Here are some books I had the privilege of reading this past month and some brief thoughts about each one.
#1 – Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities by Steve Gladen (published by Baker Books, 2011). This author is the Pastor of the Small Group Community at Saddleback Church in CA. Their church has more than 3,500 adult small groups. While I believe there is great value in having ministry philosophies and purpose statements, this book goes way too far on the structure of small group ministry. I found myself lost in the many acronyms, hierarchies and flow charts. Small group ministry may need to have a certain level of complexity for a megachurch like Saddleback, but I didn’t find too many helpful insights on how to be intentional with your small group ministry. Seems like a small group of Christians, gathering to enjoy fellowship, prayer and time in the Word is simple enough. BOOK RATING: 6 out of 10 stars.
#2 – Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth edited by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue (published by Crossway Books, 2017). My Dad says he would rank this #3 for systematic theologies behind W.G.T. Shedd and Wayne Grudem. Not having read Shedd, I would concur with his comparison to Grudem. This is a helpful resource, but not the “gold standard” for systematic theologies. At times, it reads too scholarly for most Christians. The formatting and outline is hard to follow as well. It lacks the doxology emphasis of Grudem, but does contain extensive bibliographies at the end of each chapter like Grudem. The one section of the book I would give high praise is Ch. 7 on soteriology – very thorough and thought-provoking. BOOK RATING: 8 out of 10 stars.
#3 – Look and Live edited by Matt Papa (published by Bethany House Publishers, 2014). I am sure this author is a fine music leader at his church in Raleigh, NC. And after reading this book on God’s greatness, I can see the carryover to writing song-lyrics and this book. At times, the book was hard to follow, because instead of forming thesis and logical statements that support these statements, he would just write one or two words and then a period, as if he was trying to emphasize a truth – like you might in a song and not in a book. I’m not gonna lie – I didn’t enjoy the book very much. It was hard to follow and didn’t have as much Scriptural support as I had hoped. BOOK RATING: 5 out of 10 stars.
#4 – Church History 101: The Highlights of Twenty Centuries by Sinclair B. Ferguson, Joel R. Beeke and Michael A. Haykin (published by Reformation Heritage Books, 2016). My only criticism of this book is its brevity. And when I say the book is brief, I mean it (only 99 pages). Surely this book is meant to be read by someone who doesn’t have a timeline in church history. If you are wanting substance, this book is not for you. But if you want to know the names and events of each century that you should study further, this book can be of use to you. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.
#5 – Jesus: The Only Way to God by John Piper (published by Baker Books, 2010). How can someone be saved? This is the question that is answered in this short book (123 pages). And Piper does a great job addressing different O.T. and N.T. passages. It might be a little scholarly for some, but still readable. I would recommend giving this to non-Christians who would consider themselves intellectual or fans of reason. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.
#6 – The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher (published by Penguin Random House, 2017). The author capitalizes off the continual un-Christianizing of culture by suggesting that Christians ought to form communities of faith (not churches) that are committed to prayer, fasting and more instruction from the Word. That sounds good but it suggests too much withdrawing from society when Jesus has not changed our mandate to “go and make disciples” (Matt 28:16-20). Even though some men I respect endorse this book, I cannot say this is a good strategy for living faithfully in light of the downgrade of Western Society. BOOK RATING: 7 out of 10 stars.