Brass Heavens by Paul Tautges


“Why won’t God answer? Is He not listening?”

How many of us have asked this question, whether openly or in secret? There’s something so disconcerting when we pray earnestly, confidently, possibly desperately, and yet it seems to go unanswered.

God is silent. Or so it seems.


Paul Tautges, in his new book, Brass Heavens, examines several reasons why our prayers may go unanswered. The result is a book that serves as much as a treatise on sin as it does on one of prayer.

This is important for us to keep in mind as our sin does directly affect our prayer life—because Christians have a real, living, active relationship with our Father in Heaven, we can expect what we do to either strengthen or weaken that relationship.

So what are the causes of unanswered prayer? Tautges identifies six reasons why we might not receive an answer to our prayers:

The nurturing of pet sins. “To establish, maintain, or permit the existence in your life of any avenues by which your flesh could seek to fulfill its rebellious desires—this is the cherishing of pet sin,” he writes. “By this you will guarantee the short-circuiting of your prayers. This effort to live two different lives—one in which you cherish God and another in which you cherish sin—is the very definition of being double-minded.”

Neglecting our responsibilities of conflict resolution and offering forgiveness. “Mishandling either area can severely damage not only our horizontal relationships with others, but also our familial relationship with the Father and consequently the effectiveness of our prayers.”

Religious sins. “There is an outward righteousness that is legitimately connected to the true inner righteousness of Christ imputed to us by the Father,” he writes. “But there is also an apparent outward righteousness … of independence and self-justification, a false righteousness that presumes to possess an inherent, self-contained goodness—something only God possesses in and of himself.”

Being an inconsiderate husband. “To live in ignorance of a wife’s spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical condition, or to be uncaring about what it means to lead and love her as Christ does the church, this is disobedience to God.”

Stubborn pride. “Our self-sufficient pride, our persistent refusal to listen and yield to God, can close his ears to our prayers,” Tautges writes. “When we willfully choose to be stubborn against God’s correction, we become slaves to our own pride and our fellowship with God is interrupted.”

It’s easy to see the connection between all of these sins—they’re interpersonal and often based upon a higher view of self than we ought to have. When our sin causes our prayer to go unanswered, it’s often because we do not judge ourselves with right judgment (John 7:24). We look at our appearance or we look at what others have done (legitimately or otherwise) and too often respond self-righteously.

We too easily become like the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11).

Is it any wonder God would find that offensive?

This is a constant struggling point in my own own life. There are certain people I find myself looking down upon far too easily—sometimes because of questions about competency in professional areas and others because there’s just something about them that drives me up the wall—and struggling to figure out how to deal with the conflicts at the heart of the matter. But too often, instead of taking my concerns to God in prayer, I’ve let that frustration fester, and waste an opportunity to grow in my faith.

Why do I—and presumably many others—do that? I suspect it’s because I and those like me often forget the most critical reason for unanswered prayer:

It is to test our faith.

God often leaves our prayers unanswered so that we might become increasingly conformed to the image of his Son. Unanswered prayer is a gift from God for our growth—in holiness and in every other good and godly way—and sometimes it has nothing to do with whether we are hanging on to any of the sins described [previously].

When God appears to not answer our prayers, it isn’t necessarily because we’re guilty of a particular sin—the lack of an answer isn’t intended as a chastening act of discipline, but as a means of drawing us closer to Him. “Our faith is our life, and the status of our faith is the most important thing about us,” Tautges writes. “The tests of faith that God sends our way are reminders to keep us focused on what is true and real and primary.”

Of everything Tautges says about unanswered prayer in Brass Heavens, this surely is the most critical for us to remember: prayers may go unanswered not because God is displeased us, but because He loves us enough to say “no.” And this truly is a gift, whether we realize it or not.

This testing of our faith is an opportunity for us to grow not only in patience, but in perseverance. God delights in our asking, and He delights in giving good gifts to His children—and His good gifts will always be those that transform us increasingly into the image of Christ.

While it may be a faux pas for me to review Brass Heavens—after all, I’ve been published twice by Cruciform Press and also work behind the scenes with them on some of their marketing efforts—the subject is one too important to not talk about. Tautges’ analysis of the reasons for unanswered prayer is sound, thoughtful and, most importantly, hopeful. Give this book your careful attention. You won’t regret it.

Title: Brass Heavens: Reasons for Unanswered Prayer
Author: Paul Tautges
Publisher: Cruciform Press (2013)

Buy it at: Amazon | Cruciform Press

Book Review: Puritan Portraits by J.I. Packer


As I’ve gotten older (which sounds pretentious since I’m coming up to the ripe “old” age of 34), my appreciation for history—and especially historical figures—has increased greatly. I love learning about the people who’ve influenced movements and events, especially in the history of the Christian faith.

J.I. Packer understands how important understanding these people is, so it’s no wonder Christian Focus asked him to introduce a number of classic Puritan works released in their Christian Heritage line, introductions now compiled in the recently released Puritan Portraits: J.I. Packer on selected Classic Pastors and Pastoral Classics

This book combines Packer’s biographical sketches of John Flavel, Thomas Boston, Henry Scougal, John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, John Owen and John Flavel, as well as two larger portraits of William Perkins and Richard Baxter, to give readers a sense of the pastoral heart of the Puritan movement.

I have mixed feelings about Puritan Portraits. I really enjoyed much of what it has to offer—but I still found it a bit disappointing.

I love that the emphasis of these works is the practical pastoral purposes of each book. Packer is very deliberate in showing how Flavel’s Keeping the Heart, Bunyan’s The Heavenly Footman and Scougal’s The Life of God in the Soul of Man, are not mere theological treatises intended to train the mind, but to transform the heart. This shows most profoundly in his introduction to The Mortification of Sin, as he shares how Owen’s work transformed his own heart:

…Owen saved my spiritual sanity. I do in fact think, after sixty-plus years, that Owen has contributed more than anyone else to make me as much of a moral, spiritual and theological realist as I have so far become. He searched me to the root of my being. He taught me the nature of sin, the need to fight it and the method of doing so. He made me see the importance of the thoughts of the heart in one’s spiritual life. He made clear to me the real nature of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in and to the believer, and of spiritual growth and progress and of faith’s victory. He showed me how to understand myself as a Christian and live before God humbly and honestly, without pretending either to be what I am not or not to be what I am. And he made every point by direct biblical exegesis, bringing out the experimental implications of didactic and narrative texts with a precision and profundity that I had not met before, and have rarely seen equalled since. The decisive dawning of all the insight I have ever received from Owen came, however, when I first read him on mortification.

