If you follow this site then you are likely aware of these books and maybe already own them. If you need one more voice to say you won’t find a better use of a $20 bill…this is it.
(This is not a monetized site. In fact, I pay money to keep the web host from commercializing this blog. I am not compensated in any way from activity on this site. I do not receive review copies of books–I buy them. I believe these recent works stand out among the reams of contemporary mediocrity as worthy of special notice. Links for book purchases are publisher links. I do not refer to Amazon.)
The Book Of Common Prayer, 2019, Anglican Liturgy Press
The most important work for Christian worship in a century.
Regardless of your denomination (or lack thereof) if you use any worship resources at all then you want this book. The BCP is the foundation of all Protestant liturgy. (Well, except for the pagan rites and New Age materials that mainline churches have adopted over the years. You won’t find those here.) This edition repairs the damage done by late twentieth century liturgical revisions. It does not, however, simply return to previous forms. The language has a natural flow. It is written to be spoken, yet it does not sacrifice meaning for modernity. If an idea requires a word or phrase that is foreign to the uninitiated then the phrase remains.
Preachers who use a lectionary should appreciate this one. Those who have abandoned the lectionary because of the fatal flaws in the RCL may consider returning. The Gospel reading has not been edited to avoid the difficult sayings. The Old Testament and Psalter remain complementary to the Gospel even in the Season after Pentecost. Congregations who have been using the RCL will now hear significant lessons that have never been read in church during their lifetime.
The New Coverdale Psalter is a beautiful worship asset. It is organized where it can be used as a lection, responsive reading, antiphonal reading, or in unison. If you want to venture into singing the Psalms, ACNA has composed a Simplified Anglican Chant that is melodic and sing-able. It can be heard here (pipe organ and classical trained voices optional) and downloaded here. If your congregation is still observing Covid restrictions then a soloist with moderate skill and limited range can make this work.
For the Eucharist the BCP 2019 offers an Anglican Standard Text (the norm for Protestant churches for centuries) and a Renewed Ancient Text (a product of late 20th century ecumenical movements). In both orders, the BCP 2019 maintains the sense of the cosmic nature of the Sacraments and keeps the focus on personal transformation and sanctification. It includes The Lord’s Supper among the references to the rite with respect for the theological significance of the term.
I will not take time to review the numerous other resources (public and private prayer, the Daily Office for church or home, and the many occasional services) except for a comment on the Rite of Holy Matrimony. I have a prejudice for the language used from 1928 all the way back to 1662. Reluctantly admitting that it is time for a change in wording…this is the way to do it. The new rite is still effectively the ancient rite. It restores the instruction on God’s purposes for marriage, the place of the church in marriage, and the place of marriage in the church.
Jesus as Divine Suicide: The Death of the Messiah in Galatians, Joel Watts, Pickwick Publications
Don’t be put off by the title. This is high Christology. If you find it offensive: it should be. The cross you are wearing did not start out as jewelry. It is as offensive as a hangman’s noose about your neck.
Divine Suicide is a needed book for a church where preaching has drifted into a series of self-help life application sermons. It recovers the theology of atonement in a way that too many seminaries and pulpits have neglected or denied.
From the author, “…little doubt should remain that early Jesus followers treated the crucifixion of Jesus as the first and most important narrative of the faith.” The author introduces us to the concept of devotio in the atonement. A concept which I will allow the reader to acquire from the book. It changes the cosmos.
If in one week every preacher would read this and take it to heart then the next week every church would preach Christ crucified. If every person who had lived since Adam and Eve had escaped the fall…if the only sin the world had known is what came from me…then Christ would go to the cross for me.
When I purchased my copy the vendor only offered the paperback. Hardcover is available from the link above. This is not a disposable book to be read once and passed along. This is a book that I will reread and hand down.
[Note: This is an academic text with commensurate vocabulary, yet the typical reader with an interest in the subject should negotiate it with little difficulty.]
