Posted On August 15, 2016

Seven Questions about Books, Life, and Ministry with Zach Barnhart

by | Aug 15, 2016 | Seven Questions about Books, Featured

Let’s start out by telling our readers a little about you. (Current ministry context, family, joys in life, etc.)

I live in Knoxville, Tennessee with my wife of 3 years, Hannah. Currently, I am serving at Fellowship Church Pellissippi, a church plant in Knoxville, TN, as a pastoral resident. I’m in the final year of my residency and will be pursuing full-time ministry once it’s finished up. I plan on pursuing a Masters of Theological Studies seminary degree in the near future. In my free time, I enjoy writing at my blog and other para-church sites, disc golf, and reading of course!

What are you reading right now?

Normally my rhythm of reading is slowly wading through one major work and also reading around 4-5 books on top of that. I have spent 2016 slowly reading John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. Here’s what else is stacked up on my desk right now:

  • True Spirituality (Francis Schaeffer)
  • The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  • Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Ross Douthat)
  • Side By Side: Walking With Others in Wisdom and Love (Ed Welch)
  • Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies (Stephen J. Wellum & Brent E. Parker)

What are some books you regularly re-read and why?

These are more multi-volume sets of works, but I find myself continually in Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics and John Newton’s Works. Bavinck’s Dogmatics in my view is the best systematic theology work out there and is my go-to for doctrine.

As for devotion, Newton’s letters are some of the richest and most profound treasures, many of which can be found on Kindle and eBook for free. I read from them nearly every night.

I would say books I return to quite a bit are J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, Augustine’s Confessions, anything by C.S. Lewis (primarily Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory), and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. These books have been formative in my understanding of God, apologetics, and the importance and urgency of community and relationships. I should also mention Valley of Vision here, the best book of prayers out there.

What biographies or autobiographies have you read recently?

I just finished Steven Lawson’s short biography on John Calvin, which highlighted his preaching and exposition skill. Before that, I read a new biography on B.B. Warfield from Kim Riddlebarger that was very insightful. The next biographies I hope to read are David McCullough’s biography of John Adams and Tom Nettles’ Spurgeon biography.

Speaking of biographies and such, is there any particular one that has influenced you a great deal in your faith?

Tony Reinke wrote Newton on the Christian Life as part of Crossway’s masterful “Theologians on the Christian Life” series. It was the best book I read last year. It’s more of a “pastoral synthesis” but still, has quite a bit of biographical information. It exposed me to Newton’s works for the first time in a very engaging way, and as mentioned above, has prompted me to read his works continually.

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?

I would start them with the one I started with: John Piper’s Desiring God. No book of our time better articulates the glory of God and the goodness of Christian Hedonism than this book. I would also include these 4:

Knowing God (J.I. Packer)

Holiness (J.C. Ryle)

The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (Ray Ortlund)

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Donald Whitney)

What books have molded how you serve and lead others in the gospel?

There are three fairly recent books that I would recommend to each pastor or church leader to read. The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine, Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp, and The Pastor’s Justification by Jared C. Wilson. The message of all of these books cannot be overstated. Another great resource is 9Marks’ Building Healthy Churches book series, which carefully outlines important topics for pastors and church leaders, everything from expositional preaching to eldership to discipleship.

Finally, let’s conclude with this question. What are you learning about life and daily following Jesus?

One thing I’ve been studying and learning a lot about Jesus lately is that his ministry model is so counter-culture to the current status quo. Jesus, in many ways, encouraged a slow, journey-like approach to discipleship, was fine with a life of insignificance instead of acclaim, and exulted in doing the ordinary far more than doing big, awesome things. I want this sort of lifestyle to animate how I do ministry and how I live my life. The battle to want this sort of ministry over microwaved success, fame, and bigness is tough for most of us pastors but is a battle worth fighting.

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