So what’s disappointing about this book? After all, it sounds like I really enjoyed the sketches provided, doesn’t it? Of course I did.

My disappointment with the book comes not so much with the content, but the obvious “introduction” feel each chapter has (which is natural since, as mentioned above, they were first published as introductions). Reading Packer’s commentary on The Heavenly Footman and sketch of Bunyan makes me want to go and read that book, rather than the following chapter. For me, my disappointment really comes down to this disconnect.

A final question: do the Puritans still matter to our day? The 21st century and its concerns seem so far removed from those of the 17th and 18th—what can (or should) we learn from them about pastoral ministry today? Packer’s epilogue concerning the Puritan pastoral ideal offers a resounding yes:

It would seem that the clergy, the church’s spiritual leaders, have largely lost their way, and when the leadership loses its way there is small hope for the rank and file. Now what I urge here is that the Puritan ideal for pastors, which, judged by the New Testament Scriptures on which it is based, has classic status in itself, is the foundational reality on which all ventures in church renewal must be based, otherwise they will fail continually until finally all is lost.

This, fundamentally, is a reminder of why we need to pay close attention to history. If we aren’t familiar with those who’ve come before us, we can’t learn from their example. We’ll be doomed to repeat the errors they made, while missing out on the positive insights they had that we may be overlooking. This is why Packer exhorts readers to consider the Puritan pastoral ideal—not because they are greater than us, but because their insights are valuable to us. Puritan Portraits is a good starting point to understanding this and will hopefully be a valuable resource leading to greater study.

Title: Puritan Portraits: J.I. Packer on selected Classic Pastors and Pastoral Classics
Author: J.I. Packer
Publisher: Christian Focus (2012)

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon

Book Review: Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller

every good endeavor

The routine is the same: get up, get ready and get to work. Our commute is a fog. Sometimes our day is, too. And many of us find ourselves wondering, “Is there really a point to all this?”

It seems like work is, at best, a necessary evil. But is that how we should view work? More importantly, is that how God views work?

Tim Keller wants you to see that your work really does matter—and more than that, it’s a fundamental way in which we worship our Creator. Our problem is, we lack a theological foundation to understand how. Providing that is the purpose behind his recently released effort, Every Good Endeavorwhere Keller examines God’s original plans for work, how sin distorts it and how the gospel restores and redeems it.

Keller’s greatest pastoral strength is applying doctrine to everyday life—showing the practical nature of the Christian faith. This book is no exception. Each chapter is rich with implications for the reader in how he or she approaches work.

Among the most helpful aspects of chapter one is Keller’s reminder that the Hebrew word used to describe God at work, “mlkh,” is the very same word used to describe normal human work. This reminds us that:

Work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later, or something human beings were created to do but that was beneath the great God himself. No, God worked for the sheer joy of it. Work could not have a more exalted inauguration. (34-35)

This is an important reminder for us today. With so many books on the market offering new ways to look at work—particularly those focused on “results only”—it’s easy to get caught in the trap that work isn’t as important as the rest of your life. It’s the thing you do to do the rest of your life, but it’s a means to an end only. But God values it because He does it. He created it and it is fundamentally good.

More importantly, while there are certainly some kinds of work that are morally wrong, there isn’t really a type of work work that is of lesser value than another. Keller writes, “The Greeks understood that life in the world required work, but they believed that not all work was created equal. Work that used the mind rather than the body was nobler, less beastly. The highest form of work was the most cognitive and the least manual” (46).

This is essential for us to understand, particularly as we see the rise of a new underclass—extremely well educated young people who have no real career prospects. Our education system and culture has for so long pushed the Greek ideal Keller describes that many are left on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars of debt and only a Barista job to pay for it. All because we placed more value on teaching jobs than plumbing.

Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives. We learn not only that work has dignity in itself, but also that all kinds of work have dignity. . . . No task is too small a vessel to hold the immense dignity of work given by God. (49) [Read more...]

Book Review: The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler


What makes a great leader? Is it a mix of charisma, character and talent? Is it just a bit of luck? If you browse the leadership section at your local bookstore, you’ll find no shortage of answers:

  • Leadership is about influence.
  • It’s about character.
  • It’s about being the “alpha.”
  • It’s about knowing your strengths.

Albert Mohler’s new book, The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters, takes a slightly different approach. While not ignoring the importance of character, strengths or any of the other points often referenced in so many leadership books, Mohler argues that leadership ultimately comes down to one thing: conviction.

“Wherever Christian leaders serve, in the church or in the secular world, leadership should be driven by distinctively Christian conviction,” he writes (18-19). This new book is fueled by Mohler’s desire to encourage a generation of Christian leaders to lead from their most deeply held, passionate beliefs—their convictions—and to see these as inseparable from the task of leading.

Each chapter, while functioning as more-or-less standalone essays, provides a fully-fleshed out idea of what a convictional leader is. Notably:

  • leaders are writers, communicators and speakers;
  • they are readers, thinkers and teachers;
  • they are stewards, managers and decision makers.

They are these things because they cannot be otherwise. This is something important to understand: Mohler doesn’t say a leader can be a writer but not a manager, or a thinker but not a decision maker. No, a leader is all of these things or else he or she is not a leader.

This is important, especially as you consider the leader as thinker. Mohler writes:

…the leader’s disciplined posture is to lean into the truth and be unafraid of it. He demands that those around him tell him the truth, and he leads by being the truth teller in chief. He does not allow the organization to be tempted by either dishonesty or self-deception, and he models personal honesty. (62)

If ever there was commentary designed to challenge your assumptions about how you lead, it’s this. I know few who could read the above and say, “Yes, my organization or leader consistently exhibits these characteristics.” Truthfully, I’ve met maybe six leaders who would match that description in my entire life. On the other hand, I’ve met far too many who model the opposite of what Mohler describes—men and women who exhibit fear of the facts and hide under a veneer of false harmony instead of embracing the kind of healthy conflict leading with conviction creates.

