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Short Notes

By Paul Beasley-Murray and Alun Brookfield.

IVP has established a great reputation for its dictionaries. Its latest biblical dictionary, The Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books (IVP, Leicester 2006; 1060pp; £32.99 hardback; ISBN 0978 1 84474 094 9) edited by Bill T Arnold and H G M Williamson, is a superb production and an absolute bargain. This is evangelical scholarship at its best. It does not set out to give easy answers, but rather carefully weighs the evidence and the arguments. Every preacher of the Gospel should buy this book. So too should every minister buy the New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics (IVP, Leicester 2006; 779pp; £32.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 093 2), edited by Campbell Jack and Gavin J McGrath. This authoritative, accessible dictionary is a great resource for ministers and other Christian communicators seeking to defend and commend the Gospel today. 

The well-known twelve-volume New Interpreter’s Bible has now been complemented by the creation of two surveys based on the introductory materials included in the commentary set: The New Interpreter’s Bible Old Testament Survey (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 577pp; £22.99 hardback; ISBN 0 687 95344 7) and The New Interpreter’s New Testament Survey (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 399pp; £21.99 hardback; ISBN 0 687 05434 6. Both books are available from Alban Books of Edinburgh), although the earlier material has been updated and written by different scholars. Theological students will especially benefit from this work of mainline scholarship.

The Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion (Blackwell, Oxford 2006; 471pp; £75 hardback; ISBN 0 631 23216 8) edited by Robert A Segal, consists of 24 essays by leading scholars in the field of religion. The first nine essays, which cover the first 228 pages of the book, deal with ‘approaches’ and are essentially introductory in nature (e.g. Literature and Religion;  Philosophy of Religion;  Psychology of Religion), while the remaining essays deal with particular topics such as Death and Afterlife;  Heaven and Hell;  Magic;  Nationalism and Religion;  Ritual;  and Secularization. Beautifully produced, this is a great book, not just for the student, but for ordinary readers wanting to broaden their horizons. Unfortunately the price is such that it will for the most part only be bought by libraries.

Reading Luke: Interpretation, Reflection, Formation (Scripture and Hermeneutics Series VI) (Zondervan, Grand Rapids and Paternoster, Milton Keynes 2005; 484pp; £19.99; ISBN 1 84227 070 2) edited by Craig Bartholomew, Joel Green and Anthony Thistleton, consists of sixteen scholarly essays and a concluding ‘Afterword’. The opening essay by Thistleton deals with the ‘hermeneutical dynamics’ of reading Luke as ‘interpretation, reflection and formation’. The following essays are divided into three sections:  1. Narrative, history and theology; 2. Language, parables, and ways or levels of reading Luke; 3. Distinctive theological themes in Luke-Acts; 4. Issues in reception history and reception theory. Essentially a work for scholars and perhaps students, this does not really belong to the staple diet of preachers!

In approximately 230 years, Baptists have moved from the position of a persecuted and disinherited sect to the largest Protestant denomination in North America. Baptists in North America: an historical perspective (Blackwell, Oxford 2006; 296pp; £24.99; ISBN 1 4051 1864 4) by Bill Brackney of Baylor University, Texas, is now the definitive guide to the great diversity represented by this major Christian movement.

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness (IVP, Leicester 2006; 159pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 124 3) by Tim Chester is a lively read, and provides helpful resources for preaching on the theme of ‘making the most of the time’. For example, did you know that the average British worker does the equivalent of eight weeks unpaid overtime each year?

Bonhoeffer fans will be delighted with Bonhoeffer and Britain (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, London 2006; 154pp; £14.99 hardback; ISBN 0 85169 307 5) by Bonhoeffer specialist, Keith Clements. The author traces the way in which Bonhoeffer, who was pastor of the German Lutheran church in Sydenham, South London (1933-1935), was influenced by his British fans. The book is enhanced by many photographs illustrating people and places Bonhoeffer visited.

Hope for the World: the Christian Vision (IVP, Leicester 2006; 167pp; £5.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 121 2) by Roland Chia of Trinity Theological College, Singapore, is part of ‘The Global Christian Library’ and as such addresses the Christian doctrine of hope from within an Asian framework. This clear survey of the Biblical material is under-girded by thoughtful scholarship, albeit lightly worn.     

Meeting Jesus: human responses to a yearning God (SPCK, London 2006; 150pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 281 05707 9) by Jeremy Duff, a New Testament specialist, and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, a psychologist,  looks at Jesus and his teaching as portrayed in Luke’s Gospel, with a particular focus on the parables of ‘lostness’ found in Luke 15. A thoughtful approach, this book is a great resource for any preacher.

In Yes: A Positive Faith (Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 2006; 140pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 52620 6), David Edwards recognises that liberalism, with its emphasis on what it does not believe, fails to inspire and to attract. So the author argues for a more positive form of liberalism, which espouses more traditional forms of doing church, but will that be any more successful in attracting and holding people?

Safer than a known way: personal prayers with Christmas supplement (SPCK, London 2006; 190pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 281 05785 0) by Ruth Etchells is a successor to her earlier book, Just as I am. It consists of a series of beautifully written morning and evening prayers for a month of 31 days, together with extra material for Christmas and the New Year. A great tonic for any one whose devotional life has become stale.

The Pastor’s Bible Study: Volume III (Abingdon Press, Nashville 2006; 293pp; £19.99 hardback, including a CDrom with PowerPoint slides and hand-outs; ISBN 0 687 49330 7. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), edited by David Albert Farmer, consists of 50 studies: 15 on Luke; 10 on Genesis; 10 on the Psalms; 6 on the Kingdom of God; 5 on Christian community; and 4 on Spiritual Gifts.   Part of a ‘New Interpreters Bible Study’ series, this volume seeks to combine biblical scholarship with practical reflection. Each lesson includes questions for discussion and teaching tips. A helpful resource.

Ten Commandments for Pastors Leaving a Congregation (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2006; 105pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 8028 292 44 . Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh) by Lawrence W Farris includes the following words of wisdom:

1. Thou shalt know when it is time to go;

2. Thou shalt explain thyself;

3. Thou shalt not steal away;

4. Thou shalt affirm thy congregation’s ministry;

5. Thou shalt try to mend fences;

6. Thou shalt help thy successor have a good beginning;

7. Thou shalt be gentle with thyself;

8. Thou shalt attend to thy family; 

9. Thou shalt (usually) stay away once thou hast left;

10. Thou shalt grieve.

A stimulating read, this is a book for every leaving pastor to buy!

