretend to be a discussion of the life of Christ. It is neither historical nor expositional. Rather, it is boldly and plainly devotional. Stalker aims to bring home to us the personal impact of the last hours of Jesus' life, and he does so very well. So often this genre can turn into 75 pages of minute discussion on the date and place of Jesus' birth – I kid you not, those books are in my library. Stalker aims Jesus' death square at your heart, and he hits his target.
As a wonderful throw in here at the end, for those of you that are looking for a more detailed list of recommended books, let me point toward Clarence Sexton's book list. It contains 524 specific recommendations divided into categories such as Bible Study and Methods, Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, Commentaries, Geography, Concordances, Hermeneutics, Old Testament General, Greek Language Tools, Introduction to the New Testament, The Life of Christ, Miracles, Parables, Eschatology, Theology and Apologetics, Bible Doctrines, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Christology-Atonement, Christology-Life of Christ, Christology-Christ in the Old Testament, Baptists, Church Administration and Polity, Biographies, Missions, Prayer, The Christian Life, and each individual book of the Bible. As you can imagine, it is a massive compilation, and I think every serious independent Baptist minister ought to mine it. It is a tremendous resource. You can find it here.
In closing, let me say how much I enjoyed writing this series, and the interaction I have had with you all along the way. I hope it has likewise been a blessing to you. See you all again in January.