Transitions: Leading Churches through Change
(Westminster, 2011) Edited by David N. Mosser

The Facts: The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 (The Clergy in Chaos) addresses transitions in the pastor's life, including passing the torch to your replacement, preaching in a new setting, exegeting a new congregation, and introducing a female pastor. Part 2 (The Congregants in Adaptation) focuses on walking parishioners through transitions, including aging and marriage and divorce, as well as on preaching in transition periods. Part 3 (The Congregation in Crisis) discusses the pastor's role in leading the congregation through crises. Part 4 (The Community in Transition) is a more theoretical look at the value and process of corporate transitions.

The slant: This is a thoughtful collection of relatively short essays. With the way it's organized, you can read the essays that appeal to you and leave the others for later. The contributors hail from multiple denominations and backgrounds, though most are scholars with ministry experience in local churches. About a third of the contributors are women. It ranges widely-from systems analysis to emotional care to pastoral wisdom to exegetical and homiletical advice. -Brandon O'Brien

Give Them Christ: Preaching His Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and return
(IVP, 2012) By Stephen Seamands

The Facts: The subtitle tips you off to the book's contents. Seamands opens with a chapter on the state of the American church. American Christians, Seamands suspects, have as anemic a view of Jesus as our non-Christian neighbors. And pastors regularly domesticate the radical person and message of Jesus. The author wants us to recover the Reformation value of "Christ alone" in our preaching. The rest of the book tells us how, with one chapter each on preaching the incarnation, ascension, and return of Christ, and two chapters each on preaching the cross and preaching the Resurrection.

The slant: Scores of commentators are calling the church to put Jesus back at the center of its teaching and mission. Many of them, especially those who focus on the significance of the cross, are from the Reformed or Calvinist traditions. That makes this book a great resource for two reasons. First, Seamands spells out clearly what it means to make Christ the center of our preaching. Second, he writes from a Wesleyan perspective, which adds a helpful dimension to the ongoing discussions. Perhaps best of all, Seamands addresses the personal and the social aspects of the work of Christ. -Brandon O'Brien

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And how to Reverse It)
(HarperOne, 2011) by Robert D. Lupton

The Facts: This book critiques the traditional approaches that churches and other organizations employ to help those in need. In addition, the book rethinks the methods and modes of charity. It prescribes ways to help that lead to meaningful, long-lasting change.

The slant: Churches devote millions of dollars to help needy people every year, but is all this charity really helping? Not always. Lupton writes, "When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them." He makes the case for charitable efforts that truly transform individuals and communities rather than simply feeding cycles of dependency. Lupton draws distinctions between helping those in crisis situations and those with chronic needs, and he outlines appropriate charitable responses to each. The book also offers filters and principles for leaders planning charitable ministries. Any ministry involved in service projects, short-term missions, or charity of any kind would benefit from this insightful and challenging book. -Barnabas Piper

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