In Harvest: food, farming and the churches (SPCK, London 2006; 145pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 281 05817 2) Timothy Gorringe, who is both a theological professor and a smallholder with a long-standing interest in farming, argues that “harvest is one of the most momentous occasions of the year bringing together crucial political issues and reflecting on them in the light of the entire Christian faith”. Highly readable, this should help preachers write new sermons for harvest!

God’s Power To Save: One gospel for a complex world? (Apollos, Leicester 2006; 204pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 134 2) edited by Chris Green, is a collection of seven fairly substantial essays based on lectures given to the annual Oak Hill School of Theology:

  1. ‘Can we speak of “the gospel” in a post-modern world? Pluralism, polytheism and the gospel of the one, true God’ by Michael Lovey;
  2. ‘”Kingdom of God” and “eternal life” in the Synoptic Gospels and John’ by Paul Woodbridge; 
  3. ‘Theological implications of “eternal life” in the Fourth Gospel’, also by Paul Woodbridge;
  4. ‘The king, his kingdom and the Gospel:  Matthews, Mark and Luke-Acts” by Chris Green;
  5. ‘The gospel of Paul and the gospel of the kingdom’ by Simon Gathercole;
  6. ‘Kerygma or kerygmata:  is there only one gospel in the New Testament?’ by David Peterson; 
  7. ‘Worship, our mission:  responding to the God who has rescued us - a sermon on Deut 6.4-5’ by James Robson.   

Apologetic in style, here we have sound evangelical scholarship.

Dealing with Death: A Handbook of Practices, Procedures and Law (Jessica Kingsley, London 2nd edition 2006; 352pp; £40; ISBN 1 84310 381 8) by Jennifer Green, a retired consultant in public health, and Michael Green, a retired professor of forensic pathology, is a comprehensive and authoritative handbook on what happens when people die. There are three main sections: (1) Legal and technical aspects; (2) Considerations for the living, care of the dying, and death with dignity; and (3) Religious, ethnic and cultural aspects of dying and death. This expanded second edition takes into account recent changes in UK Law and the impact of the Harold Shipman and Alder Hey enquiries. However, in the light of the proposed changes to coronial law, it will not be long before a revised 3rd edition is necessary. Although not written primarily with ministers in mind, this could be a useful resource tool for ministers. Alas, the price means that few ministers will actually buy the book.

Michael Green’s Baptism: its purpose, practice and power, first published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1987, and now reprinted by Paternoster (Milton Keynes, 2006; 107pp; £6.99; ISBN 1 84227 419 8) is to this Baptist reviewer an unconvincing defence of infant baptism. To my mind, evangelical Anglicans and Scottish Presbyterians have yet to face up to the implications of New Testament teaching on baptism.   However, the reviewer could be accused of bias with regard to a book which has certainly been warmly received in evangelical Anglican circles.  It certainly is well-written and very accessible to the average reader.

The Fourfold Gospel Commentary (SPCK, London 2006; 211pp; £19.99;  ISBN 0 281 05691 9), edited by Andrew Gregory, with contributions by David Bartlett, Morna Hooker and Henry Wansbrough, offers a simple, albeit scholarly informed, commentary on the four Gospels as they are read in the ecumenical three-year Lectionary. A great commentary for lay-preachers, I would, however, hope that ministers themselves would wish to supplement this commentary with other more detailed commentaries too as they seek to wrestle with the biblical text.

Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision (Paternoster, Milton Keynes 2006; 275pp; £19.99; ISBN 1 84227 322 0) by Steven R Harmon, Professor of Theology at Campbell University Divinity School, North Carolina, argues that Baptists should take on board the following seven marks of catholicity:

1. tradition as a source of authority; 

2. a place for creeds in liturgy and catechesis; 

3.  liturgy as the context for formation by tradition; 

4. the community as a locus of authority; 

5.  sacramental theology; 

6.  the engagement with tradition as a contemporary theological construction; 

7.  a commitment to ‘thick’ ecumenism, which involves a deep exploration both of ancient ecumenical tradition and of the particularities of the respective denominational traditions.  

For good or ill, the vision espoused here belongs only to the ‘academy’, and is alien to the traditional Baptist emphasis on ‘sola scriptura’.

Based on a study of 6000 young people, By Their Own Young Hand: Deliberate Self-harm and Suicidal Ideas in Adolescents (Jessica Kingsley, London 2006; 264pp; £17.99; ISBN 1 84310 230 7) by Keith Hawton and Karen Rodham addresses the growing problem of young people harming themselves. Somewhere between 20,000-30,000 adolescents present to hospital each year because of self-inflicted overdoses or injuries, but this is in fact but the tip of the iceberg.  Packed with personal accounts and perspectives of young people, this practical book is essential for all engaging with young people.

Finding Joy: a radical rediscovery of grace (IVP, Leicester 2005; 156pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 086 4) by Marcus Honeysett, is primarily a careful exercise in ‘joy-spotting’ and ‘joy- reflecting’ in the light of Paul’s letters, and in particular of his Letter to the Philippians. This serious work of biblical exposition and pastoral application is a useful resource for preachers.

The Pastor’s Guide to Youth Ministry (Abingdon, Nashville, 2006; 82pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 687 49579 2. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh) by Amy E Jacober, is full of common sense. I particularly liked the analogy of youth ministry to cooking with a slow cooker rather than with a microwave - “Don’t rush the process.  Slow down, enjoy the ride, and join God as God works to transform the teenagers in your world”! With small churches with small youth groups in mind, this American youth primer is relevant to British churches too.

