I don’t have as much time as I used to for reviewing books, here are six mini-reviews for the price of one.
Don’t Just Send a Resume: How to Find the Right Job in a Local Church by Benjamin Vrbicek
I was pleased to write this blurb for my friend Benjamin’s latest book:
“Don’t Just Send a Resume is a gift for those starting out in pastoral ministry. It will not only answer “how to” questions about searching for a ministry position, it will help you do it with the right expectations and the right heart. I can see readers reaching for this valuable resource the entire job-search process. I wish I read this book as a seminary student!”
Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning by Wayne Grudem
Theologian Wayne Grudem is back with Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning. (I’m thankful to see his recent Parkinson’s diagnosis didn’t keep him from finishing this.) Grudem shares, following the basic structure of the Ten Commandments, a textbook on Christian ethics that is accessible for lay readers. This volume contains 42 chapters dealing with a wide range of issues from the character of God as the ultimate basis for ethics to idolatry to the authority of parents to capital punishment to abortion to many contemporary issues related to sexuality (birth control, homosexuality, reproductive technology, transgenderism) and more.
If you liked Systematic Theology, you’ll notice that Christian Ethics has a similar structure and utility: chapters are structured in an outline format and at the end of each chapter Grudem shares application questions, resources for further study, verses to memorize, and a hymn.
Grudem is clear, well-read, and knows current thinking as it relates to certain issues. (For example, he interacted with Matthew Vines in the homosexuality chapter and current transgender theory in the transgender chapter.) You might not agree with all of Grudem’s conclusions on every issue, but he does present a clear take on fundamental issues, as well as the opinions of other believers.
I’d also recommend a book Grudem interacts with a lot, Ethics for a Brave New World by Feinberg, for comparison. It would be hard for me to think of a better introduction to Christian ethics. (Listen to Grudem’s lectures on ethics.)
Mental health issues seem to impact the church more and more, leaving pastors and other leaders scrambling to help individuals and families cope with mental illness. Instead of scrambling, grab a copy of this book. It’s short (168) pages and to the point, helping ministry workers understand an overview of 22 mental illnesses, sharing treatment options, tips for the pastor, and advice on referrals. You might think of it as a Christian WebMD for mental illness. It won’t answer every question you have but will prove a good resource to instill confidence that you can minister to those battling mental illness more than you realize.
Everyone claims they care about human dignity, but without a biblical foundation for what dignity means, we cannot truly and holistically live out those beliefs. That’s why The Dignity Revolution is a timely book. Dan Darling roots our understanding of dignity in our being made in God’s image and applies that to a wide variety of issues: abortion, euthanasia, human trafficking, racism, pornography, immigration, justice and prison issues, religious liberty, and more. Darling is non-partisan but is biblical. This book is a well-researched, well-illustrated rallying cry for gospel-motivated action in defending dignity wherever it may be threatened. This could also be a good book to read and discuss with a non-believing friend concerned about dignity issues.
The New Elder’s Handbook: A Biblical Guide to Developing Faithful Leaders by Greg R. Scharf and Arthur Kok
I still remember when Dr. Scharf, my preaching professor at TEDS, stopped me in the hallway at church to tell me about his idea for this book. “Most men didn’t want to become elders when asked. They didn’t feel ready or were too busy. But then I realized I was thinking too short-term. I changed my approach to ask them if they’d like to join a two-year training process to be an elder, and many more agreed to do it.” This book was born from that training process. It is a three-part handbook that lays down a biblical vision for what an elder is and should be (Part 1), a 75 question section called “training” (Part 2), additional resources for discipleship (Part 3). The training session (Part 2) is what makes this book unique. Working through these questions and Scripture references, preferably as an elder team, will likely be the most impactful section of the book. Consider it like a workout plan: having the plan itself doesn’t do much for you; but following the plan with workout partners will prove extremely fruitful over time, especially if the group is led by one with experience. I’m glad my former professor (Scharf) and my friend (Kok) put this together. I’m also glad to recommend it to you.
Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd
In this book, Kidd explores the complex and often contradictory religious beliefs of a fascinating figure who had massive international influence as a printer, scientist, diplomat, and founding father. Franklin, the self-proclaimed deist, praised virtue and doctrine-less Christianity (a contradiction in terms), which makes me wonder if his friend George Whitefield, the famed Calvinist evangelist, ever explained the message of Titus to him—that sound doctrine leads to good works! Kidd’s religious biography of Franklin is an engaging and worthwhile read, especially if you are interested in the timeframe in which Franklin lived. (Here are 100 other biographies I recommend for Christians.)