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Well-Researched Pastor Ignites Passion for Christian Books

I first met Jon Rising when we moved to our present home about 32 years ago. A native of Port Huron, Michigan, Jon has lived in Cobourg, Ontario, in Florida, and several years ago moved to Vancouver in order to complete a Masters degree in Theology at Regent College. Over the years, Jon has proven to be an excellent resource person on Pentecostal history (particularly the Latter Rain Movement) and Bible reference material. He’s been sharing a number of personal reflections on Facebook, and I thought that this one, with his permission, deserved to be here as well.

by Jon Rising

I started buying and reading books – lots of books – roughly 50 years ago. Few things have brought me as much pleasure. And I remember exactly how it got started.

It was prompted by the ministry of Pastor James Beall… [T]hough he was well-read, it isn’t that he advocated rushing to the bookstore and buying armfuls of books.

His ministry stimulated an interest in reading because I could tell his sermon preparation was more extensive than other preachers. He had information in his sermons that they didn’t.

In Pentecostalism, there are plenty of preachers who work themselves into a lather, but if you listen closely, that kind of preaching is trite and thin on insight.

If we make an analogy to eating, it’s like getting served nothing but boiled potatoes at every meal. Nourishing to a degree, but lackluster and with nothing to make you look forward to the next meal.

Pastor Beall, just like the great evangelical preaching mentor Haddon Robinson, knew how to set out a gourmet meal. The basics were always present, but it was also the presentation and spices that brought delight.

Biblical background information comprised a lot of his ‘extras.’ And I knew instinctively where he got that stuff – books. I mean, you can pray all night, but the Lord is not going to download the historical setting of ancient Middle Eastern people into your mind. The same with the literary devices they used or nuances of the languages they spoke. You get those extras – and much more – from books.

Since you and I didn’t live 2,000 years ago, we need the expertise of those who have carefully researched those times so that we may have a better sense of what the Biblical messages meant when they were first written.

It must have been that I said things to my mother and my pastor, Belle Barber, that alerted them to the fact that Jonnie was starting to think about things other than baseball cards and batting averages. I don’t really recall.

But, what I do recall is that on my birthday both of them bought me an uncommon gift for a 15-year-old (this happened without them consulting each other).

From my mother I received the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary and from Pastor Barber I received Adam Clarke’s one-volume commentary on the Bible. Those were good foundational resources for a teenager to begin serious study of the Bible. And I couldn’t have been happier.

That’s the sweet spot of gift giving, isn’t it?! When you give someone something that is both unexpected and yet the perfect item for them.

And so it began. After buying myself a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, additional acquisitions were determined as the result of thumbing through books in Bible bookstores and taking home what seemed to provide answers to questions that arose in my Biblical studies.

But, a novice book buyer might not know whether he’s taking home the writing of a fair-minded scholar or that of a polemicist with a theological ax to grind. Such a buyer might also have a difficult time discerning expert scholarship from shoddy scholarship so poor it does not deserve the label, scholarship.

In time, books by Joseph Allison, Cyril Barber, and David Bauer would become like trusted, constant companions. All three of them had written books recommending worthwhile Biblical study resources. That trio are not (and were not even then) the final word on what are worthwhile and trustworthy resources, but their books were a place to a start (especially so I would not go broke drilling, as it were, dry holes – i.e., buying books that just collected dust on the shelf).

Two big breakthroughs in the building of my library occurred when I acquired books by Edward Goodrick and Gordon Fee (I was an adult by this time).

Goodrick’s book, enticingly named, Do It Yourself in Hebrew and Greek: A Guide to Biblical Language, did not make me an expert in Hebrew or Greek, but it did, in addition to the rudimentary language information, point me in the direction of F. F. Bruce, who was back then the foremost evangelical Biblical scholar.

Goodrick said he bought everything Bruce wrote. I began to do the same and was never disappointed. My Biblical studies and library now had some traction…

This is part of a series which continues with Jon reflecting on the of influence Gordon Fee.

Babylon Bee Spoofs Our Glorious Industry

For those who’ve been asleep most of the year, The Babylon Bee is a relatively recent arrival to the Christian satire genre which has taken the Evangelical world by storm with its uncanny insights into our wonderful subculture. Normally we wouldn’t re-blog an entire article here (we’d leave crime like that for our other blogs, Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201) but (a) this time it’s our corner of the world — Christian publishing — in the spotlight and (b) you guys are gonna play nice and click the title link below to read this at source. Not here. Why are you still reading?

Of all the top book lists you read this month, this is definitely going to be one of them.

Top Ten Books Of 2016

It’s the end of the year already, and that means it’s time to count down the very best books of 2016.

Using The Babylon Bee‘s proprietary book analysis algorithm, we managed to cut through the chaff of the millions of terrible books released this year, with only the elect few making our definitive, authoritative top ten

10.) We Can’t Dance If We Want To: Living In Holiness — John MacArthur: MacArthur excellently builds a scriptural case against rhythmic movements of any kind, especially in church. Readers will leave this book with a renewed sense of reverence, and a fear of taking their hands out of their pockets for any reason.

