I do not read nearly as much as I would like. Part of that is the result of the mound of important tasks that I have to accomplish on a week to week basis, and part of that is the result of other chosen distractions. However, I am almost always desiring more reading time, and lamenting when I fail to make it. Dr. Mohler said, “Readers are a hopeful lot. Ask most serious readers what they intend to read over the next month, and you are likely to hear a considerable list. Books stack easily in more ways than one. The stack of books to be read beside the desk or reading chair is a statement of hope. No matter how busy we find ourselves to be, the books are there waiting.” That is certainly the case for me, as I have an entire bookshelf that I call the “to read shelf.” In the hope that it will encourage us to read more, and that we might have more conversations about what we are reading, I would like to share with you 3 books that I am currently reading.
The Armies of the Lamb: the Spirituality of Andrew Fuller by Michael A. G. Haykin
My favorite genre is history. I think this is because I am a “big-picture” person, and therefore, history makes for compelling reading precisely because each reader is building a master narrative of the world. The more history we know and understand, the richer and more interesting that master narrative becomes. The more we know, the more we want to know. I am normally reading at least one book of history, and have renewed my commitment to read more historical biographies. Therefore, having just completed Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian by Paul Brewster, I decided to take up some of Fuller’s personal correspondence.
Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a man whose active life was devoted to the work of God. His paramount desire was to be true to the Scriptures. He was not content to contribute to theological debate in print only; he also showed how the theological conclusions he had arrived at could be applied to local church ministry. Fuller had a deep concern for sinners and was untiring in his evangelistic endeavors and support of missions. In The Armies of the Lamb Fuller’s rich spiritual life is seen first-hand through a selection of his letters, some never before published. In them, I am constantly astounded by the theological precision and pastoral intentionality in both his public and private letters. As Dr. Tom Nettles rightly says in his Foreword, “Fuller disarms and alarms us with his candor, and existential accuracy, in describing his sense of having destroyed his usefulness; but we find it strangely refreshing and encouraging because we have been there ourselves. This kind of edifying honesty that urges us on in the work of believing in Christ is the best kind of spirituality.”
Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp
I know this book has been mentioned several times by the other pastors, and I want to say “Amen” to their comments regarding the book. I really have just started getting into the book, but was blown away from the very beginning by the honesty of his own story and the surgical precision with which he examines the pastor’s heart. He reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy—an environment that actively undermines the wellbeing and efficacy of our church leaders and thus the entire church body. Therefore, he is not only concerned about the spiritual life of the pastor, but also with the very community of people that trains him, calls him, relates to him, and restores him if necessary.
Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective by Randy Stinson & Timothy Paul Jones
This is obviously another ministry-related book, edited by two friends, with contributions from the likes of James M. Hamilton, Robert L. Plummer, Bruce A. Ware, R. Albert Mohler. As I get into this, I am finding a great little book, with sections on A Biblical and Theological Framework for Considering Family Relationships, Family Discipleship in Church History, Guiding a Congregation Toward Theologically Grounded Family Ministry. These are all topics that are not only pertinent for my calling here at Morningview, but also near and dear to my heart.
My favorite friends are old books, and of course there is other reading in Scriptures and in preparation for lessons. I also make it a practice to read other theological and ministry journals. However, I want to encourage us all to have some form of formal reading program and to encourage it in the lives of our children. I try to be consistent in reading one recreational book (like history or biography), one book for my soul (spiritual or theological), and one that equips or encourages me in ministry. Over the years I have forced myself to read things out of my comfort zone, or things I know I will likely disagree with, in order to force critical thinking. I have also learned to give myself permission to put books down. As a rule, if I am not finding profit in the book after three chapters, it gets the shelf. I pray this encourages us to read more, and more intentionally, and that you will all come tell me what you are reading.