Book Review – Why Bother With Church? (30/9)

I love this title. This book highlights the thought that many (both christians and non-christians) has towards the church. In my own church, I see and feel that many youths have this apathy towards the church. So should we really bother with the church? What will we really lose if we are not involved in a church?

Why bother with church?Sam Allberry has written a short book to address it. Allberry starts by highlighting that the church doesn’t mean a physical structure or location. In fact church really means a gathering of people. He shows readers that the new testament christians were more concern about the gathering of the believers that the physical building they were at and that we should always keep this in the back of our mind as we talk about the church.

Next, Allberry highlights our need for the church. He shows us how as christians we cannot really divorce our faith from our community. This is what Jesus and the authors of the different New Testament books were concerned about. It is both our need and our service to be within a community to support and encourage and to be supported and encouraged.

Allberry then explains to readers what is a good church. He covers three aspects of the church. First the church is committed to learning from God’s word, next the members are committed to one another and third, the church is committed to worshiping God. Having done so, Allberry also adds a small excursus that talks about how to choose a church and about what baptism and communion is about.

Finally Allberry talks about a church’s governance and how we can be committed to a church despite the difficulties we have. I found this section to be honest and pastorally helpful although Allberry does not provide all the answers to the questions one might have, this is a good small for such a thin book. It leaves readers thinking how they can not be committed to a church if they’re christians. For those who think they’re over with the church, why not pick up this book and reconsider your conclusion? For youths who think church is boring and a waste of time, perhaps this book will be something you can consider as an alternative to what you believe.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

The New Pastor’s Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry (15/4)

Are you a young budding pastor? Or going to be one soon? Then perhaps you should strongly consider getting this book in preparation for your ministry. Jason Helopoulos writes as an older pastor giving sound advices to young and budding pastors. Helopoulos writes in short and succinct chapters each with a clear focus that can allow readers to read them along side the daily devotion.

The New Pastor's Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of MinistryIn the first section Helopoulos deals with an important area that all pastors have to undergo, their calling. He explains what a calling is, and is not, and how one should discern his calling. He also deals with the practical issue of how to choose a candidate pastor as a church elder. From that Helopoulos moves to explain the different roles a pastor play. He pulls out the important points of what is required from a youth pastor, or what is necessary for an assistant pastor. I found this helpful as most books on pastoral usually focuses on being the solo or senior pastor’s role.

Next, Helopoulos gets down to the daily ministry of pastors. He gives helpful and practical advices to pastors, giving them reminders and encouragement along the way. This section will be helpful for any pastors. At times pastors will need some aligning from their work and this will be a good reminder for them.

Thereafter Helopoulos talks about the pitfalls young pastors usually fall for. This is also another section that isn’t covered much by other books. This section will raise many points that young pastors should take special note. This will help them start well in their ministry.

Laslty, Helopoulos talks about the joy serving the Lord as pastors. He ends of the book with a great encouragement to pastors. Although pastoral can be tough, draining and demanding, Helopoulos reminds readers that they are the ones who has been given the privilege to serve God in a full-time capacity and supported financially for it!

All in all, this is an excellent book for those who are starting out in their pastoral ministry. Older pastors will not doubt find section 2 very helpful for your work too, but this book really seeks to serve the young budding pastors.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry (11/4)

Are you a pastor? If you are, do you know your role well? Will you be able to find good reference materials on how to do your job well? Pastors will now be able to find excellent help in this book. As an experience pastor, R. Kent Hughes wants to pastors young and old with their ministries and has put all of these into this book.

The Pastor's Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry Hughes starts first by teaching readers the biblical understanding of the worship service and highlighting the different components of a service. Next, he talks about some annual and special services and gives readers plenty of examples that they can refer and even utilise in this own churches.

Next, Hughes spends time talking about the important of public prayer. Although prayer is a topic that many books have been written about. Public prayer is not one that has been covered much. Given that pastors will find themselves often leading the congregation in prayer, this will be section that will be immensely important and practical for pastors. Hughes also has a section on the music and lyrics of songs used in a worship service. Hughes gives practical advice to pastors so they are able to navigate through the worship wars, yet be able to understand what the lyrics of a songs is supposed to do.

Lastly, Hughes also covers other important aspects such as counselling and hospital visitation. Pastors who are new to this may sometimes feel helpless when there is not one to guide them. This book by Hughes will then supplement this gap.

Pastors, young or old will find this book helpful. For young pastors this will be a helpful material to give some breadth and depth to the understanding of the ministry of the church. For older pastors, this will be a good reference material and also a good guide for you as you re-examine and evaluate your own ministry. Hopefully this book will help pastors grow and mature in the way they minister to their congregation.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel (23/12)

Is America a Christian nation? In the recent years this notion seemed to have been challenged deeply. Yet Russell D. Moore will argue that this notion is completely wrong. America has never been called to be a christian nation and we better not have this notion at the back of our mind.

Onward: Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the GospelWithin this book, Moore wants christians to wake up to the reality that although the privilege of being in a “christian nation” has now disappeared, that is actually for the better for christians. Moore highlights the various differences that will happen to christians now. One such difference is that Christians will have to embrace a prophetic role. We have to be like the prophets of old who boldly proclaim God’s Word to a people who will not be happy with us and who will not listen to what we have to say. By the looks of how things have been going, it looks like this is very likely to happen in the near future.

Having raised his observation at the American culture and thinking, Moore then brings in different topics that he wants readers to think about. Moore very carefully helps the readers to think through these topics biblically, rather than thinking through them politically or culturally. These chapters seems to be a good wake up call for all christians on either side of the issue. Moore is careful not to push readers to the position he takes, rather he helps readers think through their own position critically and examine to see if it is really biblical or just seemed biblically.

I really appreciate how Moore ended his book calling christians not to have a defeatist mindset, rather we have to look ahead to how God will lead His own people. Our trust remains on God, the same God who has used a cult following, promiscuous man (Augustine) to further His kingdom in ways no one would have expected. I liked how Moore reminds us that the next person God might use for His kingdom may jolly well be the one who is fighting for the LGBT marriage rights or the right to abortion, just like how Saul, the persecutor of the church was miraculously changed to the apostle Paul. Moore leaves the readers with great expectation that God can and maybe will do great things in the near future. In the meantime, let us learn to live lives faithful to what the Bible calls us to and loving proclaim what God has spoken to us to the world.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

P.S. If you might also be interested to get Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone by Carl Truman, who gives thoughtful critiques on what’s happening in the evangelical circles. Here is my review on it. And you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Book Review – Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (30/11)

Living as a young christian, I’ve always been taught that christian life is full of passion and zeal for the Lord. However, my life experience has taught me that zeal and passion comes and goes very quickly. I really will not be able to keep myself in the christian faith is that is all to Christianity.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless WorldMichael Horton has observed the same problem in the christian circles and wants to bring believers back to the what the bible has to say about being a disciple of Jesus. His message to christian is quite simple, let us seek the ordinary means of grace in our pursuit of Christ in our christian life.

Horton first sets up the problem with the current teachings of the church at large. He highlights some of their problematic and wrong teaching. For example, he shows how the word ambition, which was previously referred to as a vice but has now change to be something virtuous. More crucially, Horton shows how the church has moved towards a very short-term view of christian discipleship. We have trained up a group of christians who live on passion and instant results. In the long run, they will eventually leave the church. Simply because the church will never be able to outperform the world in such areas.

Having listed out the problems, Horton then moves the readers on to the historic teaching of the church. He helps readers see the importance of the ordinary means that God has already promised and provided — the church, the preaching of the word of God, the Lord supper, and baptism. The christian discipleship process is like the life of a tree, it is not the high-and-lows the trees has in it’s life everyday that makes it big and strong, rather it is the routine daily nurturing of the sun’s ray and rain that slowly makes the tree sturdy.

After reading this book, I’ve had a deeper appreciation of the ordinary means of grace that the Lord has given to us. I have a greater anticipation of what the Lord will do as I gather each week in the church listening to the word and partaking of the Lord Supper. I’m not disheartened or discouraged when I can see no observable change in my zeal or passion because I’m assured that the Lord has promised to use those means to help me grow. The growth may be subtle and minute, but as I grow slowly week by week, I know that God is surely helping me grow slowly, but surely to be more and more like Jesus.

This book is certainty one I will recommend for any christian, especially if you think the christian life is only about being zealous to God. I hope you will see that the bible’s teaching is certainly not about zeal but about growing sustainably in the word of God. We need no other source nor do we need anything to zest it up.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Book Review – The Secret Life of a Pastor (10/11)

How well do you know your pastor? Do you know what his daily life or spiritual life is like? I guess most of us don’t really know our pastors lives. We don’t really know what they struggle with, we don’t really know what their seminary training entails and we don’t know what their burdens are. Yet out pastors need counsels, advice and support. Michael A. Milton writes this book as an older pastor helping pastors pastorally go through some of these issues.

