When God Builds a Church by Bob Russell with Rusty Russell. West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing Co., 2000. ISBN 1-58229-125-X. Cloth. 292 pages.
Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the most remarkable stories in the evangelical world. And a major part of Southeast’s incredible growth can be attributed to the way God has used pastor Bob Russell.
At long last, Russell has taken on the task of sharing the Southeast story in a new book, When God Builds a Church. No matter whether your church numbers 100 or 10,000, you’ll find in this book insights and encouragement that will help you stay at the task. (The book is written with the assistance of Bob’s son, Rusty Russell, who also serves on the ministerial staff at Southeast.)
Let me get the disclaimers out early: think Bob Russell is one of the most effective Christian communicators of our day. There are few preachers I enjoy hearing more, because of his combination of solid biblical truth, practical application and winsome humor. Having said that, it’s clear that I’m not alone. In the 30-plus years Russell has been pastor at Southeast (since age 22), that congregation has grown from a neighborhood church of 125 members to one of the nation’s largest churches with more than 14,000 in attendance each week.
In this book, Russell distills three decades of wisdom and experience into a series of ten timeless principles for building a great church. They are:
1. Truth: Proclaim God’s Word as Truth and Apply it to People’s Lives
(Note: Preaching readers will recall that this first chapter was excerpted in the July-August 2000 issue.)
2. Worship: Worship God Every Week in Spirit and Truth
3. Leadership: Develop Christ-Centered Leaders Who Lead by Example
4. Excellence: Do Your Best in Every Area of Service
5. Faith: Be Willing to Step Out with a Bold Faith and Take Risks
6. Harmony: Maintain a Spirit of Harmony
7. Participation: Expect the Congregation to Participate in Every Ministry
8. Fellowship: Continually Practice Agape Love for One Another
9. Stewardship: Give Generously of God’s Resources as a Church and as Individuals
10. Evangelism: Commit Enthusiastically to Evangelism as Your Primary Mission
Russell takes each of these basic principles and builds on it with practical observations based on years of experience. The book is filled with interesting illustrations drawn from the life and legacy of this exciting congregation.
The Mission Statement of Southeast Christian Church is: “We exist to evangelize the lost, edify the saved, minister to the needs of others, and be a conscience in the community.” In reading this volume, it becomes clear how God used those commitments to create a powerful and effective congregation. Yet as Thorn Rainer points out in the foreward, “When I finished reading When God Builds a Church, I did not think so much about the greatness of a church as I did the greatness of the God who built it.”
NBC Radio Sermons, 1959-1970, Volume I of The Words of Gardner Taylor by Gardner C. Taylor. Edited by Edward L. Taylor. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8170-1339-3. Cloth. 165 pages.
Gardner C. Taylor has been called the “dean” of black preachers in the U.S., and preachers will welcome this new series which provides an outstanding collection of sermons by this gifted and prophetic preacher.
One of the great preachers of the twentieth century, Taylor served for more than four decades as pastor of the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY. His ministry, however, was national and even global, as he exerted a strong influence through his rhetorical gifts. Since his retirement in 1990, Taylor has continued an active speaking schedule in churches across America. He also continues to serve as a Contributing Editor of Preaching.
While this series of volumes will primarily include sermons delivered from the Concord pulpit, this first volume features sermons preached on National Radio Vespers Hour and Art of Living, both carried on NBC radio. Before Taylor, the broadcast series had featured Harry Emerson Fosdick, Ralph Sockman and Paul Sherer. The sermons contained in this first volume will provide enjoyment and encouragement to any reader.
The series is being compiled and edited by Edward L. Taylor, pastor of New Horizon Baptist Church in Princeton, NJ. He has done a superb job with this volume, and I will eagerly await future contributions to this welcomed series.
Preaching With Passion by Alex Montoya. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2000. ISBN 0-8254-3346-0. Paper. 160 pages.
One of the missing ingredients of much of contemporary preaching is passion. In this brief volume, Alex Montoya stresses the importance of passion in preaching and discusses eight characteristics of passionate preaching: spiritual power, conviction, compassion, authority, urgency, brokenness, the whole being and imagination. (This issue of Preaching contains an excerpt from the chapter on compassion.)
Montoya is senior pastor of First Fundamental Bible Church in Monterey Park, CA, and is also associate professor of pastoral ministries at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA. (John MacArthur wrote the Foreword.)
Montoya’s emphasis is not merely on sermon delivery, but engages the full life and ministry of the preacher. The book is well organized, “passionately” written and will provide an encouraging reminder to any pastor that “dull” and “preaching” do not belong in the same phrase.
From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000. ISBN 0-06-017586-9. Cloth. 877 pages.
This page is normally reserved for reviews of books about preaching and/or worship, but this significant book warrants announcement to every thinking preacher. (I suppose there are a few who don’t think much, but they also don’t read this publication!) When a book about the history of western culture hits the New York Times best seller list, you know that this is no ordinary scholarly history.
Barzun’s majestic work looks at the last five hundred years of western history, from the Renaissance and Reformation to the present day. He deals with cultural trends and the great men and women who have influenced our lives so profoundly. The writing is engaging and approachable to scholar and lay reader alike.
As those who preach at the launch of a new millennium, it is important that we have a solid grasp of the intellectual and cultural foundations on which we stand. Barzun, a long-time faculty member at Columbia University, provides a fascinating and enlightening volume that warrants a place on every preacher’s bookshelf.
Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism by Douglas Groothuis. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8308-2228-3. Paper. 303 pages.
Speaking of culture (see above review), preachers will also benefit from Groothuis’ observations about postmodernism and its impact on our lives and society. If we do, indeed, live in a world in which people perceive that “truth is what we make it to be,” then that has profound implications for those of us who preach the revealed truth of God’s Word.
Groothuis is associate professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary.

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