Books, Bible Notes and Back to Basics

This blog’s been quiet because I’ve been enjoying a summer break, and a two month writing leave.

During the leave I concentrated on working on two books. One is an introduction to the Puritans, written with Tim Chester. Tim and I have taken some well-known Puritans and have edited excerpts on key discipleship themes (including Bible reading, work, prayer, suffering), along with brief biographical introductions on each author. We want to get people who’ve never read any Puritans to enjoy a taster of their writing, and to get a sense of who these men were, in their gifts and convictions. The book will be published by The Banner of Truth.

By the way, this isn’t an act of Puritan homage – we’re pretty honest about the weaknesses of the men we write about. But there’s plenty to enjoy and learn from them, and the authors we’ve chosen we know will make great life-companions.

My main writing project over the summer has been a book engaging with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and seeing how it has real usefulness for preachers. I’m finishing up a book of about 45 short chapters taking many of the Catechism’s Q&A as a jumping-off point for looking at the preacher’s calling, heart, joys, temptations and priorities. It’s been great fun to write, and I’m praying that it’ll be useful for dear brothers in ministry to keep on keeping on. Crossway are going to handle it.

Good news (for me, at least), is that my work editing the sermons of John Flavel is getting nearer completion with the Banner.

Meanwhile, it’s great to get back into the press of ministry at Hope Church, and we’re getting back into our Reading the Bible Together course at Hope. I’ll be blogging devotionals here for Monday to Fridays. If you would like them emailed to you through Mailchimp, then just send me an email at We’re starting on the 3rd October, and we’ll be in 2 Samuel for the month.

34 Points on Training the Church in the Gospel

Notes from a lecture I gave last year on training….

  1. Don’t attempt to train anyone unless you know where their needs and problems are, and how you should therefore approach their training
  2. Teach the Christian life as Gospel living and serving
  3. Teach membership as the context for Gospel living and serving in community
  4. Do they know that there is no Gospel growth without Gospel service?
  5. Make your Sundays sing
  6. Preach to teach, reassure, encourage and commission
  7. Help them to take the text to work – workplace
  8. Teach work as worship, and the workplace as the mission field
  9. Cull discouragements from your Sundays
  10. Be an efficient church leader (Meetings, Communication, Decisions)
  11. Get your people into their Bibles, and their prayers
  12. Teach the busy how to redeem time
  13. Encourage the over-stretched to contract commitments, and enlarge hearts
  14. Set up two-way communication with overstretched people
  15. Visit couples, prioritise husbands
  16. Never assume that busy people are too busy, or unwilling, to serve
  17. Respect busyness, but don’t be afraid to challenge it
  18. Be flexible with your diary as you support people
  19. Accept the mess of modern life, and work with it
  20. Never hold the busy at arm’s length
  21. Give them opportunities to think through their gifts, and the church’s needs
  22. Encourage ministry involvement for a fixed period
  23. Make sure that you make time to eat, laugh and play together
  24. Follow up pastoral hunches
  25. Walk towards the pain
  26. Pray for busy people, and tell them that you’re praying
  27. Ask for prayer needs, for them, for home and for work
  28. Personal affirmation and encouragement is non-negotiable
  29. Remember personal and work pressures, and inquire after them
  30. Remember anniversaries and personal values
  31. Repent of your lack of appreciation for over-stretched people
  32. Write fan mail
  33. Be careful about saying you’re busy – it pushes people away
  34. Lead the church with conviction, and with great respect for those you are leading

Book Review: “Mistakes Leaders Make”, Dave Kraft, Crossway 2012 (117pp)

9781433532498-ukI picked this book up last year simply because I liked the title (and knew I would find much of my ministry history to date written up in it). I found much to encourage and reflect upon. Dave Kraft has put forty years of ministry experience into showing those who work in local churches the problems they face. Those problems aren’t primarily in workload or any external pressures: they are the issues of the heart. Among those Dave explores are the temptations to replace Jesus with ministry, avoiding conflict for the sake of false peace, the pitfalls of pride, and poison of endlessly comparing ourselves with others.