In A Churchless Faith (published by SPCK in 2002), Alan Jamieson, on the basis of interviews with 108 people, looked at why people were leaving Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. Church leavers: faith journeys five years on (SPCK, London 2006; 136pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 281 05864 4) by Alan Jamieson, Jenny McIntosh and Adrienne Thompson - all members of staff of Central Baptist Church, Wellington, New Zealand - is a sequel, in the sense that it follows up the original interviewees to see how their faith had changed over the past years. In addition, the book tells the story of the development of ‘Spirited Exchanges’, which provide ‘safe places’ for leavers to continue to explore the Christian faith. There is also a chapter by Adrienne Thompson on spiritual direction. For the reviewer the most challenging chapter was that in which Alan Jamieson, as the church’s senior pastor, gives ‘A Pastor’s Perspective’. There he tells how, in a recent study in Australia on why people don’t go to church, 42% of respondents said the reason they don’t go is because church is “boring” and “unfulfilling”.  Church, says Jamieson, “has moved to the point of being a dirty word.  Until we face that reality, we will not be ready to tackle the depth of the task ahead”. Jamieson chides those who are unconcerned for the lost sheep, and in this respect quotes the parable of Jesus retold by Richter and Francis in Gone, but not Forgotten: “’Which of you, having 100 sheep, if you have lost one of them, does not say: ‘we can’t be bothered to look for strays. We’ve got a farm to run here! We can’t risk the 99 for the sake of just one. If the sheep has gone, it’s gone. It’s not our fault sheep are silly! We’ve got other important things to worry about”.   Jamieson adds: “While the ‘let’s ignore the strays’ philosophy reigns, the church will continue to bleed and the centre of gravity of spirituality and faith will continue to move further and further away from church structures”. In this context Jamieson argues for church leaders and pastors to “listen to people and listen to our culture”. Although based on New Zealand research, this is a book with an important message for the UK scene.

An Experiment in Providence: How faith engages with the world (SPCK, London 2006; 146pp; £10.99; ISBN 0 281 05803 2) consists of eighteen varied, occasionally provocative, often entertaining, papers by Timothy Jenkins, Dean of Jesus College, Cambridge. None of the papers, however, really relates to the real world in which most readers of Ministry Today serve.

Resurrecting Excellence: Shaping Faithful Christian Ministry (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2006; 196pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 8028 3234 2. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh) by L Gregory Jones and Kevin R Armstrong, is a call to pastors to “grow in grace and purpose and beauty in relation to God”.  “Excellence for Paul does not focus on what ‘I’ can do over against others, thereby creating ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.  Rather, Paul calls us… to a way of excelling by embodying God’s love manifest in Jesus Christ”. Pastors are first and foremost called to be faithful, not to be successful. This is a heart-warming read.

In Shepherds after my own heart: pastoral traditions and leadership in the Bible (New Studies in Biblical Theology 20, Apollos, Leicester 2006; 313pp; £12.99; ISBN 078 1 84474 127 4), Timothy S Laniak, an Old Testament professor at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Charlotte, USA, draws on a wide range of Old and New Testament texts to develop a biblical theology of shepherd imagery. Scholarly, but accessible, it offers helpful insights into the biblical understanding of ‘shepherding’. Alas, only four pages are devoted to relating these insights into the work of pastors today. At a time when many church leaders, particularly of larger churches, are questioning whether the pastoral model continues to be applicable to ministry, it is a shame that the author did not give time to addressing present-day issues.

Into the Silent Land: The Practice of Contemplation (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2006; 154pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52640 0) by Martin Laird, has received rave reviews from many people, including Rowan Williams and Desmond Tutu. However, although beautifully written, I have my reservations. The book begins with the statement: “We are built for contemplation. This book is about cultivating the skills necessary for this subtlest, simplest and most searching of the spiritual arts. Communion with God in the silence of the heart is a God-given capacity, like the rhododendron’s capacity to flower, the fledgling’s for flight, and the child’s for self-forgetful abandon and joy”. Yet nowhere is mention made of sin, and of our need in the first place to get right with God. Although baptism and the Eucharist feature, the Cross does not. Nor does the fact that God speaks to us through Scripture feature significantly. According to the author, one of the keys to practising the presence of God is repetition of a ‘Jesus word’, but why not meditation upon Scripture? Am I odd in finding this book deficient in terms of Christian theology?

From Woolloomooloo to ‘Eternity’: A History of Australian Baptists, Vols. 1 and 2 (Paternoster, Milton Keynes 2006) is the ‘magnum opus’ of Ken Manley, a former Principal of Whitley College, Victoria. Published in two volumes at £59.99, Volume 1 is subtitled Growing an Australian Church (1831-1914) (404pp: ISBN 1 84227 194 6) and Volume 2: A National Church in a Global Community (1914-2005 (452pp: ISBN 1 84227 404 X), it is the first comprehensive history of Baptists in Australia. For anybody with Australian Baptist connections, it is an illuminating read.   However, as a Baptist I am puzzled by the way in which the author uses the term ‘church’. For Baptists, church is always ‘local’, with the result that in Australia and in the UK when Baptists speak of their denomination, they speak of a ‘union’ of churches. 

Making the Most of Midlife: Christian choices and growth (SPCK, London 2006; 132pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 281 05787 7) by Julia McGuinness is a remarkably informative and stimulating guide to mid-life. Indeed, much of the material is of relevance to those a little further along too, for it deals with issues such as engaging with ageing and facing our mortality. It would make an excellent gift for any friend reaching the age of 40. However, it has also been designed for study in home groups made up of the middle aged.

I was fascinated just by the title of Stuart Murray’s latest book, Changing Mission: Learning from the Newer Churches (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, London 2006; 153pp; £8.99 ISBN 0 85169 305 9), for the ‘Newer Churches’ are no longer the ‘New Churches’ (formerly known as ‘House Churches’), but rather the ‘Emerging Churches’. Stuart Murray not only describes the many and various shapes of these ‘newer churches’, but seeks to make a careful analysis of their missionary effectiveness. Whether or not they are really here to stay, is unproven. Murray, however, does not believe that “the way forward lies either with inherited or emerging forms of church, but a symbiotic partnership between these”. A challenging and informative read.

Research for the Academy and the Church: Tyndale House and Fellowship - The First Sixty Years (IVP, Leicester 2006; 336pp; £19.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 095 6) by Thomas A Noble traces the remarkable rise of evangelical biblical scholarship, of which Tyndale House, Cambridge, is the hub. This detailed informative work will be of great interest to the many generations of biblical scholars and students who have benefited from the wonderful research facilities offered by the library of Tyndale House.

John Nolland, who has already established himself as a major Gospel commentator with his Word commentary on Luke, has produced another magisterial Gospel commentary, this time on The Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids and Paternoster, Bletchley, 2005; 1481pp; £49.99 hardback;  ISBN 0 85364 575 2) part of The New International Greek Testament Commentary (HIGTC) series. Although very much a scholarly work (in addition to every section having its own bibliography, the bibliographical appendix runs to almost 200 pages), this is very much an accessible commentary. John Nolland is clearly concerned to engage with the text and not just with scholarship. This is a commentary preachers will be glad to use.

