A Pastoral Ministry Grand-Slam from Christian Focus Publications (By Timothy Raymond)
I love it when I find a book publisher I can trust. I turn again and again to Crossway, P&R, and Matthias Media because I know they consistently publish high-quality, biblically-faithful, theologically-orthodox, local church-focused, practically-relevant books and resources. Even if I don’t recognize an author’s name, if it’s published by one of these publishers, I know I will almost always find it helpful.
Based on what I’ve read recently, it seems to me that I should probably add Christian Focus Publications (CFP) to my short list of trustworthy publishers. While I haven’t read as many books from CFP as some others, what I have read has proven to be consistently outstanding. More specifically, in today’s post I’d like to point our readers to four titles related to pastoral ministry which I’ve read by CFP in the last six months. I usually don’t read so many books by the same publisher consecutively, but I had bought these four on a whim and didn’t have anything better to read at the time. So I started plowing my way through them and was shocked. Each one was an “out of the park” homerun. Actually, they’re more like “clear the Green Monster by 20 feet” home runs. Taken together, they’re a veritable pastoral ministry grand slam. Perhaps you can tell, but they’re the kinds of books which make me excited even now just thinking about them, and they’re all ones which I’d heartily recommend to any pastor or seminarian and believe they would make great required reading for seminaries.
Pastoring the Pastor: Emails of a Journey Through Ministry, by Tim Cooper and Kelvin Gardiner. A fictional collection of emails between an older pastor in the twilight of life and his newbie nephew just called to pastor his first church. It’s brief, sometimes hilarious, sometimes gut-wrenching, convicting and incredibly edifying. I wrote a longer review of this book for the current issue of Credo (see pages 104-05), so I won’t belabor it here, but it’s definitely worth reading, especially for new pastors just starting out.
Persistently Preaching Christ: Fifty years of Bible ministry in a Cambridge Church, edited by Christopher Ash, Mary Davis, and Bob White. A very encouraging book that’s sort of a compiled biography of a single congregation (The Round Church at St Andrew the Great) pastored by two pastors (Mark Ruston and Mark Ashton) over 50 years. It’s filled with wonderful stories and testimonies of conversions, practical discipleship, university evangelism, and a surprising number of individuals called into full-time pastoral ministry. If you’re struggling with feeling that pastoral ministry is no longer worth it, this book should be a great tonic for your soul.
Hearing the Spirit: Making the Father Known, by Christopher Ash. One of the most common and significant issues I face in pastoral ministry is that of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. How does the Spirit lead us today? This book is a pretty tight exegetical argument showing how the Bible itself teaches that there’s a profound unity between God’s Spirit and God’s Word such that God’s Spirit does not work through impressions, feelings, circumstances, “fleeces,” etc. but only through the written Word rightly interpreted. Ultimately, it’s all about the finality and sufficiency of the New Testament as a witness to Jesus, and is the most convincing thing I’ve ever read countering ongoing revelations, prophecies, signs and wonders, etc. This is a good one to distill down and teach to your congregation. It comes from our Proclamation Trust friends across the pond.
Such a Great Salvation: Collected Essays of Alan Stibbs, edited by Andrew Atherstone. The most academic book of those listed here, this one is written about the same level as the volumes in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. I was unfamiliar with Stibbs, but J.I. Packer calls him “for many years the best theological mind serving British evangelicals” and this book demonstrates that Packer was probably right. Stibbs is as exegetical as B.B. Warfield or John Murray but with a good bit more devotional warmth. This collection of essays and articles covers the gamut of topics from the inspiration of Scripture to the completeness of Jesus’ cross-work to the primacy of preaching to the nature of the local church. I’m not exaggerating whatsoever when I say that I learned more about the Bible in general, and about the work of Jesus in particular, from this book than from any I’ve read in the last five years (at least). It’s a shame that Stibbs isn’t better known today and this book is one that really needs to be read and reread by pastors.
I thank God for the high quality books I’ve discovered from Christian Focus Publications. My hope is that for generations to come they’ll continue to prove to be a trustworthy publisher we can turn to without hesitation.
Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation.