Book Review: The Solo Pastor – Understanding and Overcoming the Challenges of Leading a Church Alone (by Gary L. McIntosh)

The Solo Pastor is a book of experienced wisdom from a man with a track record of almost fifty years of consulting, teaching, writing and supporting Pastors in their efforts to lead gospel-minded churches.

The aim of this book, as the title suggests, is to offer some help to those who pastor churches on their own (vocationally speaking). As highlighted, there are particular challenges in this setting, which the author lists and addresses across four parts. There is a logical progression through the book from understanding both the role and the unique circumstances that the solo pastor needs to address (Part 1); the relationship dynamics that the solo pastor needs to wisely negotiate (Part 2); some leadership priorities that the solo pastor should consider (Part 3); and finally some longer terms personal habits that the solo pastor could employ to help them run a long and effective race (Part 4).

It is written with the US church scene in mind and so the contrast is often between the solo pastor church and the megachurch (a distinctive which is less relevant in an Australian setting) – that said, the observations, principles and applications that are offered are insightful and helpful for the non-US setting.

The format is simple and effective. Each short chapter starts in conversation between a solo pastor and mentor figure and introduces the topic of the chapter. The reader will identify quickly their own version of what is being discussed. This is followed by a set of instructional points, laced with helpful reflections, corrections and tips for managing each aspect. His chapters on building relationships (chapter 4) and managing relationships (chapter 5: ‘Stop Playing Fetch’ and Chapter 6: ‘Check Bullies’) are very helpful and reveal some of the authors style in parish leadership. And then each chapter concludes with some questions and practical ideas for implementation to benefit the reader if they are willing to stop and reflect.

The title of the book will attract the pastor looking for help in their solo setting, and it narrows its scope of usefulness. I am not a solo pastor (vocationally), and so in that sense, the title excludes its relevance to me, and yet I found this book very helpful for several reasons. It helped me to understand pastors and churches who operate under a solo model, but more it helped me to reflect on both the differences and commonalities with solo pastors that I experience as a team pastor. And further, so many of the authors instructional points, although directed to the solo pastor, were equally as relevant for me or any pastor in vocational ministry (regardless of the size of their ministry team). I was greatly helped.

The chapter titled ‘Communicate Well’ (Chapter 7) is very helpful in understanding the different ways that people listen (and what needs to be done to ensure that what is communicated is also heard). I was surprised that there was not more said about different generational communication preferences. And the chapter on setting goals and vision (Chapter 8: ‘Establish Direction’) is insightful in listing the mistakes that solo pastors (and church leadership boards/councils) can make. I wondered if a discussion about leadership culture would strengthen the chapter (that said, each chapter is meant to be short and sharp!).

This is not a book aiming to do detailed biblical exegesis, yet often the instructional points raised are biblically referenced or illustrated. In most part this is done quickly, helpfully and usefully by giving weight to the point being made. Apart from a theological parallelism using the story of Nehemiah in the conclusion of the book (titled: ‘Take Flight’) which in my mind is a little overstated, the authors use of the Bible encourages the reader to think about the leadership principles that, if applied, will serve God’s church and support the pastor in question.

The book is published by Baker Books (and is available through most good theological book retailers in both hard copy and ebook). I hope this will be a helpful and encouraging resource for many pastors around the world who labour in serving God’s people. I commend it.

Available for Australian purchase here

Available for US purchase here

Reviewed by Ken D Noakes (by request)

Book Review: Busy – Tackling the Problem of an Overloaded Christian Life (by Ian Carmichael)

I enjoyed this book.

Whilst not a book that helped me be less busy, it is a book that helped me to be well-directed in my busyness – and that is Ian Carmichael’s stated goal.

Over eleven quick chapters, Ian takes us through a systematic treatment of a biblical view of work and rest. Each chapter finishing with a set of reflection questions (helpful if reading this book individually, with someone, or using it as a discussion guide for a group) and then a progressive chapter by chapter summary (helpful when returning to each chapter). At times it is most insightful, both on the biblical text and of the culture that shapes me (and feels very ‘busy’). Across the book we move from theology to application. And with this biblical framework, Ian suggested ways for me to make day-to-day decisions about what I make myself busy with – so that I might be effectively gospel minded with my time, relationships and energy (the time and relationships audit is a helpful tool).

If you read this, make sure you read the footnotes where Ian’s refreshing and self-depreciating sense of humour emerges most clearly. And whilst the book finishes on page 135, there are another 46 pages with three very valuable appendices on a) Paid Employment (with some helpful comments about vocation and calling), b) Church (often a source of Christian busyness), and c) Family Life (which can rightly and wrongly make us busy).

Do yourself a favour. Buy this book. And make some time to read it with a friend.

Purchase from Matthias Media – here

Reviewed by Ken D Noakes

Book Review: 40 Rockets

40 Rockets – Encouragement and tips for turbocharging your evangelism at work by Craig Josling & City Bible Forum (Sydney: Matthias Media, 2017).


For any worker, so much of any given week is given to a job. For any Christian worker, this is their prime mission field.

Yet, how do you make the most of that opportunity? It is scary at points. There are risks. There are restrictions and workplace guidelines all of which need to be obeyed. No one said that talking about Jesus was a picnic, yet it is still our commission.

This book attempts to help – in a very practical sense.

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Top 10 Books a Christian Should Read

Christians are people of words – help yourself become a good reader. Here are 10 core titles that would give you a solid grounding and a good start.

  1. The Bible!

If you could only read one book then make sure it is the Bible. A great deal – 66 books in one volume! Win.  Good translations (of the many out there) include the New International Version, the Holman Bible, the English Standard Version, the King James Version (if you like older language) and most recently the Christian Standard Bible. My suggestion is pick the translation above that is used in your Church sermons.