Convictional leaders—even when you may disagree with their convictions—are people who are easy to respect, because you know what they stand for. They are people who communicate with clarity, consistency and courage. “Convictional leadership requires a constant and consistent message, no matter the context, the audience, or the occasion . . . and no matter what may come,” he writes (95). “A reputation for inconsistency betrays a lack of conviction, and a lack of conviction is the nullification of leadership.”

It’s easy to see how it all ties together—habitual inconsistency indicates a lack of character, which really means a lack of conviction. The “leader” in this position has nothing to draw from for strength and as a result flounders. May this never be said of Christian leaders, in whatever sphere they serve. Instead, we need to root our leadership in conviction—especially our confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ—and allow that to transform the way we lead. “The convictions come first, but the character is the product of those convictions. If not, our leadership will crash and burn” (79).

“I want to see a generation arise that is simultaneously leading with conviction and driven by the conviction to lead,” Mohler writes (20). “The generation that accomplishes this will set the world on fire.” If leaders follow Mohler’s thoughtful instruction, they might even do it. If you’re a leader in any capacity—at your church, at your job, in your school—I can think of no better book to encourage, challenge and grow you in your calling than The Conviction to Lead

Title: The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters
Author: Albert Mohler
Publisher: Bethany House (2012)

Book Review: Who Do You Think You Are by Mark Driscoll


Who am I? There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t asked this question on multiple occasions and with good reason—our understanding of our identity changes directly affects how we think, speak, feel and act.

It’s no wonder then the Scriptures repeatedly remind us of who we are in Christ. And yet, we seem to have a problem. We ask the question, “Who am I?” and all too often come up with the wrong answer. “We’re continually forgetting who we are in Christ and filling that void by placing our identity in pretty much anything else” (2).

Who Do You Think You Are? is Mark Driscoll’s attempt to correct what he describes as a tragic error.

This world’s fundamental problem is that we don’t understand who we truly are—children of God made in his image—and define ourselves by any number of things other than Jesus. Only by knowing our false identity apart from Christ in relation to our true identity in him can we rightly deal with and overcome the issues in our lives.

Drawing from the book of Ephesians, Driscoll identifies 15 elements of our identity that Christians need to understand. These range from the fundamental of being united with Christ and made new, to being gifted for ministry and truly forgiven and blessed by Him.

Of all the strengths of this book—and there are many—the greatest is Driscoll’s evident love of the gospel. Readers can’t go more than a few pages without the good news of Christ’s life, death and resurrection being revisited. Reading this reminded me how good Driscoll’s work can be when he’s focused on the most important things. There’s conviction in his words—they actually matter to him.

Where the book shines is when you can feel his conviction and a genuine pastoral care come through. Among the chapters most strongly exhibiting this are chapters two (“I Am in Christ”), three (“I Am a Saint”), and eleven (“I Am New”). Each of these offers a significant corrective to the reader, one that certainly left this one encouraged, rather than condemned. I’ll share a few examples quickly.

First, on the relationship between identity and our actions:

God knows that what you do flows from who you are. As Christians, we live from our identity, not for our identity. We are defined by who we are in Christ, not what we do or fail to do for Christ. Christ defines who we are by who he is and what he’s done for us, in us, and through us. Understanding this information is the key to your transformation. (19)

On viewing ourselves the way God does:

Rather than sinners, the Bible overwhelmingly calls us “saints,” “holy,” or “righteous” more than two hundred times. Biblically, then, the primary identity of a believer in Christ is not as sinner but as saint. While we still struggle with sin in this life, as Christians, our identity is not found in our sin but in Christ’s righteousness. (35)

On our identity as adopted sons and daughters of God’s impact on our behavior:

Our identity as adopted children of God also means transformation in our behavior—obeying our Father and living a life imitating our big brother Jesus by following in his footsteps. We put off the things of the past life (the old man) and turn wholeheartedly to those things that reflect the life and character of God (the new man). God doesn’t bring us into his family only to turn around and punish us with constricting rules. Rather he sets up family rules for our good. Our flesh wars against our spirit, telling us that true life only comes when we indulge our fallen desires. God knows better. True life is only found in the holy joy, love, and peace that flow through us by the work of his Spirit. In this life, we must continually choose the things of God, obeying our Father, the source of lasting joy and life. (178)

These are just a few examples of the really wonderful truths Driscoll shares with readers of this book. And they should be accepted with thankful hearts.

As much good as there is in Who Do You Think You Are? there are a few things I found a bit curious. None of them are deal breakers, but do merit a mention.

The first comes with chapter five, “I Am Appreciated.” The significant issue I have here has less to do with the content—there’s a wealth of encouragement for readers in it—than it’s basis. The chapters begins quoting Ephesians 1:15-23, yet the content is only loosely based on Paul’s saying how he gives thanks for the believers at Ephesus in his prayers (Eph. 1:15).

This is a repeated pattern with Paul, something Driscoll is right to draw our attention to. However, I’m not sure it’s the strongest place to build a clear case for God’s appreciating us. Unless I’m misreading it, the verse speaks more strongly to the need for pastors to appreciate the people God has entrusted to their care. Does God appreciate us in Christ? Sure. But the passage in question really doesn’t speak strongly to that (indeed, I can’t think of one off the top of my head that speaks to it at all).

Second is a bit of what seems to be needless hairsplitting in chapter eight, “I Am Afflicted.” There, Driscoll lists 14 different kinds of affliction he sees in the Bible—Adamic, punishment, consequential, demonic, victim, collective, disciplinary, vicarious, empathetic, testimonial, providential, preventative, mysterious and apocalyptic. However, in reading his description of each, I had difficulty discerning a significant amount of difference between many of them (providential and mysterious, consequential and disciplinary, among others). The categories come across a bit like the theological version of the seven signs of aging.

The final less than stellar element of this book has to do with format. Because the book is, essentially, a collection of sermons (albeit ones that are only now being preached), each chapter fully stands on its own. As a result, there’s a great deal of (arguably unnecessary) duplication of material, and a book that could have been around 150 pages comes in at close to 250 (for example, the chapters on reconciliation and forgiveness could have been merged sinc the two concepts are interconnected). This is a concern not limited to Driscoll’s work, but with many books today, and it’s something I’d love to see publishers and editors push to improve.

