We don't really do book reviews here at PyroManiacs because, well, you come here for the truly crafty reproaches which we lay out here. And, I might add, you people are hooked on the loads of introspection and honest-to-Gospel repentance we call you to week in and week out because let's face it: you people are a wreck, and you need the whole-grain goodness we dollop out.
But we do get a lot of books in the mail, and from time to time I find some of the books arrive in a somewhat-providential moment where they are simply and exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of content and relevance.
This week from Crossway, I got two titles which I am absolutely giddy about because they have a ton of insight to shed on my theme topic for 2012, which is spiritual leadership. You know: I have written about being a good non-pastor in the church over and over because I am a non-pastor in the church. However, it seems to me that this year those who are in some way fitted or called to lead God's church need a little encouragement (both the carrot and the stick) to get on with it for the sake of their charges. The two books I have to recommend here are a good place to start.
Dr. Bradley has edited a book with the modest title, Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, & the Cosby Conversation. The book is a collection of 10 essays plus preface and conclusion in which fellow leaders in the Black Christian community, including Dr. Bradley himself, discuss the credibility of the critique of black culture presented by Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint in their 2007 book, Come On People. It is a fantastic examination of the need of mankind for the Gospel -- not just spiritually, but personally and humanly -- as applied to the condition of Black society and culture in America. The centerpiece of the book is Dr. Bradley's own unpacking of that thesis, and it is by itself work the price of admission.
From my perspective, which is not that of a black man in America, this book is teaching me about my own self-blindness and my own self-satisfaction, and my own continuing needfulness for the Gospel, for faithful preachers of God's word, and for His church because it speaks to the needs of others, different from me, who have the same need. I hope this book finds its place onto your bookshelf because it is an important book regarding the Gospel because it is not an egg-headed book of systematic theology. It is about bringing the Gospel home to human culture and letting the Gospel be the solution to those cultures.
Let me say this about the books in the 9Marks series: Mark Dever's fingerprints are all over these books, and that's not at all a bad thing. Dever's fatherly love for the local congregation comes out from all of these books, but in this book especially. It's funny how much Thabiti doesn't say about the local pastor in this book: there's no chapter on white boarding; there's no chapter on productivity or time management; there are no references to secular business practices. There are no suggestions about how to hear what God's own voice is telling you to do. Selah.
Instead, Thabiti takes Paul's directions for calling Deacons, Elders, and Pastors, and lays them out for us real people to take seriously as God's plan for leading the local church. It's not even 150 pages long, which is to its credit: there is no fluff in here. This is the vernacular theology of how those called to be, as Thabiti says, the waiters in God's church ought to be trained up, and called out, and then serve and see their own service.
And I bring these two books up for one reason only: how much of the controversy of the last two weeks could have been cut off before it even became public if the advice and insight contained in these two books only could have been harnessed by men who we otherwise see as heroes of the faith and respected leaders? What if we rebuked the Americanisms and Secularisms in our own forms of leadership and our own perceptions of what leadership should accomplish for the telemetry of the Gospel and the call to sacrificial service inherent in the qualifications for deacons, elders and pastors? Would it have produced the Elephant Room, or would it have produced something else -- something that looks more like a shepherd with a flock of people in his sacred care, form who he is willing to be poured out for like a drink offering?
Read these two books, and I leave my question to your conscience. Be with God's people in God's house on His day this week, and get undone by the Gospel.