My Ten Favorite Books By R.C. Sproul by David P. Craig

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Since R.C. Sproul’s promotion into the presence of Christ’s glory on December 14, 2017 I have had mixed emotions. No single person has had a greater influence on my understanding of the Triune Nature of God, the Gospel, the Bible, Reformed Theology, Philosophy, Apologetics, teaching, and preaching than R.C. Sproul. There have been a lot of great tributes to R.C. in recent days, but I have been out of sorts since his passing. I have sorrowed as if I lost a blood brother and comrade in the ministry. He was the mentor who has most influenced me by far – especially intellectually – helping me to love the Lord my God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. The way I am going to pay tribute to R.C. is by writing about the books he wrote that influenced me the most. I have read over 60 of his books.

At one time I could keep up with his writing and let him know at a book signing table at a Ligonier Conference (early 90’s) that I had read all his books and he said to me, “I bet you haven’t read Soli Deo Gloria: Essays in Reformed Theology: Fetschrift for John Gerstner; a book I edited for my Mentor in 1976.” He was right, I hadn’t read this book. I’ve since read his chapter in that book entitled “Double-Predestination.” But I was never able to keep up with his writing while he was alive. Since his death I have been re-reading some of his books, articles, watching videos, and listening to his audio recordings. I am so grateful that Ligonier Ministries has such a plethora of his resources available so that maybe before I die I can catch up on all the great writing, teaching, and preaching of this amazing Theologian and friend in Christ.

I never thought I would be so sad at someone’s death that I only met a few times “live”. I attended four Ligonier Conferences and was able to say hello to him each time and thank him for his ministry in Fullerton, and Pasadena in CA; and Orlando twice. I also got to spend some time in a smaller group setting with him at WTS in Escondido while working on my D.Min. there. Dr. Sproul was always humble, gracious, and kind. He treated me with dignity and respect and modeled what he taught. As others have made great tributes to him, I’d like to give my “two-cents” with the hope that maybe I can influence others to read, or listen to him. I can honestly say that I love R.C. and can’t wait to see him on the other side. I am grateful beyond words for what he has meant and will continue to mean to me and has tremendously deepened my relationship with Jesus.

I will write a little blurb on each of the 10 books he wrote that have impacted me the most:

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(1) Apart from the Bible itself – no other book has made a greater impact on me than The Holiness of God. At the time (summer of 1986) I had never heard of R.C. Sproul. I was a second year student my sophomore year at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. I was working at a church near my home as an intern that summer working with college students. On my day off I went first thing in the morning to read a book at my favorite spot in a cove in Corona Del Mar near my home in Huntington Beach. On the way to the beach I stopped by the bookstore (Pilgrim’s Progress Bookstore – long since out of business, unfortunately) and R.C.”s book caught my eye. I was fascinated by the topic and decided that I would read it at the beach.

I don’t know how long it took me to read the book, but by sunset I was reading the last words at the beach and found myself literally on my knees weeping over my sin in repentance before this Holy God of which Sproul knew so well. I realized that though I had been a follower of Christ from the age of six; I was in practice full of unconfessed sin; a great idolater; and desperately needed to elevate my view of God and His character and attributes.

Since 1986 I’ve probably read this book a dozen times. It’s my go to book when I need to re-charge my spiritual batteries. It’s also set the tone for my personal life; relational life, ministry, teaching, and preaching. Reading this book helped me strive to place God at the center of all of life and seek to live “Coram Deo” – before the face of God and for His glory.
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(2) A close second to R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God in impact is his classic Chosen By God. Like many young college or seminary students I wrestled with the concepts of predestination, foreknowledge, free will, faith, election, and how all these work together. I was definitely (though I’d never heard the term before) a Semi-Pelagian or Arminian before reading this book. R.C. brilliantly and cogently helped me see that I was dead in my sin and that I needed nothing short of the miracle of God’s electing grace to save me from a destiny banished from Him – had He not sovereignly  graciously and mercifully intervened. I’ve given at least 100 copies of this book away over the years and it’s my go to book to recommend to anyone who wrestles with how God saves His chosen ones. If anyone wants to understand the biblical doctrine of predestination – this book is an outstanding introduction.

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(3) Shortly after reading Chosen by God while in Bible college I read a book called the Psychology of Atheism by R.C. Sproul which I found in the school library. The book has been re-published under the title: If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists? This book peaked my curiosity because at the time I had an ongoing ministry with philosophy students at a college department across town called Reed College. There was a period of time where I would drive over to Reed College once a week and wait outside the Philosophy Department to talk with Philosophy students (most of whom adhered to Atheism or Agnosticism). R.C. Sproul’s book is essentially a practical exposition of Romans 1. It makes a great case for the fact that people are atheists not because of the evidence of atheism, but because they want to live in sin. I found this to be the case then; and I still find this to be the case. In our secular culture I consider this book “must” reading for believers who take evangelism and apologetics seriously. It gives one a deep understanding of the psychological makeup of those who are in rebellion against God.

