New Books I Like
Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?
I love this book. I anticipate recommending it often. Over a year ago an editor asked if I might be interested in writing a book about the gospel? I wasn’t sure I had much new to say anyway, but once I heard that Greg Gilbert was doing a similar book I knew I wouldn’t need to write mine. Greg was the right man for the job. This little book (124 pages) provides a terrific primer on a most important subject. Greg clarifies, corrects, edifies, and sanctifies. Read this book, and give it away.
Jonathan, like Greg, is affiliated with 9Marks and Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. And no one is doing more to think through the practical out-workings of biblical ecclesiology than 9Marks. This is a big book and I admit I haven’t finished it yet, but the parts I’ve read have been very good. Don’t be intimidated by 350 pages on membership and discipline. There is a 6-page outline of Jonathan’s arguments at the back of the book. This outline is so logical and helpful I’m surprised more books don’t include something like this.
Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, The Essential Edwards Collection
Do we really need more books on Edwards? Well, I like these books because they attempt something unique. The Essential Edwards Collection includes five slim volumes (app. 150 pages each): Edward on beauty (which I’m currently reading), on the good life, on true Christianity, on heaven and hell, and Jonathan Edwards lover of God. These books are ideal for the Edwards novice who is isn’t ready to jump into Marsden and might be intimidated by “the greatest theologian America has ever produced.” Each volume introduces an element of Edwards’ theology and piety, often quoting at length from Edwards himself. Strachan and Sweeney will help you wade into the deep end of the pool.
Trevin is a former missionary and the associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He is also a prolific blogger. I read this book before it was published and agree with Packer’s blurb: “How should God’s people put the lordship of Jesus Christ on display in their lives? Wax’s searching answer is biblical, basic, businesslike, and blunt.” Trevin shows us how the gospel of Jesus Christ subverts self, success, money, leisure, sex, and power. He then calls us to subversive evangelism as a subversive community.
Timothy Z. Witmer, The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church
For five years our church has worked hard to improve elder-shepherding. We’ve worked on this as much as we’ve worked on anything. And yet, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we still have work to do and gaps to fill. I read Witmer’s book in one sitting. I found it that engaging and helpful. This is “practical theology” at its best: applying biblical principles to contemporary pastoral needs. His grid for knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting the sheep through macro public ministry and micro private ministry is simple and compelling. If you can read this book and not be motivated to develop a more effective shepherding ministry in your church, you might want to check if you are called to shepherd in the first place.
Reformed evangelicals have a tendency to look down on churchy books with even a whiff of management technique or pragmatism about them. That’s probably a healthy caution, but we shouldn’t overdo it. Structures do matter. Organizational strategy can be better or worse. So let’s try for better. I really liked this book. It is funny and full of good advice on everything from staff alignment to setting salaries to the challenges of growth. Even if you or your pastor doesn’t like thinking about this stuff, someone in the church needs to. This book would make great reading for an administrative team or anyone concerned about organizing church leadership for success.