All that said, Who Do You Think You Are? is the most promising and helpful material I’ve seen from Driscoll in a long time, and arguably his strongest book yet. While there are some things that need to be taken with a grain of salt, readers are sure to benefit from a careful reading.

Title: Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ
Author: Mark Driscoll
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2013)

Buy it at: Amazon

Book Review: Multiply by Francis Chan with Mark Beuving


“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus commanded as he ascended into heaven (Matt. 28:19a). This is the mission of the church and the sacred duty of everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

So… how do we do it?

“Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today?” ask Francis Chan and Mark Beuving in their new book, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples. “Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different?”

None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like. (Kindle location 299)

In MultiplyChan and Beuving offer the frame of reference they see is missing. Divided into five parts, Multiply looks at the call to disciple-making individually and corporately, the storyline of Scripture and provides practical guidance on how to study the Bible.

Parts one and two serve principally to motivate readers to do the work of making disciples. Chan—whose reputation for challenging the lethargy of the North American church is well-known—pulls no punches in reminding readers that disciple-making truly is the responsibility of every believer. “The pastor is not the minister—at least not in the way we typically think of a minister. The pastor is the equipper, and every member of the church is a minister.” (Kindle location 354)

God has not called you to make disciples in isolation; He has placed you in the context of a church body so that you can be encouraged and challenged by the people around you. And you are called to encourage and challenge them in return. (Kindle location 382)

This is difficult for many of us to accept, but it needs to be properly understood. If we are Christians, we have a responsibility to the other believers in our local church. “Church” isn’t the hour and a half we spend on Sunday—it’s something that requires opening up our lives to others and encouraging them to obey Jesus as we are learning to likewise.

The interconnectedness of disciple-making is what makes it so difficult in a context where, frankly, you can get away with hiding pretty easily. But the truth of the matter is clear: “It’s impossible to ‘one another’ yourself. It’s impossible to follow Jesus alone. We can’t claim to follow Jesus if we neglect the church He created, the church He died for, the church He entrusted His mission to.” (Kindle location 519)

Parts three through five offer a thorough overview of the Bible’s storyline, as well as solid guidance on how to study the Scriptures. This, honestly, is probably the most immediately practical aspect of what’s offered in Multiply. It’s also one of the most fundamental aspects. “For a Christian, nothing should seem more natural than reading the Bible,” the authors write (Kindle location 946). And yet, so many struggle to do it. We either are distracted, believe the lie that it’s hard to understand, or are just so wracked with guilt that we can’t bring ourselves to do it.

Whatever the case, we have to understand that studying the Bible isn’t optional—if we are to make disciples who love and obey Jesus, then they (and we) need to actually know about what God is like, what He’s done in history, and what He’s promised to do in the future. “God in heaven wants us to know certain things about Himself, and He uses the Scriptures to reveal these things” (Kindle location 1008).

For me, reading through the authors’ 15-chapter overview of the storyline of Bible was a pure joy. If you’ve ever read through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, you know how helpful it is to have your reading of the Scriptures grounded in the big story. By providing these chapters, the authors have done readers a great service—in part because of their own obvious excitement about it!

You can tell that Chan and Beuving really love the Bible—and they want you to love it to. They want you to feel the sense of urgency about knowing the Scriptures, and knowing the God who is revealed in the Bible’s pages. In fact, they made me want to start reading the Bible at Genesis 1 again!

Multiply isn’t really a book for solo reading—although I benefitted from an individual read, it was when I was discussing the material with others that I found it most helpful (as my wife can attest from me talking her ear off). It really is intended as a discipleship tool and it is a good one, to be sure. I’d highly recommend getting a copy of Multiply, working through it with a friend and beginning to invest in others using the material Chan and Beuving have provided.

Title: Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples
Author: Francis Chan with Mark Beuving
Publisher: David C. Cook (2012)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books

God Rest Ye Merry by Douglas Wilson


If there’s one thing you can always count on Douglas Wilson for, it’s writing something delightful to read. If there ar two things you can count on him for, it’s that he doesn’t shy away from being a provocateur.

His new book, God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything, is yet another wonderful example of both of these truths. In this new volume, Wilson deconstructs the many false reasons for the season, shows the importance of Israel to the Christmas story, and provides an answer to the all important question: “How then shall we shop?”

Also, Santa Claus apparently slapped Arius across the face at the Council of Nicaea. (If that were made into a Christmas special, would it be a new holiday classic?)

Here are a few standout excerpts:

On Christmas and empty sentimentalism:

Christmas should not be treated by us as the “denial season.” One of the reasons why so many families have so many tangles and scenes during the “holidays” is that everybody expects sentimentalism to fix everything magically. But Christmas is not a “trouble-free” season. We want the scrooges and grinches in our lives to be transformed by gentle snowfall, silver bells, beautifully arranged evergreens, hot cider, and carols being sung in the middle distance. But what happens when you gather together with a bunch of other sinners, and all of them have artificially inflated expectations? What could go wrong? When confronted with the message of sentimentalism, we really do need somebody who will say, “Bah, humbug.” (Kindle location 1053)

On the politically incendiary nature of the Incarnation:

From the very start, from the very beginning, the life of Jesus presented a potent threat to the status quo. This threat was not the result of Herod’s paranoia—Herod knew what many Christians do not. The birth of this child meant that the old way of ruling mankind was doomed. The transition from the old way of rule to the new way of rule was not going to be simple or easy, but it was going to happen. Of the increase of the Lord’s government there would be no end. But whatever it meant, Herod knew that he was against it. (Kindle location 688)

On the reality of joy:

So the message of Christmas is not a delusional message. This is joy to the world. We are not pretending that we live in a world that is not struggling under a curse. The doctor who applies medicine to a wound is not pretending the wound is non-existent. The craftsman who repairs a smashed piece of expensive furniture is not denying the damage. His presence presupposes the damage. The refiner’s fire does not exclude the reality of dross—it is excluding the dross in another way. The Incarnation is God’s opening salvo in His war on our sins. The presence of sin should no more be astonishing than the presence of Nazis fighting back at Normandy. View the world with the eye of a Christian realist. The turning of seasons makes no one better. The gentle fall of snow removes no sin. The hanging of decorations only makes a living room full of sin sadder. As Jesus once put it, “Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? (Mt. 23:17). Which is more important, the hat or the cattle? The foam or the beer? The gift or the altar? The gold paper stamp on the Christmas card or the gold coin of your faith? If our hearts are decorated with the refined gold of a true faith, we may therefore decorate everything else. If they are not, then what’s the point? Joy is fundamentally realistic—which is why unbelief thinks of it as insane. (Kindle location 1069)

Best read during the build-up to Christmas (and it includes daily readings for the Advent season season), God Rest Ye Merry offers a thought-provoking, guffaw-inducing look at the Christmas season that’s sure to create lots of discussion around the dinner table.

