Thursday, May 27, 2010

O Shepherd, Where Art Thou? – Calvin Miller

© 2006, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville

In the inspiring fashion of The Sermon Maker: Tales of a Transformed Preacher, Calvin Miller takes his readers down another worn-out path for many pastors—pastoral ministry, namely the task of caring for the parishioners. Employing the fictional Sam, again, Miller addresses the issues faced by many ministers who have struggled through years of leading a typical congregation, only to be jealous of the pastor down the street who is wowing the crowds.

In this new story, Sam finds himself seeking the advice of a nationally renowned preacher who leads a left-coast mega-church and advocates that every minister should delegate, delegate, delegate. In so doing, the preacher will find more time to think mega-thoughts, prepare mega-sermons, and build his own mega-church, with the people getting lost in the tidal wave of flash and show.

The book design might be at first distracting because of its unorthodox presentation. But just like this books predecessor, O Shepherd is a small volume with lots of volume. In the fictionalization of everyday pastoral life, Miller uses not an angel this time, but the ghost of one of the greats in Christian History—Richard Baxter of Kidderminster who advocated spending time being the shepherd of your sheep—to bring Sam back to the straight and narrow of being a pastor. Again the volume is rounded out with commentary on the left-hand pages with scholarly notes in the back.

While not as inspiring as The Sermon Maker, through the voice of Baxter Miller drives home some well-needed lessons for the pastor in these days of “bigger is better” church life. This is a welcome volume for any pastor’s library.

4 out of 5 reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, May 27, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pixie Dust – Henry Melton

©2010 Wire Rim Books, Hutto, Texas

I first encountered Henry Melton’s Young Adult Science Fiction a couple of years ago with his sophomore outing for the “Small Towns, Big Ideas” series, Roswell or Bust, and I was hooked. Having not been a fan of SciFi, but a big fan of YA fiction, I approached the read with trepidation. After that book, I find myself waiting (sometimes impatiently) for his next book.

This latest offering is a slight departure from the “STBI” series in that it’s set—not in a small town—in the city of Austin, Texas, and the featured character is slightly older than his typically high school-aged hero. He addresses this discrepancy by creating a new series—“Home Planet Adventures.”

Now to the reading, Jenny Quinn is a budding physicist working on her graduate project dealing with a new substance identified simply as dark matter. An accident in transporting the dark matter results in her personal contamination with the stuff, and the death of her professor.

Losing her professor, her research, and her desire to continue her education in one fell swoop, Jenny finds herself on the run, trying to hide the fact that she now can fly. She finds unlikely friendship in a lone trucker and refuge among the Carnies of a traveling show. By the end of the story, she’ll have opportunity to bring to life her brother’s comic book heroes and discover the truth about her professor’s death.

Melton jumps directly into the action with the catastrophe involving a dark matter explosion, and keeps everything moving as Jenny finds a way to keep herself alive and moving while hiding her new ability from the public view. The author also gets a chance to give tribute to his own childhood infatuation with the comic book industry not only with the story line, but also by dividing the story into numbered “issues” representing each segment of the tale. If you like SciFi you’ll want to read this book; if you like comic books, it will be fun as well; if you’re a Henry Melton reader, you won’t want to miss this outing.

Four out of five reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, May 26, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Sermon Maker – Calvin Miller

© 2002, Zondervan, Grand Rapids

At a recent conference I had opportunity to rub elbows with one of my favorite Christian authors—Calvin Miller. A long time pastor, educator and writer, Miller embodies many of the characteristics I want when I grow up to be a real preacher. One of the best things that Miller does is communicate. And he has a desire to see all preachers do that better and better. And so he has created some short volumes to inspire the pastor to be the best pastor he can be. This is the first of those volumes.

One of the great things about reading Miller is that you never know what you’re going to get—much like Forest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates. Within the 150 or so pages of this book you will encounter the fictional story of Sam, the beleaguered pastor who is rediscovering how his call to preach can take him beyond the typical mundanity (I know, I know: not a word) of three points and a poem cleverly alliterated for ease in memorization. Sam inspires the minister to re-visit his calling and so refresh his exposition.

The story of Sam is worth the price of admission in and of itself, especially as he interacts with Sermoniel the Angel of Homiletics. But Miller throws in commentary that allows the reader to dive deeper into the why of preaching via the story pattern. And the author puts a cherry on top of his sweet volume by including scholarly endnotes, if only to prove that he did his homework in the writing.

I must admit, I almost passed up this book because of the unorthodox packaging – story on the right-hand page, commentary on the left, with notes at the end of the book – but once I got into the reading, I found it wasn’t distracting at all. I also found that this design allowed to read just the story for continuity’s sake; just the commentary for clarification; or combine the reading to see how each relates to the other.

My recommendation for this book goes out to pastors who are caught in the grind of weekly cranking out lackluster sermons, to those who are looking for a new take on the old art of sermon-writing that will bring life back to their pulpit ministry, or to ministers who find themselves being weighed down by the monotony of taking on their own “Emma Johnsons” week after week. If you’d like to see your pastor revive the life in his sermons, you might consider gifting him this book.

5 out of 5 reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, May 25, 2010

Popular Posts