Books worth reading on Fostering and Adoption

1. Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How traumatised children impact foster and adoptive homes by Jayne E Schooler et al
(Very good book written by Christians that helps explain attachment theory with stories and science useful for adopters and foster carers)
2. Bubble-wrapped children, by Helen Oakwater
(says its about adoption and social media, but actually very good introduction to the effects of trauma on children removed from their birth families. Useful for adopters and foster carers)
3. Hurting Too Much – Shocking Stories from the frontline of child protection by Harry Keeble
(this is harrowing reading – but useful to see the wide variety of situations that lead to children being removed. Useful for foster carers)
4. Another place at the table, by Kathy Harrison
(Personal and honest account of a foster carer in the US juggling birth children and several foster placements. Easy read. Useful for foster carers.)
5. A mother like Alex, by Bernard Clark
(an inspirational biography of a single lady who adopted nine children with Downs Syndrome. Useful for those considering adoption.)
6. The trouble with Alex: a child too damaged to love, by Melanie Allen
(a very sad novel – true story – about how an adoption broke down. Useful for adopters and foster carers.)
7. Primal Wound: understanding the adopted child, by Nancy Newton Verrier
(controversial book about the impact on children removed at birth. Useful for adopters and foster carers.)
8. Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father by Dan Cruver
(a Kindle book that relates our ‘vertical’ experience of adoption as Christians with our ‘horizontal’ responsibility to adopt orphans and children in need. Includes articles by John Piper. Useful for adopters and foster carers)
With three birth children and three adopted Chinese orphans, the Chapman family undergo a terrible tragedy. This story is a real tear-jerker, wrestling with some of life’s biggest questions. And through all this, they have inspired hundreds to adopt, and helped to increase awareness of the orphan crisis around the world. A must-read for adopters.
I have been to a seminar that Kathy was running and she is outstanding. She knows what she is talking about when it comes to understanding traumatised children and how to care for them. Kathy is is the director at Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development
There may well be lots of books we have missed out, please feel free to add your own recommendations below, thank you.

10 Ideas for developing preachers

1. Preachers Book group

its not just younger preachers that need to improve, old dogs can benefit from preaching refreshment too. A good way to encourage constructive discussion is to get your preachers to read a book together and discuss it. I would suggest giving yourselves 4-6 weeks to read a book (any shorter and its a rush, any longer and you’ll forget what you have read). Great books to start with are:

Another option is to read a book over a whole term, but meet more regularly to review a couple of chapters together. There’s more ideas for books here. Why not think about getting a bunch of preachers together for a book group either in your church or gathering preachers from across your town.

2. Try Tag Team Preaching

Pairing up two preachers to work on a Bible text together and then preach the sermon as a team effort. You can pair more experienced preachers with developing preachers. Working in a pair is a great way to force preachers to speak out their sermon before they give it and get feedback from their preaching partner. Also by getting half the time they would normally get to preach it forces experienced preachers out of their comfort zones and forces them to be more concise and collaborative.

3. Create A culture of encouragement

Preaching can be lonely, especially because everyone in the congregation seems to have a different view about what good preaching looks and sounds like. Helping a congregation to think about encouragement is good for everyone, but especially good for the preachers. Chances are that if you tell me I have done something well, I will try and do that again next time. We can reform our preachers with lots and lots of encouragement.

4. Review Recordings

Many churches record their sermons, but very few people actually listen to them. Lets make use of the recordings to review how we got on. Be careful how quickly you do it – give the preachers some breathing space and then take a listen to the mp3 again and provide some constructive feedback.

5. Preparing in community

Preaching systematically through a book of the Bible is really helpful for a congregation so they get to experience the flow and beauty of a whole book of the Bible. We had a good time recently as a team of preachers working through the book of Malachi over 6 weeks. There was very strong feedback from our church that Malachi had been a very good series. Some said it was the best teaching series our church has done so far. There were a number of factors that explained the feedback :

  1. A relatively short series- people could hold in their memories each of the 6 messages.
  2. Exploring an OT book many people don’t know very well
  3. Continuity – because the preachers met together to scope out the book and work on difficult passages and ideas together.
  4. Tying house group materials strongly with the Bible passages preached on

I think point three is crucial. It meant that we could talk about our struggles and difficulties, share good resources and good ideas.