Title: God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything
Author: Douglas Wilson
Publisher: Canon Press (2012)

Through the Eyes of C.H. Spurgeon


As any long-time reader of this blog knows, I’m a great admirer of Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th century Baptist preacher. There are few pastors and authors who I turn to as frequently as Spurgeon, whose skill with handling the Word of God is matched by his mastery of a good turn of phrase.

It’s this latter gift that I think first attracted me to the Prince of Preachers. Few authors, outside of perhaps C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, are as eminently quotable as Spurgeon on such a wide variety of subjects. Sometimes dreadfully serious, other times displaying a sharp wit that puts the best modern satirists to shame,

This is why I’m so thankful for Through the Eyes of C.H. Spurgeon, a new book of Spurgeon quotes compiled by Stephen McCaskell. McCaskell has painstakingly compiled quotes from Spurgeon’s vast library of books and sermons, covering topics ranging from character and mormonism to revenge and substitution.

Here are just a few standout items:

On doctrine:

Men go after novel and false doctrines because they do not really know the truth; for if the truth had gotten into them and filled them, they would not have room for these day-dreams. (A Good Start, Page 108)

On false teaching:

It very often happens that the converts that are born in excitement die when the excitement is over. (The Soul Winner, Page 16)

On preaching:

We hear complaints that the minister speaks too harshly and talks too much of judgment. Saved sinners never make that complaint. (The Ship On Fire-A Voice Of Warning, Volume 10, Sermon #550 – Genesis 19:17, 19)

Through the Eyes of C.H. Spurgeon is carefully organized, lovingly crafted and tremendously helpful resource for Spurgeon admirers. Whether you’re looking for a great quote to use in an illustration, want a conversation starting status update, or are just looking for a encouraging word from a departed brother in the Lord, you will greatly benefit from this book.

Title: Through the Eyes of C.H. Spurgeon
Editor: Stephen McCaskell
Publisher: Lucid Books (2012)

Buy it at: Amazon

Center Church by Timothy Keller – “Movement”

center church keller

Focusing on the theological vision needed to connect our doctrinal foundation and our methodology, Center Church by Tim Keller revolves around three essential axis points: gospel, city, and movement. Over the last two posts, I’ve looked at the first two concepts and today I conclude my review of this book by looking at the final, “movement.”

Missional community

Part six of Center Church focuses on defining and articulating the key characteristics of a missional church.

Admittedly, some readers will likely shift uncomfortably even at the mention of the word “missional.” And this is understandable. The word’s been used so often and been so poorly defined that missional is equally applied to loosely organized groups of Christians meeting in coffee houses for spiritual conversations and highly attractional, “come and see” megachurches.

Keller, being a missional insider, does a fine job of clearing up some of the murkiness surrounding the term, while providing what may be the most explicit explanation of what a missional church ought to look like. In summary:

  • The church must confront society’s idols.
  • The church must contextualize skillfully and communicate in the vernacular.
  • The church must equip people in mission in every area of their lives.
  • The church must be a counterculture for the common good.
  • The church must itself be contextualized and should expect nonbelievers, inquirers, and seekers to be involved in most aspects of the church’s life and ministry.
  • The church must practice unity. (p. 274)

In his prior explanation of these six marks of a missional church, Keller makes it abundantly clear that there is to be no room for compromise on the doctrine of justification by faith. Indeed, missional churches can and must be committed to the historic, orthodox teachings of the faith as detailed in Scripture, otherwise we don’t really have anything to offer in place of the idols of our society.

The “alien righteousness” offered in the gospel is what puts to death the cultural idol of self-actualization. So I don’t need to be “the best me I can be,” because Jesus died to put that horrible god to death, offering me instead His perfect record and righteousness in its place. That’s the kind of message that is sorely needed by a world that has little to no grasp of the basic concepts of God, sin, and redemption. And this is what only the church can offer.

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Center Church by Timothy Keller – “City”

center church keller

Center Church offers readers a compelling theological vision for doing ministry in an increasingly urban world, one that revolves around the axises of gospel, city and movement. Yesterday, I started my look at this new book by Tim Keller by sharing thoughts on the gospel axis. Today, I’ll continue my review by focusing on the second section, “city.”

Gospel contextualization

This question of contextualization is one that divides many evangelicals today. Some see the surrounding culture as something to be outright rejected, where others see it as something to be embraced without reservation.

Keller is quick to point out that, despite our protests, “everyone contextualizes—but few think about how they are doing it” (p. 97).

Whenever we communicate the gospel, whenever we express it in any way, we are inevitably conforming to some culture in order for it to be understood. This is why it’s essential for us to be careful to be intentional in how we contextualize.

Sound contextualization means translating and adapting the communication and ministry of the gospel to a particular culture without compromising the essence and particulars of the gospel itself. . . . When we contextualize faithfully and skillfully, we show people how the baseline cultural narratives of their society and the hopes of their hearts can only find resolution and fulfillment in Jesus. (pp. 89, 90)

That’s the point of contextualization. We don’t do it to be hip or cool, but to clearly communicate the hope of salvation in Christ without being the gospel becoming “unnecessarily alien” due to our preferences.

The most challenging aspect for many reading part three of Center Church is Keller’s admonishment that we must recognize that we all contextualize—our approach to Christianity is always going to be in relation to the culture we are surrounded by and to think otherwise is naive.
But recognizing this doesn’t mean that we simply accept and integrate whatever the culture’s doing into our ministry. We must meet the culture with what he describes as crictical enjoyment and appropriate wariness (p. 109).

