A terribly odd experience occurred to me in the past two months: I started taking a class…in December. That’s right, the fall term ended and I didn’t skip a beat. I was in the classroom for 40hrs. Dec. 12-16th and did the reading and assignments by Jan. 6th. Needless to say, it was a taxing experience, especially considering that I started a second winter semester class on Jan. 3rd! This second class was over by Jan. 12th and that meant that I completed seven classes total from mid-August to mid-January. It exhausts me just thinking about it.
Nonetheless, here is a description of the classes, some of my thoughts, and some of the books:
Leadership and Family Ministry by Dr. Randy Stinson – The reading for this class was all about how to serve and train families within the local church. The classroom lectures, however, were all about maturing our own families. Dr. Stinson’s conviction is that pastors and other church leaders will only be as effective ministering to other families as they are in ministering to their own. This idea seems consistent with Paul’s prescription for elders in 1 Tim 3:4-5, “He must manage his own household well with all dignity…for if someone does not know how to manage his own household how will he care for God’s church?”
Some of our Books: ApParent Privilege by Steve Wright (practically helpful, short in length, and radical if implemented; I thought it was so good, I’ve already given away a copy.), Peacemaking for Families by Ken Sande (some really good instruction on conflict resolution and relationship restoration), and Trained in the Fear of God by many authors (This book did something rare when thinking about family or youth ministry: It sought to give these ministries a solid biblical, theological, and historical foundation. Who would’ve ever thought of studying the history of youth ministry?)
Doctrine of the Church (or Ecclesiology) by Dr. Mark Dever – There were several times during this class that I thought to myself, “This course ought to be required for every student planning on going into pastoral ministry in a local church.” That said, I was deeply impressed by the importance of the issues we discussed in class. The class briefly covered the Patristic marks of the church (holiness, oneness, apostolicity, and universality). The real meat of the class, however, was in the Reformational marks of the church (right preaching of the gospel, the Lord’s supper, and church discipline/membership).
Some of our Books: The Church by Ed Clowney (I sometimes have a tough time following Clowney’s train of thought and find myself re-reading pages at times. Still, there was some really good stuff here, even though Clowney does not go far into his own Presbyterian distinctives.), Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches by Josh Hammett (This book should probably be re-titled “Biblical and Historical Foundations for Baptist Churches” because the author spends a significant amount of time on Baptist distinctives as they played out in history. There is, though, a ton of interaction with Scripture and the book is laid out in a very clear outline so as to be able to follow the author’s overall argument rather easily.), The Surprising Offense of God’s Love by Jonathan Leeman (This book was flat-out paradigm-shifting. His critique of our culture’s ideas of love and authority were devastating. His exposition of Matthew 16:13-20 and 18:15-20 were compelling in regards to establishing the cruciality of church membership and the importance of pastoral oversight of members. It’s a heavy and trudging read but worth the effort. I hear a shorter version is in the editing stages.), and Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman (This book by Leeman is very accessible and wildly helpful. I will definitely seek to give this book away as often as possible. O the power of God’s word to feed our souls and drive our ministries!)