The Pastor as Scholar and The Scholar as Pastor, Reflections on Life and Ministry by John Piper and D. A. Carson

More attention is being given of late to the value of theology and scholarship in the life of the pastor. Much of this apparently stemmed from a 2009 gathering by the same name as this book, and by the same men, at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, coming on the heels of the Gospel Coalition National Conference (p. 15). This meeting, along with the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology, has fueled renewed interest in the pastor-theologian concept that was far more common in the past. This little book contributes to the conversation. The two authors have had long and successful ministries. Both were born in 1946 and both received their doctorates from liberal European schools: Piper (university of Munich), Carson (Cambridge). Carson began his ministry as a pastor and shifted to the academy, while Piper originally was a Bible college professor who became a pastor. Both have spent...

The Pastor Theologian, Resurrecting an Ancient Vision by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson

There was a time, as Hiestand and Wilson document, when local pastors led the church theologically. They preached doctrinally solid sermons, wrote theological works and interacted with the scholarship of their day. But all that began to change with the rise of the university prior to the Reformation (p. 33). Ultimately the role of theological study and development shifted to the academy and to professors who devoted themselves to scholarly endeavors. Pastors gave ground to the seminary and professional theologians and contented themselves with the more practical details of church life. In many cases pastors stopped attending to theology altogether, except for the basics. As a result, in recent days, it has become rare to cite a pastor who devotes much of his attention to the study and teaching of theology. Almost nonexistent is the pastor who is engaged in current theological debate with academic scholars or who actually...

A Pastor Prays for His People by Wendell C. Hawley

When Kent Hughes retired as pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, Wendell Hawley was asked to write and deliver the pastoral prayer each Sunday morning. This book is a collection of 73 of those prayers. There is one for every Sunday of the year plus others for special occasions. Many of those reading A Pastor Prays use extemporaneous prayers almost exclusively, and that by conviction. Nevertheless, reading Hawley’s prayers is both uplifting and educational. The prayers might be read at local churches but, if not, they serve as a wonderful model of worshipful, theological and practical public praying. Sharp distinctions between prayers appropriate for the Old Testament and the church age are sometimes lacking (such as frequent mentions of the church being God’s house), and there are a few Scriptures taken out of context. But the majority of the content is biblically sound and edifying.  (Tyndale House: Carol...

Shattered Shepherds Finding Hope in the Midst of Ministry Disaster by Steve Swartz

Pastor Swartz has written a helpful resource to offer hope to pastors who have faced (or are facing) difficult times, even disasters, in their ministries. He writes to help wounded pastors gain traction with the hope that they will stay on the battlefield as shepherds of the local church. It is obvious that Swartz is writing as one who has been in the furnace himself, but autobiographical illistrations are few. Swartz breaks his little book into two clear parts: what the struggling pastor must stop doing and what he must start doing. Five practical things the hurting pastor must stop doing are highlighted. He must: stop blaming others, defending himself, worrying constantly, succumbing to anger, and viewing himself as a hero. In each of the categories Swartz provides practical and biblical insights and directives. In part two Swartz directs his readers to genuinely trust the sovereignty of God, accept...

The Trellis and the Vine, The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne (Australia: St Matthias Press, 2009) 202 pp., paper $9.99

The Trellis and the Vine is an excellent resource, not only concerning the importance of concentrated discipleship efforts in the church but also for ideas, methods and the practical “how to” in developing disciples. The authors see the church’s mission as “a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple” (p. 13). The thesis of the book could be stated this way: We will be arguing that structures don’t grow ministry any more than trellises grow vines, and that most churches need to make a conscious shift—away from erecting and maintaining structures, and towards growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Christ (p. 17). The authors further flesh their thesis out in comments such as these: The first is that the growth of the gospel happens in the lives of people, not in the structures of my church. Or to put...

Finding the Balance in World Missions, by Steven E. Ray (Steven Ray: 2012) 130 pp., paper $14.95

Steven Ray, founder and director of Messiah Missions, seeks to offer a biblical balance to the ever changing world of missions. I believe in many ways he succeeds. He first, and rightly, deals with evangelism, offering clear insights and analysis of various evangelistic approaches (pp. 13-26). He shows the dangers of syncretism (combining Christianity with other religions) which is becoming more acceptable in evangelism today (pp. 37-42). And Ray deals extremely well with the social gospel and compassion ministries (pp. 43-68), showing that social concern should be a natural fruit of the gospel but it is not the gospel (p. 46). The author also gives a valuable understanding of and need for the indigenous church (pp. 109-122). In all these areas, I believe Ray offers much that needs to be contemplated and digested by all interested in missions—home and abroad. Unfortunately, I believe he stumbles in some matters. He...

Surviving Shattered Dreams, a Story of Hope after Despair by Yvonne Partyka and Joanne Klinger, (Enumclaw, WA: WinePress Publishing: 2009), 133 pp., paper $16.95

Many who enter pastoral ministry do so with romantic and idealistic dreams that defy reality. The pressure of ministry can lead to tragic ends if responded to incorrectly. Both Partyka and Klinger experienced the shattered dreams as wives of pastors who gave into temptations which ultimately led to divorce. Along the way these men were unfaithful, abused their daughters and yet continued the façade of godly pastors and perfect home lives until all came crashing down. Beside telling two interesting if terribly sad stories, Surviving Shattered Dreams serves notice that all is not as it seems in the family life of clergy. Good marriages do not just happen because people are in the ministry. In fact, the added expectations, temptations and tensions faced by ministers of the gospel make good marriages and family life all that more difficult. Young couples entering ministry should be made aware of this and...

Well-Driven Nails, the Power of Finding Your Own Voice, by Byron Forrest Yawn (Greenville, SC: Ambassador International, 2010) 124 pp., cloth $16.99

Byron Yawn, pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville, TN, wrote this little volume to deal with a common struggle for all pastors—delivery (p. 13). Believing that the root problem for most preachers lies in the areas of clarity, simplicity and passion or a combination of all three, Yawn sets out not only to discuss these three obstacles to great preaching, but to provide examples of those who have overcome them and who excel in delivery. Yet Yawn rightly warns that his readers should not attempt to become clones of great preachers. We can learn much from them, but we must find our own voice, that is be ourselves (pp. 28, 37-39). The author selects John MacArthur as his example of clarity. Here is a man who studies at the level of a scholar and communicates at the level of a friend (p. 56). For simplicity Yawn chooses R....

Short-Term Mission, An Ethnography of Christian Travel Narrative and Experience,by Brian M. Howell (Downer Grove: IVP Academic: 2012) 256 pp. paper, $12.00

Short-term missions (STM) is all the rage in Christian, and even secular, environments. The author suggests that over two million Americans per year, many of those teens, take a STM trip, with over 50 percent of Christian college and seminary students having gone on such trips (p. 27). While STM trips can be longer most are “designed to fit into the windows of time North Americans (particularly U.S. Americans) have for vacation travel…typically…a maximum of two weeks” (p. 47). Such trips involve construction projects, medical aid, temporary relief of poverty, work in orphanages, evangelism and discipleship, or a combination of these elements (p. 38). Given the popularity of STM there has been relatively little research and analysis on its effectiveness and value (p. 9). Howell seeks to address this void with this volume. Howell writes from the perspective of a trained anthropologist (he is a professor of anthropology at...

Dangerous Calling, Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by Paul David Tripp (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 227 pp., Hardcover $22.99)

Paul Tripp, who has ministered as a pastor, seminary professor, counselor, conference speaker and author, is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. With this wide range and depth of ministry as a backdrop, Tripp is certainly one who would understand well the dangers of the pastorate. Having talked with thousands of pastors throughout the world, as well as examining his own experience, Tripp knows how easy it is to fall into various traps that can greatly diminish, or even destroy, the servant of God. He has written Dangerous Calling to warn about and evaluate those traps and prescribe a biblical solution. He calls this work a diagnostic book “written to help you take an honest look at yourself in the heart- and life-exposing mirror of the Word of God” (p. 11). More specifically Tripp...