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(4) Another book that has helped me tremendously in the area of apologetics and evangelism is Reason to Believe. I read this book when it was titled Objections Answered when I was doing a lot of evangelism with professing Agnostics and Atheists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I still think this is the best book available to give to lay-people to help them answer the 10 biggest objections to the Christian faith. R.C. is famous for making the complex simple via his use of language, illustrations, and biblical theology and exegesis. I have used his arguments in this book hundreds of times over the years in evangelism, teaching, and apologetics.

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(5) Pleasing God. I can’t remember the first time I read Pleasing God, but it’s a book I’ve read and used in counseling, teaching, and preaching many times over the years as a great introduction to the biblical doctrine of sanctification. In this book Sproul tackles the greatest enemies in the battle of our seeking to please Christ: the battle with the flesh; the world; and Satan. Laced throughout this book is the reality of God’s grace and practical ways to please God. I still think this is the best introduction available on the biblical doctrine of sanctification.

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(6) I have read this book on the Attributes of God as it has transformed into three different titles over the years: One Holy Passion; Discovering the God Who Is; and most recently Enjoying God. There simply is no better introduction on the character, nature, and attributes of God than this book. R.C. does a wonderful job of explaining the major concepts of how God is different than us and worthy of our worship and passion.

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(7) The best introduction to how to read and study the Bible is still Knowing Scripture. In this short book R.C. gives a plethora of helpful information for anyone who wants to know how to read, interpret, and apply the Scriptures.

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(8) One of the most comforting and practical doctrines for Christians to understand is the providence of God. R.C. has helped thousands of believers around the world be comforted through his teaching on the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereign working to bring about His ends for our good and God’s glory in all things in his classic The Invisible Hand of God.

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(9) The least understood Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. In The Mystery of the Holy Spirit R.C. handles the biblical portrayal of the Holy Spirit with great clarity and makes the complex and controversial issues related to the Spirit understandable and practical. I know of no other better introduction to the Holy Spirit than this great work by Dr. Sproul.

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(10) In 2012 I had a brutal bout with cancer. I read several books while undergoing treatment and wrestling with pain, unemployment, and even death. I have read a lot of books on suffering over the years, but this is still my first choice to give caregivers, people in pain, and those helping people understand the biblical purposes and practical ramifications of suffering.

I feel sort of bad because I’ve left out a lot of great books by Dr. Sproul. Even though many books of R.C. are introductory in nature. They are all deep, profound, cogent, and full of helpful theological truth that are practical, weighty, and lead one to becoming more and more like Jesus each day. It seems that almost every book R.C. Sproul wrote was well written, thorough, and yet he never said too much. I have given away more of his books as gifts than any other author by far. I’ve also recommend his books more than any other author. He was so omnicompetent it’s just hard for any modern writer or theologian to match him on just about any subject. I will continue to read Sproul’s books, listen to his teaching, and watch his videos. He had a unique style, was always interesting, and always taught me something new about the glory and grandeur of God. I can’t wait to see him in heaven and listen to him chatting it up with Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and the many he influenced along the way – like me.

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon

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Encouragement for the Soul

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

When I listen to music when I’m reading I usually listen to what most people would describe as “Easy Listening” music. It’s not too fast, not too slow, not too loud or distracting. Jan Karon’s first novel could be described as the book version or “easy listening.” 

The key characters are a pastor, various parishioners, and numerous stories that are taking place in the fictional town of Mitford (somewhere in the south of the United States). Jan Karon does a wonderful job of transporting you into this place and the lives that make Mitford a taste of heaven on earth. 

As a pastor myself, I loved this book. After thirty years of pastoring I find that I can relate to almost every person, story, and event that transpires. I love the mixture of all the emotions that Karon brings to the table: laughter, sorrow, joy, tears, elation, heartbreak, and everything in-between. She also creates intrigue, romance, expectation, hope, and does not disappoint with bringing together and weaving several plots.

At Home in Mitford is pleasant, calming, encouraging, and delightful. It’s “easy listening” for the mind and soul. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to read the rest of the series (there are 9 books in the Mitford Series).