6. Go on a conference together

Some of us preachers are quite difficult to train and so the direct approach of critiquing each other is difficult. But going to a conference together and learning about preaching gives us another form of input that is less confrontational. There are number of Biblefresh preaching days and conferences coming up – book a bunch of places together.

7. Listen to great preaching together

If a reading group sounds like hard work – why not download some free sermons from itunes and then pledge to listen to them over the week and meet to discuss what struck you about the content, style, structure of the sermons.

8. Check out Online resources

There are some great online videos recorded at the biblefresh preaching day:

9. Share your powerpoints

Scribd is a great way to share your powerpoint presentations from sermons. You’ll get some good ideas from what other people are doing other there in cyberspace.

Twenty Four

10. Read blogs and comment

I hope this blog post was helpful to you. I’d love to hear your comments and ideas for helping preaching to develop across the UK.

Summer Reading for Christian Leaders

Summer is a great time to encourage Christians to read – here’s a little list you can pass on to your congregations to help them think of books to pack on their hols.

Beach books

My Father maker of the treesMy Father Maker of the trees – Eric Irivuzumugabe

a powerful and moving story about Christian faith in the middle of the Ruandan Genocide. The first half of this book in particular offers challenging yet inspiring insight into some of the darkest days in living memory and yet God’s grace in the middle of it all.


100 verse Bible100 verse Bible -Mark Stibbe

Mark Stibbe’s pocket sized guide to the big story of the Bible. Mark picks 50 verses from the Old Testament and 50 from the New Testament and shows how they weave together into the Bible’s big picture. Split into bite-sized portions easily read in 2 minutes flat. There is a heavy emphasis on the fatherhood of God in this book, which is one of Stibbe’s key themes at the moment.

God on MuteGod on Mute, Pete Greig

– not a new book but one I only recently got round to reading. this book is a gem – a really engaging book about the struggles of unanswered prayer. Pete mixes humour, theology and personal stories to great effect. If you haven’t read this book – buy it now. This is the best book I have read recently.


Biblefresh handbook -a really beautiful magazine format book – with lots of pithy articles, easy to read between dips in the pool! Packed with really helpful articles and inspiring ideas this book will help you recover a passion for feeding on God’s word. Royalties from the book all go to support the work of Bible translation in Burkina Faso.

Stretch your thinking

If life is busy, summer’s change of pace can be a good time to go deeper in your Christian reading. Here are some meatier books to get stuck into.

The Blue Parakeet Rethinking How You Read the Bible, Scott McKnightBlue Parakeet
A very accessible but challenging book about understanding the Bible. Scott McKnight’s chatty style means that many important ideas about hermeneutics and biblical application are handled in an engaging way.


A New Kind of Christianity, Brian McLaren

This is a controversial book to put on this list. A lot of people are reading it at the moment and it would be worth reading where ever you stand on the theological spectrum that is evangelicalism. In my opinion McLaren is definitely asking the right questions, around biblical authority, ecclesiology and mission. I don’t agree with all of his answers but for me this is his most expositional book – offering very interesting angles on Romans and Corinthians in particular. I found myself underlining as much in this book for future reference as I did writing questions in the margins. Even when I disagree with McLaren I always feel I have had my thinking stretched and my understanding challenged.

Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller

Counterfiet Gods

If you have never read or heard Tim Keller before this book is an excellent introduction. Keller demonstrates he has the passion of a preacher and the sensitivity of a pastor combined with the intellect of an academic. This is book about modern day idolatry and will open up an important stream of biblical teaching that is often neglected by the western church. Keller brings a rare combination of biblical and pastoral theology to this book – read it and you will be challenged!

For the preachers:

Preaching with VarietyPreaching with Variety – Jeffrey D. Arthurs

Currently my favourite book on preaching – it tackles the different Biblical genres and how to make the most of the variety of communications styles in the scriptures for adding breadth and creativity to your own preaching. Not too heavy – lots of practical suggestions.

reading the bible wiselyReading the Bible Wisely – Richard Briggs

A small book which models really well how to teach the Bible in such a way that people are skilled in their Bible reading in the process. Briggs lectures in New Testament at Durham University and offers a warm and encouraging book about a deeper engagement with scripture.


Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes – Kenneth E. BaileyKenneth Bailey

Allow a Middle Eastern scholar to guide you through a “kaleidoscopic study of Jesus in the four Gospels” This book will change the way you see Jesus and therefore the way you preach him. I found this book both devotionally inspiring and intellectually stimulating.

Management books for church leaders

The Israelites left Egypt and were given gold jewelry and out of that gold they decorated the tabernacle. The concept of gold plundered from egypt has helped many christians to understand that there is value in borrowing things from our culture. You could argue that the book of proverbs does a similar thing allowing the collected wisdom (some would say general revelation) to contribute to the wise sayings that are part of our scriptures.

Starfish and Spiders

This is the one I want to read next. A friend of mine was raving about this book today – spiders have the unfortunate anatomical disadvantage that if you cut off one of their legs (don’t try this at home) they die; whereas starfish grow a severed limb back. Which kind of organisation are you? spiderlike because you crash if something changes or starfishlike because you adapt and survive?


Good to Great

If you read only one management book… this probably is it. Great wisdom from looking at a number of companies that went from being pretty good to pretty awesome and maintained their growth. Suprising findings for everyone who hasn’t listened to Jesus on leadership – servant leaders are the best leaders… But also some wise advice on hearing bad news, humility and how to hire a team.



Crucial confrontations

Not technically a management book, but a book on how to have those very difficult conversations we all need to have from time to time. This is wise advice.






Death by meeting

If you sit in meetings frustrated that things could be done better, faster and more creatively then this is the book for you. It’s an easy read book; easily read on a single plane journey or train ride. If you like the narrative approach this is a great book for you.

Team Spirit

David Cormack was a real help to me as I lead some of my first teams. Here’s a book you could probably read in 20 minutes but with some great ideas. Shame it’s out of print – but you can pick one up cheap on Amazon nowadays.

Essential reading for Preachers

I try to read at least one book on preaching a year. I want to continue learning how to stay faithful to the text and continually rethink how best to stay connected to the culture. Here are some of the best books I have read over the years.

1. How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth- Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee

If you have never read a book on understanding the different biblical genres then this is a must-read. Fee and Stuart do a masterful job in helping us to ask the right questions of the right parts of the Bible. This book should be on every Bible students shelf. (there is a follow up volume to this book… but if you can only buy one this is the one to get)

2. Expository Preaching- Principles and Practice, Haddon Robinson, IVP (2001)

My favourite preacher’s favourite book as I was growing up: this book walks you through a method for preparing sermons. Some may find it slightly mechanistic but I challenge you to try it out as it may help you hone skills or add a new perspective to your preparation. You’ll need to supplement this book with others on engaging with culture. Nevertheless its a great book to start with.

3. Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley, Multnomah (2006)

You may wonder where it’s going in the beginning but stick with it. Andy Stanley hammers home a powerful message through a creative parable and then some practical wisdom. A quick read but one that will help you to focus your preaching and inspire you to think of ways to make your message stick in people’s minds and hearts. Andy is a great communicator so it’s a great chance to get the inside track on why he does what he does.

4. Gospel and Kingdom, Graham Goldsworthy, Paternoster

This is a gem of a book. It’s only a 100 or so pages but provides a helpful perspective on the key theme of the kingdom of God throughout the sweep of the Bible. Goldsworthy gives some useful handles on a gospel theme that makes both teaching a christian audience and evangelistic preaching from the Old Testament more faithful to the grand sweep of scripture. (It’s been a while since I have read the book and it was very helpful to me then but I am planning to have a re-read to see to what extent Goldsworthy is able to connect a social justice perspective to his kingdom theology). You can’t buy this book on its own anymore so the trilogy is a good place to try.

5. The IVP Essential Reference CDROM

If there’s only one thing you buy from this list – this is it! This CDROM packs a shelf full of great reference works onto your hard drive which means not only can you save the rainforest you can also save yourself a fortune. Most books you will want to read in print format – but to have some classic reference works available at the click of a mouse is brilliant. The folowing works are a fantastic resource in their own right and well worth buying in print if you are not a fan of computer based resources.

