A Preacher’s Tale: Explorations in Narrative Preaching   Jon Russell, SCM Press (2018)       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


              RRP £16.99     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     In his book Jon Russell delves into Narrative Preaching through a variety of styles, in order to achieve an immediacy which traditional preaching often lacks.  He explores a wide variety of bible passages, characters, and even on one occasion a song. With a number he achieves the heights of immediacy for which he is aiming, others however fall somewhat flat. What does come through in each and every sermon is Russell’s ability to tell a story. He can cleverly weave the tales from the biblical context in with snippets and stories from today’s culture.  The book is written for preachers who are looking at broadening their horizons in preaching and aims to help them see how to construct and write narrative sermons and the benefit of doing so.   Though my view of narrative preaching was based solely on first-person narratives, Russell won me over through powerful stories like ‘yearnings,’ his sermon from the book of Ezekiel, comparing Ezekiel’s (& God’s) yearning’s for the dispersed Israelites to the yearnings of beaten women for love. Along with his story-telling another of his strengths is the reflection that follows each sermon. He uses quotes from other theologians to reflecting on his writing. I find this approach very refreshing especially his honesty over his own mistakes.  As with all preachers, we all have sermons that don’t really work or that don’t connect with people. There are a couple in this book that I found it hard to relate to, but overall his hard work and talent was clear to see.   This book has widened my view of narrative sermons from a first-person narrative, to a plethora of styles. Russell finishes his book talking of Peter and the transfiguration ‘transfiguration means a change in the way you see things. Once he opens them again, Peter’s way of seeing Jesus will never be the same.’ Neither will my way of seeing Narrative sermons.   It is certainly a worthwhile read for anyone interested in preaching.  Reviewed by  Esther Longe

A Preacher’s Tale: Explorations in Narrative Preaching

Jon Russell, SCM Press (2018)

In his book Jon Russell delves into Narrative Preaching through a variety of styles, in order to achieve an immediacy which traditional preaching often lacks.

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       The Girl De-Construction Project: Wildness, Wonder and Being a Woman     Rachel Gardner, Hodder & Stoughton (July 2018)       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


              RRP £12.99     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     The Girl De-Construction Project by Rachel Gardner takes an humorous, open and raw look at what it means to be female in the 21st Century by de-constructing harmful thoughts, attitudes or stereotypes that may be ingrained in us, and then offering practical, godly re-construction.   Rachel encourages us to embrace who we are and who God made us to be – unique – while also acknowledging gracefully that we are flawed and not perfect human beings. Each chapter falls under one of four headings: Body, Mind, Soul and Strength, and it covers subjects from body image to dying-to-self to the pursuit of perfection to dealing with hurt; each subject is tackled with both well thought out research and Scripture.   At the end of each chapter, Rachel encourages reflection and practical steps towards deepening our relationship with God. It’s a book that doesn’t necessarily have to be read all the way through, as readers will probably find that some chapters resonate more than others. While the writing is aimed at teenage girls and young women, I think the range of topics make it accessible to women of any and every age.   Rachel’s background in youth ministry has really helped her to write something that is relatable; I found God prompting me to examine parts of my life that I had never really considered before in new ways, and more than once I was moved to tears by a sentence or notion or revelation that really resonated with me! This is a book that can be taken at the reader’s own pace as there is a lot to reflect on and digest.   While The Girl De-Construction Project may not solve all of your problems and erase all of your insecurities (which it’s tempting to assume when you first start reading it!), it will definitely help you to deconstruct the harmful parts of yourself and take on God’s perspective. Every girl – no matter how old – needs to know their value in Christ, and this book is a great starting point. I would highly recommend it!   Reviewed by  Rebecca Coatsworth

The Girl De-Construction Project: Wildness, Wonder and Being a Woman

Rachel Gardner, Hodder & Stoughton (July 2018)

The Girl De-Construction Project by Rachel Gardner takes an humorous, open and raw look at what it means to be female in the 21st Century by de-constructing harmful thoughts, attitudes or stereotypes that may be ingrained in us, and then offering practical, godly re-construction.

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      The Christ-Centered Expositor: A Field Guide for Word-Driven Disciple Makers  Tony Merida, B&H Academic (2016)       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


              RRP £24.99     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Tony Merida divides  The Christ-Centered Expositor  into two main parts, ‘The Expositor’s Heart’ and ‘The Expositor’s Message,’ and he shows equal concern for preachers preparing themselves and preparing their sermons. The book’s great strength lies in Merida’s clear presentation of smart ideas relating to both halves of these ideas. He writes, ‘Good preaching and teaching come through a person who treasures the Christ of the Word,’ and the rest of the book focuses on how move toward Christ and how to explain him from Scripture.  In the first half, Merida avoids a simple spiritual discipline or spiritual growth formula. His expositor’s heart comes largely from finding Christ throughout the Word, and learning how to protect doctrine and preserve your focus. He encourages as much as he instructs, and the book truly aids in, as you’d hope, centring on Christ. His section on prayer offers insights specific to the pastoral life, maintaining the sharpness of the book.  The second half provides enough specifics to walk a preacher through sermon-planning, but allows enough space to individual style. There are books more suited to specific guidelines (and Merida may have read them all), but this one manages to be open to variety even while highlighting essential elements. Merida’s writing deserves the highest compliment: his technical writing made me want to write a sermon immediately, anxious to apply his thinking to my own work. His loose model would almost surely lead to clear and interesting sermons that persistently deliver the gospel.  The book, in its nature, offers mostly overview, but it’s so dense that it would nearly stand alone. Fortunately, Merida conveys his enthusiasm for Christ and for preaching so well that he’s likely to send readers out into any number of texts in his quality bibliography.  Merida’s writing almost exclusively for preachers, although he does include a useful appendix for doing exposition outside of sermons. The lessons throughout the book could certainly apply to leaders of Sunday school classes, home groups, and the like, but the book mostly maintains its focus on sermon preparation and delivery.  Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake

The Christ-Centered Expositor: A Field Guide for Word-Driven Disciple Makers

Tony Merida, B&H Academic (2016)

Tony Merida divides The Christ-Centered Expositor into two main parts, ‘The Expositor’s Heart’ and ‘The Expositor’s Message,’ and he shows equal concern for preachers preparing themselves and preparing their sermons...

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      Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering  Timothy Keller, Hodder & Stoughton (2015)       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


              RRP £9.99     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Reading  Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering  is one of those experiences that you sense, in the moment, that you are not quite fully understanding but that you instantly know in your deep self is critically important, for you as an individual, for those you share your life with and for the world at large.  It is not, as Keller himself, points out, a book for those in a current crisis of suffering, neither is it a handbook for those offering pastoral care to dip into when looking for helpful guidance. It is, however, a book that I think will interest, challenge and reshape many Christians both in relation to their own understanding of God and suffering and in relation to the theology and practical care given by the church. It is also a book to be read and to become part of your DNA so that when suffering comes, as it will, to you or those you serve, you are prepared, you have reserves of understanding of God’s wisdom to call on.  The book is divided into three parts: Understanding the Furnace (looking at how different cultures and religions frame suffering); Facing the Furnace (clear explanation and exploration of Christian teaching and why it offers a different way of experiencing and learning from suffering); and Walking With God in the Furnace (using the experiences of suffering in the Bible to help us reach the deeper truths to help us through our own suffering and suggesting distinct responses, but no easy answers).  All three parts of the book are quite theological, though with examples from real-life situations to illustrate the points. Keller quotes and explains philosophers, theologians and sociologists past and present to explain the development of different cultures’ attitudes to suffering. I found this interesting and helpful in understanding the current culture and its attitudes to suffering. It made me analyse and challenge my own perspective, including a realisation that some of my thinking about God has been affected by our current cultural influences.  Though each chapter closes with an illuminating true-life story of Christians facing terrible situations illustrating the theology Keller is explaining, I did find myself longing for more practical application in the first two sections. But this could just be a personal preference for a practical ‘do-er’ like myself! I suspect that I will re-read and revisit parts of this book in times to come, for myself and for others, and that each reading will bring more understanding and ‘lightbulb’ moments.  Reviewed by Sarah Atkins

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering

Timothy Keller, Hodder & Stoughton (2015)

Reading Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering is one of those experiences that you sense, in the moment, that you are not quite fully understanding but that you instantly know in your deep self is critically important...

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      Keeping faith in fundraising  Peter Harris & Rod Wilson, Eerdmans (2017)       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


             

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      R  RP 11.99   Warning! Before picking up this gem of a book, please don’t think that reading this will give you the secret formula for raising the thousands you need for the new church roof or replacing the archaic sound system. This is not a fundraising textbook. There are hundreds of good books available about the how-to of fundraising, but this book really does fill a gap for those that struggle with the more complex aspect of asking for money and how we can draw strength from the Bible that actually this is OK to do.  The book is peppered with examples of fundraising stories from Harris and Wilson’s extensive careers and what comes across is that while to have been successful has taken a lot of hard work their faith has, even through the hardest times, brought the biggest successes. Some readers may feel daunted by some of the stories; very early on in the book, Wilson references fundraising the endowment for a Christianity and Arts chair at the college he was based at and meeting a donor still needing to raise $1.3 million of the $3 million requirement. However, I would urge readers not to get fixated on the numbers but look at the deeper messages that the authors are conveying. They show us that the Bible is packed full of guidance and messages about money, giving and receiving. As Christians, it is our duty to not be embarrassed by the need to fundraise, but to understand that it is in the right circumstances a responsibility which can lead us to deepen our relationship with God.  The authors take us through various topics, for example success, need and method and each chapter challenge us with a guiding question.  Whatever your fundraising role, I believe that this book is scalable because even if you have been tasked with raising a pretty small sum from a bake sale to buy a new tea urn, dipping into any of these chapters will help you to feel focussed and good about what you are doing. I would thoroughly urge all those tasked with fundraising to buy a copy of this book and pass it round your PCC, organisation committee or relevant group as it can really help us to totally rethink what we are doing and why we are doing it.  Reviewed by Amelia Clarke

Keeping faith in fundraising

Peter Harris & Rod Wilson, Eerdmans (2017)

Warning! Before picking up this gem of a book, please don’t think that reading this will give you the secret formula for raising the thousands you need for the new church roof or replacing the archaic sound system....

 

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