The Gospel to the Mormons

John Wallace has written a fascinating new book called Starting at the Finish Line: The Gospel of Grace for Mormons.

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Starting at the Finish Line seeks to declare the Good News of the gospel in a way that sounds like “good news” to the Latter-day Saint. It does this by 1) establishing the authority and “correctness” of the Bible, 2) explaining how we are saved by the grace of God when we put our full faith and trust in the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, and in His blood alone, and 3) exposing the dangers of trying to contribute to our own salvation by adding obedience and good works to the finished work of Christ on the cross.

This message, to the devout Latter-day Saint, is overly simplistic and offensive. But to the struggling Mormon or to those who have already left the Mormon faith and find themselves lost in a sea of confusion, it’s music to their ears.

I caught up with John to discuss his new book.[Continue Reading...]

The Best Resource on the Gospels

I’m often asked what Biblical tools I use when delving in depth on a particular portion of Scripture.

I’ve listed many of the New Testament commentaries I recommend here.

Another invaluable resource is the IVP Bible Dictionary Series, which I can’t recommend enough for serious students of the Scriptures.

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However, one of the volumes in that series has been updated.

The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels by Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown & Nicholas Perrin is an incredible new update![Continue Reading...]

Slow Church

I recently interviewed the authors of the new book, Slow Church. From the title, I thought this would be a book on radical ecclesiology, dealing with things like church leadership, structure, the clergy-laity dichotomy, the purpose of the church meetings, every-member functioning in the gatherings, expressing Jesus Christ corporately, etc. But it really doesn’t explore those themes. Thus it’s not a book in the same genre as Reimagining Church or The Normal Christian Church Life or Paul’s Idea of Community or 0-58.

What it does do, however, is decry the “industrialized, fast-food approach” to Christianity. Hence, the book is more a discussion on certain values that Christians (they use the word “church” to describe believers in general as well as local communities) should embrace. Some of the chapter titles are ethics, patience, work, Sabbath, gratitude, hospitality, etc. These virtues should be operating in every believer’s life as well as in the local asssemblies of which they are part, say the authors. Christianity shouldn’t be relegated to the privacy of one’s own home. My take on the book is that it’s more missional (focusing on outward witness) than it is ecclesiological. The authors are dead right — modern Christianity is way too fast(food) paced! Slowness is a virtue, just as stillness is.

The book reminded me very much of The New Parish, as it seems to be coming from the same perspective and made many of the same points.

Here’s my interview with Pattison and Smith, the authors, two really nice guys who write very well.[Continue Reading...]

60 People Who Shaped the Church

In 60 People Who Shaped the Church, Alton Gansky chooses 60 significant figures through history who have shaped the formation of the Christian faith in some way.

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The strength of Ganksy’s book is that each chapter is very short (only 3 to 6 pages long) and he tell stories. Gansky, an author of 24 novels and 8 non-fiction books, tells the story of 60 “sinners, saints, rogues, and heroes” throughout Christian history in a simple to read survey.

He begins with Peter (one of Jesus’ first disciples) and ends with Billy Graham.

All told, the 60 men and women are given mini-biographies arranged in chronological order. This is a broad overview of the Christian historical past through the lives of some who impacted the church. The author begins each chapter with a quote referencing the individual.[Continue Reading...]

The New Parish

The New Parish is a new book by Tim Soerens, Paul Sparks, and Dwight Friesen. As someone who has written a great deal on ecclesiology myself, InterVarsity Press sent me a copy of the book. Instead of writing a review, I thought it would be better to interview all three authors.

If you have any questions for me about the book, feel free to ask them in the comments. I’m not sure if the authors will be fielding questions here or not as I know they are extremely busy promoting the book.

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Instead of asking, “what is your book about,” I’m going to ask the question that’s behind that question. And that unspoken question is, “how are readers going to benefit from reading your book?”

Tim Soerens: I like that question because while the book is obviously about “The New Parish,” but what is undergirds the hopes of the book is the idea of faithful presence. The idea that God is calling us in each moment into what it means for us to relate faithfully to God, to the person in front of us, and to the context in which we find ourselves. The New Parish is about how faithful presence in a local and communal context, just might set the stage for a re-imagined way of being the Church. And this of course gets to the book’s benefits.

I’ve been hearing in the last few weeks since the book has come out is that it’s giving folks language and even imagination for longings they’ve had for how to be the church in their every day lives. In other words it’s putting language to longings that I think a whole lot of Christ’s followers intuitively feel, but wrestle with how to communicate.[Continue Reading...]

NoiseTrade Books

Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps not.

But NoiseTrade has turned the music industry upside down. It’s wisely connected musicians directly to listeners by offering free music downloads.

The music marketing startup was founded in 2008. And it has now expanded its platform to help authors and publishers to let people know about their books.

Enter the launch of NoiseTrade Books.

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On this site, you’ll discover a diverse selection of books you can download for free — including Christian titles.[Continue Reading...]

Know Your Church History: A Review

It’s interesting to me that Justin Holcomb has just released a book about heresy.

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I say “interesting” because another author and I have just written a new article on what we call “the H-bomb” — how Christians misuse the word “heresy” all the time. The article will be published this Fall, God willing.

In our article, we will show that the way the word “heresy” and “heretical” were used in the New Testament doesn’t at all map to how people commonly use it today. Neither does it map to the way pre-modern Christians used it.

That said, Holcomb’s book looks at how historic Christianity understood the word. And in his companion volume on the creeds and counsils, he explains what orthodox doctrine is exactly.

In Know the Heretics, Holcomb provides an accessible guide to the most significant heretical beliefs throughout Christian history. Significantly, most of them are alive today.[Continue Reading...]

A Textbook for Preachers & Teachers

Leonard Sweet has written a remarkable book for those who minister God’s Word.

In a day when it’s so rare to find preaching that’s powerful, anointed, and which reveals Christ, Giving Blood is a paradigm-shifter.

This is more than a book. It’s a textbook and a practical manual.

In each chapter, Sweet shows those who minister the Word how to exegete the images in Scripture. How to speak the language of the present culture and impart life to its hearers. How to move beyond pulpiteerism and give messages that are participatory and interactive.

The book is gorgeous . . . outside and inside. It’s a brilliant work. Nuggets of gold from a life-time of experience.

Giving Blood is a groundbreaking resource for every person who teachers, preaches, exposits, or exhorts.

I will state one of my disappointments. I rarely do this, but when the book came out, I asked a few well-known leaders who have the ear of American preachers and teachers to share my interview with Sweet on the book.[Continue Reading...]

60 People You Should Know

Alton Gansky has written an important book called 60 People Who Shaped the Church. It’s a historical work that’s super easy to read.

Each chapter features one of the 60 game-changers in church history and dedicates a few pages to each one.

I caught up with Alton recently to talk about his book.

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Instead of asking, “what is your book about,” I’m going to ask the question that’s behind that question. And that unspoken question is, “how are readers going to benefit from reading your book?

Alton Gansky: Historian Bruce L. Shelley said many Christians suffer from “historical amnesia.” Michael Crichton, novelist, said, “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” 60 People Who Shaped the Church is an effort to address that problem. The church did not spring into existence full form, it developed over time and passed through many fires of controversy. Much of that has been forgotten by the person in the pew. My book is an effort to show the people behind the church—the sinners, saints, rogues, and heroes—and to do so in a way that even those with no inclination toward history can enjoy. The book is written for the non historian.[Continue Reading...]