New Bible Dictionary (3rd edition)
New Bible Commentary (3rd edition)
New Dictionary of Theology
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of Paul and his Epistles
Old and New Testament background Commentary

What you get is top quality evangelical scholarship in the most user friendly format possible. It costs £100 which is amazing value as most of the books are £35 each in print. Thank you IVP!

6. The Power of Speaking God’s Word, WIlbur Ellsworth, Mentor

This is a very challenging book as Ellsworth argues that we must learn how to preach without any notes at all. I think its worth a read even if you don’t agree. He does have some helpful practical suggestions. Warning: you may never be able to preach or listen to a preacher who uses notes again after reading this book!

7. I believe in Preaching, John Stott, Hodder and Stoughton(1986)

John Stott is a legend in his own lifetime: here is some vintage wisdom for a master of his art. Packed with great nuggets of wisdom, some great stories and some clear biblical principles, this is a must read for all of us who want to teach God’s words. (This book appears to be out of print… but you should be able to find some second hand copies)

8. Preaching and teaching from the Old testament, Walter Kaiser Jnr, Baker(2003)

Many of us find it a lot easier to preach Paul’s letters than any other part of scripture. So what do we do with the difficult Old Testament narratives or the wisdom literature? This book from an Old Testament scholar and preacher challenges us to let the Old Testament speak. Worth a read if like me you need help avoiding all your sermons having the same flavour.

9. Setting hearts on fire, John Chapman, Good Book Company(1999)

There are so few books on evangelistic preaching but here is a work from a man who has spent his lifetime preaching to non-christians. You won’t agree with everything, you may find his approach slightly individualistic annd pietistic, but I challenge you to find a more passionate and more practical book on evangelistic preaching.

10. Michael Quicke, 360 degree leadership-preaching to transform a congregation, Baker,2006

This is my preaching book for this autumn. I have just got it and it looks fascinating. So far I like the line of thought between the connection between leadership and preaching. Some of us are great leaders but not so great preachers, some of us are great preachers but not so good at leading. Here’s someone keen to reconnect the two. I will keep you updated as I haven’t finished the book yet… watch this space.

11. Preaching and Preachers, Martin Lloyd-Jones (Hodder & Stoughton),1998

The Doctor as he was known by his friends and admirers shares his heart with the vision behind his incredibly effective ministry. There are some interesting cultural artefacts here: Lloyd Jones didn’t like the idea of recorded sermons for example. Lloyd Jones also believed preaching to be the highest calling anyone could be called to – which kind of undercuts Paul’s theology of the body. But nevertheless this is an important book to read. Prepare to be challenged!

12. Speaking God’s Words, Peter Adams, (IVP, 1996)

We need to know not just how to preach, but why we preach. Peter Adam provides a relatively user friendly theology of preaching in this work. It’s worth a read as thinking through the theology of preaching helps us to put safeguards on the practice of preaching. Pure pragmatism is not a great model for the preacher – so even if you disagree with this book thinking theologically about preaching is an important discipline to consider.

13. The modern preacher and the ancient text, Sydney Greidanus

This book takes Fee and Stuart’s work on genre to the next level. Griedanus helps us get into the heart of the biblical text and find ways to connect it with our contemporary situation. This is a fascinating book well worth a read.

Check out my top reads for theological students.

Amazon Kindle – the end of the book?


Publishers have been fearing for a long time that a device that did for books what the ipod did for music is coming. The Amazon Kindle is one attempt to do this. Following the Ipod Model the device is produced by a company that is seeking to provide the content. You can download books from Amazon to use on your new machince. Using i-ink technologies here is a way to take a library with you where ever you go. I am not sure if the kindle has a back light that would allow you to read in the dark – that would be a lifesaver for me as keeping a light on at night to read would keep my wife awake! It also could be great news for the sight impaired. no more large print books – just increase the font size on the Kindle.

The good news for publishers:

1) This is a very ugly piece of kit. It doesn’t have the design dynamics of an Ipod.

2) Books are expensive $9.99 each.

3) Subscription services to blogs and newspapers also cost money.

4) The machine costs $399.

The bad news for publishers

1) The end is nigh! This idea is so good it has to happen sooner or later.

2) The idea of carrying around a library of films, books and music is irresistable.

Here’s a video of the kindle from Amazon. The quality of the screen looks good. It only has a small memory. Liked the idea of free wireless access to Wikipedia.