What makes Churches Grow?

What makes
Churches Grow?

Author Bob Jackson
Publisher Church House Publishing £16.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780715144749

This book aims to capture the positive signs of new growth in the Church of England and to understand and learn from evidence of helpful factors. It is written with mature hope and trust in God at work. The author provides a balanced and realistic approach to the evidence, combining recognition of human endeavours with God’s divine hand at work. The book includes many statistics and numerical indicators, practical advice with step by step recommendations, and a call to prayer. Growth is recognised to be three-fold: numerical, depth of faith, and power of ministry/service to the community. With lots of real and varied examples, the author encourages strategy – careful and prayerful localised planning – to fall in step with God’s agenda for building the kingdom of God. This book will be most helpful to those in diocesan and local church leadership. However, it does give strong encouragement for engagement by the whole church in the mission and growth agenda.


Mission: Leadership


The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

Author Kenneth E. Bailey
Publisher SPCK £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281073504
first issued by IVP 2014,
this edition is also in print.

We all know and love Psalm 23, but Kenneth Bailey’s latest Bible study provides many fresh insights. Read his book and you will learn the difference between a rod and a staff, and much more besides. He goes on to show how the metaphor of the Good Shepherd is used and developed throughout the Bible, including Jeremiah (on bad shepherds), Ezekiel (bad sheep), Zechariah and the four Gospels (sending shepherds out to seek the lost sheep) and 1 Peter, who told us to be good shepherds, too. All this is illuminated by the author’s extensive first-hand experience of life in the Holy Land and his deep knowledge of Bibles in Arabic. After you have read this fine book, Psalm 23 will never seem the same again.


Psalms, Biblical analysis


Who were the Church Fathers?

Who were the
Church Fathers?

Author Marcellino D’Ambrosio
Publisher SPCK £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281074129

This is a wonderful book if you are interested in Church history. It spans the earliest days of the Church from 100AD and to c.749. It brings alive those great teachers of faith beginning with Clement and ending with John of Damascus. We read about the rise and fall of Arianism, Gnosticism and how the early Church suffered such great persecutions. It does challenge and inspire us to look again at those great thinkers who agreed the Nicene Creed, or helped define what goes in the Bible and what was left out. It was interesting to see that the words we use as the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer are so very similar to the words used in the third century by Hippolytus. It helps our understanding and knowledge of salvation, sacraments and doctrine. I would recommend this book, it blows away the cobwebs of dry theology and makes the early Church much easier to follow.


History, Patristics


Lucky to be an Artist

Lucky to be an Artist

Author Unity Spencer
Publisher Unicorn £30
Format hbk
ISBN 9781910065600

In her candid memoir Unity Spencer feels lucky to be an artist. She was, however, unlucky to be a daughter of a famous father, Stanley Spencer, who was divorced by her mother Hilda Carline (also an artist). This brought insecurity into her life and led to different people caring for her. Lonely and lost, she was hard on herself and others. Until she turned to art and found sanctuary in religion, first Anglican, then Quaker faith and practice, and an awareness of ‘redemption’. She realised she was loved for who she was, as she was, and came – with help – to accept and love herself. Having a son called forth sacrificial love and a togetherness she had hitherto missed, despite his father being impossible.
It is a harrowing story but with light and joy by the end. Beautifully designed, this very visual book has a fine self-portrait on the cover. Really two books, it places photographs, paintings by her parents, and lots of her drawings and paintings round her text, which includes letters and diary extracts.




The Gospel According to Luke

The Gospel According to Luke

Author James R. Edwards
Publisher Eerdmans/Apollos £42.84
Format hbk
ISBN 9780802837356

This latest addition to the Pillar New Testament Commentary series is a most worthwhile acquisition for any preacher who is serious about trying to give a sense of the overall narrative shape and main themes of the third gospel. Edwards quotes the text of the NIV English translation, but there is frequent reference to the Greek text and an astonishing array of extra-biblical texts from the Nag Hamadi codices to Josephus, the Babylonian Talmud to Latin classical writings. Full author and subject indexes are strangely set off by only 3 pages of bibliography. However, bibliographies go out of date quickly and I will want to consult this book for many years to come. It is well written in an easy, lucid style, the scholarship balanced by fine imaginative insights. I was particularly struck by Edwards’ suggestion that, on the allegorical level the older brother whose younger sibling was so prodigal, is not just symbolic of the Pharisees, but a portrait of
Saul of Tarsus. The ending of the story is delayed on purpose, to be taken up again in
the Book of Acts.

New Testament Commentary


Peter’s Preaching: the Message of Mark’s Gospel

Peter’s Preaching:
the Message of
Mark’s Gospel

Author Jeremy Duff
Publisher BRF £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857463500

This is a latecomer to the Markan library, and is not a commentary but a guide to reading Mark’s gospel. It is based on the idea that what we have in Mark’s text is a kind of compendium of Peter’s preaching, written down by Mark – who incidentally seems not to have been the young man who ran off naked after Jesus’ arrest. The author presents us with a different way to read Mark’s gospel, taking a thematic approach – miracles, the identity of Jesus, parables – and shows how carefully the original text was structured to make particular points. Duff writes accessibly and intermingles biblical exposition with some telling contemporary illustrations. There is a wealth of preaching material here and many helpful insights. The author also includes some interesting historical and contextual comments, such as that Mark was perhaps responsible for encouraging the use of the new codex format in preference to the more traditional scrolls. This highlights the one failing of Duff’s book – the lack of references to any other literature. But this book is not offered as an academic text and his credentials are attested by his time as a New Testament tutor at Oxford – so we can take his word on trust. In the same way he encourages us to receive Mark’s gospel as Peter’s word to the early church – and to us – about the good news that is Jesus Christ.

New Testament analysis


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