17 April, 2024

FROM MY BOOKSHELF: For Presiders, Preachers, Prayers, and Other Leaders

by | 15 March, 2009 | 0 comments

By LeRoy Lawson

Clinton J. Holloway, Lest We Forget: Meditations at the Meal of Remembrance (Cold Tree Press, 2008).

August 2008 featured selections in Christian Standard from this collection by Clinton Holloway of meditations on the Lord”s Supper. This helpful book responds to a need many a presider feels when trying to offer a fresh thought before the worshipers partake.

Some of Holloway”s offerings are refreshingly original, others more predictable, and yet others will spark your own imagination. Each focuses our attention on the reason for our worship. And, to one who has sat through””and even been guilty of presenting””sometimes rambling and other times interminable meditations, these are welcome for their brevity and pertinence.

David Timms, Living the Lord”s Prayer (Bethany House, 2008).

Every now and then, over a long ministry, I”ve done something right. Not as a regular practice, but just often enough to keep me from despair. Here”s one of them. Twice in the late 20th century I had the opportunity to teach in a little Bible college near Sydney, Australia. There I became acquainted with the lead professor, a brilliant young man named David Timms. Not only was I impressed with his pedagogical skills, but when he invited me to join his family for a meal in their home, I fell in love with his wife and three little boys.

I resolved then that if I ever had a chance to call him to our faculty at Hope International University, I would do so. When that chance came (unfortunately precipitated by the worsening health of his father-in-law in California), I jumped it. To this day I boast of that move as one of my better decisions.

Living the Lord”s Prayer is the evidence. Here Timms, now the director of ministerial studies at the university, parses Jesus” famous prayer. He believes “the concepts and insights [of the prayer] have the capacity to remold our lives entirely.” It “reveals the building blocks for authentic spiritual formation.”

Building on Wil Hernandez”s definition of spiritual formation (“the process of being with Christ in order to become like Christ and consequently live for Christ”), Timms leads us in provocative meditations on each word and phrase. “Ultimately,” he rightly insists, “the Lord”s Prayer reveals more about how to live than how to pray.”

Dean Summers, Marching to Zion (Holly House Publications, 2008).

I smiled all the way through Dean Summers”s book of sermons. Reading his words I could hear his voice. He made me think of Phillips Brooks (mostly famous for “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” but also a great preacher and teacher of preachers) who believed that preaching is “truth through personality.” Dean speaks the truth quietly, reflectively, compassionately; this is his personality.

Dean served as an intern minister with me in Indianapolis in the 1970s. I was supposed to be the mentor, he the mentee. The truth is I have never forgotten our year together because, with his penetrating questions and reflective insights, he was often ahead of me.

Dean does not preach for a megachurch. He is a preaching elder in the Japanese Presbyterian Church of Seattle, a multiethnic congregation of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, among others, with a handful of Caucasians. Dean, a graduate of Puget Sound Christian College, calls himself an “accidental Presbyterian.” From these sermons it”s pretty obvious that he has never left his “where the Bible speaks we speak, where the Bible is silent we are silent” Restoration Movement roots.

We wouldn”t have this book except that Dean”s wife, Jan, urged him to publish. She thinks he”s a good preacher””which is the ultimate compliment from a pastor”s wife, isn”t it? She knows he practices what he preaches. Thanks to her we have these 12 sermons, all of them preached to his fellow church members, all of them containing simple distillations of profound biblical insight.

As for me, after preaching for half a century, I have to acknowledge a huge debt of gratitude to the intelligent, incisive persons in the pew and in church leadership who have taught me how to become one “rightly dividing the word of truth.” Dean Summers is one of them.

Mark E. Moore, Seeing God in HD (College Press, 2008).

Listening to Professor Mark Moore”s scintillating Bible studies each morning of the National Missionary Convention last November was a treat. You”d think, after a lifetime of studying and preaching, that I”d pretty well mastered the Bible by now. (After all, many of my young friends are pretty well convinced they”ve “got it.” I envy their self-assurance.) Well, I haven”t. And that”s why I hung onto Moore”s every word. Even when I wondered whether he was right or not, I couldn”t accuse him of rushing to judgment. This man does his homework.

He also is good at helping us do ours. Seeing God in HD is all about hermeneutics, which is simply the art and science of interpretation. It”s what, if we would only take the discipline seriously, would keep us out of a whole lot of trouble and save a lot of breath as we argue over what this verse or that passage means. It”s the practice that makes Dean Summers”s sermons so refreshing.

After teaching at Ozark Christian College for nearly 20 years, Moore understands what young people need if they are going to be fair with their interpretations of Scriptures. It”s what we old people need, too.

Shawn McMullen, Releasing the Power of the Smaller Church (Standard Publishing, 2007).

First came Unleashing the Potential of the Smaller Church (Standard Publishing, 2006), then Releasing the Power of the Smaller Church. As a former pastor of a very large church who is now several months into a rewarding interim ministry with a small one, I”ve been brushing up on what is required in this different and, in many ways, more difficult assignment.

To anyone else either preaching or leading in the “typical” American church (that is, 200 or fewer worshipers on the average weekend) who needs ideas or encouragement, Shawn McMullen”s collections of articles by doers of the ministry and not talkers only will be like manna. They are products of the Energizing Smaller Churches Network, a very successful series of seminars held around the country to “strengthen smaller churches by affirming their value and enlarging their vision.”

I haven”t attended a seminar but I”ve read the books. And I”m doing a better job because I have. Or at least I like to think so!

LeRoy Lawson is international consultant with Christian Missionary Fellowship International and a contributing editor to CHRISTIAN STANDARD. His column appears monthly.


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