Thursday, June 11, 2015

Academy of Parish Clergy Books of the Year for 2014 (Part 2)

A week or so ago we posted part one of the Academy of Parish Clergy's Books of 2014, and seeing as we are well on our way into June it is best that we post part two!

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison. Published by Intervaristy Press. Amazon Link

Many church leaders define the successful church as one that has grown rapidly to high levels of attendance and membership. Smith and Pattison ask us to question our adoption of this secular standard. They consider whether speedy growth is healthy for individual Christians, our relationships, and our communities. Pastors who have not experienced fast congregational growth will be encouraged by this call to a more organic focus on long-term commitment, compassion, community, and Sabbath rest, in through which we reconnect with the journey of Jesus and the early Christians.

The Good Shepherd: a Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament, by Kenneth E. Bailey. Published by IVP Academic. Amazon Link

This is not just another book about Psalm 23, but an interesting exegetical exploration of the Good Shepherd theme from the Psalm through the Prophets to the Gospels and beyond. This rich, well researched study considers historical, rhetorical, and theological issues. Bailey is an expert in Middle Eastern culture. This volume is fascinating reading, and it will provide excellent support for a sermon series on the Good Shepherd.

Reading the Parables, by Richard Lischer, Interpretation Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church series. Published by Westminster John Knox Press. Amazon Link

Richard Lischer's volume on the parables of Jesus is destined to be a classic text, sought out by scholars, pastors, and interested laypeople alike.  Lischer offers a grand over view of the various theories propagated by scholars on what exactly is a parable and how to read them, offers his own synthesized interpretation of individual parables, and emphasizes the need to experience the parables from the point of view of the poor. The final chapter of the book is a virtuoso tour through the history of parabolic interpretation as Lischer leads his reader on a conversation with the Saints of the church, from Augustine to Julian of Norwich, John Calvin to Martin Luther King, and the men and women of Solentiname, bringing their various readings of the parables into conversation with each other. Parish Clergy need to read this book to refresh them theologically as well as put new life into their sermons or Bible studies. Seasoned pastors will find this book refreshing. Students will find this book helpful as they learn how to read and understand the parables better through the guidance of a seasoned professor of preaching, theologian, and pastor. Lischer skillfully shows how the parables speak to real lives of people and are not to be seen as something foreign to our day and age. The parables are for the community of believers of all times and places.

Invasion of the Dead: Preaching Resurrection, by Brian K. Blount. Published by Westminster John Knox Press. Amazon Link

This little book is giant in nature. In short yet perceptive order, Blount is able to challenge  basic assumptions of the nature of the Cross and the mystery of the resurrection. Parish clergy will sharpen their focus and understanding of the Cross / death / resurrection of Jesus in a confused and cluttered culture. Here, in the mystery of the resurrection and not in the suffering of the cross alone, will one hopefully find the meaning of life and purpose. Practically, Blount challenges his reader to remember that Easter is not the only time to preach on resurrection. This may seem like obvious advice, but for the working pastor it can be difficult to find ways to connect visions of resurrection with the practical realities of ministry. Blount, thankfully, offers models that pastors can adopt to their own preaching ministry.

Convictions: How I learned what Matters Most, by Marcus J. Borg. Published by HarperOne. Amazon Link

A manifesto for progressive Christians, whom Borg challenges to "follow Jesus in life today." We felt it a fitting touch stone to the life and academic career of Marcus Borg, who died early in 2015. The Christian life is becoming passionate about God and participating in God's passion for a different kind of world, here and now. This is vintage Borg, and a worthy addition to any progressive pastor's study.

Reference Book of the Year


Deuteronomy, by Deanna Thompson, from the series "Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible." Published by Westminster John Knox Press. Amazon Link

Deanna Thompson has published what I think personally is the ideal commentary, the platonic model of what a commentary should and can be. Extremely well written, challenging, not afraid to ask questions of the text and of its reader, enlightening, and perhaps most helpfully to busy pastors, theological, not exegetical, in nature. And here is a huge plus--it is readable!. This book invites us to think through Deuteronomy as Christians, and that's important. Dr. Thompson has provided us with a book that makes preaching through Deuteronomy not only an intriguing possibility, but something I personally want to do. This is a good book. You should buy it and tell your pastoral colleagues to buy it as well.

Book of the Year


The Church According to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ, by James Thompson. Published by Baker Academic. Amazon Link

This is the best book on the church I've ever read. James gets rid of the buzzwords, of the jargon that contaminates present popular commentary on the church, commentary that we perhaps being constantly mocked on our facebook pages, and goes back to the source, the writer who talks more about the church than any other author in the New Testament. He allows us to think of the church with and through Paul. Academic, yes, but readable. It is written in a way that pastors can and should engage for the purposes of pastoral ministry. We think in order to do, and in how we think and in what we do, we are able to be. Thompson draws attention to the fact that Christians are called to be the Church. This is an important book, and should pastors engage with it and Paul's vision of the community called to be conformed to Christ, our selection committee feels strongly it will be of great benefit to our churches, and more importantly, the people we are called to serve.

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