The book moves through ten dangers as they surface in the lives of the staff members of an imaginary Californian church. Though fictional, Dave says that these lives and situations are a composite of many he’s known through the years. Most British readers will easily replace the large staff team in the book for Elders, Deacons, and other ministry workers. What they will notice is that the pressure-points explored are all too true.

Dave left me in no doubt that my biggest problem in the church I pastor is me. He helped me see many of my sins and weaknesses more clearly, and gently warned me where those sins would take me, if left undealt with. This is a really helpful book. I read it in a little more than an hour, but it deserves careful and prayerful rereading. I’m getting copies for my Eldership and we’ll read and discuss it together, and I’ll also suggest it to my Deacons and Apprentices. Recommended.

Cutting to the Heart Study Group Questions

Further study group questions on Chris’ Green’s Cutting to the Heart: applying the Bible in preaching and teaching:

Chapter 4

Why does Chris say that the Bible is not about us, or about God (pp.45-49)? Are you persuaded?

How does Chris show that a Christocentric reading of Scripture is the only plausible one (pp.49-53)?

Why is the Christocentricity of Scripture such good news for us, and what is the danger we must guard against as we read the Bible (pp.53-58)?


Chapter 5

What is the good that Fosdick was seeking to do, and what has been the legacy of his ministry (pp.63-66)?

How successful was Barth in correcting the errors of the ministry of a ‘social gospel’ (pp.66-68)?


Chapter 6

What are the two dangers for preachers Stott identifies as they try to build a bridge between the text and the world (p.71)?

What is the problem Chris identifies with the bridge image, and how will preachers be most effectively contemporary in their preaching (pp.74-76)?


Chapter 7

What comment would you make on the 3 models of handling the bible, and the implicit assumptions they make about the Bible’s relevance (pp.77-79)?

How might these models do violence to the Bible’s own theology (p.80)?

What are Chris’s two objections to the principalising method, and do you agree with him (pp.80-83)?

What place does the theme of Covenant have in a discussion of the Bible being ‘relevant’ in our culture (p.84)?

“Cutting to the Heart.” Study group questions on a great new book on preaching

imageOur reading group at Hope Church is about to start Chris Green’s, “Cutting to the Heart: applying the Bible in teaching and preaching”. I’ve read half of the book so far, and like it very much. I actually think that Chris (or the publishers, IVP), are underselling it: the subheading suggests that this is a “getting the application right in preaching” book, but Chris’s aim is far more ambitious, and his thesis is that a merely expositional sermon, devoid of a call to change in the light of grace, and lacking the help for the hearer to do so, is not a Christian sermon.

Our group is made up of regular, occasional and aspiring preachers from all sorts of backgrounds and traditions. I know we’ll find the book hugely stimulating, and I’m really looking forward to leading them through it.

Here is our first round of questions, on pages 9-44:


Chapter 1

1. Have you ever had something like Chris’s experience in the pulpit (pp.11-12)? What did you learn about preaching, and about your preaching?

2. Review the 8 points on Eccl.12.9-12 (pp.14-18). Are they a convincing framework for studying preaching? Why / why not?

3. What makes you feel like you’ve preached (or heard) a good sermon?


Chapter 2

4. Explore the sequence of image, glory, God speaking, the church, and preaching (pp.25-33). What is the essence of it?

5. Are you clearer now about the goal of preaching?


Chapter 3

6. If the Bible IS relevant, what is the mistake we often make as preachers as we handle it (p.36)? Have you got examples from your own preaching?

7. Was Jesus’ teaching ministry more about informing, or calling for change (pp.40-41)? What implications does our answer have on our ministry as preachers?

8. How does Jas. 1.22-25 work as a charge for preachers (p.44)?