Finding and Losing Faith: Studies in Conversion (Paternoster, Milton Keynes 2006; 238pp; £19.99; ISBN 1 84227 410 4), edited by Christopher H Partridge and Helen Reid, is a collection of thirteen wide-ranging scholarly essays. Divided into two parts, seven essays explore ‘Understanding conversion in multi-faith and post-Christian contexts’, while six essays explore ‘Understanding conversion to Christianity’.    The essay which I found of most interest was by Derek Tidball, Principal of the London School of Theology (“The social construction of evangelical conversion: a sideways glance”) who, on the basis of an analysis of 180 student application forms, concludes that “the dominant paradigm of conversion is not of encountering God or of his initiative in people’s lives, or of conviction of sin, as once would have been considered the ‘evangelical’ view of conversion, but one of making a life choice. It is the human element which is uppermost”.   

How to explain your faith (SPCK, London 2006; 131pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 281 05708 1), by John Pritchard, offers help to Christians to talk more confidently about their faith. It is also a useful book to offer people enquiring after the Christian faith. Divided into three parts, Part One is entitled “Why bother” and deals with such issues as ‘Is Christianity for those who can’t get a life?’; ‘The failures of Christianity’; and ‘Why Jesus and not Buddha’.  Part Two, “Why Believe?”, addresses such questions as ‘Jesus who?’ and ‘What use is a dying God?’. Part Three, “Why get involved”, looks at matters such as ‘What’s use the use of praying?’ and ‘Why is the church so naff?’. Each chapter is divided into seven brief sections: ‘What they say’; ‘Star quote’; ‘Key issue’; ‘What you might say’; ‘The heart of the matter’; ‘Quotes for the conversation’; ‘Story’.   This imaginative approach to Christian apologetics is most welcome.

Just One Year: Prayer and Worship through the Christian Year (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2006; 288pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 52669 9), edited by Timothy Radcliffe and produced in association with Christian Aid and CAFOD, is a collection of prayers and reflections written by people engaged in the struggle for justice. With a wide variety of material, this is a useful resource and will certainly ensure that Christian worship has the world and its suffering in view.

Baptist identities: international studies from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries (Paternoster, Milton Keynes 2006; 357pp; £24.99; ISBN 1 84227 215 2), edited by Ian Randall, Toivo Pilli and Anthony R Cross, is a collection of twenty unrelated historical studies of Baptist identity in Europe, North America, and elsewhere. In a Foreword, David Bebbington expresses the hope that “these studies should help provide a perspective on the range of characteristics of those who hold that baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ and designed only for those who profess faith”. Whether or not that hope is fulfilled is a moot point, because for the most part little effort is made in the book to relate the past to the present.

Slipstreams for Healing Souls (SPCK, London 2006; 144pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 281 05771 0) by Ruth Scott focuses on the differing ways in which hurting people can find healing and restoration in Jesus. Each chapter contains an imaginative engagement with a different healing story from the Bible. Unfortunately the author’s imaginative approach does not always do justice to the text.

Sowing, Reaping, Keeping: People Sensitive Evangelism (IVP, Leicester, 2nd edition 2006; 157pp; £6.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 138 0), by Laurence Singlehurst, Director of Cell UK, has become a classic introduction to evangelism today, and contains much good sense. This is a book to give to lay leaders in the church.

The Out of Bounds Church? Learning to create a community of faith in a culture of change (Zondervan, Grand Rapids 2005; 174pp; £10.50; ISBN 0 310 25904 5) by New Zealand Baptist minister, Steve Taylor, should be essential reading for any one wanting to understand ‘emerging church’ (although it is strangely not referred to in Stuart Murray’s book on the ‘newer churches’ - see above) for four reasons:  first, this is a book by a practitioner, who currently runs three forms of ‘emerging church’ while pastoring a traditional church in Christchurch. Second, it is a book by a theologian, who has applied academic rigour to doing mission. Third, it is a book by a person very much in touch with the cutting edge of today’s youth culture(s). Fourth, it is by a New Zealander, and, in this reviewer’s opinion, the New Zealand churches are very often ahead of their Western counterparts. Steve Taylor is an extra-ordinarily creative individual, and this is reflected in this book. I found this an unsettling book, for it makes me realise how much my church, along with most other churches, is out of touch with contemporary culture. Indeed, it made me realise how much I, along with most of my ministerial peers, am out of touch with contemporary culture. One question which this book leaves with me is this: is ‘emerging church’ dependent upon creative individuals such as Steve Taylor?      

I Shall Not Want: spiritual wisdom from the twenty-third psalm (SPCK, London 2006; 100pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 281 05772 9) by Dave Tomlinson is a lively ‘devotional’ take on the world’s favourite Psalm, and as such is a useful resource for any preacher.

A Brief History of Happiness (Blackwell, Oxford 2006; 194pp; £11.99; ISBN 1 4051 1520 3), by philosopher Nicholas White, reviews 2,500 years of attempts to answer the question: ‘What is happiness?’.   This thoughtful book, which engages with philosophy ancient and modern, is not an easy read.

The basic argument of Preaching for the Contemporary Service (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 134pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 687 02335 1. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Joseph Webb, is that spontaneous ‘improvisational’ preaching ‘from the heart’ is needed to attract the younger generation. Such preaching no doubt is appealing, but will it actually ‘build up’ the next generation of disciples?    

Incandescence: Light Shed through the Word (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2006; 208pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 8028 3208 2. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, consists of a series of sermons for the Christian year. Rooted in the Scriptures, these sermons are a delight to read.

The Word Biblical Commentary (published in the USA by Thomas Nelson, but available in the UK through Paternoster of Milton Keynes) has established itself as one of the great 20th century commentary series. Initially devised with pastors in mind, it rapidly became more scholarly in focus. Nonetheless, each section includes not just the more scholarly ‘comment’, but the more applied ‘explanation’. Over the last few years, a number of the original commentaries have been revised. Philippians (first published in 1983, revised edition 2004. £21.99 hardback) by Gerald Hawthorne has undergone major revision by Ralph P Martin and is now 100 pages longer. A revision of this scale includes far more than updated bibliographies. Among other things, the themes of joy-in-suffering and life-in-Christ have been expanded. Isaiah 1-33 (first published in 1985, revised edition 2005: £24.99 hardback) by John D W Watts has also undergone major revision, not least in the way in which the commentary is ordered. Instead of the original attempt to order the material chronologically, the literary integrity of the book has now become central. Some pastors might remain content with their original editions. Scholars, however, certainly will need to buy themselves the revised editions.

