Pastoring Men: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why It Matters Now More Than Ever
Patrick Morley, Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2008, ISBN 9780802475534, 237 pages, $19.99, hardcover.
Patrick Morley dares to suggest that every pastor can and should engage in a successful men's ministry. Churches that are committed to making disciples are ripe for engaging in a successful men's ministry.
He states that church leaders must understand the forces that are moving-or failing to move-today's Christian men. First, today's men are tired. They feel pushed into a corner as they gain success in their job, raise a family, manage their finances, engage in community activities, and try to carve a little time for themselves. Many Christian men have a gnawing feeling that their spirituality is lacking.
Despite these inward doubts, most Christian men want a cause they can believe in and someone they can share their dreams with. What stops men from attaining their dreams? Morley thinks that many are caught up in the success race, thinking to themselves, "If I can get this possession, this job, this mate, I will be satisfied." Thousands of years of experience teach us that "success" does not bring satisfaction. It is when we have a true inner conviction that we are on a God-ordered course that inner peace and happiness are obtained. Discipleship, in the author's view, is the process by which men move from one path to the other.
Morley outlines a case study of successful discipleship and suggests that it can be replicated in other churches. His entire program centers on discipleship and its many facets in a Christian community.
In one of the final sections of the book the author lists seventy things that every man needs to know. A few of these "musts" are fellowship with God, evangelism, social responsibility, priorities, time management, and family matters.
This manual encompasses many avenues of discipleship, and exhorts churches to begin taking seriously the need to build up men of faith.
Target: Church Leaders
Take: Highly Recommended
Should We Use Someone Else's Sermon?: Preaching in a Cut-and-Paste World
Scott Gibson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., 2008, ISBN 9780310286738, 119 pages, $14.99, softcover.
Plagiarism has a long history-Satan stole the words of God when he told Eve in the garden, "You shall not surely die." Taking the words of another and claiming them as one's own is unfortunately pervasive among pastors and others in speaking and writing ministries.
In this book, Gibson suggests that plagiarism is not just an irresponsible social faux pas but calls it out as sin. He says, "We sin against God and others when we neglect our responsibility as faithful servants to preach the whole counsel of God as the result of our work and study" (p.49). Stealing others' sermons, however, is often only the tip of the iceberg and may be indicative of deeper problems such as laziness, insecurity, and a perceived pressure to compete with other preachers.
Gibson states that one who wants to avoid plagiarism must be vigilant when he prepares his sermons. He must stay in the Word, read widely, take copious notes, and give credit where credit is due. If someone who becomes convicted of the sin of plagiarism decides to abandon intellectual stealing, he must confess his sin, repent of it, and start on the road to restoration. Where possible, he may need to go to the person whose words he has stolen and ask for forgiveness.
In the last section of the book, the author gives several examples of plagiarism and how those who were involved handled it. Outcomes were not always the most desirable. Some denied they were stealing words, others rationalized that everyone else was doing it, but some saw their plagiarism as sin and determined to end it. He includes helpful advice for churches in how to deal firmly but respectfully with a pastor who has been plagiarizing and restore him to faithful ministry.
Target: Bible Teachers
Take: Highly Recommended
Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
D.A. Carson, Crossway, Wheaton, Ill., 2008, ISBN 9781433501999, 160 pages, $15.99, softcover.
"Most pastors will not regularly preach to thousands, let alone tens of thousands. They will not write influential books, they will not supervise large staffs, and they will never see more than modest growth. They will plug away with their care for the aged, at their visitation, at their counseling, at their Bible studies and preaching . . . Most of us-let us be frank-are ordinary pastors."
These words from the preface highlight the author's rationale for publishing the story of his father's life of faithful ministry in the hard field of French Canada. In collecting Tom Carson's letters and journals and filling in the gaps with memories from growing up in the home of one such "ordinary" pastor, D.A. Carson powerfully calls the reader to live out Scripture in the everydayness of difficult ministry.
Carson places his father's ministry in the historic and cultural context of the sweeping changes in Evangelicalism over the course of the 20th century and shows that the fundamentals of pastoral work (intensive study, prayer, and care for those under one's charge) remain the same under any circumstances. He faithfully relates the power of small encouragements and the joy of seeing even a little fruit without sugar-coating the ups and downs, discouragements, battles, and doubts of ministry.
Anyone in ministry should find much in Tom Carson's story that parallels their own experience and draw encouragement for the faithful service to which they've been called. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the book comes from the perspective that the author gives to his father's ministry, now nearly 17 years after his death. The outflow and ongoing impact of his faithful service is seen more clearly than he could ever have seen it in life, reminding readers that we may never see the results of what God does through us.
Take: Highly Recommended
His Story, Our Response: What the Bible Says about Worship
Dinelle Frankland, College Press, Joplin, Mo., 2008, ISBN 9780899009636, 173 pages, $22.99, hardcover.
Dinelle Frankland, professor of worship at Lincoln Christian Seminary, is someone who has thought very deeply about what it means to relate to and glorify God. In His Story, Our Response (part of College Press' "What the Bible Says about" series), she builds a comprehensive observation of worship as our part in the narrative of Creation.
She reminds us that we were created to love God and worship Him-in short, the story of the entire canon of Scripture. Sin's entrance into the world, however, distorted that relationship and made it necessary for God to regulate access to Him to preserve His holiness. The Old Testament used a variety of symbols and instructions to teach fallen humanity that God was displeased with their sin, but that He delighted to restore mankind to divine fellowship.
Frankland points out that worship in Scripture is never really defined, but it is often described or recorded directly (as in the Psalms). As such, she references numerous biblical examples to build her case. She shows how Exodus from Egyptian slavery demonstrated God's love for His people and how the Mosaic Law and the Tabernacle provided a visual outline for sinful humanity to be restored to God's favor.
She shows how Christ's coming changed the emphasis from a building to a Body, taking worship "away from a particular time and place to involve it in everyday life" (p. 111). Worship of God requires purity of heart, and Christ made clear that the condition of the heart far outweighs the form and place of worship. Frankland posits that true worship cannot occur within the heart until we realize the inestimable price at which Christ redeemed us-until we make the shift of focus from self to Christ, we cannot consider ourselves to have worshiped.
This is an excellent book to promote reflection on what worship is in God's eyes and how distorted it can become when it is tainted with our sinful motives.
Glen Jones/Justin Lonas