Tag Archives: Auburndale Baptist Church

Book Review: Gather God’s People: Understand, Plan, and Lead Worship in Your Local Church

Brian Croft, pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church, teamed up with his associate pastor Jason Adkins who leads and plans ABC’s worship. This is the sixth book review I have done for Pastor Croft’s works, all of which are wonderful resources for new or even seasoned pastors. You can read my other reviews here: The Pastor’s Family, The Pastor’s Ministry, The Pastor’s Soul, Caring for Widows, and Pray for the Flock.

That being saidGather God’s People: Understand, Plan, and Lead Worship in Your Local Church, published by Zondervan in 2014, is a pretty good book. I know that isn’t the best language to use when reviewing a book. It’s very non-committal. Let me explain why, and perhaps you can forgive me for such a review. Having read five other books by Pastor Croft, most of which were co-authored, Gather God’s People simply had an altogether different feel or vibe to it. I should have expected it, since the first words of the introduction are, “I (Brian) have a confession to make. Jason, my coauthor, is really the one who wrote this book,” (p. 13). Pastor Croft does directly contribute to portions of the book, but by and large this is Jason Adkin’s book, with Jason Adkin’s thinking and writing style.  I have often read that we are not to review the book that we wish we had read, but the book in which we actually read. And for that reason, I want to say that outside of the writing style that I’m used to from a Brian Croft book, this book was well-written and wonderfully practical, as I have come to expect from Practical Shepherding books.

The premise of the book is simple and doable. While giving examples from their own experience and their own worship planning and services, the author’s readily admit that this is not the only way, but it is a biblical model for worship. After all, “Through the Old Testament, Christians learn that God cares deeply how he is worshiped. In the New Testament, God explicitly teaches believers how he is to be worshiped,” (p. 19). Thus by chapter 2, Pastor Adkins laid out the five-part objective to worship: Preach the Word, Read the Word, Pray the Word, Sing the Word, and See the Word. This is not a new understanding, but simply a clarification and a practicum of how and why these objectives are biblical and right.  These five objectives make up the book.  However, I would not recommend simply taking these five objectives to memory and ignoring the actual reading of the Croft/Adkins material. There is wisdom to be found in these pages. Wisdom such as “Do no hermeneutical harm to your congregation’s understanding of Scripture,” (p. 60), and

The task of planning worship songs for a weekly gather is not about perpetuating perceptions about your church. Worship planners ought to equip believers to carry out the commands to edify one another through “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” and to address their praises to God with a heartfelt melody (Ephesians 5:19, ESV).

p. 73.

Gather God’s People is laid out into three sections rather than two like many of these practical guides. Normally the layout tends to be the why and the how. In this particular book it is more of the why, the how, and the do. After all, “Ministers must prepare to present the various elements in the service in a way that aids the worship of the congregation rather than hinders it,” (p. 86). The first part is written to help us “Understand Worship.” Its chapters are about the biblical theology, elements, and spirituality of worship. It is a crash course in worship which quickly goes through what many worship books deal with as a whole. The second part is showing one how to actually “Plan Worship.” This was the most helpful part of the book for me. It is made up of three chapters as well. Interestingly enough, there is not much on “preaching the word,” though it is the first element or objective. I would venture to say that the reason is that this is not a book on hermeneutics, but worship as a whole. Pastor Croft’s book on The Pastor’s Ministry would deal more with that, as well as many other books on preaching. The three chapters deal with the reading, praying, and singing of the Word. Pastor Adkins details how to plan each of these aspects and does not shy away from the fact that emotions (though not emotionalism) are involved in worship. There is a feeling that is invoked as we worship, and leaders/planners need to be mindful of that. “Acknowledge the emotional and spiritual condition of your congregation in your planning. Furthermore, intended emotional responses should play a role in planning,” (p. 77).  The final part is about leading the congregation in these areas. The final three chapters (not including the Conclusion or appendices) are in this section. It is there that the authors deal with the actual worship service and the implementation of what has been planned. It is also here that the ordinances (the “seeing the word”) aspect of worship is brought up.

A quick note on the appendices: they are mostly showing how the Psalms can be incorporated into the music aspects of congregational worship. There are arguments for doing so along with examples of them set to familiar tunes.

