Friday, July 11, 2014

Quick Summaries: Elders, Preaching and Pastors



Quick Summaries are pithy paragraph-long reviews
of releases that cross our QBR desk. 


These are reviews for when you don't have all day 


to decide whether a resource is worth
your time, money, storage space, or trouble.

Overdorf, Daniel. One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2013. 319 Pages. Paper. $17.99. (P)

Rossow, Francis. Gospel Handles: Old Testament Lessons. St. Louis: Concordia, 2014. ebook. (P)

Helm, David. Expository Preaching: How We Speak God's Word Today (9Marks). Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. 125 Pages. Cloth. $14.99. (P)
Rinne, Jeramie. Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus (9Marks). Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. 133 Pages. Cloth. $14.99. (LHP)

Newton, Phil A. and Matt Schmucker. Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership (A comprehensive update of the previous edition, Elders in Congregational Life). Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2014. 256 Pages. Paper. $16.99. (LHP)

Hellerman, Joseph H. Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why It Matters Today. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2013. 313 Pages. Paper. $17.99. (LHP)

Kornacki, Alan. Lutheran Purgatory: Pastors Without Calls. Amazon Createspace, 2014, 72 Pages. eBook. $4.99 ($2.99 currently) (LHP)


This post is primarily for pastors. Elders and "hearers" of our congregations, feel free to listen in.

/+ Caution! One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills has great potential in improving your preaching. Unfortunately, if you quickly work your way through all 52, you will feel beat up by the Law like little you have experienced before. Some exercises will seem designed to please every English Grammar teacher in your congregation (e.g., 17 Write in E-Prime) while others are neglected common sense (22 Pray for Your Listeners, 49 Write for the Ear). Lutheran preachers will appreciate some more than others (45 Make a Bee Line for the Cross, 48 Interweave Preaching and Worship) while grieving for those who need to be taught such things for the FIRST time. Recommended, but with caution. Take in intentional small doses.

+ I first learned of Dr. Rossow's "Gospel Handle" idea from Preaching the Creative Gospel Creatively. Then, I had him for a seminary course on C. S. Lewis. I have since appreciated his Gospel Patterns in Literature and the companion to this volume, Gospel Handles: Finding New Connections in Biblical Texts, a volume that solely focused on sample Gospel Handles and sermons based on the Four Gospels. "A Gospel handle involves the selection from a biblical sermon text of an excerpt that contains absolutely no Gospel whatsoever; the preacher then uses this excerpt as an approach, bridge, or handle to an account of the Gospel somewhere else in the Bible." This volume focuses on Old Testament Lessons, and gives examples of Gospel handles in the Pentateuch, History books, Poetry books, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. The book concludes with sample sermons, including a free text sermon on Job. Creative, Practical, Useful, and Affordable. Recommended!

+ Largely helpful and practical, David' Helm's 9Marks volume on Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God's Word Today could benefit Lutheran preachers. It is part of a series focused on Building Healthy Churches. Having preaching like this (67, passim), that respects the text and the Biblical hearer by proper contextualization, exegesis (instead of eisegesis), and theological reflection, a preacher can avoid the perils of an overly academic/intellectual treatise, an imperitival legalistic nightmare, a spiritualizing trainwreck, or a dehistoricizing myth of a homily. While we were generally pleased with this volume, similar ones (yet to come) left us disappointed. Recommended. Supplement with Walther's Law and Gospel.

- Church Elders is absolutely insufficient as a text for Lutheran lay elders, Lutheran pastors may find some minor benefit and encouragement in this brief 9Marks volume. The main offense to Holy Scripture's doctrine of the Holy Ministry is equating the man-created office of lay elder with the Office of the Holy Ministry called elder in the New Testament. The author shows no knowledge of ordination, yet references many of the passages that pastors will be reminded of at an ordination or installation in the Lutheran Church. Lay elders share much in common with ordained elders. Both are filled with the Baptized. The distinction is not one of person, for both are filled with sinner-saints, but the distinction is one of Office.

- I found it curious that 9Marks authorized two books on Elders by two different publishers. They are here reviewed in close proximity. Newton and Schmucker's volume is an updated edition of their previous release, Elders in Congregation Life. Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership is better than the aforementioned and reviewed Church Elders, but is also insufficient for Lutheran use. The authors provide a lively and sometimes entertaining apologetic for Presbyterian-like teaching and ruling elders in Baptist or nondenominational congregations, but fall into the same eisegesis trap as the Rinne volume: they equate lay elders and ordained pastors rather than seeing the distinction Lutheran, Anglican, Roman and Eastern Christians have seen between the ordained Office of the Public Ministry and lay elders, the latter based upon Acts 6 and church tradition. Lay elders, or deacons, are an auxiliary, man-created office to assist the Pastoral Office. I see modern (and centuries-old) ideas of the word elder being read back into the Biblical text. How about a more thorough study of the word "deacon"? It is one thing to speak of THE BIBLICAL MODEL. There too many Biblical texts left unexamined by the authors. Not Recommended.

/ I remain curious as to why this book was written. Who is the intended audience? What change is desired by the author? I can appreciate a desire for "servant leadership" and for leaders who "relate to one another first as brothers and sisters in Christ." Those are helpful and godly ideas. I'm not sure that a study of the early church peppered with the latest church buzzwords will be the most convincing way to promote or accomplish those goals. I must reject the ordination of women to the Pastoral Office because Scripture does (13). The Chapter Title "When Jesus Is Not Enough (173ff) turned me off as a reader and I quickly lost confidence in the author. 

+ Our final book in this QS is by an author we've reviewed before with his fiction titles. This is non-fiction--scary non-fiction. "The Office of the Holy Ministry within the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is in crisis. It is under attack from pastors who act like corporate executives and arrogant overlords, from bureaucrats who believe a pastor is a failure if he doesn't act like a corporate executive or a used car salesman, and from congregations who believe pastors are merely employees to be hired, evaluated, and fired. Too many pastors have fallen prey to these attitudes and the actions which follow. We call them Candidates, but these men and their families are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they are suffering. These Candidates, pastors without congregations, suffer in the closest thing Lutherans have to purgatory. These are their stories. Lord willing, we can end their suffering" (Amazon). We commend this for your reading, edification, and action, as the 2013 LCMS Convention acted in care and loving concern for pastors without a call. We thank the Lord for courageous District Presidents who are trying to find appropriate calls for our brothers-in-office in a churchly and Christlike manner.


More information about each of these titles
may be found on each respective publisher's website. 

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a permanent member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

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