No God But One: Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi

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Excellent Analysis Comparing Christianity and Islam

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

In this sequel to his fantastic autobiography (Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus) Nabeel Quereshi continues where he left off. Nabeel recounts how he decided to put Christianity to total scrutiny over a period of four years before he put his beloved Islam to the same kind of evidential scrutiny. In this book Nabeel compares his findings in regard to the two largest religions of the world: Christianity and Islam.

In Part One the author compares islam’s way of salvation (Sharia) with Christianity’s way of salvation (Grace). In Part Two he compares the two different God’s of Islam (Tawhid) and Christianity (Trinity). Part 3 is an examination of the two founders of each religion: Muhammed versus Jesus. Part 4 Compares the Quran with the Bible. Part 5 is an examination of Jihad and the Crusades. 

After examining the major distinctions of Islam and Christianity he then goes on to examine why he became a believer in Jesus. He evaluates the following important questions: (1) Did Jesus Die on the Cross?; (2) Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?; (3) Did Jesus claim to be God; (4) Is Muhammad a Prophet of God; and (5) Is the Quran the Word of God?

I think that Nabeel builds a strong case for Christianity and shows that the Islam he grew up with has many problematic beliefs. As a former Muslim, Nabeel is gracious in his approach, very clear in his articulation of Islam and Christianity, and very convincing in demonstrating why Jesus is the right choice.

How Do Jesus and Muhammed Compare?

 

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Series: Comparing Christianity & Islam – Jesus versus Muhammed

Chart Compiled by Dr. David P. Craig

JESUS MUHAMMAD
IDENTITY Creator (Col. 1:16) Creature
CLAIMED TO BE God & Son of God Prophet
SINCE Eternal (John 1:1,14) Khadija (wife) said he must be a prophet because he was hearing voices
CLAIM IS Proven by the Resurrection Disproven by false prophecies
RAISED The dead to life (Luke 7:12-15) An army to put many to death
LIED TO None Many (taqiyya) – lying to infidels to advance and protect Isalm – considered a virtue and a duty
MISTOOK None Satan’s voice as Allah’s
ROBBED None Many
FORGAVE Everyone None who offended
HEALED Thousands None
WALKED ON Water (Matt. 14:25) The blood of those he slaughtered
HISTORY His life is rooted in historically documented facts Mixed with myth and legend
SAID OF OTHER Warned of his kind (Matt. 7:15-17) Praised Jesus
SINNED Never (2 Cor. 5:20-21) Constantly
EPITOMIZED Love (John 15:13; 1 John 4:10) Violence
SACRIFICED Himself to save others Others to save himself
KILLED No one Thousands. For example, when the Jews of Banu Qurayza surrendered to him in 627 AD after a 25 day siege, Muhammed had all of the approximately 900 male captives bound and beheaded.
NATURE God Incarnate (John 1:14,18) Merely Human
MISSION Redeem Sinners (Mark 10:45) Promote Submission to Allah
PROPHECY Fulfillment of hundreds None
WIVES None 12+ 595 AD: Married Khadijah, the daughter of Khuwailid (she died in 619 AD); 619 AD: Married Ai’sha, the daughter of Abu Bakr (she was 6 years old, when he was 50); 619 AD: Married Sawdah, the daughter of Zama; 624 AD: Married Hafsah, the daughter of Omar; 625 AD: Married Zaynab, the daughter of Gahsh and the wife of Zayd (see above);

626 AD: Married Salmah, the daughter of Abu Ummaiah Sohail; 627 AD: Married Zainab, the daughter of Khuzaima; 628 AD: Married Ramlah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan; & Married Gawariah, the daughter of al-Harith; 629 AD: Married Hind, the daughter of Abu Umayah; & Married Safiah, the daughter of Huyay; 630 AD: Married Maimunah, the daughter of al-Harith; 631 AD: Married Maria, a gift from the king of Egypt

MESSAGE “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~  Matt. 11:28-30 (1) There is only one God (Allah); (2) All people must live in submission to God; (3) Humans will be held accountable at the last judgment
ROLE Servant, Savior, and Lord Orphan, Caravan Driver, Husband & Father, Spiritual Seeker, Prophet, Soldier, Governor, Ruler
CURRENTLY Resurrected (1 Cor. 15:4) Dead
FUTURE Eternally Enthroned as King (Revelation 22) Divine Judgment

George Marsden’s – “Jonathan Edwards: A Life”

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A Masterful Cultural Biography

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

It’s hard to fathom how many hours of research and writing that went into this masterful biography of Jonathan Edwards. Marsden is to be commended for presenting the cultural and historical milieu in which Jonathan Edwards lived and served his God.