9.) ? — Rob Bell: “I was thinking about what I wanted my new book to convey,” Bell said thoughtfully in a short YouTube video designed to promote the May release of New York Times bestseller ?. “And it suddenly hit me—I really have no idea. I mean, about anything.” This masterful work features thousands of question marks arranged on each page in no discernible order, as well as several chapters written in Sanskrit.

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8.) Royalty Checks Are For Real — Todd Burpo: Burpo’s inspirational work will encourage your faith that six, even seven-figure book deals aren’t just fantasy—they’re very, very real. A gripping read from start to finish.

7.) Hyphenating To The Glory Of God — John Piper: Piper focuses with white-hot, laser-like intensity on, as he puts it, “the all-other-punctuation-mark-surpassing splendor” of the hyphen. Soul-stirring and paradigm-shattering, you should not miss this all-too-important, not-exactly-like-his-usual-books-but-still-vintage-John-Piper work.

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6.) Worldview: The Worldview: Worldview Edition — Al Mohler: Al Mohler is right in his wheelhouse when writing about worldviews, and his latest work, Worldview: The Worldview: Worldview Edition is an excellent guide to worldviews and the worldviews that view them in the world.

5.) The Case for Calzones — Lee Strobel: While Strobel is known for his work in layman-level apologetics, few people are aware that Strobel is also a passionate apologist for Italian folded pizzas. In The Case for Calzones, Strobel flawlessly defends the dish while remaining highly readable. The book is peppered with witty anecdotes and lively interviews with top food experts from around the world.

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4.) I Just Can’t Even With The Proper Doctrine You Guys — Jen Hatmaker: Encouraging readers to think of the book as “a big squishy hug,” Hatmaker uses her trademark conversational writing style to admonish all of us to “just be real, you know, and be true to our feelings, especially with things like theology and doctrine and I just can’t even.” A real page-turner.

3.) The Purpose Driven Ferret — Rick Warren: While fans of the Purpose Driven series have hundreds of variants to choose from, Rick Warren may have outdone himself with this special edition of The Purpose Driven Life, written exclusively for the close cousin of the polecat. Your ferret will love learning how to fulfill its God-given purpose as Warren masterfully uses over 250 different translations of the Bible to drive home his point.

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2.) Get Out Of Debt By Selling Millions Of Books — Dave Ramsey: Financial guru Dave Ramsey shows Christians how to pay off debt, put money in the bank, and live happily ever after. His plan includes detailed steps on how to get people to buy millions of your books that mostly say the same thing, so you’ll become a millionaire too. Just don’t buy this one on a credit card!

1.) Whatever Tim Keller wrote, probably: Honestly, we didn’t read any Tim Keller books this year. But we’re sure that whatever he wrote was pretty good. So the number 1 book of the year is whatever he wrote. Pick your favorite and put it in this slot. Congratulations, Tim!

Honorable Mentions:
Radical, Bro — David Platt
Rolling Around In The Mud And Shooting Stuff For Jesus — John Eldredge
Jesus Snapchatting — Sarah Young

There you have it. What were your favorite books of the year? Let us know by saying them out loud to your computer screen.


For more publishing related satire from The Babylon Bee, click this link.

Grand Rapids is the Closest Thing to Mecca for Evangelicals

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — God must live here.    Everybody goes to church, and for those in the evangelical publishing biz, the HQ of many of our favorite publishers are right here in one town.

You’ve got Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, and Eerdman’s, just to name a few.   The CRC (Christian Reformed Church) is headquartered here, too; and I think that Radio Bible Class (the Our Daily Bread people) makes their home here.

I once suggested to a large Christian retail trade magazine that they put together a vacation guide of sorts together for people who want to take the family on the road, but still ‘drop in’ on some of their suppliers.      I still think it would make a great article.   Upper Room Books in Nashville rolled out the red carpet for us once, while just around the block, Word Records has no such welcome mat if dealers drop by.

Here in Grand Rapids, arriving on a Saturday raised no expectations, but I know from past experience that you can’t get past the receptionist at Zondervan without an appointment.    The spirit of post 9-11-01 security is alive and well there.   Guess they wouldn’t want you to accidently read a chapter of Karen Kingsbury’s next novel.

I’m told that P. Graham Dunn in Ohio does a nice tour if you give them some warning; but we’re usually running late when we drive by.    The people at Gaither Studios in Anderson, IN said they would have gladly shown me the studio if a major session was not likely to take a break for several hours.   The bookstore was worth the stop.

One of the warmest receptions I ever got was from Sparrow Records, when they were in California in the late ’80s.   A tour yes, but they also asked meaningful questions about how we were reading the ever-changing Christian music market.

I’d still like to visit Ingram in Nashville, if only for the sheer size of the operation.

So… today’s questions are:

  • if you’re a store, what supplier’s have you ‘dropped in’ on, and what kind of reception did you get?
  • if you’re a supplier, publisher, distributor, etc., what’s your company’s attitude on dealers dropping in?

In any event,  I encourage you to visit Grand Rapids sometime, if only just to breathe the same air as those who make and market some of our industry’s best loved products.