The Story (Lion, Oxford, 2006; 399pp; 7.99; £7.99; ISBN 0 7459 5251 8) is a retelling of “all the key stories of the Bible” by master dramatist, Murray Watts (of Riding Lights fame). Genesis to Revelation in well over 200 bite-sized, extremely tasty chunks, these are wonderful for illuminating a Bible reading, drawing out the human interest.

Jesus (Lion, Oxford, 2005; 371pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 7459 5203 8) is the life of Jesus written as a novel for grown-ups by Walter Wangerin, who has established quite a reputation as a religious story-teller. Beautifully written in every other respect, he has a slight tendency to make Jesus sound a bit formal in places. It’ll get well used in my churches though.

The Miracles of Jesus (Lion, Oxford, 2006; 160pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 7459 5194 5) is the book of the recent BBC TV series of the same name. It’s beautifully produced in large, ‘coffee-table’ format and in full colour. But if you really want to understand the miracles of Jesus, read Jeffrey John (The Meaning in the Miracles, ISBN 0802 82794 2) instead.

The Christian publishing world seems at the moment to be abounding in books with similar titles to The One-Stop Bible Guide (Lion, Oxford, 2006; 126pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 7459 5193 7) by Mike Beaumont. Lots of colour pictures and a huge amount of information packed into 126 pages of ‘coffee-table’ sized book, but I found it curiously inaccessible because of the thematic (rather than canonical) layout.

Another book on the same general theme is How To Read the Bible (Oxford University Press, 2005; 207pp; $26 hardback; ISBN 0 19 516149 1) by Steven L McKenzie, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Rhodes College Memphis. This book is aimed at anyone who wants to read the Bible seriously and with understanding, but I’m guessing that the only people it will appeal are highly educated people with excellent eyesight who won’t mind spending a lot of money for only 176 pages of small print with a lot of end-notes. Useful for lay-people preparing Bible studies, perhaps.

The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome (Jessica Kingsley, London 2006; 400pp; £17.99; ISBN 1 84310 495 4) by Tony Attwood is an authoritative non-technical handbook. It is written not just with parents and professionals in mind, but also for people with Asperger’s syndrome, so that they may helped to understand why they are “different to other people, and not to feel dejected or rejected”. With one person in 250 being diagnosed with this syndrome, most pastors will from time to time find themselves involved with people with this condition. This splendid guide is therefore of relevance to ministry.

In Introducing the Uncommon Lectionary: Opening the Bible to Seekers and Disciples (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 184pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 6874 9627 6. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), Thomas G. Bandy, president of an American ‘church consulting and futuring firm’, argues that the day of traditional church lectionaries is over: “The Common Lectionary was designed for an era of denominational co-operation and Christian uniformity; so that wherever the highly mobile Christian went to church he or she would feel right at home. For better or worse, the world has changed. Highly mobile seekers and disciples now seek a church that will help them feel right at home”. As a Baptist minister who has never used a lectionary for Sunday worship, I was not moved by the arguments employed one way or another. However, I was challenged by the first fourteen pages of the first chapter, where the author distinguishes ‘good’ worship from ‘great’ worship. “Good worship is largely measured by personal tastes, preferred learning methodologies and comfortable technologies; great worship is measured by personal needs, alternative learning methodologies, and multi-sensory technologies”. Or to put it another way, ‘good worship’ can be highly ‘professional’, but if it does not lead to encounter with the living God is can never become ‘great’.  

First published in 1986 by Eerdmans, Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Paternoster, Milton Keynes 2006; 446pp; £; ISBN 1 844227 443 0) by G R Beasley-Murray has been republished. When it first appeared, it was described by the Manchester scholar F F Bruce as “an exegetical treasure-house”, while the distinguished Roman Catholic Raymond E Brown commented: “This challenging work will have to be weighted and discussed by all who are seriously interested in these crucial theological issues”.

Adopted into God’s family: exploring a Pauline metaphor (New Studies in Biblical Theology, Apollos, Leicester 2006; 233pp; £12.99; ISBN 1 84474 146 X), by Trevor J Burke, is a careful examination of the metaphor of adoption in the light of its cultural context. Scholarly, but accessible, this volume will no doubt in the first place appeal to academics, and yet as the author points out in his summary, this metaphor has also pastoral implications. In this regard he quotes Alister McGrath: “Adoption is about being wanted. It is about belonging”. At a time when feelings of alienation and estrangement are rife, this is an important point. In the words of the concluding sentence of this study: “There can be no greater privilege, responsibility or sense of belonging than having God as our adoptive Father and being related by faith to a vast network of brothers and sisters in Christ who constitute the worldwide family of believers”.

Abuse - sexual, physical and emotional - is, we now know, much more common than we thought even a few years ago. It’s estimated that one in eight females and one in twelve males suffer abuse before the age of sixteen. With that awareness has come a minor flood of resources to assist sufferers and those who care for them. One such is Breaking the Chains of Abuse (Lion, Oxford, 2006; 223pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 7459 5135 X) in which Sue Atkinson, herself an abuse sufferer, offers a work-book style resource which can be used by survivors for the purpose of self-help, but is also useful to others who are trying to help children and teenagers to break the chains of abuse. Every minister should have a book like this on the bookshelf.

With Iraq being in the news every day, we do well to remember that not all Iraqis are Muslims. In fact, according to Suha Rassam in her book Christianity in Iraq (Gracewing, Leominster, 2005; 203pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 85244 633 0), Christianity was firmly established in Iraq before the religion arrived in Britain. This is not an easy read, partly because most western readers come to the subject in complete ignorance, so concentration is required in order to get a mental grip on the complexity of Christianity in Iraq, but the effort is well worth while.

If you are on the search for devotional material for the coming season of Lent, I can recommend two books which have recently been republished. The first is Gerald O’Mahoney’s The Two-Edge Gospel (Gracewing, Leominster, 2005; 124pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 85244 638 1), first published in 1995, in which the author explores the two-sidedness of so much of the gospel (e.g. free/costly; weakness/power; sacrament as burden and blessing). A very thought-provoking journey, ideal for a short retreat. The second is John Skinner’s translation of Julian of Norwich’s A Revelation of Love (Gracewing, Leominster, 2005; 166pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 85244 643 8), first published in 1996. It is a record of the sixteen ‘showings’ received by this extraordinary 14th century hermit. I found her more than thought-provoking - rather she questioned almost everything I take for granted in life and ministry.