In this thorough yet readable account of Edwards life, Marsden paints a multi-faceted picture of the historical, cultural, political, philosophical, and theological climates in which Edwards lived and breathed. The author does a wonderful job of drawing the reader into the early to late eighteenth century of the pre-Revolutionary colonial British colonies.

If you are interested in American history, philosophy, theology, politics, and Christianity you will immensely benefit from this book. It is a treasure trove of helpful information, explanation of Edwards key ideas, and will illuminate your understanding and respect for the man that has been called the following: “The greatest mind America has ever produced” ; “The greatest Pastor in the history of America” ; “The greatest Philosopher in American History”; and “The greatest Theologian America has ever produced.” 

I recommend this book highly and know without any reservation whatsoever that lovers of Edwards will benefit richly from this outstanding biography of one of the most exceptional Christians that has graced our planet.

R.C. Sproul’s What Is The Trinity?

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What The Triune God Isn’t and What He Is

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

If you were asked to clearly define what it means that God is Triune could you do it? In this short book (60 pages) Sproul helps you to understand the biblical doctrine that God is one in essence and three in person. In his inimitable style Sproul gives a lucid  and cogent defense of the Trinity as articulated in key passages of Scripture and as has been defended in the great early Church Council’s of Nicea and Chalcedon.

One of the most helpful sections in this book is when Sproul explains what the Trinity is, by explaining what it isn’t. He gives a brief history of the different early heresies with reference to the early teachings of the church in trying to articulate a unified understanding of the doctrine of God – His character, nature, and essence. He explains and shows the weaknesses of all the major early heresies with reference to a misunderstanding of the Trinity: Adoptionism, Monarchianism, Modalism, Monarchianistic Modalism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, and Dynamic Monarchianism.

I highly recommend this book on the Trinity as a good place to start in trying to comprehend the biblical doctrine of how God can be one in essence and three in person. Don’t let the shortness of this book turn you away. Sproul is always deep, clear, biblical, theologically precise, and easy to understand. You are sure to learn something new and practical to help you in your walk with Jesus.

Charles C. Ryrie’s “Nailing Down A Board: Serving Effectively on the Non-Profit Board”

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Succinct and Helpful Guide For Non-Profit Board Members

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig 

Many people know the name Charles Ryrie. He was a prolific author, college president, and author of the famous Ryrie Study Bible. What a lot of people don’t know is that Dr. Ryrie served with distinction on many Board’s over his adult life until his death just a few years ago. 

This book has everything you need to know about serving well and effectively on a non-profit Board. As someone that has served on Church and Non-profit Board’s for close to thirty years I’m grateful for this very helpful resource. Here are some of the things Ryrie addresses in this book:

What are the biblical reasons for having a Board of Directors?

Who is qualified to be on a Board?

Why should we have Boards at all? And what does the Bible have to say about this?

How to choose and NOT choose Board Members.

How to make a wise decision on whether or not to serve on a Board.

Financial matters, legal matters, and missional matters that are necessary for a Board.

Primary responsibilities for the Board organizationally – requirements.

The philosophy, agenda, function, and success of Boardmanship.

These and many more topics are covered. As a matter of fact this book is so thorough, succinct, and helpful it could be your one-stop resource for being an effective Board member. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a part of a Non-profit organization.

Joel C. Rosenberg’s The Persian Gamble

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Book Review on The Persian Gamble by Joel C. Rosenberg

Will Keep You Riveted Until the Very End 

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

I’m one of those people that is usually 10 to 15 years behind the latest fads. I’ve heard about Rosenberg’s books for years but this is my first venture with one of his books. There where five reasons why this book kept me riveted from beginning to end:

One, Rosenberg tells a great story. I’ll never understand how writers can keep several characters, places, events, going and bring them all together in the plot. Rosenberg does this as well as anyone I’ve ever read.

Second, the characters in the book are very different, unique, interesting, and draw one into the story.

Third, Rosenberg is able to write a contemporary and relevant novel without the immorality and harsh language that too often accompanies such a work of the action-thriller genre.

Fourth, you learn a lot about history, geography, weapons, warfare, etc. Rosenberg has a good handle on geopolitics and the inner and outer workings of organizations like the Mossad, C.I.A., etc.

Fifth, His book was so good – that I’m excited he’s written 14 more books with another coming out next month called Jerusalem Countdown.

In a day and age where so much of media is graphically immoral, and over the top with foul language – I am grateful for writers like Rosenberg who write well, tell a great story, and entertain without corrupting your mind at the same time. I’m looking forward to his first book and reading them in order from here on out – By the Way his first novel was the Last Jihad – which I’m starting tonight!

