As a pastor of a young church plant, I’ve been spending some time reflecting of the various influences that have shaped my approach to ministry and faith. I can sum up a huge influence with one word: BOOKS. Not that books are the only thing that I have learned from, but that they have been a companion on my journey of pastoral and spiritual formation. Through the written word, books (blogs and articles fit here too) have confronted my biases, surprised me with fresh ideas, affirmed intuitions, and shaped my understanding of God. Books are powerful. In fact, books are life-changing.
In this new and ongoing series, I’m going to alert you to some books that have been formative in my journey. These are not reviews per se, but are more like reflections.
The first life-changing book I want to reflect upon is “The New Testament for Everyone” (Amazon, Logos) by N.T. Wright. I will probably have quite a few Wright books in this series of posts, mostly because he is my ‘go to’ theologian.
Imagine a commentary series that is easy to understand, to the point, full of theological and historical insight, and extremely devotional. This is what the “For Everyone” series accomplishes. Anyone who wants to go to the next level in reading their New Testament would do well to use these books as their guide. For instance, when I was in college I spent several months walking through the Gospel of Mark. Several nights a week, just before bed (I’m so not a morning person!), I’d spend time praying, journaling, and reading “Mark for Everyone” (Amazon, Logos). That time, probably in 2006-ish, was one of the most fruitful times of growth that I have ever experienced – both theologically and spiritually. I can honestly say that God used “Mark for Everyone” in my life in a profound way.
One thing that is nice about these books is that Tom (NT) Wright has translated the Greek text into accurate and clear English. This translation eventually became the Kingdom New Testament (a wonderful version). Having this version of the bible alongside another quality translation (I prefer – Common English Bible or New Revised Standard Version) adds to the depths one can go into the Scriptures.
Anytime I talk with pastor/teacher types, I always encourage them to make the New Testament for Everyone a first voice into understanding the passage that they wish to preach about. N.T. Wright is the most prolific Biblical Scholar of our day but has the pastoral sensitivity needed to make thick theology come to life. This harmonious back and forth between scholarship and application makes the “For Everyone Series” a must have for anyone in vocational ministry… or anyone who simply loves to study the bible.
I have the entire set of commentaries on my shelf. Some are more worn than others. Many are marked up with highlights. They play a central role in my own theological and faith development. I have yet to be disappointed with any of the big ideas Wright explores in the volumes. From Matthew to Revelation, this series of commentaries is unmatched in its ability to convey healthy and thoughtful theology in accessible and life-changing language.
Recently, I also found out that these are available for purchase as a digital set from Logos Bible Software (and the upgrade). For those who want to be able to easily search out a thought or idea, the functionality of having these in a digital format is adventageous! I encourage you to check out this option as it may be a fit for some. Either way, whether in paper or digital, I hope that you will read these life-changing books!