EFAC Australia

Book Reviews

EFAC NSW was delighted to welcome the Rev Dr William Phillip as its guest speaker for the Annual Lecture held as part of the CMS Summer School at Katoomba in January this year. William (“Oor Wullie”) was present in Australia to give the Bible studies at the Summer School. He presented a very moving, engaging and faithful exposition of the events leading up to the death of our Lord as recorded in the Passion narratives of Matthew’s gospel, entitled “The Cross and Eternity”.

So it was with great delight that 250 or so EFAC members and friends gathered on the Wednesday afternoon to hear William speak about the impact and present state of evangelicalism in the Church of Scotland. For those who, like me, were largely ignorant of that Church, it was both intriguing and encouraging to hear of the ways in which strong evangelical leadership has been exercised in that denomination in the period that William spoke about, that is, from the Second World War on. By the way, the Church of Scotland is not the Church of England in a kilt. The established Church, it is Presbyterian in polity. The Church of England has its counterpart in Scotland as the Episcopal Church.

William’s father, James Phillip, a Bible commentator and preacher, was persuaded by the Rev William Still along with several others to form a group whose activities during the late 1940s and ‘50s and ‘60s would shape the Church of Scotland in a far more evangelical direction. Deliberately encouraging young men to consider parish ministry as their calling in life and giving them support and encouragement along the way resulted in a flood of new evangelical ministers into parish churches. (Sound familiar?) One of the vehicles of encouragement was the formation of what is called the Crieff Fellowship, a group, from what we could gather, much like EFAC, which is still active to this day.

Himself a product of this movement, William was able to give an objective assessment of its successes and failures. It did indeed fill Church of Scotland pulpits with Bible teaching ministers. So from the cities like Glasgow where William is the minister of St George’s-Tron, (right in the middle of the main street of Glasgow, literally), to the far-flung parishes of the Hebrides and the remote Scottish farmlands, the gospel has been faithfully proclaimed.

William, however, felt that there have been some unforeseen problems that have arisen. Ministers had not been trained to train the laity, and the result has been that, while an evangelical call sounds from the pulpit, many congregation members are far from evangelical in commitment and belief. He observed that the inroads of liberal theology have been quite substantial amongst congregation members. Indeed, during the Summer School William alerted us to the fact that on the evening before he gave his lecture his presbytery (like an area deanery) had voted to accept the appointment of an openly homosexual Minister who would live with his partner in the Manse. This is a first for Scotland, and even though a challenge has been brought against it which will be heard in the General Assembly in May, evangelicals will have to organise and fight hard to persuade the laity of the wickedness of this decision.

Before coming to Glasgow about two or three years ago, William had worked for five years under David Jackman with the Proclamation Trust in London. He has come back to Scotland at the ripe old age of 41 with a determination not only to help train up the next generations of Bible teachers but to provide ministers and churches with the tools for ministry and for equipping God’s people for ministry.

EFAC (NSW) is very grateful to Dr Phillip for his stimulating and cautionary lecture and CMS for again allowing us to use their venue to host this event.

Deryck Howell, Archdeacon of South Sydney and a long time EFAC member.

Review: ‘Growing Women Leaders’, Rosie Ward, CPAS 2009

Ward’s book ‘Growing Women Leaders’ argues for women gifted as leaders to take their place alongside men as equal partners in the Gospel. Ward is clear that her conviction of argument is primarily founded in biblical support rather than in ideas of justice and equality.

Ward launches first into a brief summary of the theological issues hindering women’s leadership in the church. The overall thrust of this survey is that the trajectory of Scripture is one that encourages both men and women to recognise and use their gifts of leadership and to work alongside one another to lead God’s church.

There is a brief survey of issues of translation and interpretation of biblical passages before Ward advances to examples of women in leadership positions throughout church history. Ward concludes from these examples of women answering their calls from God to lead that women have been constrained by man-made rules. The flavour of these chapters then seeps into Ward’s intention to explore the nature of leadership and whether men and women lead differently, concluding with the practical issues that women face in leadership within the church.

Book Review: Why Men Hate Going to Church

David Murrow, Nelson Books, 2005

I happened on this publication in the men's literature section of my local Christian bookstore, which many of you will know is very small compared with the women's section of the bookshelves. The title sounds a bit provocative and the contents challenge many of our notions of "Church". Nevertheless it's a valuable document if you're looking to connect with men in and around your church.

David Murrow has the advantage of a layman's perspective and he claims to have worshipped in congregations of "every stripe". His broad observations and pointers square with many of my own experiences in working among men in the church context over 25 years or more. His observations start with the obvious, i.e. churches have a male attendance averaging only 35%. In other words women outnumber men almost two to one. This is in line with the Anglican community in the Melbourne Diocese according to the 2006 National Church Life Survey.

Integrity: Leading without God watching. Jonathan Lamb IVP, 2007

This book is a tonic for the Christian leader's soul. Like some tonics, it may be regarded as medicine, best taken with food and inevitably swallowed reluctantly but dutifully, knowing that it is good for you. Very good for you.

So many books on Christian leadership pay lip service to the Scriptures and hurry on to pragmatic issue Save s of "how to do X or Y", hanging whole chapters on convenient pegs of scripture along the way. But not this book. Integrity is effectively a discourse on leadership based on Lamb's study of 2 Corinthians and themes arising from that epistle. It is material that has been shaped by various speaking engagements in his role as Director of Langham Preaching (a part of Langham Partnership International) including a Ridley Melbourne ministry conference in 2005. I have to confess that I attended that conference and found his presentation solid, but almost too solid and full-on for my poor first-year-out curate's brain!

Book Review: The Word of His Grace: A guide to teaching and preaching from Acts

By Chris Green. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2005, 978-84474-075-7,189pp., $A19.99, paper.

Many factors conspire against creating and sustaining an evangelistic culture in our Christian communities. In my experience, one of the key antidotes is the regular preaching and teaching of Acts. To this end, Chris Green, Vice-Principal of Oak Hill College in London has written an overview of the book specifically for the preacher, and this serves as a very helpful foundational tool.

This book is not a commentary. Green begins by outlining key principles for understanding Acts in toto, then in Section 2 breaks the book into 7 "panels", examining in more detail the themes conveyed. A particular strength in these two sections is Green's outlining of Luke's careful narrative structure, and the various narrative devices he uses, such as parallelism, escalation and contrast. Green is keen to show that Luke has not simply written a chronology, but has carefully structured his account with theological purpose. This exposes and highlights key truths and helps answer some of the recurring theological and pastoral issues raised by the book.