Like Paul’s, our approach to culture should be one that is neither completely confrontional nor totally affirming. We are to reveal “the fatal contradictions and underlying idolatry within [our] cultures and then point them to the resolution that can only be found in Christ” (p. 112).

City vision

Part four of Center Church focuses on the need for an intentional focus on urban ministry. Indeed, Keller describes this as one of the highest priorities of the Church in the 21st century. Why?

Aside from the biblical connection between God’s people and cities—He commands them to seek the welfare of the city in Jer. 29; calls Jonah to preach repentance in unbelieving Nineveh; and uses the Apostles’ ministry to people within cities to create a movement that leads them to be dragged before the authorities as those who are turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6)—we live in a time where more people than ever are living in cities (over half the world’s population by most estimates).

The city represents an opportunity to impact a wider diversity of people than anywhere else—the cultural elite (the influencers), the younger generations, accessible “unreached” people groups, and the poor are all found in the city in abundance. Therefore we need to be in the cities, building churches, engaging in intentional evangelism and discipleship, and serving the community as a whole.

“Christians,” he writes, “ should seek to live in the city, not to use the city to build great churches, but to use the church’s resources to seek a great, flourishing city” (p. 172). This might sound odd, but it’s an important distinction. Our churches need to be churches for our particular city, regardless of size, seeking the wellbeing of the whole community, not just our island within it.

While Keller writes with a more optimistic viewpoint on the impact of this than I’d subscribe to (no matter how beneficial we are to the community, those who are opposed to Christ will always be more likely to rejoice in our leaving than lament it), I really appreciate the emphasis he puts on the need for this kind of engagement.

Cultural engagement

Part five, “cultural engagement,” represents some of Keller’s strongest work within the “City” axis, but also within the entire Center Church theological vision. Here, Keller sets to work examining the models of cultural engagement that are predominant within Christian circles—the transformationalist, relevance, counterculturalist, and “two-kingdoms” views. Keller, as always, is very careful in his critique of each, pointing out their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

Careful readers should come away with not only a better understanding of the different models, but also for the need to humbly recognize our own blind spots and be willing to learn from others.

No model gives us the full picture of the gospel’s relationship to culture, even though they all have some aspect they get right. No one’s got it all down pat, and we’d be foolish to believe that our way of doing ministry is the way for everyone.

This, I suspect, will be the hardest thing for many readers to accept. We all want to believe that our way is the right way, and the others have it wrong. But if our goal is to challenge the idolatry of the culture, to show them how their hopes, longings, and misplaced desires only find their fulfilment in Jesus, then we need to learn what we can from others for the sake of the gospel and, Lord willing, see gospel renewal in our communities as the new churches are planted and Christians faithfully engage in their spheres of influence.

Title: Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: Zondervan (2012)

Buy: Amazon | WTS Books

Center Church by Timothy Keller – “Gospel”

center church keller

I doubt there’s a church leader alive who wishes their church would be less successful—that fewer people would be coming to faith in Jesus, their influence within their communities would diminish, and everyone would settle into a nice rut and eventually it would fade away.

I’ve never seen that book written or message preached. What I have seen a lot of, though, is a lot of pastors—implicitly or explicitly asking, “What’s the secret behind so-and-so’s success? If I do what they do, will my church be successful too?”

More often than not, the results are less than encouraging. Many books and conferences tout methodology, offering just the right combination of music, lighting and cultural relevance to draw a crowd (and remember, keep the theology to a minimum).

Others eschew this pragmatic approach. Instead, they focus on our doctrinal foundation; that is, on reinforcing theological fidelity and practical obedience to the Lord in all things. Numerical growth is not the measure of success; instead, it is the purity of the Church.

Both approaches have their strengths. Our theology ought to be robust; we must never compromise on the pursuit of holiness in the lives of God’s people. Equally, we must use methods that allow us to meaningfully connect with the people we are trying to reach.

But what is it that connects the two? In his new book, Center Church, Tim Keller argues for what he calls the “middleware” of ministry—theological vision, “a faithful restatement of the gospel with rich implications for life, ministry, and mission in a type of culture at a moment in history” (p. 19).

This is, frankly, what far too many books on church ministry miss. Our doctrinal foundation matters immensely. If we get that wrong, everything else will be also. However, we need to understand how to express our doctrine in a way that’s meaningful to a culture with no significant understanding of the essentials of the Christian faith. Keller spends the bulk of this book explaining the basic elements of what makes up the “Center Church” theological vision: gospel, city, and movement.

It’s not often I review a book in multiple parts, but because each of these concepts—the axises of the Center Church—is so vital to the vision Keller puts forth, I felt it best to examine the strengths of each separately. And so we begin with the gospel.

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Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul

chosen by god

Although figuring prominently into the biblical story, predestination more likely to generate more arguments than adoration. Some paint predestination as evidence that God is a cruel puppet master, making us dance for His good pleasure. Some seem more passionate about the doctrine of predestination than sharing the gospel. To be sure, whenever the topic comes up, battle lines are quickly drawn.

In Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul tackles this contentious doctrine by examining its impact on God’s sovereignty, free will, original sin, regeneration, foreknowledge and the assurance of salvation.

Dr. Sproul’s primary purpose is to both help readers understand a misunderstood doctrine and challenge us to examine our affections for God.

“Do we love a God who is sovereign? Do we love a God who demands absolute obedience?” he asks. “I am not asking whether we love this God and this Christ perfectly; I am asking whether we love [them] at all” (p. 166). This is heart of the debate—how we react to the way the Bible speaks of predestination reveals much about our understanding of the God who is sovereign over all things. And to be sure, if predestination means “that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God . . . before we are even born” (p. 22, 48), then we must wrestle with this question.

The primary issue that comes to mind is that of justice and goodness—is God truly just and good in saving some and not others? Sproul’s point on this matter is simple: At no point does God ever do evil or commit an act of injustice in saving some and not others—to some He shows justice and others mercy (non-justice), and in all of it God “reserves the right of executive clemency” (p. 38).

For those of us wrestling with this, we have to ask ourselves one question: What is it we’re really doing when we say God “ought” to save all? Are we not being arrogant beyond all measure?

