When back home from Germany for a visit, my eldest daughter Beth has a tradition of taking me out for lunch. On one of those occasions, as we were talking over lunch, she made the suggestion, “Why don’t you write about the books and the people that have impacted you and your ministry?” So in this Langstaff Letter, I will be writing about the books, and later I will write about the people. Bear in mind, this relates to an earlier part of my life; back when I was first getting started in ministry. There have been many books along the way that have also impacted me. By the way, if you don’t like this Langstaff Letter, write to Beth as it was her idea.
A MAN CALLED PETER
By Catherine Marshall
‘A Man Called Peter’ is the story of Peter Marshall, a Scottish immigrant who became a Presbyterian Minister and who later pastored a prestigious church in Washington D.C. He also became the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. The book later was made into a film of the same name.
I came across this book in an unusual way. Late one Sunday night, while I was working on a project for my studies in Architecture, I took a break. I picked up a beaten up copy of a Readers Digest and started to read the condensed version of the book ‘A Man Called Peter.’ I could not put it down. This book was one of the major factors that lead me into ministry. Up until then, I had not observed a minister who inspired me. However, when I read Peter Marshall’s story, as told by his wife Catherine, I caught a picture of what a minister could be and the impact they could have on people around them. Other books by Catherine Marshall also ministered to me in those early years.
FUNDAMENTALISM AND THE WORD OF GOD
By Dr. J.I. Packer
Although I was born again in an evangelical setting, my home denominational church was pastored by liberal ministers who sowed doubts about much of the Bible, including the miracles of Jesus, the virgin birth along with stories such as Jonah and the whale. As a result, I ended up being tossed to and fro, not knowing who or what to believe. That is until a new minister, who happened to be a Bible-believing minister, came to our church. He gave me this book from James Packer (who is best known for another book he authored ‘Knowing God.’) The book was written back in England in the 1950’s when there was an attack on orthodox Christianity. At its heart, ‘Fundamentalism and the Word of God,’ dealt with authority generally and the authority of Scripture in particular. I never got past page 55, which dealt with Christ’s acceptance of the authority of the Old Testament. Packer stated, “He never qualified the Jewish belief in the absolute authority in the slightest degree.” I thought and consequently believed that if it was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for me. This settled my attitude to the Scripture once and for all and the ‘acceptance of the authority of the Word of God as being inspired, trustworthy and true’ became the authority and the foundation to my life and ministry.
THE SEMANTICS OF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
By James Barr
I had better throw in a theology book to the list. I read this one as part of my seminary training. I was challenged by this book written by a Scottish professor, and in a sense, it built upon the previous book I mentioned by Packer. The impact it had on me was not so much in all that the author wrote, which I didn’t necessarily agree with all of it, but rather that it stirred up in me a need and consequently a desire to understand the Bible correctly. The technical term is hermeneutics, related to the interpretation of Scripture. This, of course, was only the beginning of a journey that continues to this day, as I seek to discover the revelation of God revealed in His Word, the Bible.
THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE
By David Wilkerson
In the later part of the 1960’s, my wife Dorothy and I went through the major crisis of our lives, at the time of the birth of our second daughter Joy; The full story is told in Dorothy’s book ‘Called Together.’ In the midst of that time, there was a young Pentecostal man who was courting the organist at our church. In the course of our contact with him, he gave me this book about David Wilkerson and his ministry, eventually to be known as Teen Challenge, to troubled youth in New York City. Reading this book, I realized there was so much more to the Christian experience that I had not known, regarding the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. This book was to be one of the significant steps for me to eventually come into the baptism of the Holy Spirit and to lead my wife and me into a whole new ministry. It was also one of the books that God greatly used at the beginning of the Charismatic Renewal.
VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIVING
By Gospel Light Ministries
‘Victorious Christian Living’ was a very basic Evangelical study book. However, at the beginning of my journey as a new Christian, it addressed some of the basic fundamental lessons that I needed to learn that enabled me to grow in my life in Christ. Things like, our position in Christ, how to handle temptation, what to do when you sin, forgiveness, etc. As I said, basic information, but very helpful.
ADD TO THESE SOME GROUPINGS OF BOOKS
BOOKS ON LEADERSHIP
I was not taught leadership in seminary, so I learned about it along the way, both by observing leaders and reading as much as I could. There are too many good books to name them all.
BOOKS ON PRAYER
Likewise, even though I was taught some good things, at Seminary, I was not taught how to pray. I had to learn along the way often when faced with times of difficulty and trouble. Again there are too many to name.
I have always been drawn to biographies of great Christians that have inspired and encouraged me in my spiritual journey. My wife Dorothy and me began a practice nearly thirty years ago of reading books together. Actually, I read them, and she listens and then we often discuss them and pray together. Across the years, we have read hundreds of biographies. Too many to name.
I could go on, but that is enough so let me finish with a final question.
A FINAL QUESTION
What books have impacted your life and ministry? I would love to hear what they are. Send me an email or comment on my blog or Facebook page.