I have officially complained to Crossway Books. They are publishing too many good books. I cannot keep up all the titles, nor can I get all the books read. And more keep coming.
Crossway is located in Wheaton, Illinois, just a short distance from where my son Nick attends Wheaton College. Crossway publishes quite a few books, ranging from lots of practical Christian books to serious theological studies to commentaries to the ESV Bible. I have read quite a few Crossway publications over the last 15 years or so, but have really been gleaning through their books over the past two years. I have often finished one of their selections (like Think by John Piper or The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung) and then almost immediately reread the book.
By the way, Crossway has a great program called Impact that enables readers to buy books at a discount, with a few freebies thrown in. I recommend that all Christians check out the website and consider purchasing their titles. Also, they offer many, if not all, of their titles in e-book formats. (Personally, I prefer the sagging shelves and endless stacks of real books.)
I want to mention three Crossway titles that I have read in recent months.
What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti M. Anyabwile is a nice, compact study of some basic things all church members should strive after. This is not deep theology or profound insights into sanctification. It is plain, direct Bible teaching. It exhorts church members to be good listeners (to expository sermons), to be theologians (yes, all of us), to be evangelists, committed members, disciplined members, humble members, and prayer warriors. This is a good devotional read. It would make a good study for a Sunday school class or group study.
While the first book needs to be read and understood by all church members, this one will have a more limited appeal. Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey is a study of the qualifications for being a pastor. This is a check-list that every candidate for the eldership or pastorate (the discussion of the difference, if any exists, is pending) needs to consider. I think this might be the first book to hand someone who feels called, or who is considering the ministry.
I have only one major complaint with this book. Several times, the author stated that the book is for the man considering the office of pastor. Some of us have long been in ministry. I was ordained to the office of elder (teaching elder) back in 1995. Sometimes, a person can wonder if he misunderstood the call. I found this book a really helpful re-examination of ministry. In other words, with seventeen years of labor, I still need this kind of review of the qualifications. One always hopes to be growing from minimal attainment of the 1 Timothy and Titus 1 qualifications to a greater and fuller attainment.
Great systematic theologies and sound commentaries and whole shelves of Christian books are of little avail if churches are not healthy. Church life is not a compartment of Christian living. The church should not be “the cross we have to bear.” The Church, big C or little c, meaning, the whole body of Christians or yours and my congregations, need to be healthy. We are the bride of Christ, the salt and light of the world, the temple of the Living God.
9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever started a movement. The movement is called 9Marks. A number of books have resulted. Mark Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. God bless him. His task is a large one.
This book begins with a call for Expository Preaching. That means, preaching through the Bible. That means preaching through whole books, whole chapters, and whole passages. The chapter itself is a topical message, and Dr. Dever is not opposed to topical sermons. But the gist, the pattern, the norm should be expository.
Other chapters deal with topics such as church discipline (still a can of worms or explosives), church leadership, and evangelism. Yes, I am sure that I could ferret out a few disagreements with this book and the whole 9Marks movement. Most of those guys are Calvinistic Baptists and I am a Calvinistic Presbyterian. But I have no quibbles to air. I need the things that these guys are reminding me of and exhorting me to do.
Read all three of the books listed above and could truly benefit from reading them all again.