Help from Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times
Edited by Bryan Chapell (Zondervan, 2011)
The Facts: This is a collection of 25 sermons on challenging topics. Chapell writes about a third of the sermons himself, with other contributors (Keller, Piper, Barrs, Horton, and others) handling the rest. The introduction sketches a theology of suffering and addresses how to talk about the cross during difficult times. Each chapter includes a sermon, as well as a word about the real-life situation that inspired the sermon, specific concerns that informed the pastor's approach, and a short summary of the sermon's angle.
The Slant: No mere abstractions here. Each sermon was preached by a real pastor to a real congregation after a real tragedy. Taken together, they are quite an education. If you need direction for preaching a sermon at the funeral of, say, a special needs child (in two days!) you'll also find the sermons useful. The book doesn't cover every tragedy (divorce is conspicuously absent), but it is a great resource for addressing loss and difficult subjects from the pulpit.—Brandon O'Brien
Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books
by Tony Reinke (Crossway, 2011)
The Facts: Lit! is a Christian guide to reading books—and not just Christian books. Reinke makes a theological case for reading deeply and widely and provides practical applications to assist in doing so. This is a book "for any Christian who wants to read books and read them well."
The Slant: Lit! seeks to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of reading. These include distraction, busyness, competing priorities, etc. After clearing these hurdles, Reinke helps readers navigate both what and how to read. He delves into the value of reading fiction, both Christian and secular, laying out principles for structuring reading time, and exemplifying the value of reading deeply and broadly by quoting numerous authors and theologians. Chiefly, however, Reinke aims to draw readers closer to Jesus and urges them to be rooted in Scripture more than any other book. Lit! is both informative and inspiring for readers who want to read more—and more deeply.—Barnabas Piper
Engage A Guide to Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services
By Nelson Searcy and Jason Hatley (Baker, 2011)
The Facts: This is a book about systems. Specifically, about planning systems to improve the effectiveness of Sunday worship services. Its pragmatic instruction aims to help pastors and worship leaders lead in life-transforming ways.
The Slant: Right up front the authors declare "God is into systems." A provocative claim to be sure but one the authors aren't shy about championing. They use the acronym W.O.R.S.H.I.P. to lay out a system of preparation for worship services that starts with the big picture (yearly preaching calendars) and extends down to the nitty-gritty of service order and song selection. The instruction is interspersed with letters from pastors who have benefited from the planning and preparation tools provided through the authors' website, churchleaderinsights.com. Beyond logistics, though, the authors state that "God honors preparedness" and they encourage pastors to "cooperate with his purposes through planning." Ultimately this is a book aimed at transformation of hearts and lives through more effective gospel declaration and Spirit-filled worship.—Barnabas Piper
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