As a human being I might prefer that God give his mercy to everyone equally, but I may not demand it. If God is not pleased to dispense his saving mercy to all men, then I must submit to his holy and righteous decision. God is never, never, never obligated to be merciful to sinners. That is the point we must stress if we are to grasp the full measure of God’s grace. (p. 38)

The result of our wrestling should lead us to have one reaction: humility. We see the intricate relationship between human freedom and God’s absolute sovereignty—something Sproul notes isn’t unique to Calvinism or even Christianity, but is a basic tenet of theism (“If God is not sovereign, then God is not God,” he writes [p. 26])—and naturally become confused. And if we’re not careful, we begin to see the relationship in a way that Scripture does not: as a contradiction. The two cannot coexist, and therefore if God is sovereign, humanity doesn’t have freedom.

Yet, a careful reading of the Bible shows that there’s no room for contradictions of this sort or any other. There is a paradox, a mystery that we will never be able to fully understand or explain. But that does not mean that we are left without the ability to comprehend it in part. But what we do comprehend necessarily leads us to humble ourselves before a God who is so far above and beyond being fully understood by finite beings.

In some ways, reading Chosen by God is a crash course in humility. Sproul’s robust defense of this doctrine is cogent and careful, but it’s clear that none of us will every fully plumb the depths of its riches. And that is a very good thing. Whether you come away agreeing with Sproul’s position or not, you will be challenged by Chosen by God. Read the book, wrestle with it in light of the Scriptures and see how God might use it to grow your understanding of His sovereign work in the salvation of humanity.

Title: Chosen by God
Author: R.C. Sproul
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers

Buy: Amazon | WTS Books | Ligonier Ministries

Book Review: Mistakes Leaders Make by Dave Kraft

mistakes leaders make

Look at the bookshelf of nearly anyone in leadership and you’re bound to see a number of familiar names. Patrick Lencioni, Jim Collins, and John Maxwell, among others, are staple authors in the field, offering challenging and usually helpful advice to the current and prospective leader.

Dave Kraft is one who ought to be a staple for church and ministry leaders. His first book, Leaders Who Last, continues to be one of the most helpful books I’ve read, and one I’m always quick to recommend to any leader who wants to know what it takes to survive the challenges of leadership. His new book, Mistakes Leaders Make, builds on this foundation, looking at common errors in leadership based on his own experiences over his 35+ year career.

Kraft identifies and examines 10 common mistakes leaders make:

  • allowing ministry to replace Jesus;
  • allowing comparing to replace contentment;
  • allowing pride to replace humility;
  • allowing busyness to replace visioning;
  • allowing financial frugality to replace fearless faith;
  • allowing artificial harmony to replace difficult conflict;
  • allowing perennially hurting people to replace potential hungry leaders;
  • allowing information to replace transformation; and
  • allowing control to replace trust.

While certainly not exhaustive, these 10 mistakes represent the most common and serious errors that threaten our ministries and those we serve. Kraft approaches each with a welcome sobriety, choosing to confront leaders with the most fundamental error we face early on: idolatry. Kraft writes:

Allowing ministry to replace Jesus opened the Pandora’s box that contained many other mistakes that over time infected the entire leadership team—with severe implications. The first stone had been cast into the water, and the ripples had begun. . . . Ministry idolatry is becoming increasingly widespread in evangelical Christianity in America, reaching epidemic proportions. . . . “Idolatry creep” sneaks up on you because you can easily and quickly justify it by saying that everything you do is for the Lord, believing your motives are pure. We recognize this in businessmen who work obscene hours while insisting they do it all to benefit the family, when in reality it’s all about them. (Kindle location 300, 305, 308)

We see this all the time, don’t we? Leaders who begin using their ministry as an indicator of their standing before God. Their character may be reprehensible, they may be terrible spouses, or they may nurture secret sin, but they’ve got a large following. So obviously God must be pleased… right?

Similar problems lie at the heart of all the other issues. We compare ourselves with others because we’re deeply insecure in our standing with Christ. We avoid taking calculated risks because of fear. We refuse to trust those we lead to do the right thing because we love the feeling that comes from being in control.

It’s important to note that these kinds of errors are rarely isolated incidents. They’re habitual. “Leadership mistakes are often not a single event but an attitude, habit, or mind-set that has been forming for years” (Kindle location 451). They’re ultimately the fruit of an unhealthy relationship with God and attitude toward leading others.

Perhaps the most challenging mistake Kraft addresses is that of being satisfied with artificial harmony rather than facing difficult conflict head-on. Failure to face difficult conflict is a morale and trust killer. It’s easier to just avoid conflict and have the appearance that everything’s going well. But it comes with a cost: your ministry and your credibility.

Not knowing how and/or being unwilling to deal with conflict is a major issue that is undermining organizations today. I run into this problem everywhere I go… I cannot imagine anything more devastating to effective leadership than the refusal or inability to resolve conflict. To be frank, I meet very few leaders who honestly, gracefully, and promptly deal with conflict. I don’t mean this to be unkind, but many leaders are “relational cowards.” (Kindle location 1192)

It takes great courage to make tough decisions. It takes courage to deal with conflict and do the right thing—especially when it may result in someone leaving your team. But it’s so necessary for leaders to get this; if we don’t, we only injure those we serve.

Regular readers of the leadership genre will note  that Kraft liberally borrows from a number of modern leadership gurus—particularly Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team—as he examines each leadership mistake. Depending on your perspective, this might be a bad thing, but I quite appreciated it. While he does borrow, he sufficiently differentiates, especially in his leadership parables surrounding Covenant Community Church, the representative ministry facing each of these 10 mistakes.

Kraft wears a pastoral heart on his sleeve in Mistakes Leaders Make. He clearly wants to see Christian leaders get better and to avoid the mistakes he’s seen—and made—far too often. Mistakes happen. They’re inevitable; but they’re not irreversible. This book is a great starting point to identifying the mistakes that have crept into your ministry and how you can recover to the glory of God. I trust it will be blessing to you.

Title: Mistakes Leaders Make
Author: Dave Kraft
Publisher: Crossway/Re:Lit (2012)

Buy: Amazon | WTS Books 

Book Review: Creature of the Word by Chandler, Patterson, and Geiger


A lot of time is spent discussing of the mission and purpose of the church in the world. What should it look like? What makes it unique? Does it still matter? The answers are incredibly varied and nuanced, but usually they tend to focus on a couple of elements: doctrine and practice. We need to develop a sound theology to undergird our understanding of the church and our practice ought to flow from this. For the most part, most books I’ve read all agree on this point (even if the particulars of these vary drastically).

