01 February 2012

Recommended Books

by Frank Turk

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.

The first book is edited by Dr. Anthony Bradley -- a credible person with an internet personality probably in the same class as me. He's a fellow drunken master, and I am a great fan of his insights and work on all manner of issues, even if I can admit that I wince about 3 times per 25 sentences whenever I read him or hear him. He is the kind of crazy genius we need in the Reformed camp, and in the Evangelical camp, and in the Man camp.

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.

The other book is in the 9Marks series of books on church life from Crossway. This one is by the beloved Thabiti Anyabwile, Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons. This is careful and simple book, expressly about the call and qualification of the servants of the church who are also its leaders, and I credit Thabiti for writing it to the church rather than to fellow theologians.

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.


Manfred said...

I recently bought "Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons" and look forward to reading it.

Interesting to see the list of names in Bradley's book.

DJP said...

"We don't really do book reviews here at PyroManiacs..."

We don't?


Frank Turk said...

OK - I don't really do book reviews.


DJP said...

Immeasurably... except for the corollary revelation of your reading habits.

< snif >

CCinTn said...

Thank you for the recommendation of Thabiti's book, I've just ordered it.
I've read Gene Getz's and Alexander Strauch's books on elders and look forward to reading this book as I've come to really appreciate the wisdom of Thabiti during the past few months.
9 Marks has remained steady in their mission to equip pastors and their churches have they not? What a breath of fresh air.

Jay Beerley said...

Thabiti's book is incredible. I'm trying to SLOWLY take my old school SOUTHERN baptist church deacons through it to begin shaping their minds in a biblical way about church leadership. Can't recommend its simplicity and depth enough.

*drumming my fingers waiting for Dan's book to be available on my Kindle*

CCinTn said...

In what can only be called Sweet Irony, here is one of the reviews of the book from Amazon:

“Choosing men who will lead your church is serious work. I commend this valuable resource to you from my friend and partner in the gospel, Thabiti Anyabwile. It is both thoughtful and practical. His insights in this book will help you recruit, enlist, and reproduce faithful leaders in your church.”
—James MacDonald, Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Chicagoland Area; radio teacher, Walk in the Word

Obviously written prior the latest kerfuffle but is that not just amazing! Wow.

DJP said...

Omigosh. Buck Murdock lives.

Manfred said...


I've served as a deacon in a "typical" SBC church and now in a Reformed Baptist church. I feel your pain :-)

I second Alexander Strauch's book on deacons - http://www.amazon.com/New-Testament-Deacon-Churchs-Minister/dp/0936083077 This, and the workbook, are most excellent tools to help men rightly understand our responsibility in serving in this office.

Anonymous said...

Until that day over Macho Grande...

DJP said...

Jules FTW.

CCinTn said...

Jay and Manfred, if your church has or is thinking of going to a Elder model then you would really want to read Strauch's Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership.
It is solid.
By the way, many SBC churches have been moving towards having elders which is encouraging but only as far as those men are biblically qualified individuals. Unfortunately, too many churches look on the outside of the individual(successful businessman, dentist or doctor etc) when considering someone for leadership rather than taking a biblical analysis of the person and asking "is this person biblically qualified to serve in this leadership capacity.
This book really spells out what the Bible has to say about the qualifications for this office.
I'm looking forward to this new book by Thabiti as it seems that it will deal more with how to identify men who are qualified and how to develop men to be qualified.

Manfred said...


My current church was founded (6 years ago) with elders. We have 3 who all share the preaching, shepherding, teaching duties; training, testing, and sending elders from within.

Semper Reformanda!

CCinTn said...

Ahhh, God's blessings to you and your church! Starting a church with an elder structure in place is SO much easier than those moving from not previously having elders to having them. Of course the congregation usually doesn't understand that their pastor(s) are elders as the Bible would define them.
Strauch also explains the concept of "first among equals" as far as how to operate within a structure that includes a board/committee of lay elders along with those seen as the "senior pastor", "teaching elder" or whatever title that person or persons may have.

Robert said...


I wish you well. One of my best friends and the man whom God worked through to bring me out of the RCC is a pastor who got run off from a SBC church for teaching about elders. And that was after five years where he covered Calvinism and complementarianism.

Shawn Carpenter said...

Hey...long time/first time. Thanks for the reccommedations. I just finished Thabiti's book. It's everything you'd expect. My only complaint is that it only made me want to go to the Caymans and have Thabiti take me out to several lunches where we could talk about a variety of scenarios involving finding faithful elders and deacons. I wanted to probe more on some particulars...because life and ministry are messy. Thankful for the book.

I also have Bradley's edited book. I was already eager to read it and that was prior to this week. Eric Mason is one of the contributors and he was one of the contributors of the follow up ER2 video. Sooo.....that will be interesting.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to follow up thoughts etc. thanks.