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  1. Review: Shepherding God’s Flock


    April 22, 2015 by Bookworm


    Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond, edited by Benjamin L. Merkle and Thomas R. Schreiner

    Shepherding God’s Flock is an ambitious book indeed.  The work, in some sense, desires to be a one stop shop for all things polity.  In its pages you will find historical (Chapters 1, 5, and 6), New Testament (Chapters 2 and 3), polemical (Chapters 7, 8, and 9) and systematic (Chapters 10 and 11) theology, all aimed at giving the reader a robust understanding of how the church should be governed.  In that sense the title might perhaps be adjusted for accuracy by adding “How Should We Go About” before the current title.

    Perhaps the feature which most readers will find somewhat odd about Shepherding is that the title, which features chapters on Catholic, Presbyterian, and Anglican polity, is written exclusively by confessing Baptists.  However, this matter is presented in the introductory material in an upfront fashion, thus serving the reader through an honest presentation of presuppositions.

    In an attempt to put my own biases on the table as a reviewer, I too am a confessing Baptist.  Furthermore, it was with particular delight I received the notification that this book was being brought to market as (A), I am something of a polity wonk, (B) one of the editors, Tom Schreiner, is a favorite author of mine, and (C) I have a pastoral interest in Baptist ecclesiology.

    It should come as no surprise, then, that I find the arguments made in Shepherding to be entirely convincing – and even compelling.  I specifically found the chapters touching on the polity held by other Christian traditions, specifically Presbyterian (written by Nathan A. Finn) and Anglican (written by Jason Duesing), fair and irenic.

    The one point I found a bit of quibble I have with Shepherding, however, comes up in this specific section – Finn seems to argue that it is a unique feature of Presbyterian polity to differentiate between “teaching” and “ruling” elders (based on 1 Timothy 5:17), asserting that Baptists have historically rejected this distinction.  While it is true, as best I am aware1, Baptists have historically found no room for an elder who cannot teach (as Finn asserts) I also think it may be too great a reduction to say this text is merely functional or about compensation (pgs. 216-217).

    I believe Andrew Davis’ chapter (11: Leading the Church in Today’s World: What It Means Practically to Shepherd’s God’s Flock) would be useful and encouraging to any church leader, regardless of their final conviction on polity.

    I recommend Shepherding to anyone interested in broadening their understanding of how God’s word provides care for His people through human leadership.  Furthermore, anyone thinking through or examining the Baptistic perspective on ecclesiology will come away with a developed understanding of the positive assertions and nuanced disagreements the separate Baptists from other Christian traditions. This is a strong work and I believe churches will be well served when and if their leaders give Shepherding a serious read.

    1And far be it from me to challenge Finn on the subject of Baptist history.

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    Disclosure of Material Connection: I solicited this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an unbiased review.  I  disclose this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  2. Review: Collision Low Crossers


    April 16, 2015 by Bookworm


    One of the Bookworms (guess which) recently finished Nicholas Dawidoff’s Collision Low Crossers.  Here’s a brief review.

    Collision Low Crossers by Nicholas Dawidoff is a read for the hardcore fan.

    The author, who writes for about every periodical a writer would want to write for, received access to the New York Jets during the 2011-12 season.  When I say “received access” I mean “It’s hard to imagine they ever let him in that deep and I imagine no one will ever get a chance like this again.”

    Yes, this is very much a football book, specifically an NFL book.  Despite Dawidoff salting his presentation with literary references the book never departs from the New York Jet office complex in Florham Park, NJ.  The title of the book itself is a a bit of inside-football terminology that Dawidoff found a particular affinity for and there is plenty of “press coverage” and running Dime Spike One Vegas on 3rd and long.

    What drew me in to the narrative, and why I said this book is for the hardcore fan wasn’t actually the football.  The hardcore fan who will enjoy Collision is the fan of intriguing characters.

    Antonio Cromartie, infamous publicly for his libidinous excess which resulted in his ability to remember all of his children’s names when asked on camera, is revealed to be the product of a broken home – the scars of which leave him with such deep set insecurity he cannot take full advantage of his peak human athleticism.

    Brian Smith, aka Smitty, the Quality Control coach who functions in some ways as the coaching staff’s mascot and court jester, who is compelled mid-season to take on the burden of providing long term care for his fater.

    Mike Pettine, the Defensive Coordinator nurtured at the knee of a legendary H.S. football coach father who develops the strongest unit on the team – and has to prevent his stellar defense from beginning to view the members of the weaker offensive unit as an enemy within their own team.

    Rex Ryan, the bigger than life head coach – a born leader of men whose instinctual understanding of defensive football in unrivaled yet who cannot see the autonomy he grants to his staff prevents them from accessing his prodigious knowledge.

    So who should read this?  Sports fans, for sure.  NFL fans, certainly. But most of all those who find human interest stories grounded unshakably in human interest stories compelling, the ones who gravitate to the characters that real life can produce in a way that trumps even the greatest of writers.  Those are the ones who will enjoy Collision Low Crossers the most.