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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.