Book Review: 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me

41nz6oBmELL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Seminary was a great experience. I gained a ton of knowledge about the Bible, theology, and ministry practices. However, I quickly learned that full-time ministry came with a host of things seminary never prepared me for. There are some things you can’t learn in seminary and the only place you’re going to learn them is in the thick of ministry.

That is what this book is all about. 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me is an easy read that includes short chapters from various writers on topics you will not learn in seminary. These are topics you will only learn as you pursue ministry in the local church. Some of these topics are things like what to do when your church is dying, leading your wife, managing volunteers, handling conflict, and knowing when to leave your church. All these topics and more are talked about and the reader is given practical insight into each of these important topics.

I really enjoyed this book and there are few things stood out to me about that I’d like to mention. First, it has a Gospel and Biblical focus. The writers are not just talking about these topics and giving their opinions on what to do. The advice and application given in each area is Gospel-centered and based upon Scripture. The writers call the reader to remember the Gospel frequently and encourages them to obey God’s Word in these areas. Second, the chapters are short and practical. The topics are not beat to death but instead hit on in a timely and focused manner. Each chapter includes a ton of practical things the reader can apply to their own ministry context. Third, seminary is upheld as an important thing but not the only thing. The writers don’t bash seminary. They instead talk highly of it but are honest about its weaknesses and shortcomings. One writer says, “We do not intend to denigrate the valuable work of seminaries. Rather, we want to help young pastors, seminary students, and other aspiring ministers learn from our experience how God fits a man to be a faithful and effective minister” (page 145).

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is either in or has attended seminary and desires to go into local church ministry. I would also encourage those currently in ministry to read this book and gain some practical insight on these important topics.

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Book Review: The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down by Albert Mohler

_240_360_Book.2481.coverThere isn’t a shortage of books on prayer. It’s safe to say prayer is one of the most popular topics among Christians books (as it should be). In his book The Prayer That Turns the World Update Down, Albert Mohler writes about prayer and in particular the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6. This books serves as a tool to help the reader not only understand the Lord’s Prayer but also how the model Jesus gave should impact the way they pray. Mohler goes through the Lord’s Prayer and spends a chapter on each statement or petition that Jesus made. It’s a book that includes rich theology but also practical application in regards to the Lord’s Prayer.

I’ve read my fair share of books on prayer but this is by far one of my favorites so far. It was not only one of my favorites but served as one of the most helpful in regards to shaping my view of prayer and how I go about practicing prayer in my own life. There are two things that stand out to me as to why I really liked this book. First, I liked how Mohler didn’t jump right into discussing the Lord’s Prayer but instead spent a chapter covering the section of Scripture right before the Lord’s Prayer. This section of Scripture (Matthew 6:5-8) sets up and includes important context when understanding the Lord’s Prayer. The chapter where Moheler discusses these verses is an excellent read. Second,  I really enjoyed some of the nuggets Mohler shared about the Lord’s Prayer that I have never thought about or heard taught before. For example, Mohler points out the use of “our” and “we” throughout the prayer rather than words like “me” or “I.” Mohler rightly points out how Jesus is reminding us about the corporate nature of our Christian faith. He says, “To be Christian is to be part of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. By God’s grace we are incorporated into the body of Christ so that our most fundamental spiritual identity is not an “I” but a “we.” This runs against the grain of fallen state. It also runs against the grain of American individualism-an individualism that has spread into many sections of evangelicalism. But we must be normed by Scripture. Jesus teaches us to drop the “I” and start with “our” (page 46-47). It was little things like this throughout the book that gave me a fresh look at the Lord’s Prayer.

I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand the Lord’s Prayer better and wants to allow the teaching of Jesus to shape the way they pray. Indeed this should be the desire of every Christian. This book is pretty short and is as a simple read but will I believe will make an impact on anyone who reads it. It will give you a fresh look at a commonly used prayer and will remind you of some of the basics of what Jesus taught in regards to prayer.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

Bible Study Plans and Methods

aaron-burden-113284-unsplashRecently we began a new series in our middle school ministry called “Talking with God.” The whole purpose of this series is to help students understand how they can communicate with God and grow in their relationship with Him. For the first week of the series we talked about how God communicates to us through the Bible. We wanted to help students understand not only what the Bible is but also how they can go about reading and studying it consistently. You can watch that entire talk here.

To help them get started in this we created a short handout with various Bible reading plans and methods. It’s not exhaustive but includes a few ideas to get them going in the right direction. We wanted to make this handout available to others so feel free to click the link below and use the handout yourself or in your own ministry context as you help others get into God’s Word.

