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 – 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 – Ministries of Mercy, Third Edition: The Call of the Jericho Road (14/10)

Evangelicals are often concerned with getting the gospel right, but they are often not so careful at carefully thinking through the implications of the gospel. One area has had more attention recently is the area of social justice. I have to say being one who attends a church that isn’t too active in the area. I find myself often not think gin about this aspect. Timothy Keller has however persuaded me to think otherwise.

Ministries of Mercy, Third Edition: The Call of the Jericho RoadIn this book, Keller has given me ample reason to consider the implications of what it means to be a christian and a church in out world. In the first section, Keller wants to highlight the magnitude of the problem. He shows how many in America is suffering and lacking in many aspect. As one who does not come from America, I did not find the first chapter to every helpful. However, the rest of the chapters were excellent and helped me visualised similar problems that happens in my own country.

Keller uses the parable of the good Samaritan and makes an excellent case of highlighting the importance of meeting the needs of others. Within the book, I found that Keller gives a very balance approach between meeting the felt needs of people and also meeting their spiritual needs. Keller helps christians think christianly about these issues and helps to see that both aspects are essential to the work of social justice.

In the next section, Keller then helps the christian think through how to implement such measures within the church. I have found this section to be very helpful as well. As one who is convicted by Keller is saying, you might be wondering, how will I be able to implement these in my church? This is where this section comes in. Keller guides readers through the whole process from the start, even before the ministry has started. He highlights the importance of preparing the congregation, looking to God to provide the means of meeting such meets. He helps readers think not only of how to start a particular ministry, but also how to ensure that the ministry continues and grows in the process. One area I liked especially was how Keller talks about what we should do when someone leaves the ministry. This is often an area that is often overlooked or simply ignored. I’m glad that Keller has brought up some pointers on it.

Overall, I have often this book to be an excellent book to read if you’re thinking about how you or the church can grow in the social justice aspect. I’m sure this book will be a good biblical and practical guide for you. Recommended for pastors or ministry leaders serving in this aspect.

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

P.S. I would also recommend Good News to the Poor: Social Involvement and the Gospel by Tim Chester as a companion to this book, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

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 – On the Brink: Grace for the Burned-out Pastor (26/11)

One of the saddest things in ministry is to see pastors leaving the ministry after they’ve served for a number of years. This is sad not because they have not counted their cost before embarking on their calling, but because for some, if not most, would never return back to the ministry again. Many reasons could be attributed to him leaving, but is there a solution to this pertinent problem? Yes! Says Clay Werner, the author of this book.On the Brink: Grace for the Burn-out Pastor

Werner in this book wants to help pastors understand that they are firstly not the only ones going through these discouragements, setbacks or obstacles. Pastoral work is hard, and it is only by preserving in God’s grace can pastors hope to pastor their churches well. This is done in 2 large parts, Werner first draws out the problems often surfaced in pastoral ministry. First, he explores external problems, like the (ungrateful, maybe even rebellious!) people who the pastors minister to, the conflicts that occurs in churches, the (im)balance between family and ministry, the isolation faced by ministers. Next, he continues to help pastors search their hearts, exploring into the heart of the problem, whose kingdom do the pastors really want to build? God’s or theirs? Lastly, he explores the issues of disillusionment that pastors faces when they start their ministry.

From these issues, Werner then draws the readers to an important point, that the resurrection of Christ, our saviour changes everything and gives us hope for any issues we face in ministry. From it he present the “balms” of the gospel to the preachers, helping them see the depth of God and Christ’s love towards them, and only through that can they have the strength to love others. The next chapter, which I felt was the best chapter within this book, Werner brings the readers to see the example that Christ sets for us whilst serving us sinners. This really is an in-depth study on 1 Tim 1:15 (The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.), which I felt ministered to me a lot, even though I am not a pastor, I find the pointers resonates with me very well even as I ministers as a small group leader.