All in all, this was a helpful and practical book. It is probably the most practical book on worship I have read. Much of what I tend to read is theoretical or theological, but rarely do authors have the gumption to get down to the nitty-gritty details of planning and executing the worship service. While it took me a little longer to read this work, coming in at only 143 pages, due to the writing style and the holidays, I appreciated the contents of it. I readily give it 4 stars on Good Reads, and readily commend it to every pastor and/or worship leader.

Book Review: Caring for Widows

Caring for Widows: Ministering God's Grace by [Croft, Brian, Walker, Austin]Brian Croft, pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY (and founder of Practical Shepherding) and Austin Walker, a pastor at Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley, England, co-wrote Caring for Widows: Ministering God’s Grace, published by Crossway Books in 2015. It is a book that I consider to be a thorough resource and guide for ministering to widows.

Austin Walker wrote the first portion of this work dealing with the biblical mandate to care for those who have lost their husbands.  In the “Conclusion,” Walker explained his need to write this was simply based on how few resources there are on such a vital subject to the church.  He began the project for himself and those around him.  He explored both the Old and New Testaments using a concordance to help him find verses on widows, studying each one carefully.  The result was ten chapters laying out God’s calling for the care of these precious ladies, as well as God’s protection over them, giving the Old Testament and New Testament examples and commands.  In his chapter, “The Price for Neglecting Widows”, Walker wrote:

For elders, deacons, and church members to neglect or ill-treat widows expresses an attitude that is not only the total opposite of the conduct of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it invites the chastening hand of God and calls into question the integrity of the church and her identity as the people of God, (pp. 30-31).

Pastor Walker gives examples of how Elijah, Elisha, Boaz, and Jesus cared for widows. He explained how God continuously stated his promise of protection in the law and how James called caring for widows a “pure and undefiled religion.”  And in doing so, wrote these words that ought to be taken to heart:

We have seen that the Scriptures require God’s people to show mercy and meet the widows’ needs. A widow, therefore, has a God given right to expect the church to visit her in her troubles, to reliever her, as well as to comfort her. No widow should ever be in a position in which she is neglected and her needs ignored, (p. 74).

I was surprised to see as much as Walker found about the care for widows in Scripture.  I knew it was there, but apparently I was not picking up on how often widows are mentioned. As much as I found the first portion eye-opening and convicting, I found the second portion, practical and doable.  Brian Croft wrote the second portion which showed that as pastors we are not alone in caring for the widows, but we must take the lead.

There are chapters about how to minister to widows through the word, through gifts, through time, and how to train and encourage others to do so as well.  As I said, this book is extremely practical. To give an example, Pastor Croft even explains how long one should make there visit, dealing with the three most common places to visit those who have lost their husbands: hospitals, home, and nursing homes.  I’ve always sought to keep someone from serving while visiting, but Croft pointed out that while we must never make a widow feel she must serve us, if she offers, allow her.”When you go to a widow’s home, the thing that might bring them the most joy is not having someone in her home to visit, but having someone to serve,” (p. 99). I had never thought of that before.  His advice on anniversaries (wedding and death) in chapter 19 was spot on as well.

I underlined quite a bit in this book, and I hope to be able to more faithfully care for the widows in our church because of this book.  While reading, I would often send my mom a quote through text or picture. She has been a widow for 20 years now, and wanted to get her opinion on what the authors were saying.  Her last comment back to me summarizes her thoughts well: “I hope this message gets across.”

At 156 pages (not including end notes), this book was a quick and easy read.  While specifically written for pastors, this book could and should be read by everyone that knows a widow; it can be downloaded in Kindle edition for about $10.  I offered it to my 15 year old son to read, as he has “adopted” an elderly widow across the street from us. He visits her once a week.  He is way ahead of the game than most of us in the church. I give this book four out of five stars. It is possible that this book could have gotten all five stars if I had not read Croft’s book: The Pastor’s Ministry (book review here) that contained a chapter on ministering to widows, largely based on this book. Thus, I was somewhat familiar with some of what was written. That being said, The Pastor’s Ministry gave me the desire to read this one as soon as I finished it and it was definitely worth it.