Reviews: April 2012

Jose Luis Navajo, Mondays with My Old Pastor

I loved this book.  I don’t say that often, mostly because I’m jaded when it comes to popular Christian literature.  But I really loved it.

Perhaps it is because it deals with a topic which feels ever close to my heart – the self-care of pastors.  Perhaps it is because of its unremitting focus on the cross of Jesus as the centre of all ministry.  Or perhaps it is the refreshing style of the writer, who presents his teachings with the simple touch of a storyteller.

Yet, whatever the reason, this book touched my heart.  If you are in ministry and want to protect against the dangers of burnout or have perhaps already succumbed, I think that it will touch your heart too.  I found it beautifully written and it held my attention as each chapter recounted yet another meeting between the young pastor protagonist and his ‘old pastor’, with yet another teaching holding high the cross of Jesus.  I wish I had read it more slowly, more thoughtfully.  But I didn’t because I could hardly stop reading it!

I don’t really know what else to say about this book because nothing I say will quite capture what it did to me.

It was simple.  It was beautiful.  And it caught me unawares.

Margaret Silf, Landscapes of Prayer: Finding God in your world and your life

It is a pleasure to turn the pages of this well-presented hardback.  Filled with arresting and colourful photographs of landscapes, the book is an engagement with the landscapes of the soul, inviting us to reflect deeply and prayerfully with the ways in which God is shaping and moulding our hearts.

There are nine different sections, including portions on garden, seashore, jungle and desert landscapes.  Each section comprises a quotation, a written meditation, an adaptation of Scripture as well as a broad range of questions to guide times of reflective stillness.  Silf’s writing is skilful and evocative and the combination of her writing and the stunning photographs make this a beautiful book.  It would be perfect as a gift or for personal use in a journey of prayerful meditation on Scripture and the created world.

Steven Croft, Experiencing God’s Love: Five images of transformation

Croft offers five short studies, each of which explore different images of God’s love for his people.  These images relate to rootedness, washing, God as light, being tended by God and being welcomed to feast at God’s table.  Each study uses a Psalm and a portion of the gospel of John to root one of these images in Scripture, as well as encouraging participants to ground their learning in related new habits and practices.  A structure of prayer opens and closes each study.  Sessions are planned out in detail by Croft: he provides advice for group leaders, large swathes of text to be read aloud as well as details of resources and materials for illustrations.

It was these large swathes of text which slightly put me off the material, as well as its highly-structured nature which seems to leave little space for a leader’s discretion.  However, the studies are proposed primarily for use with groups of new Christians or in homegroups; in fact, such a high level of detail would probably be appreciated by group leaders who lack experience or confidence, because they would not necessarily need to know much more than group participants.

Overall, this is a valuable resource.

David Devenish, Fathering Leaders, Motivating Mission: Restoring the Role of the Apostle in Today’s Church

This latest offering is much like Devenish’s other writings – packed full of well-considered material ideal for the serious lay reader who wants to explore an area of Christian practice.  His assessment of the role of the apostle today is detailed and includes a good mix of Biblical material with personal anecdotes from his extensive experience.

Chapters include a defence of the proposition that the apostolic role continues in today’s church, details of the foundations which apostles are to lay in the churches they serve and an interesting discussion of the intricacies of contextualisation.  A final chapter dealing with ‘common questions’ rounds up this book well.

My feelings were mixed about this book.  I don’t agree with all that it teaches and do feel that it is very clearly written with an agenda: namely, to be an exposition and defence of the newfrontiers churches’ stance on apostleship.  I also found the style a little too dense at times to be easily readable.  However, Devenish’s material is well-researched and thought through; he engages with some scholarship and his work will be a helpful addition to current thinking on apostleship.

Scott MacIntyre, By Faith, Not By Sight

I really expected to like this book but I found it to be not that well-written.  I also found that the content was dull which surprised me because the author would seem to have had a very interesting life and varied experiences of overcoming the difficulties of life.  Perhaps had the book been shorter, I might have felt that it worked better but it seemed to drag on for a long time.  A real disappointment for me!

Rebecca Baker and Nadine Hennesey, When You Don’t See His Plan

I enjoyed this account of Nadine Hennesey’s life and ministry after the unexpected death of her husband just before their first wedding anniversary.  They had been planning to travel together on mission, predominantly, it would seem, because of her husband’s sense of calling and Nadine’s joy in following him to support with that work.  Yet, suddenly widowed, pregnant and unsure of what would come next, Nadine had to decide whether she would trust God when she couldn’t see his plan.

This was a quick and pleasant read, and a real testimony to what God will do when his people trust him.  If you’re looking for something which is easy to read and absorbing for a weekend afternoon, this might be worth a look.

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