Archive for October, 2015


The New Pastor’s Handbook

newpastorsThere is definitely a surge of material coming out lately in support of pastors.  With The New Pastor’s Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015), Jason Helopoulos has written a helpful book that I expect will become required reading in many evangelical seminaries.  The angle of this book is to walk through a handful of issues that a new pastor will face in his first years in ministry.  The issue is not so much a series of case studies about what to do when you have a tough situation as instead a stark assessment of the fact that you sure will have tough situations to deal with, and those tough situations do not mean you have failed as a pastor.

The overall approach here is very gentle, matching the book’s subtitle of being “Help and Encouragement.”  It’s very easy to come into ministry and expect that it will simply be a matter of coming in and conquering new territory for the Lord.  The fact is, as a pastor you are dealing with real people – which is simply another way of saying sinners.  You’ll come fact to face with their sin, including ways they will personally disappoint you and betray you.  The fact that the sinners in your church still sin doesn’t make you a failure as a pastor.

Over and over, Helopoulos comes back to the amazing privilege and indescribable rewards of being a pastor.  It is a lofty role indeed.  And just as frequently, he reminds the new pastor of the real fuel of his ministry: the pastor’s personal walk with Jesus.  The book consists in 48 chapters which are probably 3-4 pages each, and while I read them probably 5-10 at a time, it would be profitable to read these one at a time, perhaps each morning as one begins a day of ministry.  I think this is a book that would reward multiple readings.

I would highly recommend using this as an introduction to the pastoral ministry, and then using some of the “Practical Shepherding” series by Brian Croft as a more detailed supplement for actual “how to do this” type advice.  Finally, Tripp’s Dangerous Calling is a great examination of the pastor’s heart.  Each of these is incredibly valuable and worth space on the new pastor’s bookshelf.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Baker in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to give a positive review, but I do so gladly!


Love Casts Out Fear

lovecastsoutfearWhen you pick up a book, you expect the cover to give you some idea of what you are getting. Far too often, I have found that Baker Books is a little deceptive in this matter, and this book is like that. You would think with a subtitle like “A Jihad Survivors Journey from Revenge to Redemption” that we would be looking at a story of somebody who was perhaps embroiled in the Islamic Brotherhood or something, but found Christ. His “jihad” years were from age 6-11. Even the idea of identifying the author as “Brother Nathan” and choosing to rename his hometown to “Anytown” to keep from identifying him seems silly, since the rest of the book includes so many details it would not be hard for somebody – especially somebody with government connections – to work out exactly who the author is.

I find it really hard to grade this book. Brother Nathan has had a faithful Christian walk in difficult circumstances, and God has used him to do much in the name of Christ in Egypt. But if you are picking this book up expecting to read about his dark days in jihad, and then find that his father was a pastor, and after coming to Christ, he becomes a pastor in his father’s footsteps, it’s a bit of a letdown. There is absolutely a place for people publishing quality Christian educational materials in Arabic and serving the church of the middle east. There is a great beauty in reading the love of his mother and the sweet courtship Nathan had with his wife. It’s amazing to see how God takes a nobody in an obscure village of Egypt and raises him up to be a voice to Christendom around the world.

That said, with limited reading time available to me … if I had understood what this book was actually about, I doubt I would have read it. There are stories that are more compelling reading out there. Please do not misunderstand me – what God has done in this brother’s life is glorious. But with only so much time to read so many books, I would not have chosen to read this one, and I would not have finished it except that I promised to produce a review for it.

Baker Books provided a complimentary copy of this book to me in exchange for an honest review.


Book Review: Tranquility: Cultivating a Quiet Soul in a Busy World by David W. Henderson

I give this book 5 stars across the board: for teachability, readability, Scriptural accuracy, and hopefulness.  David Henderson writes out of his honest successes and failures to make the most of the time and opportunities God has given him.

He begins each chapter with numerous quotes about time, its use and its passage. I lingered on those as I read, allowing them to really sink in. He also interweaves his writing with Scripture, especially Ecclesiastes, focusing on how God has represented time through His human authors, and the wisdom they have gained around it.

My copy of Tranquility is filled with passages underlined and starred, passages that gave me a new perspective or really taught me. The author really probes deeply, helping the reader to see not just the negative results of over-busyness, but the heart reasons we seek busyness in the first place. And they’re not all bad reasons.  He also shows that this is not just a 21st century problem, but rather one that humans have struggled with for centuries.  I for one find it very hopeful when I see that I am not alone in my struggles, and that God Himself knows and has answers for them.

I will close with one of my favorite paragraphs that I think summarizes Henderson’s overall aim:

“There really are only two ways to view our time. We can follow the culture into a driven life, in which we view our time as our own, to meet our own needs. Or we can follow Christ into a called life, in which we yield up our time, giving it back to its rightful owner, and then allow him to lead us into the life he has already designed for us.” (p. 118)

I hope you will be as blessed by this book as I have been. I received a free copy from Baker Books Publishers in exchange for my honest review.