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

My name is Rick Hanna and I serve as senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Guilderland, NY, just outside of Albany. I am married with six children, three biological and three adopted from Korea. My greatest joy is my family and especially to see my older 3 following the Lord and using their gifts to serve God. I will celebrate 25 years of marriage to my wife, Heather, and we will celebrate our silver anniversary in true Hanna fashion: Walt Disney World (sorry if any readers boycott Disney)!

One of my true joys in ministry is to see people use their gifts in serving others, whether that be through ministry in the local church, ministering in their local communities or occupations, or those who chose the noble calling of pastoral ministry or vocational missionary work. It is exciting to see lives changed for Christ and to remember those who impacted me before.

What are you reading right now?

I mentioned this question to my son and he laughed at this question because I am a notorious book starter, but a lousy book finisher! I have many (too many some might say) books on my Kindle that I will read part of and not get back to finish, and as for physical books, a friend once commented that many of the bookmarks are placed after chapter 2 or 3.

So, in answer to the question about what I am reading right now, there are a number I could choose from, but I will list just a few (for the sake of this series of questions, I will state here only that, yes, I read the Bible most of all, both in a devotional way for my own growth and maturity in Christ as well as to prepare sermons and messages for my church. So all the answers below are reading done in addition to my Bible reading!):

True Worshippers by Bob Kauflin. I read Bob’s first book, Worship Matters and was given a copy of his book by a friend.

Transformational Groups  by Ed Stetzer & Eric Geiger: as pastor, I look for ways that will work within our church context to build community through redemptive relationships and so I look for books that have some helpful thoughts and suggestions that stretch my thinking. I have found much of what they say to be helpful in this regard.

Incomparable by Andrew Murray: I don’t think you can read books like this too often, books that beautifully proclaim the greatness of our God. This book takes a look at some of the attributes and descriptions of God from Scripture; a great aid to worship and serving God.

Thriving In Babylon by Larry Osborne: I am currently preaching through Daniel and got a good Kindle price on this book, so I took the plunge! I have enjoyed a few of Osborne’s other books including Accidental Pharisees, Sticky Church, and Sticky Teams. While not an exposition of the book of Daniel, it does address some of the reality that both Daniel and we face as followers of God in a society that is increasingly secular.

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

I do not do a whole lot of re-reading of books (see answer above on too many books started, not enough finished)! However, I do keep a record of books I have read along with a brief summary of what things were helpful for me so that I can consult that list when needed. I also do most of my reading on my Kindle and I take notes on the way through so that I can go back and skim through the notes I kept on each book I have read.

What biographies or autobiographies have you read recently?

I have not read many biographies recently. I tried reading Bonhoeffer’s biography by Eric Metaxas and got bogged down in the detail and never got back to it. I also have Metaxas’ biography on William Wilberforce on my kindle, but that too is collecting cyber dust.

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

I don’t know if it qualifies entirely as a biography, but I did read Secret Thoughts Of An Unlikely Convert which tells the story of Rosaria Butterfield and how God brought her to salvation. I found it to be an inspiring story of the power of God’s grace, while at the same time a helpful instruction to me about what we ask of people when we share the gospel with them. For many people, their current condition is more of an identity, a family, a heritage, and in coming to Christ, they are being asked to turn away from all they have been. It has helped me in relating to people of other faiths and helps me understand how difficult it is for them and how powerful God’s love is.

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 try to organize the books a bit to help them with various aspects of Christian living. 

Prayer: A Praying Life by Paul Miller; Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell

Suffering: Surprised By Suffering by R.C. Sproul; Looking Up When Life Gets You Down by Warren Wiersbe

Evangelism: Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman; Get Real by John Leonard

Discipleship: Multiply by Francis Chan; The Trellis & The Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

Leadership: Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

General: Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson; Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman;

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

  • Instruments In The Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp
  • An Infinite Journey by Andrew Davis
  • What Is The Mission Of The Church by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert
  • Call To Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson
  • The Church And The Surprising Offense Of God’s Love by Jonathan Leeman (some of this is broken down into smaller segments in his two smaller books Church Membership & Church Discipline)
  • Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome by Kent & Barbara Hughes
  • City On A Hill by Philip Ryken
  • Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

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

God has brought us through a challenging time in life and as the dust has settled from all the transition, we have found there is much that we have to learn. Through it, all God has been faithful to us.  We have seen God provide dear friends who supported and encouraged us more than we deserve.

We have seen God provide finances so our daughter could graduate college debt free and our son entering his senior year without any debt (yet)! We have seen God lead us to a church that, four years before we were called to be a pastor, felt led by the Lord to build a big parsonage in case God would bring them a pastor with a number of children. In all of this, we have learned that the things on paper may not add up, but if God is with us, we have nothing to fear. He has called us to live by faith, not by fear. Lord, we believe, help our unbelief!

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