Book Review: Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

A Useful Primer For Biblical Leadership in the Church

 In this book experienced pastor Thabiti Anyabwile writes three sections on how to find deacons, elders, and specify what their roles are in the church. Pastor Anyabwile gives the pertinent biblical requirements for deacons and elders, and gives numerous helps on biblical qualifications, traits to watch for, and questions and observations for examining whether or not those under consideration are wise choices for the respective offices of elder and deacon.

I think the best way to use this book is to use it as Thabiti Anyabwile intended it to be used:

 “First, use it prayerfully. Pray for pastors and elders as they shepherd and serve the sheep. Pray for more men to be raised up in the congregation for this important work. Pray that the Lord would pour out his grace on those serving these tasks. Pray that the members of the church would show genuine appreciation, love, and care for their shepherds. Pray that all the men in the church would grow in the qualities that elders should possess. Pray that men would have a godly desire to give their lives in serving the body of Christ as servant-leaders.

Second, use this book practically. The book does not delve into a lot of detailed argumentation, hoping instead to make application easily and quickly. I want the book to help in actually doing something—identifying and training elders—not just considering something. Put the suggestions into practice, and improve them with the experience and wisdom that come from your particular church setting and other faithful leaders.

Finally, use the book pedagogically. That is, use it to teach and instruct. Perhaps a church needs to select its first elders after a period of planning and study. Pastors may wish to use these brief chapters to ‘flesh out’ for the average church member which qualities the congregation as a whole needs to be looking and praying for in their prospective elders. Examination and pastoral search committees may find similar help.”

Take it from my own experience in over twenty years of pastoring – you want to get all the help you can in the wise selection of, praying for, training of, and role implementation of your elders and deacons – because the church will ultimately rise to great heights or fall to low depths based on the quality, character, and biblical execution of it’s leaders.

I highly recommend this book for church planters, existing leadership teams, solo pastors, deacons, and elders. It serves as a concise handbook that you can use to strengthen your existing leadership, develop future leaders, and most certainly add health and value to Christ’s church as you seek to be a good steward of its most valuable resources.

Book Review: Four Views On The Spectrum of Evangelicalism – Edited by David Naselli and Collin Hansen

A Scintillating Dialogue on Evangelicalism Historically and in the Present

I love the format of the “Views” books in that they allow the reader to wrestle with and think about crucial issues that oftentimes divide Christians. Instead of having the bias of one author – you get to see an offensive and defensive articulation of each view and weigh the evidence based on the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence given by each author. This new offering in the “Views” series particularly addresses important aspects that unite and divide “evangelicals.” An evangelical is someone who holds to the “good news” as declared from the Scriptures. However, what is the good news? What are the uniting factors of the good news? And what are the boundaries required in disseminating the message, and uniting around the good news in order to penetrate society with the gospel?

The reason this book and the issues are so important is that what is at stake in all of this discussion is the heart of the gospel, and if there is no agreement on the gospel than unity is ultimately a vain pursuit, and the power of the gospel is squelched in isolated enclaves, rather than in a unified front.

In this book the panel of experts specifically focus on three areas in evaluating the spectrum of evangelicalism:

1) They evaluate their views on Christian cooperation with respect to Evangelicals and Catholics in evaluating the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement led by Charles Colson and the late John Neuhaus, which began in the 1990’s. Also, they address the more recent Manhattan Declaration in order to bring more clarity to cooperation among social and theological concerns.

2) They evaluate doctrinal boundaries – what are the “essentials” that make one a doctrinally sound evangelical – specifically with reference to the recent debates over “open” theism (does God know the future).

3) They explain their specific views on key issues related to the atonement with specific reference what it means that Christ took on God’s wrath meant for sinners.

The Four Distinct Views Presented Are:

View #1: Fundamentalism – Kevin T. Bauder (Research Professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis)

View #2: Confessional Evangelicalism – R. Albert Mohler Jr. (President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville)

View #3: Generic Evangelicalism – John G. Stackhouse Jr. (Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada)

View #4: Postconservative Evangelicalism – Roger E. Olson (Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University)

After each writer presents his view there is a response from each of the others with insightful commentary on the others’ views. I found this book to be historically enriching, doctrinally thought provoking, and challenging in its ecclesiological and sociological implications. I hope this book will summon a wide reading and will help balance the thinking, behavior, and unity of all who care about being an evangelical – and more importantly getting the gospel right so that we may speak it and live it boldly in a world that desperately needs to know Jesus and what it means to be a part of His body on earth.

Booklet Review: “Hope…The Best of Things” by Joni Eareckson Tada

Nobody earns the right to be heard more than those Christian saints who have been “refined in the fire.” In this little booklet Tada (a quadriplegic for the past four decades – who speaks, writes, and paints with a brush in her mouth) shares some encouraging words for those who are “in the fire” of suffering. I think that this little booklet is useful to read before, during, or after suffering as the thesis of Tada is centralized on the eventual glory we will experience because of the promises of Christ in the Scriptures.