Baptism services, sermons and prayers (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 86pp; £5.99; ISBN 0 687 33383 0. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh) by Kenneth H. Carter Jr, senior pastor at Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, is primarily a liturgical resource for pastors who practise infant baptism.   Within that context it will be found helpful.

Made for Laughter (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2006; 211pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 52248 0) by Sheila Cassidy, who shot to fame as a result of her experience of being tortured in Pinochet’s Chile, is the story of a courageous woman, who has packed a myriad of experiences into her life-time. Brought up a Roman Catholic, she eventually gave up on church, but not on faith. The title of her autobiography is taken from words of Desmond Tutu: “We are made for goodness, we are made for love, we are made for laughter, we are made for joy, we are made for transcendence”.

Psalms for Life: Hearing and Praying the Book of Psalms (SPCK, London 2006; 389pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 281 05844 X) by Old Testament scholar John Eaton contains short thoughtful reflections on each of the Psalms.   With each section ending with a brief meditative prayer, this is a helpful devotional tool.

The Way Ahead: Grown Up Christians (Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow 2006; 95pp; £8.99; ISBN 1 905010 25 26) is the ‘last will and testament’ of 88-year old Ian Fraser, a distinguished Scottish pastor, ecumenist, and theologian, and one of the original members of the Iona Community. A radical document, and more radical in theology than I would wish, it abounds in quotable quotes. For example, drawing upon the fact that the word ‘ecumenical’ derives from a Greek word meaning ‘the whole inhabited earth’, the author states: “Ecumenical commitment focuses not on the church, but on the world God so loved that he sent his own Son”. He tells of how, when visiting Fuller Theological Seminary, he saw students with words emblazed on T-shirts: ‘Don’t go to Church’.  When he looked after them, he read on the back: ‘Be the Church’.

Martin Goldsmith, a Jewish Christian who served as a missionary in South East Asia for ten years, and then lectured for over twenty years at All Nations Christian College in Ware, is an experienced observer of developments in modern missions. His recent book, Get A Grip On Mission: The Challenge of the Changing World (IVP, Leicester 2006 - published in association with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship; 240pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 126 7) deals with ‘Trends in mission for the 21st century’. Easy to read, this is an excellent survey of opportunities for world mission today.

Ethical Issues in Dementia Care: Making Difficult Decisions (Jessica Kingsley, London 2006; 144pp; £14.99; ISBN 1 84310 357 5) by Julian C Hughes and Clive Baldwin is published in association with the University of Bradford and is one of the ‘Bradford Dementia Group Good Practice Guides’. This jargon-free and highly accessible book is aimed at carers of people with dementia, and in particular non-family, formal carers, and is concerned to help such carers not only to understand how to deal with difficult ethical decisions, but also to gain some confidence in making them.

Hearing beyond the Words: How to become a listening Pastor (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 115pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 687 49499 0. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh) by Emma Justes, a long experienced Methodist professor of pastoral care, was devised as a text-book for ministerial students. Of interest is the way in which she links listening with hospitality: “Listening, like hospitality, not only involves receiving another person, but includes being welcoming and open to the speaker who is in our presence”.

Life in the Fish Bowl: Everyday challenges of pastors and their families (Abingdon, Nashville, 2006; 84pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 687 33294 X. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh) by retired Methodist minister, F Belton Joyner Jr., is a light-hearted overview of the problems of living in a church house - a book for ministers to lend to one’s lay leaders!

Martin Luther could have been writing today when he said of Ecclesiastes, “This book, which on many counts deserves to be in everyone’s hands and to be familiar to everyone… has until now been deprived of its reputation and dignity and has lain in miserable neglect, so that today we have neither the use nor the benefit from it that we should”. Those wanting to remedy the situation would do well to obtain Encountering Ecclesiastes: A Book for our Time (Eerdmanns, 2006; 155pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 802 830 471. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh) by retired Old Testament Lutheran scholar, James Limburg, who provides a warm simple pastoral guide to this difficult book.

Tend My Flock: Sustaining Good Pastoral Care (Canterbury Press, Norwich 2006; 206pp; £14.99; ISBN 1 85311 648 3) by Kate Litchfield, Diocesan Counsellor for the Diocese of Norwich, is a major re-write of an earlier book of the same title by Peter Oliver, first published in 1996. In this present book, six major issues are tackled: confidentiality and trust; power, authority and vulnerability; setting and maintaining boundaries; safeguarding health and well-being; maintaining positive personal relationships; transition, loss and bereavement. Throughout the book there are questions for personal reflection as well as for group discussion. This is an excellent introduction to pastoral care, and even more experienced ministers would benefit from reading it.

Always Reforming: explorations in systematic theology (Apollos, Leicester 2006; 365pp; £19.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 130 4), edited by A T B McGowan, is a collection of ten essays on a wide variety of themes, ranging from the doctrine of the Trinity to the doctrine of justification, from atonement as penal justification to the doctrine of the church. The editor, in his introduction, notes how, “at one end of the theological spectrum, some have invoked semper reformanda in order to justify abandoning the core of Reformation theology and departing from received orthodoxy. At the other end of the spectrum, some have forgotten about semper reformanda in their progress towards a rigid confessionalism, giving the impression that the final codification of truth has already taken place and that there is no further need for reformation”. The contributors to this volume of essays proceed on the basis that (1) God speaks today; (2) theologians make mistakes; (3) new issues require new thinking; (4) Scripture must have priority over Confessions; and (5) the right of private judgment.  The essays are not easy reading, but they do repay study.

Anything by Alister McGrath is always good value for money, and Doubt in Perspective: God is bigger than you think (IVP, Leicester 2006; 146pp; £6.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 137 3) is no exception. This highly readable guide to the place of doubt in Christian faith is an admirable pastoral tool to those who worry about their doubting. The fact is that doubt for many is a permanent aspect of the Christian life.

Laughing Pilgrims: Humour and the Spiritual Journey (Paternoster, Milton Keynes 2006; 132pp; £8.99; ISBN 1 84227 416 3) by Howard M Macy is a serious, albeit amusing, defence of the place of humour in the Christian life. The author argues that “Creative play - in the form of games or pranks, banter, jokes, or stories - lets our God-likeness shine through. It brightens our lives, but also witnesses to the love and joyousness of our Creator. To fail to enjoy it would be to belittle the trust about our gifts and powers”. Although there is validity in the argument, some may well question the final exhortation to “grin, giggle and guffaw to the glory of God”!

Any minister considering preaching on the Lord’s Prayer would be well advised to get hold of a copy of The Lord’s Prayer (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2006; 132pp; ISBN 0 232 52684 2) by the Roman Catholic scholar, Gerald O’Collins. It is an expository treasure-house.