Jason Meyer’s Don’t Lose Heart: Gospel Hope For the Discouraged Soul

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A Biblical Guide For Overcoming Despair, Discouragement, and Disappointment

Book Review by David P. Craig

Jason Meyer has written a very concise, and yet helpful book for Christians who battle feeling defeated, depression, discouragement, despair, and disappointment. There are two primary reasons I would recommend this book to those who wrestle with the 5 D’s above:

First, it is thoroughly biblical. Second, it is extremely practical. In Part One: How To Fight For Sight, Meyer deals with what to do when you feel overwhelmed, defeated, and worthless. In Part Two” How To Defeat Despair he tackles what to do when your past paralyzes you; your present disappoints you; and your future scares you.

Full of biblical stories, principles, and personal illustrations Meyer gives sound pastoral advice which reminds the believer of the promises of God in the Gospel. Here are just a few of the great principles in this book to help you with the 5 D’S:

“Discouragement can be defeated only when the full truth of everything that is for us confronts and conquers the half-truth of fear and despair. When the full truth vanquishes those half-truths, our hearts will be comforted and strengthened.”

“The Bible does not pretend that the problems are not there; it simply declares that there is more to see.”

“When we see that the One [Jesus] who is for us is greater than all that is against us, our chains will fall off and our hearts will be free to hope again…Seeing the bigger picture is the key to unlocking the chains of despair.”

“Encouragement does not come from wishful thinking but from seeing the totality of truth and embracing what is truly real.”

“The bottom line in the fight for sight is this: We lose heart when we lose sight of all that we have in Jesus. When we lose sight of Jesus, we see only half the picture, we believe half-truths, and we are robbed of hope. But as believers, we are called to fight back.”

“We lose heart when we buy into the lie that our difficulties are bigger than God, and we lose the fight for sight when we fail to see God correctly. When perception and reality don’t align properly, it is easy to become discouraged.”

“To reset the scales, we must begin by repenting of our false assessment and false measures. repenting involves replacing our human-centered measurements with God-centered ones. Doing that allows us to resize the situation in light of God’s greatness. Instead of saying prayers that turn into a gripe session in which we tell God how big our problems are, we can begin to battle discouragement when we tell our hearts (and our problems) how big our God is.”

“Discouragement grows when we shrink God down to our size.”

“We can either project onto God what we think about ourselves or we can receive from God what he says about us…The opposite of projecting what we think about ourselves onto God is receiving what he says about us from God.”

“Christianity is not about bad people becoming better; it is about dead people becoming alive.”

“Remember, God did not love you and me because we were lovely. He loved us while we were still sinners—morally unlovely. Whenever you feel the talons of discouragement sinking into your heart, look to the cross and see the unchanging, unshakable, irreversible love of God as Jesus bore the burden of sin for you and suffered in your place. He was condemned so that you could be accepted. In Christ, the banner flying high over you says, ‘no condemnation’ (Rom. 8:1).”

“We won’t get to heaven because we love God with all our hearts and souls. We will make it to heaven because God loves us with all his heart and soul.”

I highly recommend this book if you need encouragement. Meyer’s exhortations are Christ-centered, theologically sound, gospel-shaped, and will help you love the Lord more for who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing in your life. You will find all of the 5 D’s mentioned above subsiding and your joy increasing – and that’s a very good thing indeed!

Help for Your Next Board Meeting -Robert’s Rules: QuickStart Guide

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Helpful Handbook For Implementing Robert’s Rules of Order

Book Review by David P. Craig 

Most people don’t like board or committee meetings very much for several reasons. Among these reasons are they are boring, take too long, are unorganized, inefficient, focus on problems rather than solutions, etc.

This little guide is excellent. It will help the following people immensely by making the most of your board meetings: those starting up an organization or business; those who run or chair a board or committee; those who participate on boards – whether for profit or non-profit. It’s also good for people (like me) who have started a church, a non-profit ministry, and been on various board’s for profit and non-profit organizations. It will remind you of how to effectively, efficiently, and legally run a board or committee meeting in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order.

The helpful chapters in this book are as following: (1) Setting up [your organization] for success; (2) Building [writing] your Bylaws; (3) Making the Most of Your Meetings; (4) The Art of Motion; (5) Ways To Create Great Committees; (6) A Parliamentary Procedure Sample [i.e. How to conduct the business of the organization]. 

Each chapter is brief – and focuses on the majors – not the minors of what you need to know and do in order to conduct an effective Board or Committee meeting. I highly recommend this great handbook as your go-to guide to start or brush up on how to have an effective Board for your organization.