The Four Chapters Are:

1)    Hope is Hard to Come By – Tada discusses her and our battle with suffering and our selfish nature that only God can deliver us from – “He [God] wanted me to reckon myself dead—dead to sin—because if God can raise the dead, you’d better believe he could raise me out of my hopelessness.”

2)    Meeting Suffering and Joy on God’s Terms – She writes, “To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you this kind of example that you should follow. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before him (Heb. 12:2). Should we expect to do less? So then, join me; boast in your afflictions. Delight in your infirmities. Glory in your weaknesses, for then you know that Christ’s power rests in you (2 Cor. 12:9).”

3)    Hope is Contagious – “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies. But we live in a dark, diseased world under the curse of sin. Hell is real. And God owes this utterly rebellious planet absolutely nothing. But aren’t you glad that he is a God of love, not wanting anyone to perish? And he is out to convince this unbelieving, sarcastic, skeptical world of his power to save, his abilities to sustain, and his desire to share his hope.”

4)    Misery May Love Company but Joy Craves a Crowd – “And one day I’m going to leave this wheelchair behind. I cannot wait. I may have suffered with Christ on earth, but one day in heaven I’m going to reign with him.”

In this little booklet Tada is honest about her struggles, encouraging in her attitude, and inspiring in her commitment for the cause of Christ in this world. Any Christian who reads this will be inspired –and any non-believer should want what Joni has – the hope of glory in Christ. Everyone has to learn how to suffer, but the Christian does not suffer as one who has no hope – and Joni is a great example of how to live in the midst of suffering for the glory of God in magnifying Christ.

Ten Books I Would Want Every Christian to Read – by Dr. David P. Craig

1)    The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul – Why? Because we need to be exposed to the Majesty of God in a culture that deifies mankind and the creation above the Creator. Next to the Bible – no other book has influenced me more than this one. I could easily include several other works by Sproul in my top 10 – but I believe that if you start with this book – you will be hooked and read many of the other 50 plus books he’s written.

2)    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero – Why? Because this book goes to the depths of the soul to reveal how original and generational sin has impacted our natures to show us the depths of our sin, and our need of Christ to make us whole again.

3)    Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing by Peter Kreeft – Why? This is the most difficult read (for me, anyway) on the list, but well worth the effort. I think Kreeft does a masterful job of giving a fantastic apologetic for the afterlife, and in particular demonstrating that all that we long for in this life will be fulfilled in Christ for the rest of eternity.

4)    The Prodigal God by Tim Keller – Why? Tim Keller distills the gospel in a most eloquent manner by giving a masterful exposition of Luke 15:11-32. He shows how we have a tendency to err on the side of legalism and how to correct this by coming to a deeper understanding of the grace of God as revealed by Jesus – the Master story teller.

5)    The Reason For God by Tim Keller – Why? I debated on whether to have “Reason to Believe” by R.C. Sproul, or this book by Keller on my list. I chose this one, because it is better at tackling the post-modern objections that people have to believing in God, and more specifically – Christianity. Keller does a masterful job of making a compelling argument for the logic and cogency of believing in the God of the Bible.

6)    Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – Why? Dr. Grudem is a humble and scholarly theologian who has given us his Magnum Opus in a readable, clear, an articulate fashion. He covers all the major doctrines of the Bible with thoroughness, balance, and grace. I would love for Christians to read more theology than they do, but if they only read one book of theology in their life time – I would want this to be it! God-centered, Christ-centered, and very relevant and practical with application questions for each chapter.

7)    Desiring God by John Piper – Why? I had to have something by Piper in here! I have to admit, that Piper is difficult for me to read. However, the thesis he develops in this book “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him” is strongly and powerfully developed in this book. You can’t read this book without being more powerfully drawn into the glorious presence of our wonderful Maker and Sustainer of all the desires of our heart.

8)    Humility by C.J. Mahaney – Why? Because God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble! This is the shortest and easiest read on my list. However, that doesn’t minimize how important an understanding of Christ’s humility can radically change our lives for the greater good of the Kingdom. Too many Christians are prideful, fleshly, and live in a status quo state. Mahaney’s book is extremely enjoyable and Christ-centered.

9)    Spiritual Depression by David Martyn-Lloyd-Jones – Why? This book is one of many that I could have selected by the Welsh Medical Doctor turned Preacher. It consists of various sermons he preached and distills his mastery of Biblical exposition and combining that with his understanding of the human soul. It covers various topics (more than depression) and really the focus of the book is on how to have more joy because of the person and work of Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit in our soul.

10) Trusting God – by Jerry Bridges – Why? Because as a pastor – the issue I deal with more than any other is people dealing with worry, anxiety, fear (whatever you want to call it). Bottom-line many Christians live like atheists. They live as if God is NOT sovereign or good. Yet the Bible, and reality teach otherwise – if we view things from His perspective. This book is an excellent practical read that combines good theology with practical encouragement for those who struggle with doubting God’s goodness in their lives.