"A commitment to a biblical foundation doesn’t mean student ministry should have a stained glass feel to it."
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Student Ministry by the Book by Ed Newton and R. Scott Pace will help you build, rebuild, or maintain a healthy student ministry. You won’t find trendy techniques or statistics for stacking your student ministry. Newton and Pace write solely to display God’s plan for your student ministry.
A commitment to a biblical foundation doesn’t mean student ministry should have a stained glass feel to it. Knowledgeable of the complex and digital world of our students, Newton and Pace address our students' identity confusions and crises with ancient truth that is steadfastly contemporary.
Student Ministry by the Book is laid out in three distinct and fitting sections. The first section sheds light on issues that plague all of our lives, but especially today’s students. As I pictured the students in my classroom, their struggles didn't seem so foreign to the person I see in the mirror each day.
The second section is all about sustainability through discipleship and delegation. Away with the bug zapper model of youth ministry where everyone flows to the charismatic youth pastor only to be stung by the electric jolt of idolatry. The biblical model is to fill cups that overflow into other cups until all the cups are full—this is discipleship.
The final section puts boots on the ground. For student ministry to be effective, our students have to develop their own spiritual disciplines and biblical worldview. Without these, student ministry will impede their spiritual progress and send them into a volatile world without the necessary tools to fight the world, flesh, and Satan.
I devoured this book in an afternoon, marking page after page with “amen!”, circles, illustrations, and underlines. If I ever get the chance to assist in selecting a student minister or developing a student ministry for a local church, I’ll be consulting this short volume as a foundational part of the process. If you need to build or rebuild a student ministry, let Student Ministry by the Book serve as a blueprint!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When it comes to Christian theology and the application of biblical truths, the Puritans are among my favorite to read and study. Aside from the Puritans themselves, the name that comes to mind when I think of them is Joel Beeke, a Puritan scholar of the highest order. Having been acquainted with the writings of the Puritans and the Reformers from his youth, he has read hundreds (perhaps thousands) of books filled with Puritan and reformed sermons.
When I saw that Beeke released Reformed Preaching, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it. I had already come across his lectures on reformed experiential preaching, and I wanted to get my hands on a copy of the book so I could dive into the topic even further. To say it immediately impacted my preaching is an understatement. I have begun to weave application throughout my sermons, with extra focus on helping believers live in light of the truths of Scripture.
Beeke’s premise—the opposite of the most preconceived notions of reformed preaching—is that preaching shouldn’t simply be a rehearsing of exegesis in front of a crowd of people. For preaching to follow in the footsteps of the Reformation, it needs inform the mind of a the believer, but it fails if it doesn't pierce the heart and reach into the life of the hearer. That begins with the preacher who has experienced God and His Word in such a way before he ever proclaims it to the church. Only then can he powerfully deliver God’s Word in a life-changing way.
It is important that preachers don’t unnecessarily separate the objective realities of scripture with the subjective experiences of God’s presence and the working of His Word in everyday life. As those who are called to build up the church and preach sound doctrine, we must never lose sight of the reality that in our teaching, we are also discipling people to love God and obey all that He has commanded them. This is far from dry, dead orthodoxy. It should lead to lively, obedient doxology.
Two excellent features of the books are the biographical sketches of reformed preachers and their impact on theology and preaching today. These small biographical sections highlight the emphases of these preachers, their impacts on reformed preaching, and their productivity as men of God. These are sure to inspire and spur preachers on to the glorious and weighty task of pulpit ministry. At the same time, rather than a sentimental fascination with the preachers of old, Beeke reminds us of the importance of carrying the biblical and theological emphases from the reformation preachers into the present.
Preachers and those aspiring to the proclamation of God’s word should purchase a copy of this book and study it thoroughly. Though a hefty volume indeed (512 pages), it is jam-packed with encouraging and inspiring teaching on reformed experiential preaching.
Make sure you get a copy (or maybe one for your pastor!) and devote some time to work through this excellent and much-needed volume by Dr. Beeke!