For the Body: Recovering a Theology of Gender, Sexuality, and the Human Body, Timothy C. Tennent, Zondervan Reflective, Seedbed
The third theme related to the image of God is the dignity of representing God’s presence in the world through our very physicality. God’s fashioning of man and woman in his image is the climax of the creation (Gen. 1:26, 27) and serves to bring the whole purpose of creation together. The phrase “image of God” is applied exclusively to God’s creation of man and woman—no other creative act includes this description.Chapter 1, p 11
To a church which has responded to transient social mores with ad hoc practices often based on nothing more than a public opinion poll, Dr Tennent offers us something we can trust. “Trust” and variants of the term appear throughout the text. We can trust Divine revelation. Our bodies are a an aspect of Divine revelation. We can trust our bodies.
In conversational style the author walks us through Scripture’s narratives and points us to particular signposts along the way. At times, readers may find themselves saying, “I knew that, or at least I should have known that. Now, I remember I can trust it.”
The style is conversational. The tone is invitational. One does not use an invitation to slap a person in the face. The author does not slap us in the face with Scripture. Even when criticizing modern errors and abuses (he is neither shy nor vague on these points) Scripture is used as invitation to participate in the goodness of God’s creation and his better way for the body.
Dr. Tennent doesn’t stop at presenting a trustworthy theology. He includes a discipleship method for communicating truth that can bring coherence to our beliefs, worship, and daily living.
Two Half Books For Apologetics/Evangelism
I don’t mean to suggest that the authors produced only half a book, nor that either work is inferior. Quite the opposite. Each of the books is important for the preacher/teacher as evangelist and apologist. However, the following two texts when read together can better equip the preacher/teacher for today’s challenges. Both address the same subject. One is strategy: the other is tactics. If you benefit from the one then you will certainly be enriched by reading the other.
In referring to them as half books I mean only this: While each is able to stand on it’s own and stand out from the mediocrity in Christian publishing, I would not go so far as to recommend either of them if the other did not exist to be read with it. Without a method like the Davis book, the concepts of the Ordway book are erudite curiosities. Without first internalizing the concepts of the Ordway book, Davis’ technique will produce modest results at best.
APOLOGETICS and the CHRISTIAN IMAGINATION: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith, Holly Ordway, Emmaus Road Publishing
The world is flooded with data, and it is fatally easy to be overwhelmed by it; and it may be that the last cry of those drowning in nonsense is “What does it all mean?” How can meaning be imaginatively created, and how can it be used by the apologist to draw the seeker toward Christ?P 363
The preacher/teacher in the post-Christian West faces a new challenge. It used to be that the evangelist/apologist engaged people who did not know Christ. Today, we address people who have rejected Christ. Rather, they have rejected the Christ that has been presented to them through secular education and media. It is more difficult to get people to change their opinions than it is to introduce them to a new idea.
To exacerbate the problem we do not even have a common vocabulary or shared cultural points of reference. What does love mean? What does family mean to someone who introduces you to their step father’s third wife’s first husband’s brother? For many, the words, “Christ died for our sins,” are unbelievable because they are unimaginable. People have no reference point for the concept and rely on distorted definitions for the words, therefore their imagination cannot provide meaning to the data. People have access to an overabundance of data, but are starved for meaning.
Ordway leads us through an exploration of post-Christian reasoning and offers a strategy for breaking through its barriers. The work of the preacher/teacher is to stimulate the imagination of the hearer and take them into a world that is foreign to their own.
Through analysis, example, and illustration the author demonstrates the means by which we awaken people to the reality of the supernatural and challenge the presupposition that the material world is all that is.
Simplify the Message Multiply the Impact, Talbot Davis, Abingdon Press
While I allow there is a place for the old three-points-and-a-poem sermon, it is a very limited place. Davis proves the case for the one point sermon. Who needs to hear this? Every preacher…and Sunday School teacher, youth leader, and small group leader.
There is more to it than writing a sermon with the clarity of a single point. One could do that and still be boring and irrelevant. In Simplify, the author gives us a functional process for implementing the strategy laid out in the Ordway book reviewed above. We don’t need data points. We need meaning. Davis covers every aspect of one point sermon development from exegesis to delivery, all with the singular goal of transforming the hearer rather than informing the hearer.
The book is only 116 pages, so any more of a review runs the risk of copyright infringement. The length is consistent with a good philosophy of preaching: Say what you have to say and sit down. Use every word it takes to complete the message. Don’t add one for filler nor subtract one to make it fit the clock. We have too many fifteen chapter books written by people who have only one chapter’s worth of material.
[The book has a website that offers additional resources and a course in preaching.]