Praying: Finding our Way from Duty to Delight (IVP, Leicester 2006; 319pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 142 7) by J I Packer and Carolyn Nystrom is a straightforward, practical guide to prayer. The joint authorship is explained by the fact that the basis of the book is a series of talks by Jim Packer, which have subsequently been edited, with Jim Packer’s help, by Carolyn Nystrom. Each chapter is then followed by exercise and devotional aids written by Carolyn Nystrom. The thrust of the book is that while “good praying is at once both duty and delight,… often we must begin where prayer is primarily duty”. This is a book to recommend to church members.

Pastoral prayers for the hospital visit (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 80pp; £5.99; ISBN 0 687 49658 6. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh) by Sarah Webb Phillips, a United Methodist pastor, consists of prayers for all kinds of occasions, for example, youth hospitalized for drug treatment and afraid to face parents, attempted suicide, farmers (in hospital) anxious about crops and animals, and hospital staff who feel overwhelmed. Although this book is designed for use by pastors when visiting their people, pastors within some traditions would feel uncomfortable using ‘a book’ within such a personal context. However, reading an appropriate prayer before the visit could well be a helpful form of preparation.

Needs-Based Evangelism: becoming a Good Samaritan Church (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 112pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 687 33248 6. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Robert D Pierson, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is written within the context of massive church decline. Within less than thirty years the United Methodist Church in the USA has dropped from a membership of 13 million to 8 million. Within that same period Pierson has grown his church from an average attendance of 200 to an average attendance of 1,700. Although this is within the Bible Belt, it is nonetheless a significant achievement, with the result that this thoughtful, albeit immensely practical, study of church growth deserves respect. Of perhaps greatest interest was that, within the author’s own church, the most effective form of needs-based evangelism is working with those who have experienced divorce.

How Much Does God Foreknow? A Comprehensive Biblical Study (Apollos, Leicester 2006; 312pp; £14.99; ISBN 978 1 84474 144 1) by Steven C Joy, a professor of pastoral theology at Trinity Evangelical School in Deerfield Illinois, first saw light of day as a doctoral thesis.   However, the learning is worn lightly as the author engages with the arguments of ‘open theism’, popularised by such scholars as Clark Pinnock, who argue that while God’s omniscient knowledge rightly includes absolutely everything about the past and the present, it does not include certain elements of the future for which free decisions are a causal component. Although Steven Joy is not himself an ‘open theist’, he presents the argument fairly. He himself espouses what he calls the ‘compatabilist’ or ‘soft-determinist view’, which believes that genuine human freedom and moral responsibility are in fact compatible with divine determinism. In addition to wide-ranging and careful exegesis of texts both from the Old and New Testament, ministers will be glad to see that the final chapter deals with the practical implications of such matters as worship, prayer, guidance, suffering and the problem of evil, hope in the ultimate triumph of God and his kingdom. This is a good book.

Doing December Differently: An alternative Christmas handbook (Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow 2006; 380pp; £14.99; ISBN 1 905 010 23 0) by Rosie Miles and Nicola Slee, both academics and both poets, explores a wide variety of non-traditional ways in which Christmas can be celebrated. The authors rightly challenge the notion that Christmas has to be a mega-feast of conspicuous consumption. The genesis of the book is found in a group of eight, all female bar one, all childless, all either single and/or lesbian/gay, who had struggled to know what to do and where to go at Christmas. One may not have to share the theological viewpoint of this group in order to admit that all too often Christmas is a family event, which makes it very difficult for those not in families. This is a challenging resource book.

The Psychology of Ageing: an Introduction (Jessica Kingsley, London, 4th edition 2006; 336pp; £19.99; ISBN 1 84310 426 1), by Ian Stuart-Hamilton, is the latest revision of what has become a ‘classic’ text for those engaged in caring for the elderly. Just over a page is devoted to ‘religion and ageing’. The author notes how a variety of studies “generally supports the argument that a high level of spiritual belief can be beneficial in ageing”. Not only is religiousness strongly correlated with well-being, it may also be associated with better health. Although there is a gradual decline in church attendance of older people, the author notes that this may well be due to physical limitation. In terms of the book’s general message, it is summed up in the last paragraph: “A content later life is a reward, not an automatic right. It can only be reached by approaching the prospect of ageing with a clear and open mind. Some changes, such as those to the intellect, can only be partially controlled, but even though there may be some declines, this should never, with the exception of dementia, be sufficient to mar a productive and happy later life”.

A Clear and Present Word: the Clarity of Scripture (New Studies in Biblical Theology, Apollos, Leicester 2006; 196pp; £12.99; ISBN 1 978 84474 140 3), by Mark D Thompson of Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia, surveys past and present objections to the clarity of Scripture; engages with the hermeneutical challenges; and re-states the doctrine for today. He defines the clarity of Scripture as “that quality of the biblical text that, as God’s communicative act, ensures its meaning is accessible to all who come to it in faith”. In his conclusion, he notes that responsible reading of Scripture “will not be content with superficiality or with a uniform literalism that flattens the variety of genre and literary feature…. It will take seriously the text we have… and expects that these very words have the power to cut deep and to heal profoundly today”. This is thoughtful evangelicalism at its best.

Inside The Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 154pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 687 33116 1. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by Bob Whitesel, a professor of ministry at India Wesleyan University, is a survey of twelve ‘emerging’ churches of various sizes, all of which are to be found in North America apart from St Thomas’ Church, Sheffield.

An ‘emerging’ congregation is defined as a church “populated largely by young adults under the age of thirty”, where experimentation and innovation, instead of “forms of retention and ritual”, are the norm in the implementation of the Great Commission. Whitesel prefers the term ‘organic’, which he defines as “a church that is composed of a network of inter-dependent people who thrive in relative harmony as a living and growing entity”. According to the author, the four ‘melodies’ behind the organic church are ‘orthodoxy’, ‘authenticity’, ‘engagement: social and spiritual’, and ‘missional church growth’. No doubt some will be attracted by this whistle-stop Cook’s tour. I found it had little to offer me. Perhaps I would have found it more helpful had the author been writing out of his own experience, rather than writing up observations culled from visits which lasted no more than three days at a time. 