The Secret Life of a Pastor: (and other intimate letters on ministry)This book focuses on the preparation a pastor go through, the objectives the pastor should achieve and the discipline to care for both their family and the family of God. Milton comes as an experienced pastor and teacher, giving valuable advice to budding pastors. He tell students in seminary that they are to take their training, especially in the learning of original languages seriously. He helps them see that they have been given the privilege to learn something most of his congregation will not have the chance to! This gives them the motivation and correct perspective into their calling and training. Seminary students are not to take these modules as mere academic lessons, rather they are to see that they are being equipped to do what many of their congregation will never have a chance to do.

Next, Milton raise the issue of the daily workings of the church. It would be easy for a pastor to get use to the weekly routine of the workings of the church. It slowly becomes a task that the pastor has to complete. Milton helps pastors see the purpose and value behind some of these routine tasks like infant baptism, expository preaching and ministering. Using his experience, Milton shows reminds pastors that God is working through these means. Their work and labour no matter how mundane is something that God has appointed them to do, they must not lose the wonder of how God is using these means to grow His church.

Lastly, Milton takes readers to see how important it is for them to take care of their own families. He reminds readers that they are not to neglect their families but specially make time and effort to build up their own families.

I have found Milton to be an excellent guide for helping me gain an insider perspective on what a pastor’s life looks like. I think pastors will find his pastoral advice helpful to their life and work. Hopefully this book will help revitalise those who are weary and energise those who are struggling through their ministry.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – A Well-Ordered Church (11/8)

Running a church isn’t easy. What is a church? What is worship? What does the Lord Supper represent? These are some of the questions this book will answer you.

A Well Ordered ChurchWilliam Boekestein and Daniel R. Hyde writes this book which aims at introducing the reformed church to it’s readers. First, the book starts by informing the reader that the authors are not keen to explain how a church should work from any other perspectives other than what the bible says. This reminds to be the primary text for the whole book. Boekestein and Hyde first tells the readers the identity of the church. They are reminded that the church consists of both the invisible and visible church, there is only one church and that Christ is the head of the church.

Next the authors bring up a touchy topic. They introduces the authority of the church. In this day and age, this may not be an pleasant topic to raise, but the authors make clear, if the bible says it, then we are to pay attention to what it says despite what we might feel about it. They also explains why and how the ministers of the church use their authority. Following which Boekestein and Hyde explains how a reformed church should interact with those who are of the same denominations and those of different denominations.

In the last section, Boekestein and Hyde talks about the activities of the service. These includes things like worship, teaching and evangelism. The authors explain clearly the rationale and basis of all these activities. Given that this is a book on the reformed churches, one should not expect the book to raise any alternate perspectives on such matters.

As one who is reformed, but who does not attend a reformed church. I have found this book to be especially enlightening. I have found that what I have learnt in this book will really help me in the future when I attend a reformed church. As such, I would recommend those who are attending a reform church to read this book. In doing so, you will see the biblical basis of why your church is ran in such a manner. This book is an introductory material and are broken down into short readable chapters that should be suitable for anyone who is high school and above. Boekestein and Hyde has written an excellent book for the reformed churches and some of them might want to see if this is a helpful book as an introduction to those who wants to learn about the reform church.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond (10/3)

One of the role of the pastor is to shepherd his flock. But what does it mean? So far, to my mind, I can think of Shepherds After My Own Heart by Timothy Laniak and Shepherding God’s Flock by Jay Adams, which are books related to this topic. However now having read this book, I do think there’s one more worthy book on this topic, though this book is not a book teach you how to shepherd, this is certainly a book that teaches you what it means to be a leader of a church.

Shepherding God's Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and BeyondShepherding God’s Flock is a book written by Baptist theologians but it is definitely not just meant for those who belong to the baptism denomination. Two clear strengths can quickly be identified from this book, first, it aims to show the readers what the bible has to say about the church leadership, next it aims to compare and show the differences each denominations has in regards to the structure of how they shepherd their flock.

