Thursday, March 30, 2017
Loving God, Loving People, Serving the World
The following books are recommended by our pastor. 
Updated March 2016
Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) by Robert Lupton
You will find a lot of similarity with Helping without Hurting in Church Benevolence.  Lupton draws on his 40 years of experience as an urban activist in Atlanta to help us understand that too often the best of intentions by churches and other organizations attempts to help the material poor, although well intended, often miss the mark and frequently do more harm than good.  This book will help the church understand principles that will help it develop a more thoughtful and effective benevolence ministry.
Helping without Hurting in Church Benevolence, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
Working with principles and concepts first laid out by the authors in When Helping Hurts, this work looks specifically at the task of benevolence ministry for churches.  It helps us rethink our understanding of poverty and brings to bear biblical content on the subject.  In addition to being a good resource for developing a better philosophy of benevolence ministry, this book gives practical guidance on how to do it better.  It focuses on how churches must build benevolence ministry on relationships and accountability as a means not merely to meet people's physical needs, but to get the Gospel to them.
The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, by Steven Lawson
This short book is a fantastic introduction to the heart of the Prince of Preachers.  You have probably heard preachers quote from Spurgeon, but you may not be familiar with him yourself.  Lawson's book gives you plenty of Spurgeon in his own words in a concise and organized fashion.  It will help you see how he held in tension the biblical truths of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility in matters of personal salvation.
Praying the Bible, by Donald Whitney
This little book can give you a powerful new method for dramatically improving your personal prayer life.  The problem is that believers often find praying boring because we end up praying the same old things the same old way.  In this book you will learn an easy way to use Scripture to prompt and guide your praying, particularly by using the Psalms.   
Think, Act, Be Like Jesus: Becoming a New Person in Christ, by Randy Frazee
The author emphasizes the basics of a life in Christ.  He lays out ten key beliefs, ten key practices and ten key virtues that should be defining the disciple of Jesus.  Genuine belief leads to real transformation in practice and who we are in Christ.  This is a great book for simply laying down the basics of being a Christian and walking with Christ.
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
This book redefines poverty at the result of broken relationships.  Poverty, at its heart, is not about the lack of material things.  From a Christian worldview, poverty is the result of our broken relationship with God and each other in our societies.  This book lays a biblical foundation for helping the poor and give practical help.  There are many ways that well-intending people actually make the situation of the poor worse, not better.  This book helps guide us to think differently, see the pitfalls, and strategize differently to make a greater difference.  However, really helping means more relational ministry, not merely giving stuff away.
Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, by Bob Kauflin
This book is written by a church music leader primarily to other music leaders.  However, I found it extremely helpful to me as a pastor.  Kauflin's work is deeply theological in its approach and biblically faithful to what worship truly is while tackling a lot of the practical issues with which leaders wrestle in regards to worship in the church.     
Loving My LGBT Neighbor, by Glenn Stanton
This is the perfect book for Christians to read right now on the heels of our Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage.  It is written from a biblically faithful point of view and filled with practical help on how to lovingly and constructively engage those within the LGBT community.  It's full of commitment to truth and grace while dispelling many of the fallacies we fall into during the heat of debate.  This is a great resource for every Christian and the church that desires to be faithful to the teachings of Scripture on marriage, family and sexuality and wants to minister well to all people. 
Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically, by John MacArthur and members of the Master's Seminary faculty
This is great resource for the pastor.  The book is a compilation of over 20 essays on a variety of issues related to pastoral ministry.  What I find most appealing is that every essay is biblically oriented on its given topic.  I highly recommend it for every pastor's study.
C.S. Lewis: A Life, by Alister McGrath
A new biography of one of the most intriguing Christian figures of the 20th century by one of my favorite authors.  You will learn much of Lewis' complex life, from the battlefields of WWI to his unusual love relationship with an American woman.  Lewis may be best well known for his Chronicles of Narnia, but he continues to be a voice for the reasonableness of the Christian faith in a world growing ever more skeptical. 
Love & Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs
This marriage enrichment book is based on the firm conviction that what the  Bible teaches in Ephesians 5:22-33 is true and practical in what it both describes and prescribes for husbands and wives.  This book will especially help wives understand their husbands need for respect in the same way they need love.  I believe this book hits the nail squarely on the head and has the potential to help you achieve greater satisfaction in your marriage.
Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Religion by John MacArthur
MacArthur pulls no punches in arguing that the Charismatic/Pentecostal movements of the 20th century that have grown tremendously globally should be understood biblically as false religions.  His argument primarily rests on a the view that the miraculous gifts testified to in the NT were given only during the time of Jesus and Apostles.  He contends that modern day speaking in unknown tongues and faith healings are either faked or the product of demonic activity, not the work of the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, crediting such activity to the Holy Spirit is blasphemous.  This is a very interesting read both for the history of the Charismatic movement and the thought-provoking biblical argument that challenges much of that traditions practice.  You may not totally agree with MacArthur at the end, but it is worth your time and consideration.   
There's Hope for Your Church: First Steps to Restoring Health and Growth, by Gary L. McIntosh
Written primarily to pastors and church lay leaders, this book offers a quick and easy read that is filled will pratical wisdom for those seeking to turn around a declining or plateaued church.  I've passed this book along to each person on our current Long-Range Planning Team, but every church member could benefit from its content about what it really takes to reinvigorate a flat church and make it an exciting growing body of believers once again.
Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? by John Fea
The Book's title is only a tease because the author doesn't really answer the question.  However, Fea does a masterful job at addressing the major issues as a historian should - with objectivity and clarity.  This is an excellent introduction to the topic and written for a more popular audience and not merely for fellow historians.  I found myself nodding in agreement as I turned the pages, thinking this is the book I would want others to read.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
A hefty read (500+ pages), but worth every minute spent in it.  The author makes the world of pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer come alive.  You are drawn into his tumultuous world of 1930-40s Germany and the critical moral questions pressed upon Christians and the churches by the rise of the Third Riech under Adolf Hitler.  Metaxas brings out the complexities of the times as some Germans worked to oppose Hitler and the journey of this young pastor as he became part of a conspiracy to kill Hitler.  Bonhoeffer's courage and conviction will inspire you.