Let’s start out by telling our readers a little about you. (Current ministry context, family, joys in life, etc.)
I’m the lead pastor for Fulkerson Park Baptist Church in the Michiana area and have served here since 2003. I’m married (to Holly) with four children.
Some of my great joys in life: taking Holly to dinner and a movie; one-on-one dates with my kids; golfing with my dad; reading late at night; the wonderful privilege of preaching the Word; weekly worship with my church family.
What are you reading right now?
I’m in and out of books all the time and many never get finished. So, read my list in that light. Some of these I’ll read through, others I will only dip into, read a few pages or chapters, and then move merrily along to the next book.
For my own edification:
- Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation 1483-1521, by Martin Brecht
- Luther’s Commentary on Galatians
- Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
- John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion”: A Biography by Bruce Gordon
- The Christian Faith by Michael Horton
- A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor by John Piper
Watching and Praying: Personality Transformation in Eighteenth-Century British Methodism by Keith Haartman
Multiple commentaries and expositions of Romans, as I’m currently preaching a sermon series on Romans 8. I’m most impressed by John Stott’s classic exposition, Robert Haldane’s older commentary, the sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Douglas Moo’s massive commentary in the NICNT series.
Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey. I’ve also been dipping into The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman.
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
- Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones is the most important book I’ve read on preaching. I reread it every few years.
- Augustine’s Confessions stirs my heart, inclines my affections towards God, helps me see the futility of sin, and makes me want to pray.
- Calvin’s Institutes is profound in depth and scope. It is robustly Trinitarian, warmly devotional, and exegetically insightful. It magnifies Christ. My appreciation for it deepens over time.
- Volumes 1-7 in The Works of John Owen. No one pastors me better than Owen.
- Anything by C. S. Lewis. My favorites include The Great Divorce, Letters to Malcolm, and Surprised by Joy. Lewis helps me see reality more clearly.
- The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. My own experience as a Christian maps onto Bunyan’s allegory really well.
What biographies or autobiographies have you read recently?
Most recent: John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat by Crawford Gribben.
Currently working on volume 1 of Martin Brecht’s trilogy on Luther and John Piper’s latest entry in The Swans Are Not Silent series. I’ve also recently dipped into a biography of the actor Paul Newman.
Speaking of biographies and such, is there any particular one that has influenced you a great deal in your faith?
I’ll name three:
The Journals of Jim Elliot, which I read as a teenager, helped shape my thinking about calling, ministry, missions, relationships, and especially prayer and meditation.
Iain Murray’s two volumes on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones thrilled me on almost every page. Lloyd-Jones perspective on the primacy of preaching in pastoral ministry continues to influence me today.
Last summer I read Scot Manetsch’s Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609. While it is more history than biography, what impressed me about this book was Calvin’s relentless commitment to preaching and teaching the Word (and multiplying preachers and teachers). This book then became one of the catalysts to beginning a training program for lay-preachers in our church. We’ve been at it for a year and are beginning to see fruit.
If you were sitting down with a fellow believer and they asked for your top five book recommendations on Christian living, what would they be?
This is hard to say because different people have different needs. But here are five of my favorites that I recommend fairly often.
- A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent
- The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction by Sinclair Ferguson
- The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg
- Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- Knowing God by J. I. Packer
What books have molded how you serve and lead others in the gospel?
- Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones has profoundly shaped my theology and practice of preaching.
- The Deliberate Church: Building Your Church on the Gospel by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander is one of the best books I know for helping the church think through every aspect of church life in light of the gospel. It’s a bit old-fashioned in places, so a good complement is Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. I think the two books balance each other nicely.
- The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller, along with Keller’s sermons, has helped me learn how to engage the questions and doubts of seekers and unbelievers.
- Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer has given me the best tools for helping people (including myself) think biblically about community.
- And more recently: You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith. While I’m still thinking through the application of Smith’s insights to my own life and ministry, I resonate with his insistence that we are not just thinking beings (“brains-on-a-stick”), but desiring beings and that discipleship, therefore, requires not only the transfer of information but the transformation of habits.
Finally, let’s conclude with this question. What are you learning about life and daily following Jesus?
I am learning that without Jesus I can do nothing, and that one of the most subtle and dangerous sins is the sin of neglect, and that prayer is never wasted time or effort.