Bible Study Plans and Methods

Book Review: Supernatural Power for Everyday People by Jared Wilson

_240_360_Book.2480.coverMany Christians go through their lives never truly experiencing the Holy Spirit. Maybe it’s due to lack of understanding of the Spirit or an over correction in response to more of the “charismatic types” of Christians. Either way, many Christians, who do indeed possess the Holy Spirit, go through their daily routines that look very similar to those around them who are non-Christians who do not possess the same Spirit.

Jared Wilson, in his book Supernatural Power for Everyday People,” helps Christians understand how everyday followers of Jesus can experience the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Wilson helps the reader see how the Spirit is at work in every aspect of the Christian’s life. The Spirit is working in everything from convicting us, helping us in our spiritual disciplines, comforting us during hard times, gifting us with spiritual gifts, and much more.

I’m a huge fan of Wilson’s books and once again this one didn’t disappoint. I really enjoyed reading a book that was on the topic of the Holy Spirit but was not a “Systemic Theology” type of book. Wilson dives into the topic of the Holy Spirit in a way that’s easy for the reader to understand no matter their theological background or experience. This book reminds me much of Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God as it calls Christians to a similar thing – living their lives saturated with the Holy Spirit. He’s not some mystical, third being of the Trinity that we can’t experience. He’s quite the opposite really. He is God’s presence with us always. Wilson wants Christians to not miss out on this amazing truth as they go about their lives.

Two parts of this book really stood out to me. First, the chapters on Bible reading and prayer. In these two chapters Wilson helps Christians see how the Spirit aids in these two important spiritual disciplines. He includes some very practical tips as well in regards to practicing these disciplines. Second, the chapter on spiritual gifts. In this chapter Wilson gives a quick overview of spiritual gifts and then argues his case for why the “sign gifts” should not be seen as gifts that have ceased but instead of relevant to the church today. He gives three very compelling arguments for his stance: experiential, historical, and Biblical.

I’d encourage any Christian who feels like they are in a rut and not experiencing God’s working in their lives to pick up this book and give it a read. It will help them see that God, through His Spirit, is indeed working and wants to help you experience His power as you go through your live as a follower of Christ.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

Books I’ve Read Recently

51jhmpyZ8QL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Legacy of Luther by Various Authors. One of my favorite figures from church history is Martin Luther. He was truly a unique man that was used by God in massive ways. His life and work continues to impact the way Protestants view their faith and well as how they operate as a faith community. There hasn’t been a shortage of books written about Luther when it comes to both his life and work. This book stands among many other excellent books written about Luther. However, this book is unique in the sense that it allows the reader to take a peak into key areas of Luther’s life and work that other works tend to overlook or don’t spend much time on. For example, there are chapters in this book on Luther’s views on music and preaching, Luther’s family life, and Luther’s later years before his death (which were pretty crazy). The contributors of this book shed light on many fascinating areas of Luther’s life and work that many readers will not get the chance to learn about in other books. I wouldn’t recommend this as the “go to” book on Luther, but would certainly make it one of the top ones out there.

81pgQLuhbzLSing! by Keith and Kristyn Getty. I’ve never read a book on the sole topic of singing. This is one reason I picked up this book to read. However, what I didn’t expect was how much stuff it taught me about singing in just over a 100 pages. It’s a small book that packs a big punch. The reader will learn things like how people were created to sing as well as how we are commanded by God to sing. Readers will also learn about the importance of singing in not only the local church but also in their own personal and family life. There is even helpful bonus sections (called “bonus tracks”) that are written particularly for pastors, worship leaders, and songwriters. This is an excellent little book that I would highly recommend to Christians no matter your place in the local church community.

51jKlmGzSjL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson. One of my favorite authors to read is Jared Wilson. I love his Gospel-centered focus that’s wrapped in a down to earth tone that which makes for both challenging and fun reading. In this book Wilson strives to offer a discipleship manual of sorts that’s for people who “can’t get their act together.” He says, “I tend to think that a lot of ways the evangelical church teaches discipleship seem designed for people who don’t appear to really need it” (page 13). His response then is a book like this where he states: “I want to write a discipleship book for normal people” (page 14). I’d say he accomplishes that goal in this book. This is a book that offers a fresh reminder of God’s grace to people who realize they don’t follow Jesus as well as they want to or should. It’s a book that reminds them of the Gospel instead of giving them self-help action steps to follow. It offers a great reminder of what following Jesus truly means. I’d recommend this book to all Christians.

Two other books I’ve recently read that I chose not to review were The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul and The Skinny on Communication by Jeff White.