Billy Gilvear // Monarch
This is an astonishing story of a man who went from a troubled Christian upbringing into the aggression of the British Army and elite officer training camp Sandhurst, to the hedonistic world of A-list celebrities. From there he moved into organised crime, and crack and heroin addiction. From this pit of destruction and desperation, he was saved by Jesus Christ. His life was turned around and his marriage restored.
This is the story which Billy Gilvear, writing with Eric Gaudion, recounts in Storming Home. You get the impression that separate books could be written about each different stage of his life, given the diversity of his experiences. Sometimes this book is necessarily brief and skates over parts of the story; at others it goes into more detail, such as his experiences as a young soldier. It’s certainly not a ‘tell-all’ and in particular, the book is discreet about the dark exploits of the rich and famous.
Gilvear’s life as a Christian is only a small part of the book at the end. The contrast of the love of God in his new life with the darkness of his past is wonderful, and his honesty about the struggles of his new Christian life are very welcome. But you are left wanting to know more about this, and how he got through these difficulties.
The evangelist J John endorses Gilvear, stating that he knows him well. It’s certainly a book that would be useful for evangelism, partly because there is very little of the ‘Christianese’ that is often found in such stories, and partly because Gilvear has had such an extraordinary life.
For Christians too it’s an interesting and inspiring story of what God can do in the very darkest of places. HT
WEAKNESS IS THE WAY: Life With Christ Our Strength
JI Packer // IVP
JI Packer seems to have set out here to write a pocket classic based on 2 Corinthians. But there’s also a back story. Packer’s hip disintegration and subsequent replacement left him struggling with a lack of energy and associated feelings of demonically inspired gloom. As he shares what he sees in the text, he also tells us that the teaching about human weakness being the perfect environment for God to show his strength, as we read in 2 Corinthians, has been precious to him through this personally difficult time.
I was looking forward to in-depth teaching on this kind of weakness ? but, strangely, the following pages cover all sorts of other subjects, many of which needed to have their connection to the theme of weakness explained.
The upside is a collection of beautiful, clear and succinct definitions of biblical ideas such as reconciliation, justification and imputation. With the gentle authority gained from Packer’s previous 40 or so titles, here the profound is once again explained in simple and few words. This is a small book but it packs a punch as tremendous as many of the great tomes from the author’s prolific past. HA
SINGLE-MINDED: Being Single, Whole And Living Life To The Full
Kate Wharton // Monarch
The Church can never quite get its head round the issue of singleness. It goes through the motions of affirming the value of single people but then can come over to them as being almost obsessed with marriage, even in its terminology ? for example, the ubiquitous ‘family service’. Marriage is seen as the default state, and singleness as something of an aberration, but a useful one given that (to quote a particularly irritating comment often made in churches) ‘Single people love to serve because they have more time on their hands’
Unsure how to respond to the phenomenon of singleness, the Church flounders with books and seminars that are replete with cheesy clichés about the abundant blessings of being unmarried. These can ring hollow to the single person, struggling to discern God’s plan for their lives in a world preoccupied with sex and relationships.
Kate Wharton is a vicar from Liverpool who, by her own admission, has never had a boyfriend. In her courageous, cliché-free and highly personal book, she addresses with humour and candour both the pluses and minuses of the single life. She offers practical suggestions on how churches can be more inclusive of those who are unmarried, and challenges single people to focus on being ‘sold out for God’. Her chapter on being single again (for example after bereavement or divorce) is surprisingly insightful for someone who has never been married, and her testimony at the end of the book is profoundly moving. This is an excellent book. JM
THE KINDNESS OF GOD: Christian Witness In Our Troubled World
David Smith // IVP
David Smith is a veteran missionary thinker who pastored a significant church in Cambridge before spending 25 years teaching theology in Africa. He has a warm heart, a sharp mind and pulls no punches in his forthright critique of the Western Church. He calls us to face some of the skeletons in the closet of the missionary movement, the current compromise the Western Church has made with capitalism, and the urgent need to listen more closely to brothers and sisters from the majority world. He is an essayist in the tradition of Lesslie Newbigin and Andrew Walls, both of whom feature heavily in this book. In a series of biblically grounded, globally informed and historically conversant essays, Smith forces us to re-imagine how we will reach the world with the gospel. He is winsome, wise, stimulating and deeply disturbing.
With a church culture full of both uncritical pragmatic activists and theologically informed armchair critics, this book is a valuable tonic. KK
THE WORD’S OUT: Speaking The Gospel Today
David Male and Paul Weston // BRF
Paul Weston and David Male both teach trainee vicars about evangelism at Ridley Hall College, Cambridge. The Word’s Out has been developed from their lecture notes. They tackle the usual studies into the deChristianisation of the UK, look at previous methods of evangelism and explore the implications of modernism, postmodernism and more recent cultural changes.
They balance theory with practice as they then each add ideas of their own ? such as Weston’s great ‘inside-out’ approach to evangelistic conversation which suggests avoiding theoretical philosophy and instead concentrating on the words of Jesus.
Most ideas are very practical, but there’s also a tendency to resort to waffle statements such as, ‘It’s not what we do but the quality of our spirituality that matters.’ One glimpse of genius was the Bible study on pastors/shepherds ? bad ones feed themselves and please their people, good ones seek the lost. SA
REVIEWERS: HUGO ANSON ? director of Grassroots Trust; SHARON ANSON ? director of Grassroots Trust; LUCINDA BORKETT-JONES ? deputy editor at Christianity; KRISH KANDIAH ? executive director: churches in mission at the Evangelical Alliance; JEREMY MOODEY ? CEO of Embrace the Middle East; JOHN PANTRY ? head of music at Premier Christian Radio; HEATHER TOMLINSON ? freelance journalist