But there’s something else that’s missing in the discussion—the culture of your church. The church’s culture reveals what’s really at the heart of the congregation… and if we’re careful to look closely, we might find a disconnect.

It’s why so many churches face the difficulty of saying they’re about the Bible, yet the congregation never opens it, or we value evangelism, but our event schedules are so booked with classes, lectures or pot-lucks that we don’t have time to actually get to know anyone who’s not a Christian.

So how do we develop a culture where we’re actually about the things we say or think we’re about? In their new book, Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church, authors Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger offer their insights into creating a gospel-centered culture that fuels every aspect of the local church.

The gospel and community

The authors divide the book into two parts, first examining the unique attributes of the “creature of the Word” (that is, the Church)—how God brings together a people, forming a body for His purposes in the world, and how it is to behave, worshipping, multiplying and serving in community. While many might consider this a “yeah, I get it” point, the authors remind us that we must always start here:

For just as an individual must continually return to the grace of Jesus for satisfaction and sanctification, a local church must continually return to the gospel as well. Our churches must be fully centered on Jesus and His work, or else death and emptiness is certain, regardless of the worship style or sermon series. Without the gospel, everything in a church is meaningless. And dead. (Kindle location 201)

We cannot move too quickly past the need to honestly examine ourselves in light of the gospel, whether individually or corporately. If we fail to do the hard and necessary work of self-examination and repentance, we’ll fall flat on our faces. There won’t be anything to sustain a truly Jesus-centered culture within our communities.

This point is arguably one of the authors’ strongest as they explain there really isn’t such a thing as true Christian community without the gospel and all it entails, for, “The gospel is the deepest foundation for community.”

They continue:

…any attempt to build community on something more than the grace of Christ becomes a subtle move away from grace, a move toward pseudo-community that only puffs up and fails to transform. If something other than the person and work of Jesus becomes the foundation for a group of believers, that “other thing,” whatever it is—economic level, social manners, music preferences, common life experiences—becomes what they use to differentiate themselves from others. And it immediately becomes a point of boasting, a way to feel justified. (Kindle location 933)

Consider this critique carefully. This isn’t meant only for the seeker church or the “progressive” church… it’s got those of us in theologically conservative churches in mind, too. Over the last few years, there’s been a renewal of concern over what it means to be a biblical church. And frequently you hear that a true church is “gospel-centered.” While this is unquestionably a good thing, there’s a danger in turning it into a new measuring stick; so it becomes about how many months our sermon series runs, how long the preacher speaks for, how many churches we’re planting… The things meant to serve the gospel wind up enslaving us.

Creating Jesus-centered culture

Part two of the book focuses heavily on the mechanics of fostering a Jesus-centered culture within your church. The authors remind us that, first and foremost, if we want to build a culture like this, it must be founded upon the clear teaching of the Word of God. From the pre-school to puberty to the pulpit, every member of the church must be taught the Scriptures.

“To form a church centered on the gospel, the church must strategically and seamlessly pass the message of the gospel on from generation to generation,” they write. “The church must be united from the preschool ministry to the pulpit around one central understanding: the gospel transforms” (Kindle location 2228).

Sadly, even in churches where the gospel is heralded as the essential message of the Christian faith from the pulpit, children and students are often pummeled with curriculum designed for behavioral modification rather than gospel transformation. It is foolish to feast on the life-giving gospel in one area of the church while using a placebo in another. Quite frankly, children and student ministries are often a wasteland for well-intentioned morality training. (Kindle location 2222)

They continue:

Churches centered on the gospel aggressively go for the heart, not for behavior. Morality, or good behavior, is not the goal of godly parenting nor the goal of sound children’s ministry. A changed heart is. Obedience or morals may be the result, but a changed heart must be the goal. A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable. A church that goes after a child’s behavior and not the child’s heart is shepherding that child in opposition to the gospel. Children can be taught how to behave without hearts impacted by Jesus, but the “good behavior” that results will only last for a season because it lacks the power of inner transformation. (Kindle location 2290)

That’s really what we’re about, isn’t it? We want our churches to be places where people at any age are being transformed by the Holy Spirit as the Word is taught; we don’t need to be told to do better, try harder, or be nice for niceness’ sake. We need to be reminded constantly of the natural state of our hearts and our utter helplessness before God. Imagine what that would do to our children’s and student ministries; to our small groups and pulpit ministries.

The gospel-centered leader

Arguably the greatest challenge the authors make in the book even more than their cultural critique, is the one they level at leaders. “Culture and ethos is a reflection of leadership. Your church culture—over time, at least—is a reflection of the leadership of the church,” they write. “The kingly function of leadership is as vital to the health of a local church as is the prophetic function of teaching” (Kindle location 2522).

Leaders are frequently reminded that how they live and lead directly impacts the culture they create. What a leader believes is acceptable in practice, the followers pick up on and emulate. So when a pastor is concerned about how little the congregation reads the Bible, he may need to examine his own practices. When he is concerned about a lack of zeal for evangelism in the church, his own attitudes are necessarily called into question.

A gospel-centered church is infused with gospel-centered leadership. If a local church corporately bears the fruit of the Spirit, then you can be confident individuals who have been marked by the gospel of Jesus Christ lead it. There is a direct correlation between the personal impact of the gospel on a leader’s heart and the way he leads. The gospel is not good advice simply to be taken into consideration in certain situations; rather, the gospel is good news of sweeping transformation. A gospel-centered leader will lead differently. (Kindle location 2529)

The authors offer this reproof not harshly but as a brotherly word of concern for their fellow pastors. How we lead matters. What motivates us matters. The people following us serve as a mirror to the realities of our hearts. What are we seeing?


Creature of the Word is among the most helpful books on church ministry I’ve read in a long time, so much so that I rarely went more than a few paragraphs where I didn’t find myself equally encouraged and encouraged. Highly accessible and practical, this book offers a powerful blend of theology, philosophy, and methodology that’s sure be a benefit to church leaders and members alike.

Title: Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
Authors: Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger
Publisher: B&H Publishing (2012)

Buy: Amazon | WTS Books