Book Review: What is a Healthy Church?

What Is a Healthy Church?What Is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is based on Dever’s larger work, “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church,” and is a briefer and more practical treatment of what a healthy church should look like. He does briefly touch on each of the nine marks, but he divides them into essential marks and important marks. I appreciate how he emphasizes that the Bible is the rule of faith and practice. He asks for a hearing and that if the reader disagrees with his conclusions, it will be because, through studying the Bible, the reader believes the texts mean something different.

Having said that, I do disagree with some conclusions here and there because I believe the texts have a different meaning. However, the book overall is helpful for thinking through a number of issues related to the church and the practical application of doctrine.

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Book Review: God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments

God's Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New TestamentsGod’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments by James M. Hamilton Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hamilton has given us an extensive look at the work of the Holy Spirit moving from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The precise nature of distinctions between the work of the Spirit in the old and new covenants is often debated. Hamilton did a good job interacting with Scripture and various views on the subject. I thought he treated both fairly. He mentions how his own views revised from the beginning of his study to the end of it. I think that humility characterized the whole book.

The book is a dissertation in book form. The presentation is academic, but he managed to still make it accessible. I would have like a little more spade work here and there. However, this is an excellent book for thinking about the work of the Spirit. You may not agree with all his conclusions, but the book will still be helpful in making distinctions and providing a framework for an orderly study.

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Book Review: By Whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life

By Whose Authority? Elders In Baptist LifeBy Whose Authority? Elders In Baptist Life by Mark Dever
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This brief book takes up the question of multiple elders in Baptist churches. Dever approaches the answer from Scripture, Baptist history, and practicality. The scriptural arguments section is a survey of the instances of elder(s) in the New Testament. He notes the interchange of elders, overseers, and pastors to describe the same local church office of leadership. Dever also references the use of the plural for this office in reference to a singular church in the New Testament. It is worth noting that the New Testament does not use the singular for the office with either the singular or plural for churches.

Dever quotes from historic Baptist confessions of faith as well as the writings of various Baptists in history that refer to the practice of multiple elders. He may not have put it in quite these terms but I believe Baptists in history have a unique polity from other groups where Baptists have upheld independent, autonomous churches that practice elder-led congregational polity. Not only are Baptists historically distinct in this, but also biblical.

The last section seemed the briefest of the three. Dever succinctly touches on practical aspects of plural leadership. This section wanted a more extensive treatment. The book is probably a good introduction to the subject. It can be read in less than an hour and does touch on major points. Again, it’s concise and not an extended treatment, but helpful.

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Book Review: The Scriptures Testify About Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament

The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the Old TestamentThe Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament by D.A. Carson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of sermons from a TGC conference. Each chapter is a sermon manuscript from a different speaker. Some are better than others and in different ways. The book is good overall and a couple of chapters were really good.

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Book Review: Preach: Theology Meets Practice

Preach: Theology Meets PracticePreach: Theology Meets Practice by Mark Dever
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seldom does any book stand as a definitive and exhaustive treatment of its subject. Looking for such a book is often a futile effort. Typically, the value of a book will lie in the way it fits into the gaps and contributes to a larger subject. That is why I think this book is so worthy of attention. It is certainly not an exhaustive treatment on preaching, nor a technical how-to in preparing and delivering sermons. It is a good practical discussion on preaching.

This book is particularly helpful in the realm of preaching application. Most preaching seems to be one of two extremes on application. Some preaching tries to be all application all the time and fails to preach the contextual meaning of passage. This results in very man-centered preaching, consoling and cementing people’s natural tendency to think the Bible is primarily about them. Sitting under that sort of preaching over time will not mature a person in the faith, nor it will it increase their knowledge of God through what his word actually reveals about him.

The second extreme is either a sort of spiritual meditation out loud in front of people, or a mere doctrinal lecture that remains abstract and ultimately disconnected from real life. Even when true things are said with this method, it fails as any actual preaching of God’s word. People are not matured in the faith, but are only entertained or intellectually stimulated.

When a preacher gets up to preach, he has two things primarily in front of him–the Bible and people. His job is to explain what the Bible says and means and then apply that to the actual lives of the actual people in front of him. This kind of preaching is founded first on an accurate explanation of the biblical passage and then a processing of its meaning to the real flesh and blood people in the seats. The preacher must first know what the passage means in its original context and then must work through what it means to unbelievers present, new believers present, mature believers present, the local church membership present, men present, women present, etc.

How many times have pastors been frustrated by poor attendance only to get up and preach against miss church and the poor attenders, true to form, are not there? Preachers have to think about who will be there and take care to preach to them. I could say more, but I highly recommend this book. Every preacher ought to read it, and he ought to start right away.

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