2. More than a Carpenter – Josh McDowell

This is a good little book which will introduce you to Jesus. If you are looking for a good book to give to someone you want to introduce to Jesus – this will do you well.


3. Knowing God – J.I. Packer

This book gives you a good basis in Christian Truth. God by nature is so big and amazing, this is a helpful book to get you looking at the character and concerns of God.


4. The Atonement – by L. Morris or The Cross of Christ –by J. Stott

Both of these books aim to help the reader understand the significance of the cross of Christ. The most recent edition of the John Stott’s The Cross of Christ comes with an excellent study guide.

5. According to Plan – Graeme Goldsworthy1844740129_9111542x

This book will help you understand how the Bible fits together – it helpfully looks at God’s unfolding salvation plan fulfilled by Jesus (Biblical Theology). If you find this book a little heavy, then God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts may be a good alternative.


6. Reason for God – Tim Keller

This book give you a good basis for defending your faith. For the believer or the skeptic, this is an engaging read.


7. Praying with Paul : A Call for Spiritual Reformation – D.A. Carson

This book will give you good basis for thinking about prayer and then challenge you to pray.


8. The Trellis and the Vine – C.M. Marshall and T Payne

This book is a practical ministry book which places the ‘how’ of ministry in the context of the ‘why’.


9. Disciplines of a Godly Man – R.Kent Hughes or Disciplines of a Godly Woman – Barbara Hughes

These books aim to help the Christian man or woman give attention to practices of godliness. Very helpful.

08308269982x10. Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity – P. Barnett

Understanding the original setting into which Jesus arrived and from which his good news first spread is helpful for understanding the historical importance of Christianity. This book is a great introduction.

These books you can get in both hard copy or e-book. Go to: the Book Depository or Koorong to order online.

Happy reading.

For a helpful article on ‘Active Reading’ from Chris Metcalf go here.

Feel free to offer other suggestions (and why) in the comments.

Book Review: I’d Rather Be Blind

I’d Rather be Blind: My Life after Afghanistan by Grant Lock (Melbourne: Broad Continent, 2016).


Treat yourself to a wonderful read.  Grant Lock has written a book of personal reflection and observation influenced by his time serving as a director of an Afghan Eye Program for many years before returning to South Australia due to his own failing eyesight.

Each short chapter, jumps from present day to past day and back again as Grant skillfully paints a picture of what it was like serving in, at times, very difficult and dangerous circumstances. Then he skillfully draws on his experience to offer an insightful perspectives on the ways that we read the world in what is affluent and safe Australia.

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Book Review: 666 and All That

666 and All That: The Truth About the Future by John Dickson and Greg Clarke (Sydney: Blue Bottle Books, 2007).


Reviewed by Katy Annis

What happens in the End? What does the Bible say will happen in the future?

The theological term most often used to describe the end of times is ‘eschatology’. 666 and All That by John Dickson and Greg Clarke addresses the topic of eschatology, a subject that both fascinates and concerns many people.

Dickson and Clarke treat this subject with a clear, concise and ‘no-nonsense’ approach. This book has a simple underlying argument; that is, Scripture itself does not provide a literal ‘play-by-play’ description of what the future will be like, therefore, we have little to gain by attempting to understand it in this way. Rather, they suggest that our focus should be on the promises, the hope and the joy that Christians can anticipate in the future Kingdom.

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Side by Side – Part 3 (of 3)

The first two posts in this series have offered two observations coming out of 1 Timothy 5:1-16 which may help a church family to further consider what it means to honour and care for those who are most vulnerable.

In the first post, we observed that the widow of 1 Tim 5 was akin to the ‘vulnerable’ today.

In the second post, we observed that when caring for a person in need – everyone is different and everyone can play a part. Five pointers were offered in how to do that.

In this last post, I would like to recommend a good book that works hard to offer principled and practical suggestions for getting alongside a person whom we are trying to love.

Side by Side – Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).


Side by Side by Edward Welch is a quick and helpful read, written by a Christian counselor who has practiced and written in the fields of depression, fear and addiction for decades.

The aim of the book is to identify skills that Christians can learn and then use in caring for others. His basic idea is that those who help best are the ones who both need help and give help.

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Book Review: We Cannot be Silent

We Cannot be Silent – Speaking truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, & the very meaning of right & wrong by R. Albert Mohler Jr (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015)


This is a helpful book which speaks into our culture in the face of many challenges to the biblical presentation of marriage and sex. Al Mohler is a Southern Baptist Pastor, an evangelical, a clear theological thinker, and is heard daily on The Briefing podcasts where he analyzes news and current events (in the US) from a Christian Worldview.

This places him well as a voice into the current western culture which is redefining marriage and sex often leaving Christians with questions and doubts about where they stand morally as they are often accused of being homophobic for standing against this cultural change.

We Cannot Be Silent is an easy and thought provoking read.

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Book Review: Honest Evangelism

Honest Evangelism – How to talk about Jesus even when it’s tough by Rice Tice with Carl Leferton (UK: Good Book Company, 2015).Honest Evangelism

Reviewed by Peter Blyth

I hope everyone has a great and wonderful new year and to pray for opportunities to share and be witnesses to Christ’s identity, mission and call to respond to him in faith.

I have be reading a short little book by Rico Tice (Associate Minister at All Souls Langham Place, London) and I think it is really helpful and offers some great tips to engage our family and friends with the good news of who Jesus is. There are simple yet effective ways of speaking Jesus into peoples hearts.

Following are some helpful hints summarized from the book:

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