Werner continues on to help pastors deal with various other issues, such as selfishness (which I think many (not just pastors) will struggle with), unity of the church. He deals with these issues, not with legalism, but gently and gospel-centric-ly, drawing the pastors to see how the gospel enables us to deal with them even amidst the pain we’re suffering.

Lastly, he encourages pastors to continue and not to give up. This is definitely a good chapter to end with, Werner speaks with a lot of wisdom and tells pastors to continue on. Why? Because God never ever has given up on us even though we are stubborn and extremely stiff-necked against Him, and God has promised to work in His people, we should press on, with God is still at work.

Werner presents to the readers many helpful doctrines in this book, he draws on the depth of God and Jesus’s grace, Luther’s Theology of the Cross and John Newton’s pastoral advice. What might be surprising to the readers is that the author has not even pastored more than ten years! Yet, this is a book that pastors need, it’s never too late or too early to read this book. Highly recommended for pastors, young or old, one day you will need this book. Why not read it first to prepare yourself for it? And once more, when you really need it. Don’t give up, Don’t depend on yourself either. The gospel is still the only solution you need, trust in the Lord and depend on His grace for His ministry.

And to end off, here is a quote from John Newton:

May it please our heavenly Father to continue to give us all gospel endurance in gospel ministry.

By his care of the present, he gives us a pledge that he will take care of the future. Believe, fight on and fear nothing, for nothing can really hurt you. —John Newton

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 – Invitational Ministry: Move Your Church From Membership to Discipleship (18/11)

Stay in a church long enough and you will find out that one of the most common way people evangelise to their friends or family is through invitation to their church. So how can one utilise this and help the church grow?

Invitational Ministry: Move Your Church From Membership to DiscipleshipLaurene Beth Bowers has written a very helpful book to help pastors and ministry leaders think through about their own invitational ministry, and how they can continue to help this ministry grow. First Bowers tackles the idea that is pervasive in church all around, that the church needs to “take care” of themselves before they can reach out to others.

Bowers then moves to show what she means by invitational ministry, first she shows the differences between evangelism and invitational ministry, she shows how invitational ministry involves not only the people you intent to reach out to, it also involves the person who is doing the reaching out. The benefit of invitational ministry is that it takes into consideration both groups of people.

Bowers is honest to point out that some churches may only intend to work on the invitational ministry just so to increase their number of attendees or just so that the offering may increase. This is a real issue and Bowers do give some good insights into how to handle with this issue. Bowers talks about practical issues like defeatist mindset that members might have, or about churches that invests low energy into invitational ministries but unrealistically expects big results from them.

She also gives good ideas on how to help church generate ideas, and gives excellent suggestions on how to deal with this issue. She also suggests a new method of selecting and managing teams planning for events. Though I’ve yet to tried it, I do have my suspicion on whether it might actually help in the planning process.

This book is also not without its’ weakness. First, it seems as though that Bowers is more concern about how to phrase and train church members on how to answers potential questions that people may ask (i.e. their intentions to invite them, etc..) rather than addressing the heart issue of why the members are not evangelising. Bowers also suggests that churches may take a sabbatical from formal worship service.

This book will help readers think about invitational ministry in churches. Bowers offers many tips and good suggestions to think and use, but is lacking in doctrinal depth.

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 – The Gospel (12/10)

Far too often, christians forgets the gospel is also for them as much as it is for their non-christians counterpart. Too often Christians become bored with the gospel, the gospel no longer thrill us, excites us or awes us. Ray Ortlund has written to remedy the situation, he wants readers to be thrilled again by the beauty of Jesus.The Gospel

First Ortlund reminds the readers the most important news they should know — that the gospel is for them! Ortlund then highlights that it is only by knowing the gospel doctrines then, and only then can we have a gospel culture. Both are necessary and either can do without each other, but with both of them comes power. Ortlund then re-tells the gospel to the readers so that they will hear again the gospel.  Next Ortlund reminds the readers that the gospel is for the church — the body of believers in Christ, not just for individuals. He shows the readers that christianity is never meant for just individuals, but always for the community of believers.

