WWIII, Church Leadership, and the Care of Souls: The Best Books of June
“One of my favorite vacation indulgences is to read whatever I feel like. Unhooking my reading from any sort of obligation feels like rest. So I head to the lake with a ridiculous stack of books, not because I expect to be able to read them all but because I’m not sure what sort of reading I’ll fancy in the moment.” - James K. A. Smith
Needless to say, I feel seen as I’m thinking about what to take to Colorado next month. Send me any recommendations you have!
Here are the best books of June:
2034 - James Stavridis and Elliot Ackerman
What will the next war be like? Here’s one theory. Stavridis, a retired Navy Admiral and the former Supreme Allied Commander in the Middle East, and Ackerman, a best-selling author, have teamed up for a gripping fictional account of the next world war.
I won’t spoil anything, but this book isn’t just predictive; it’s also instructive. The authors offer some important lessons about America today that might help us avoid the wars of the future.
Exodus Old and New - Michael Morales
The greatest need in the church today is biblical theology. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much. I’ve found that most Christians, especially those who are committed to reading their Bibles, need help piecing the whole Bible together. What does Abraham have to do with David? How do Psalms and the Gospels fit together? Should you read Song of Solomon to understand Revelation?
Biblical theology is the study of themes that run through Scripture. What starts as an acorn in Genesis grows into a knee-high shoot in the history books of Israel, and by the New Testament, it’s an oak tree. (This is Gerhardus Vos’s explanation of biblical theology).
To make things even better, Michael Morales’s biblical theology is particularly helpful because of the faithful and devotional sensitivity he combines with scholarly depth. You know it’s a good sign when you find yourself searching the references he mentions in your Bible, stopping to think about a new connection, or praying and thanking God for who he is and what he’s done for us as you read.
This is what you can expect from Morales. I first encountered his work through Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? It’s a biblical theology of God’s presence in the book of Leviticus, which I reviewed in April. This book is the second volume in a new series called Essential Studies in Biblical Theology, which is aimed at helping everyone understand the storyline of the Bible. This series will be one I read through and recommend to anyone seeking to go deeper in their study of the Word.
The Plurality Principle - Dave Harvey
The Bible teaches that the church should be led by a plurality of elders. This is easier said than done. Building a healthy team of leaders, especially in the church, is as essential as it is precarious. Harvey walks through the biblical teaching on eldership and includes practical advice on how to work together, navigate staff/non-staff teams, correct and rebuke, and maintain a culture of joyful transparency.
As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think of the frequent leadership failures we’ve seen in the last decade. Abusive leadership styles, narcissism, lack of accountability, and secretive sin have plagued the church and left many people wounded and skeptical. This backdrop made me reflect with thankfulness on the team of elders I get to serve with and the significant provision of wise older shepherds like Dave Harvey.
Deacons - Matt Smethurst
Another helpful resource on church leadership is Matt Smethurst’s Deacons, part of the 9Marks series. Like Harvey, Smethurst writes from experience and has provided a short, practical guide to finding, developing, and deploying biblical deacons.
Devoured by Cannabis - Doug Wilson
Whether or not you’re for or against Christian cannabis use, here are three reasons you should read this book.
First, cannabis use and all of the nuances of medical/recreational CBD/THC are only going to become more prominent issues as time goes on. Just drive down any major street; somebody’s financing all of this, and it’s not a humanitarian effort.
Second, Christians should think critically about social issues like marijuana use, and that’s what Doug Wilson does in this book. He weaves biblical themes, Christian ethics, statistics, and scientific studies together to make an informed argument against Christians using cannabis.
Third, the church in America must recover the ability to have discussions about contemporary topics that are both biblical and thoughtful. In other words, we’ve got to recover the lost art of writing essays. Making arguments, trying out ideas, and applying the Word of God to contemporary issues should all be part of the pastor’s tool kit. You won’t find a better example than Devoured by Cannabis.
Small Preaching - Jonathan Pennington
I’m always working to become a better preacher. Dr. Pennington, as I know him, is the consummate pastor-scholar, familiar in both the church and the academy - and he’s a great preacher. These short chapters range from how to prepare each week to how to handle criticism. I’m adding it to my list of recommended resources for preachers as the best quick read for preachers already preaching:
Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell - Best book for a beginning teacher or preacher.
A Manual for Preaching by Abraham Kuruvilla - Best technical book on the hermeneutics of preaching.
On Preaching by H.B. Charles - Best short book on prep and delivery.
The Care of Souls - Harold Senkbeil
Senkbeil is the kind of person who should be writing books on pastoring. He has faithfully pastored for 50 years without disqualification or burnout. I’m inclined to listen to what he says about pastoring.
Books on pastoring tend to fall into two categories.
First, you have the business leadership space–how to grow, maximize, optimize, organize, and lead your church. These are necessary books, focused on skills and techniques. They are often business principles applied to the church. Examples I’d recommend are The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter, The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer, and The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.
In the other group, you have books like Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor and Zach Eswine’s Imperfect Pastor, focusing more on the heart of the pastor and less on his skills. Senkbeil’s book belongs in the second group, and it may become one of the exemplary books on the pastor’s soul and practice.
Senkbeil frames pastoring as a habitus, an attitude or orientation toward the work of shepherding God’s people. This means the pastor’s holiness, disposition, and regard for others make up the foundation of his calling, not his gifts. Gifting builds on the character of a pastor. Additionally, the Word of God is the guiding instrument of the ministry of God. Pastors are called to “rightly divide the word of truth” by applying it appropriately to each situation (2 Tim. 2:15). Throughout the book, he strikes the perfect medium between sage wisdom and theological underpinning.
Because of the success of this volume, Lexham Press has commissioned a series of practical guides under the “Care of Souls” banner, including Funerals, Stewardship, and Pastoral Leadership. All three release in August.
All Systems Red - Martha Wells
Foundation - Isaac Asimov
Ridgeline - Michael Punke
Maverick - Jason Riley
The Year of Our Lord 1943 - Alan Jacobs
Galatians - N.T. Wright
From Adam and Israel to the Church - Benjamin Gladd
Out of the Ashes - Anthony Esolen
Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak and the Senior Pastor of Carlton Landing Community Church in Oklahoma.