4 chapters are devoted to finding out what church eldership is according to the bible. One chapter compares the differences between the old testament usage of the word elders, and the new testament definitions of elder. Another chapter was devoted to the gospel, looking at how Jesus shepherded his disciples. The next chapter then focused on Acts and Paul’s letters to the church, while the remaining chapter focused on general epistles and Paul’s pastoral epistles.

In the next section, different denominations are examined in regards to their governance. It was a delightfully surprise to see that this book has also included 2 chapters on the Catholic church. Given the long history of the Catholic church, it was a good decision to spilt this into two separate chapters.

Lastly, three protestant denominations were examined individually, the Anglicans, Presbyterians and the Baptist. These chapters certainly argued for the Baptist position, yet they were able to present the denominations in a fair and accurate way. It was a joy to read through these chapters as they present the history and the structure of the different denominations.

The last 2 chapters then helps the readers to consolidate what has been covered in the book and to practical-ise them. First the theology of church leader is presented, and next some practical advice and suggestions are given to the present leaders.

I found this book to be very informative and helpful in understanding this topic. Even if you are not a baptist, you still can give this book a read. This book would be helpful to young pastors as this is not like a perspectives book, which give you a picture of what different denominations has to say about church leadership, it also packs within it, many biblical truths from the bible to teach the readers what the bible has to say about being a elder.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping).

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine (26/2)

Doctrines are important to the church, but is doctrine practical? Kevin Vanhoozer argues in this book that doctrine is the one that shapes the church which in turns shapes the discipleship making process.

Faith Speaking UnderstandingThis was the first time I read Vanhoozer, and I found that many a times I had to slow down to digest the contents of the book. Vanhoozer’s writing can be dense at times, but has always been very thought-provoking.

Vanhoozer using the drama as a metaphor to understand the christian faith. Like a theatre, the christian faith ought to be a drama set out for the world to see. I felt that the part of the book was how Vanhoozer explored the link between doctrines and disciples.

Often, the disciple making process in our day and age uses the pragmatic approach to answer the question of how we make a disciple. Vanhoozer counterintuitively, moves the readers towards doctrine first and then towards making a disciple. This is a refreshing approach as Vanhoozer seeks first to figure what Jesus has to say about the disciple making process.

Having said that, this book is certainly no light reading. Pastors, church leaders or even cell group/discipleship leaders ought to give this book a read and explore what Vanhoozer has to say about this important topic.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Salt, Light and Cities on Hills (1/1)

Happy New Year Guys!

Here’s the book review as promised. Hope you’ll find it useful.

The struggle between social actions and evangelism has been a hotly debated issue that has been discussed repeatedly throughout church history and also recently. One might be incline to think in terms of “which one should the church do more of?”. But as Melvin Tinker shows, both are important.

Salt, Light and Cities on HillsTinker first starts by summarising what has been discussed about this topic in our recent past. Tinker shows clearly how the idea of evangelism with social action has shifted or progressed through the decades, and why these have happened. Next, Tinker then gives in his own opinions on what has happened, giving his criticism on those whom he disagree with and explaining why he agrees to some of the points raised.

Next, Tinker brings the readers to the bible. He first concentrates on the New Testament, working on the two metaphors Jesus used to describe his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount — salt and light. Following which, Tinker then brings the readers into the Old Testament to see how a Jew would have understood these two metaphors with their background and their upbringing. Though I do not agree with that Tinker has raised in this chapter, I do find many helpful pointers that he has raised that helped me reconsidered about my own views too. Following which, Tinker showed how in Acts the believers lived out what it means to be light and salt. Tinker shows clearly that the church did not choose one or the other, instead they did both. However, the preaching of the gospel was always the crux of the disciples, while the social actions was always the “follow up” or implication of the gospel. Lastly, Tinker ends by sharing about his own experience and also how the church can consider about how they can start such a ministry in a blue-collar region.

I found the summary of the history of social actions and evangelism, and the discussion on what it means to be salt and light to be cogent and thought-provoking. I enjoyed this book a lot, though I’m not very well read in this area, I think the strength of this book is how Tinker tries to think about this topic as biblically as he can.

Albeit it would be worth considering if the two words — salt and light — would really be a good basis to think about social action and evangelism, Tinker helps readers think what these two words would actually mean. This is where the book excels, it shows the readers what the bible has to say about it. Pastors or those involved in church evangelism ministry should be challenge to read this book especially if they want to stay think biblically about what the bible has to say about social action. I’m sure you’ll benefit from the pointers raised in this book.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping).

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review