God Can Use Reading Plans
It’s March, and though I recently changed jobs and have been a little under the weather, I've been striving for consistency in my Bible reading plan. This week I finished the book of Hebrews and I’m working my way through Numbers. I’ve been blessed by working my way through the great biblical history of the creation, fall, flood, and the Patriarchs, and it has been great to read of God’s providential work, especially the climactic parting of the Red Sea to rescue His people. I’ve seen (or heard on some days) our Holy God’s plans for dwelling with the sinful people of Israel who are more like me than the Bible superheroes I envisioned growing up. It has been a joy and blessing to follow the old paths and see God’s work among His people in the Old Testament.
In all honesty, at times it was difficult to get through some of it. Living in a world of instant gratification and entertainment doesn’t lend itself very well to 27 chapters of detailed laws, sacrifices, and bloody purification ceremonies that seem so foreign to the world I live in. There were some days that I didn’t fully grasp what I was hearing. On other days, it seemed like I kept hearing the same things over and over again. I was tempted to give up and ask: “What’s the big deal about the priest’s clothing and all these details? It’s not like I need to know or do any of this stuff since I’m not a Jew or a priest.” God knows what I need, though.
Now, I can honestly say I’m glad I read Leviticus last month. More specifically, I’m glad I read Genesis through Leviticus within 60 days of reading the book of Hebrews because I’ve always been told that I needed to know the law in order to grasp Hebrews. Though I don’t fully understand the law or the book of Hebrews, there is so much that I would have glossed over or missed in my reading had I not walked through the first three books of the Bible. In fact, there’s a ton I want to go back and study with greater depth because I can start to trace God’s argument in Hebrews.
God Opened My Eyes
It would be far beyond the scope of this post if I pointed out everything I’ve seen in Hebrews. In a brief reading of the book, you’ll notice angels, Abraham, Moses, Melchizedek, Aaron, the priesthood, Old Testament sacrifices, and much more, but I want to show you a few things I noticed while reading through Hebrews 9:
The tabernacle was only a copy of the heavenly dwelling place of God. The ordinances of the old covenant took place in a tent otherwise known as the tabernacle. Exodus 40 and Leviticus 1 will help to see the background information on this. Basically, the tabernacle was an earthly (and imperfect) shadow of the beauty of God’s presence in heaven. This is not something to take lightly—God gave the Israelites a taste of heaven on earth by dwelling among them! Through Jesus (who “set up tabernacle” or “dwelt” among us according to John 1:14), we also have access to heaven while on earth by “drawing near to God”.
This points us to the value of the prayer, where we draw near to God and experience His presence. It also points us to the local church, the people of God, where Christ dwells by the Spirit. Ultimately, it points us to our heavenly hope in eternity where we will dwell in God’s physical presence with no possibility of sin or death to separate us from Him.
Earthly purification and sacrifices were not enough. The people of God were physically purified from uncleanness through the sprinkling of the blood and ashes of a heifer. There were daily and yearly sacrifices on behalf of God’s people (including the priests) that served as a reminder of their guilt from sin and temporary atonement from that sin. This reminder pointed the Israelites to Jesus because only His blood was enough to justify and make people holy for eternity. His sacrifice was of much greater significance.
We need to remember that God doesn’t desire empty sacrifices of formal worship or our attempts to justify ourselves before Him. The only sacrifice that is good for our souls is Jesus’ payment for sin on the cross.
The high priest entered the holy of holies once a year. The second and most holy area of the tent, where God’s presence dwelt on earth, was the holy of holies. The high priest could only enter it once a year, and it was a fearful place that was not to be entered haphazardly or foolishly. They had to bring blood to purify themselves and the people they represented before God each time. In contrast, Jesus entered into heaven once for all to represent His people before God, and He entered by means of His own blood. This can only happen because Jesus, our great High Priest, is completely pure and free from any sin. He put away sin completely by the sacrifice of Himself and allows us to draw near to God in full confidence. Through Christ, we get to be in a relationship with God that no Israelite or believer prior to Jesus ever experienced.
We shouldn’t take this lightly, but we also should take advantage of the fact that we can approach God, our Father, with the confidence of a child speaking to his loving father. When you feel that you can’t come to God, preach the gospel to yourself! In Christ, your sins are paid for and you’re welcomed to the throne of God!
These observations and meditations don’t even scratch the surface of the depth of truth found in Hebrews, but if I had given up on my bible reading plan, three things probably would not have happened:
Keep pressing on. Keep reading your Bible, even when you don’t feel like it. Keep reading the Bible even when it seems boring and useless—the Old Testament too! God will work in ways you could never imagine!