Life Beyond Death: Threads of Hope in Faith, Life and Theology (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2006; 94pp; ISBN 0 232 52686 9) by Vernon White, Principal of the Southern Theological Education and Training Scheme for the Church of England, first saw life as a series of public lectures. The aim of the book is to “restore credibility and confidence in believing” in the hope of an after-life, a very necessary task in the light of a survey in the mid-1990s by Douglas Davies, which showed that around a third of Anglicans and Methodists believed personality simply came to an end at death; that only a third professed specific belief in a definite spiritual survival; and only four per cent believed in a resurrection of the whole person! Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, this thoughtful book does not deal with the resurrection of Jesus and its implications for us, but looks rather at signs of eternity and of transcendence in ‘graced nature’, in that for the Christian believer it is the former rather than the latter which is the ultimate ground for hope.

Conversations with Barth on Preaching (Abingdon, Nashville 2006; 324pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 687 34161 2. Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), by William H Willimon, former Chaplain of Duke University and now a Methodist Bishop, is one of the author’s weightier books. Although Willimon is not a Barthian, he owes a great debt to Barth: “When all seemed ready to jettison the Christian tradition in favour of ‘relevance’, Barth’s was a strong, assertive voice. Barth saved me from the theological wasteland that decimated contemporary homiletics, gave me something to say as a preacher, and, later, gave me a way to say it”. No preacher could find this ‘conversation’ anything but a stimulating read. It is a tonic to the soul. “We are never done with our preaching. There is always one more sermon to be preached because, in the Resurrection, God is not finished. Amen”!

Holy Spirit and Religious Experience in Christian Literature circa AD 90-200 (Paternoster, Milton Keynes 2006; 381pp; £19.90; ISBN 1 84227 319 1) by Baptist scholar John Eifion Morgan-Wynne, began life as a PhD thesis. It is a detailed investigation of three areas of Christian experience: a sense of the presence of the Divine; of guidance or illumination; of ethical empowerment. It covers some of the later writings of the New Testament (the Gospels of John and Matthew; the Johannine Epistles; the Pastoral Epistles; Jude and 2 Peter) as well as the early Patristic literature. The conclusion of this ‘magnum opus’ is that the later sub-apostolic generations of Christians may not have lived in the atmosphere of the Pauline letters where Christian faith can be defined as life in the Spirit, but this does not mean they were no longer aware of the Holy Spirit and his power. In so far as the last treatment of this theme was as long ago as 1910 when H B Swete’s The Holy Spirit in the Ancient Church was published, we should be grateful for this scholarly modern study.

Some of the most recent 28-page booklets, all priced at £2.95, from Grove of Cambridge include:

Paradox in the Gospel (Evangelism 74, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 622 6) by Jim Currin of the Church Army, who believes that evangelists could be more effective if they acknowledged that life and the gospel contain a good deal of paradox;

‘Discerning the Spirits’:  evaluating the prophetic voice (Renewal 24, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 6212 8) in which Peter Cavanna, an Assemblies of God minister, gives a thoughtful overview of the biblical material as well as some practical advice for testing prophecy in church services today;  

Common Worship Reconciliation and Restoration: a commentary (Worship 187, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 619 6), by Phillip Tovey (editor), David Kennedy and Andrew Atherstone, appears at first sight to be of interest only to Anglicans, yet in fact the discussion of the pastoral implications of confessing and absolving sin is relevant to us all;

Decluttering: a spirituality of less (Spirituality 97, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 623 4) by Andrew Barton, ministering in a large rural benefice in the Winchester Diocese, ends with the challenging question: “Just how much could you declutter your home and then your life, so that this world no longer governs your heart?”;

Friends, Partners or Spouses: the Civil Partnership Act and Christian Witness (Ethics 141, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 620 X) by Andrew Goddard of Wycliffe Hall is a detailed study of the CPA, in which the interesting question is raised as to whether civil partnerships are an option for Christians who do not have a sexual partnership;

Can we have a chat? Working safely with young people one to one (Youth 3, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 626 9) in which John Langford, an experienced youth worker, offers practical guidance on how to develop effective relationships safely;

What’s the Bible All About? (Biblical 40, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 624 2) in which Ian Paul of St John’s College, Nottingham, and Philip Jenson of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, give a thoughtful overview of the biblical writings, from which church members old and new could well profit; 

Global Partnerships for local mission (Pastoral 106, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 625 0) by Phil Groves of the Anglican Communion Office, who offers a theological rationale as well as practical advice for churches wanting to develop a working relationship with churches in the developing countries of the world;

Rebuilding Trust in Business: Enron and Beyond (Ethics 142, 2006; ISBN ), in which Nick Spencer argues that trust is not only a sensible business strategy, but also makes life worthwhile, so this booklet is essential reading for directors and managers of companies;

Renewal as Laboratory for Change: the Example of the Church of England (Renewal 25, 2006; ISBN) in which John Finney argues that those ‘charismatics’ who stayed in the mainline churches were able to make a much more positive contribution to the Kingdom than those who moved on to pastures new.

Conversion Today (Evangelism 75, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 631 5) by Gavin Wakefield is a helpful survey of recent research and reflection on the meaning of conversion, which the author describes as a ‘punctuated process’;

Baptism and Holy Communion in the Methodist and the United Reformed Church (Worship 188, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 630 7) by Anglicans Charles Read and Philip Tovey consists of a detailed survey of liturgical rites and is of limited interest to those outside these three church traditions;

Reflective Practice for Spiritual Directors (Spirituality 98, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 632 3) by Anne Long has useful things to say about the art of spiritual accompaniment and is a ‘must’ for all those involved in such ‘supervision’; 

The Entrepreneur and the Church (Pastoral 107, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 634 X) by Bill Bolton, encourages churches to become ‘Kingdom entrepreneurs’, prepared to think and act differently with a view to saving sinners and not entertaining saints;  

Young People as Prophets: What is God saying through Young People? (Youth 4, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 635 8) by Roger Sainsbury, Richard Bromley, and Dave Wiles who, in their different contributions, urge older Christians to listen to the young;  

Luke’s Jesus: The Message and Meaning of Luke’s Gospel (Biblical 41, 2006; ISBN 1 85174 633 1) by John Proctor, who identifies the following as major themes in Luke: poverty and property; women and men; mission and the margins; politics and empire; passion and atonement - which in turn suggests an interesting sermon series!

Paul Beasley-Murray

Senior Minister of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford<br>and Chair of Ministry Today

Alun Brookfield

Editor of Ministry Today

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You are reading Short Notes by Paul Beasley-Murray and Alun Brookfield, part of Issue 38 of Ministry Today, published in November 2006.

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