Book Blurbs is a segment on the blog where I list books I’m reading along with a brief blurb about each book. The aim is to help you identify new authors and potential books of interest. Maybe I didn’t read every word of every page, but I read enough to mention them. I don’t list every book I read. You can find some of the books I read in January-April of 2022 below. You can find all the Book Blurbs posts here.
I’m posting this a little bit later than usual. My schedule feels in disarray still with the cross-country move, but I’m feeling more and more settled with each week.
1. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (4th edition) by Mark Dever
This is a modern-day classic (or something like that) on the structure of the local church that started out as a series of sermons. The first mark is expository preaching. I think I heard Mark Dever once joke and say something like, “The first topical sermon I preached was on expository preaching.” The content is excellent. Dever does a great job of majoring in the majors. Despite being widely used in broader Reformed circles, there is a benefit for every church pastor in this volume.
2. The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins
This book is the go-to book for employees of new vocations. This is my second time trying to read this book. I started it a while back but didn’t get too far. It’s filled with lots of great advice on starting off well at a new job, although a great majority of the content is not applicable to pastoral ministry. I still think The Unspoken Rules by Gorick Ng is a better book, though.
3. Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life by Zena Hitz
At the risk of overstatement, this is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a while. If you love the life of the mind, this book will thrill you. A rough reiteration of the thesis sounds something like this: learning is worth it for learning’s sake, even if it doesn’t get you anywhere. Forget about money, opportunities, and climbing the corporate ladder. Just see the value of learning for the sake of learning. If this is true, then it might be worth it to get another degree, even if you never use it.
4. The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey is polarizing. Millions love him, but many do not. In truth, if you are successful and confident, people will always find a reason to hate on you. Myself, I like Ramsey. I don’t have to agree with everything he says and does to benefit from his work. By God’s grace, I’ve always been frugal with money, but I think it’s necessary to read something on the subject every once in a while to keep me accountable. I appreciated the famous “baby steps” outlined in this book.
6. How to Get Unstuck: Breaking Free from Barriers to Your Productivity by Matt Perman
I’m trying to read every book on Christian productivity on the market, with Perman’s second book on the subject making the list. This book has a good amount of content on leadership and vision mixed in. Lots of helpful thoughts, but I enjoyed What’s Best Next more.
7. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart by Harold L. Senkbeil
An absolutely outstanding book on pastoring, probably the best one to be released in a while. Here in this book, you won’t find tips and tricks, but instead hard-won wisdom after decades of ministry. Senkbeil is a man who has suffered many blows but has stayed faithful to the Lord he loves. As a Reformed evangelical, some of Senkbeil’s Lutheran convictions made me slightly uncomfortable here and there, but certainly not in any way undermining my endorsement for this well-received volume. A great book to read for pastors.
8. A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos
We have two kids: one who is three, and a 10-month-old. I’ve been eager to start family worship but wrongly thought it was too early. Of course, we pray with our kids and read to them (at least for the three-year-old), but we did not have a formal structure of family worship. Thanks to Helopoulos, we do now. I’m sure, Lord willing, our family worship will evolve over the years, but right now family worship in the Kaywood home looks like this: after dinner, we read a Bible passage together (we are going through the Gospel of Mark), sing a song, recite the Lord’s prayer, and then I pray. No, it’s not perfect. Some nights we miss. Some nights we don’t sing. It’s messy in many ways, but I can tell it’s already bearing fruit. Leading family worship in my home has become one of my favorite things to do. If you have children and you are the leader in your home, I want to make a plea that you, unless providentially hindered, consider doing family worship in your home. This book teaches you how.
9. The Church: The Gospel Made Visible by Mark Dever
A short systematic theology on the church. It’s distinctly baptistic. A helpful resource.
10. The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper
I love John Piper. Books like this, in part, are why. One takeaway from the book that I’ve been ruminating over is the idea that one of the means of preaching is to preserve God’s elect. Wow, think about that, preacher. Those of us who are Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints, but how God does preserve his people? Partly, through your preaching. This was a big eye-opener for me and reinforced to me the sacred privilege of Christian preaching.
11. Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership by Alexander Strauch
Excellent. Endorsed by many respectable names. Is the go-to book on the subject. I’m not too far in yet, but I like what I see. I find myself in strong agreement time and time again.
12. Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples Through Scripture and Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer
This book inspired my article entitled Cultural Literacy for the Sake of Cultural Agency. I love this book and it has transformed the way I view disciple-making as a pastor. Highly recommend it.