Next, Ortlund shows the readers that the gospel is ultimately for everyone, for those who are within the church and those without. It is the only way of salvation for the world. Ortlund shows us that when Jesus is on world, he shows us the preview, the preview of what life will be like in the future. And that is where we are going, if we trust in the gospel.

Ortlund then moves to show how it is sometimes difficult for us to believe in the gospel, not only so, it is also difficult have cultures shaped by the gospel. Furthermore, sometimes the prevalent culture is already anti-gospel. He directs readers to think critically about our own culture, because sometimes our culture “denies” the gospel by not showing forth what the gospel entails.

Following which, Ortlund then calls the churches to expect to have fruitful seasons as we bring the gospel to people around us, we would definitely reap some fruit, however, we will also face opposition. Just like Jesus and Paul, whenever they goes there are those who are thankfully for the news they brings, and some are hatefully towards the message they bring. As disciples, we shouldn’t expect to receive any less.

Lastly, Ortlund ends by exhorting the churches to be reminded that with the gospel comes 3 things: power, courage and love. It is the gospel that will accomplish God’s work, we must trust, and grow in it. Nothing else must replace or substitute it.

As I read this book, this book has helped me grown to love the gospel and also to think critically about my culture. Thinking practically about how the gospel shapes my life, my church and my culture. Highly recommend if you want to grow in the understanding of the gospel, and also in how you can think practically about the gospel in your life.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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

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

Book Review – Am I Called? (28/9)

What would be the first thing you would do if you feel that you have calling to serve God at full-time  capacity? What are some guidelines you would use in making this decision? And how should you evaluate yourself? Should anyone who have this ‘call’ go ahead and serve God?

Am I Called?Am I Called?’ by Dave Harvey answers many of these questions and more. The book is divided into 3 parts. First, defining/hearing the call, second, diagnosing the call and third, what to do from the call till the time you actually go in and serve.

First Harvey brings out the importance of everyone who thinks that they’re called to the ministry to be called by God first, that is, that they are firstly christian! This might seem to be a topic that’s unnecessary or superfluous for a book that’s about pastoral calling. But Harvey is right to address the call that Christ’s servant must first have: Christ himself in them! It is quite dangerous to assume that just because you have such a calling that you’re without doubt a christian. But Harvey is right to show that God only calls to ministry, those whom He has fore-known and, fore-called to be His sons.

Next, Harvey moves on to discuss about the different qualification a man must have he if he is called to the ministry. Harvey does not derive these qualifications from experience of from his own wisdom, rather he points the readers to various passages that talks about such qualifications and shows what it means for the individual. I felt the section on the agreement of the community with regards to the call was one that was addressed excellently. Harvey is able to show clearly that although the call is individualised, yet it is never individualistic. God calls us, and we are affirmed about this calling in us, though the community. If no one agrees about your call, it’s probably not a calling from God.

In the last section, Harvey then talks about what a person can do, if he’s truly called but still have some time in between his calling and his service. He gives tips and also general directions on what the person could do during this time to prepare himself for the ministry. I felt that this chapter could have been elaborated and lengthened a little bit more. Some of them were really short advises that should have been addressed at a greater length.

Harvey has also very helpfully, placed stories of different individuals called by God as a start-point for his chapters, though the link is that clear, overall, I thought it was a good start to introduce these preachers to would-be preachers. If it creates a desire to want to dig up more information about into their lives, it would certainty be beneficial to them.

If pastors wants to study this book along with some of their leaders, it would be necessary for him to generate some discussion questions to fully utilise the book. But overall the book is short, clear and extremely helpful for anyone who’s clueless about what to do when he feels ‘called’ by God.a

Rating: 4.25 / 5

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