Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims by Daniel R. Hyde
4 out of 5 Stars
Publisher: Reformation Trust
Buy Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims
Reading Level: Easy
Discovering our place within the history of our church and rooting our theology to our spiritual forefathers answers many of the problems we face today. The novelties are rarely novel. They are the dried regurgitation on the bib of the early church. That’s what makes a book like Welcome to a Reformed Church valuable--it seeks to do two things: first, explains a misinterpreted term (reformed) and roots that term in its historical context.
As much as a I advocate for a broad understanding of the term reformed today so that it can rightly include our Baptist brothers and those who consider themselves reformed who are loosely Calvinistic, you can’t provide the leeway without first tethering the rope to the tree.
And lest you think reformed folks value being reformed over being a Christian, Guy Prentiss Waters says in the foreword,
We say, with the nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian theologian John “Rabbi” Duncan (1796-1870), ‘I’m first a Christian, next a Catholic, then a Calvinist, fourth a Paedobaptist and finally a Presbyterian. I cannot reverse the order’” (xv).
And later Hyde echoes this, “This term, Reformed, was a shorthand way of saying, ‘Churches that are reformed according to the Word of God’” (12). Everything commended from the confessions on is tethered to Scripture.
Hyde develops his definition around core distinctives of reformed theology: history, confessions, Scripture, Covenant as God’s Story, Justification, Sanctification, the Church’s Distinguishing Marks, Worship, & Preaching and the Sacraments.
As a guide, I found it helpful. My only concern is that those who are not familiar with reformed thought especially found in the confessions and creeds may be overwhelmed by larger quotations from these documents. In some of these instances, a glass of water might have served the weary pilgrim better than the garden hose.
The emphases on a living faith was refreshing. The Reformed are accused of being all head and no heart but Hyde points out that the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Catechism gives nearly 40% of their emphases to “holy living” or “sanctification” (88; see an helpful illustration about good works and justification on page 92). Passionate Christian living is a core tenant of reformed theology.
Welcome to a Reformed Church ends with an helpful question and answer section and a bibliography to help those who are interested in learning more. I would recommend keeping a few copies of this book on hand for those who have serious questions or interest in the reformed church. Especially in a church context, it could be used with great benefit for those searching.
A free copy of this book was provided by Reformation Trust. If you plan on purchasing Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.
Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching by Joel Beeke, Ed.
Feed My Sheep is an indispensable resource for preachers. It’s not a homiletic how-to rather it focuses on what preaching should be and what it should accomplish. And it’s written by some of the best preachers and communicators of our generation. You have essays by Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, James Montgomery Boice, Derek Thomas, Joel Beeke, R. C. Sproul, R. C. Sproul Jr., Sincalir Ferguson, Don Kistler, Eric Alexander, John Piper, and John MacArthur. If you could create a list of more qualified expositors I would be surprised.
They argue from the basic reformation principle that expository preaching (preaching that’s necessarily tied to the text) is a mark of the true church. Mohler argues for its primacy in the church. Boice discusses the foolishness of preaching. This chapter is littered with marginalia and highlights. Here is one of my favorite sections,
One of my predecessors at Tenth Presbyterian Church, Donald Grey Barnhouse, used to say that when he preached to an audience, he used to think of them as barrels sitting on the pews. Most of them were empty. But some of them had gunpowder inside, and his job was to produce explosions. He did it by striking the matches of the Word and throwing them into the barrels. When he hit one that had gunpowder, there would be an explosion. God put the gunpowder there. Then, as the Word was preached, there was a spiritual ignition or rebirth. This is one of the reasons we should value preaching so highly. (23)
Thomas explains the Scriptural basis for expository preaching and recommends the lectio continua (“continuous expositions” p. 36). Beeke stresses the need for preaching out of our experience which emphasizes “the intimate, personal knowledge of God in Christ” (54; one of my favorite chapters). He says exposition is not enough; we must apply the word (56). R. C. Sproul argues for preachers who teach. Preachers should be silent when the Word is silent but they should not shy away from assertions when Scripture speaks.
Sproul Jr. discuses preaching to the mind. He shows that this is the primary way the apostles engaged their hearers. Ferguson contrasts that with preaching to the heart which does four things: “instruction in truth, conviction of the conscience, restoration and transformation of life, and equipping for service” (105). Alexander urges for evangelical preaching. He reminds us that only Christ saves but it’s the Christ found in the Bible (125). John Piper in his typically fashion attacks the preacher’s duty through the lens of suffering and joy. He argues the preacher must preach so that his hearers treasure Christ alone and are prepared to suffer. He also must demonstrate this kind of joy through suffering in his own ministry. John MacArthur ends by reminding pastors that their abilities and skills are not necessary for the success of the gospel. They are clay plots. It’s faithfulness in preaching the word that produces God-honoring results.
This review has been more summary than my typical review but I wanted to give the preachers out there a quick taste for what they will find in Feed in My Sheep to encourage you to buy it if you haven’t read it. For young preachers being ordained and installed, this book should be on top of your reading list. It’s practical and Biblical and it might just save you the headache from worrying about which program to invest in and what will be most successful in drawing people to Christ. The short answer is preaching but you need to read the book to get the full impact.