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The 2015 Book of the Year Award, for the top book for parish ministry published in 2014, is awarded to: The Church According to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed, by James Thompson (Baker Academic)

James gets rid of the buzzwords and jargon that contaminates present popular commentary on the church and goes back to the source> Her goes back to the writer who talks more about the church than any other author in the New Testament. He allows us to think of the church with and through Paul. This is academic but readable. It is written in a way that pastors can and should engage for the purposes of pastoral ministry. We think in order to do, and in how we think and in what we do, we are able to be. This is an important book, and should pastors engage with it and Paul’s vision of the community called to be conformed to Christ, our selection committee feels strongly it will be of great benefit to our churches, and more importantly, the people we are called to serve.

 

61V+H8SG6UL._UX250_152_DeuteronomyThe 2015 Reference Book of the Year Award, for the top reference book for parish ministry published in 2014, is given to: Deuteronomy: A Theological Commentary on the Bible, by Deanna Thompson (Westminster John Knox Press)

Deanna Thompson has published what we at APC feel is the ideal commentary, the platonic model of what a commentary should and can be. Extremely well written, challenging, not afraid to ask questions of the text and of its reader, enlightening, and perhaps most helpfully to busy pastors, theological, not exegetical, in nature. And here is a huge plus–it is readable! Dr. Thompson has provided us with a book that makes preaching through Deuteronomy not only an intriguing possibility, but something we personally want to do.

 

In addition to the Book of the Year, the Academy selected the following books as the Top Ten Books for Parish Ministry published in 2014:

 

Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most. By Marcus J. Borg (HarperOne Books)

    We felt this to be a fitting touch stone to the life and academic career of Marcus Borg, who died early in 2015. The Christian life is becoming passionate about God and participating in God’s passion for a different kind of world, here and now. This is vintage Borg, and a worthy addition to any progressive pastor’s study.


Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure. By J. R. Briggs (IVP Books)

    It is a known fact but an avoided topic among ministers that they will encounter failure during their years of ministry. Briggs takes readers through a process of faithfully overcoming the shame, loneliness, and desire to flee that emerges in the midst of failure, towards the acceptance and restoration that can come as a result of failure. With Paul and Jesus as models, readers move toward freedom from the fear of and experience of failure. Written with a Christian view, we feel this book translates well into other settings.


Faith Speaking Understanding. By Kevin Vanhoozer (Westminster John Knox Press)

    Doctrine does more than state facts, it offers interpretive frameworks. Vanhoozer suggests that we think of theology like we think of stage directions. If, to quote Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” then theology, like stage directions, guides us through our performance of life in relation to a creative, redeeming God revealed in the story of God’s people Israel and in the person of Jesus Christ.


The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament. By Kenneth E. Bailey (IVP Books)

    This is not just another book about Psalm 23, but an interesting exegetical exploration of the Good Shepherd theme from the Psalm through the Prophets to the Gospels and beyond. This rich, well researched study considers historical, rhetorical, and theological issues. Bailey is an expert in Middle Eastern culture. This volume is fascinating reading, and it will provide excellent support for a sermon series on the Good Shepherd.

The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus. By Michael Bird (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

    In one volume Bird has provided a well-researched examination of the Gospels including their historicity and the relationship of oral tradition to written document. There is good discussion of sources and thoughtful citation of quality Biblical scholarship. While this book would be appropriate as a seminary text, its compact clarity makes it an excellent resource for pastors who wish to prepare a sermon series or an adult education class on the Gospels, or who wish to answer lucidly questions from thoughtful church members.

Invasion of the Dead: Preaching Resurrection. By Brian K. Blount (Westminster John Knox Press)

    This little book is giant in nature. In short yet perceptive order, Blount is able to challenge  basic assumptions of the nature of the Cross and the mystery of the resurrection. Parish clergy will sharpen their focus and understanding of the Cross / death / resurrection of Jesus in a confused and cluttered culture. In the mystery of the resurrection and not just in the suffering of the cross alone, one will hopefully find the meaning  and purpose. For the working pastor it can be difficult to find ways to connect visions of resurrection with the practical realities of ministry. Blount, thankfully, offers models that pastors can adopt to their own preaching ministry.

Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scritpure Today. By Adam Hamilton (HarperOne Books)

    This is the best single volume introduction to the bible that we know of that is designed to speak to anyone. Hamilton is a pastor, not simply an academic, and that comes across. He divides the book into two, one going into the nature of scripture and questions about this nature, “Is the Bible inspired? How does God speak to and through us?”, and two, “Making Sense of the Bible’s Challenging Passages,” going in depth on to the question as to whether Adam and Eve were real people, what to do with the books of Joshua and Judges, the questions over homosexuality and the Bible, and perhaps a little bit lighter but no less serious for some of our younger folks in church, “Is it okay to get a tattoo?” The Bible is by far the world’s best selling, most read, and perhaps most loved book. But it is also one of the most confusing–Pastor Adam is a good guide through it, and we recommend his book to pastors to share with their congregants.


Reading the Parables Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church. By Richard Lischer (Westminster John Knox Press)

    Richard Lischer skillfully shows how the parables speak to real lives of people and are not to be seen as something foreign to our day and age. The parables are for the community of believers of all times and places. This volume on the parables of Jesus is destined to be a classic text, sought out by scholars, pastors, and interested laypeople alike.  Lischer offers a grand over view of the various theories propagated by scholars on what exactly is a parable and how to read them, offers his own synthesized interpretation of individual parables, and emphasizes the need to experience the parables from the point of view of the poor.

Sensing the Scriptures: Aminadab’s Chariot and the Predicament of Biblical Interpretation. By Karlfried Froelich (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

    This book is a thrilling call to arms to read and interpret scripture creatively. Karl fried Froelich shows the many beautiful, challenging, enlightening, interpretations one can get from the text through this method. If you have a moment, check out Song of Songs 6:12– one the most notoriously challenging verses to translate in all of scripture. He challenges pastors, theologians, exegetes et al, to interpret boldly or not interpret at all. In closing this brief summary, I quote Dr. Froehlich on the necessity of bold interpretation in reading, preaching, and teaching scripture, “The goal of interpretation is not to remove dangers, but to face them squarely–and then to go out daringly on a limb.” Slow Church: Cultivation Community in the Patient way of Jesus. By C. Christopher Smith and John Pat-tison (IVP Books)

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison.

    Many leaders define the successful church as one that has grown rapidly to high levels of attendance and membership. Smith and Pattison ask us to question our adoption of this secular standard. Pastors who have not experienced fast congregational growth will be encouraged by this call to a more organic focus on long-term commitment, compassion, community, and Sabbath rest, in through which we reconnect with the journey of Jesus and the early Christians.