Christopher Chelpka


April 2019

Schawbel, Dan. Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation. New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Hachette Book Group, 2018.

Full of excellent stats and studies to convince anyone of the importance of presence in leadership. It also includes suggestions on how to improve connection in a number of different domains. Reading it confirmed the value of a lot we are doing at Covenant and helped me generate some new ideas I’m excited to try.

March 2019

Hall, David W., and Joseph H. Hall. Paradigms in Polity. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1994.

A collection of primary source documents related to Presbyterian and Reformed church government. Includes an excellent bibliographic essay by David Hall, of which [a diiferent version] is online.]( [Find the book with WorldCat.]

Voss, Christopher, and Tahl Raz. Never split the difference : Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It. London: Rh Business Books, 2017.

Perfect for hostage negotiators. Almost perfect for everyone else. Remember the difference between persuasion and manipulation as you read. [Find the book with WorldCat.]

John Owen. 1688. “Of Deacons” in The True Nature of a Gospel Church and Its Government. London.

Solid. Stately. Organized. Helpful. Owen sees the foundation of the deacon in the law of nature brought to bear on the church, the propogation of the gospel to the poor, love as an evangelical grace, and the freeing of ministers and elders unto their work. He discusses the nature of the authority of the deacon; the relationship between the office of deacon, the general office of the believer, and the office of elder; and the particular duties of the office, “an office of service”, which are summarized in providing for the poor and care for “all other affairs of the church of the same kind”, by which he means temporal needs. He gives specifics as to what is involved. He also covers the perpetual nature of the office and its qualifications. I particuarly liked the “adjucts of their ministration”, namely, mercy, cheerfulness, and diligence. Some interesting discussion also what it means to increase in gifts and grace. He covers a few practical questions too that come up in the life of the church. Find it here.

Herbert Croft. 1689. The Naked Truth: Or, The True State of the Primitive Church. London.

Croft is a bishop in the Church of England and seeks to reset various beliefs and practices according to Scripture. He’s full of spunk and is not afraid of making enemies. He lays the smackdown against all who oppose or practice something other than the plain preaching of Christ. Concerning deacons, Croft argues that it is not a spiritual office. He’s very clear on this. Deacons are are to be concerned only with the “ordering of the Alms for the Poor”, nothing else. All the other duties laid on deacons are not found in the Scriptures, but were slowly added to the work. He deals with both the question of Stephen and Philip, and what he believes to be a clear misinterpreation of part of a letter by Ignatius. Find it here.

Justin Buzzard. 2013. John: A 12-Week Study. Crossway.

Divides the Gospel of John into 12 weeks, so this is introductory. Each chapter includes biblical and theological context, reflection questions on particular verses, and a reminder to pray. Find it here.

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. 2018. Think Again: How to Reason and Argue. Oxford University Press.

An introductory book on the principles of good reasoning. But he teaches more than how to reason and argue, he also explains why. I share more about this here.

Peter Adam. 1996. Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching. Regent College Publishing.

A basic introduction. Find it here.

A three-article dialogue between Abe Kuruvilla and Buist Fanning on preaching and interpretation.

All three articles are vailable on Kuruvilla’s blog.

Abraham Kuruvilla. “Time to Kill the Big Idea? A Fresh Look at Preaching.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 61 (2018): 825–846.

Kuruvilla is not pulling punches. He wants to take down one of the most widely held principles of preaching. Really fun to read an article on preaching that includes a large section on muisc theory (Schenkerian analysis)! Available online.

William Perkins. 1606. The Art of Prophesying. 1605 The Calling of the Ministry.

This is my third time reading these books, but it’s been a while since the last time. Those who take the time to read this will find sage advice as well as surprises, including a longish section on how angels help God’s ministers. Intrigued? A revised Banner of Truth edition is at

February 2019

Glenn S. Sunshine. “Geneva Meets Rome: The Development of the French Reformed Diaconate.” The Sixteenth Century Journal, 26 (1995): 329–346.

Thesis: It was not until the late 1500s that French Reformed churches practiced a use of the diaconal office that was closer to Geneva than to Rome. And even then, certain “Roman” characteristics like the duty to catechize and engage the deacons in certian liturgical work remained. This article tells that story. Taken along with a short summary of Bucer’s view that’s also offered here, one can see evidence of variety in the Reformed office of the deacon in the 16th cent.

Robert M. Kingdon. “Social Welfare in Calvin’s Geneva,” The American Historical Review, 76 (1971): 51–69.

Fascinating! Readable, tons of interaction with primary sources, and lots of contextualization. Humble writing too. Kingdon shows how Hospice Général, which is still helping people today, was both influenced and not influenced by John Calvin. This serves as a doorway to thinking about social welfare in Geneva more broadly.

Kari Latvus. “The Paradigm Challenged A New Analysis of the Origin of Diakonia.” Studia Theologica 62 (2008): 142-157.

A so-so summary the current scholarship which argues: the 19th century diaconia movement, and Luther and Calivin before it, misread and misapplied the ideas surrounding the diaconate found in the Bible and the early church.

John Dick. 1846. “Lecture C” in Lectures on Theology. vol. 2. Philadelphia: Greenough.

This is an exposition of the offices listed in Ephesians 4. Argues that deacons are not for serving the table of the Lord because the context makes it clear that it is care for the tables of the poor that was intended. He does see their work extended: “the care of all temporal matters in which the church is concerned, may be considered as belonging to the deacons; but they were specially appoitned solely for the poor.” Why? Because one reason for the office was to keep the Apostles focused on the ministry of the word. Interestingly, he is unaplogetic about the fact that some churches have no deacons because in those churches there are either no poor or the needs are so few that the elders may sufficiently care for them. Available online.

Anon. 1690. A Treatise of Ruling Elders and Deacons. In which, these things which belong to the understanding of their Office and Duty, are clearly and shortly set down. Edinburgh.

It is as the title says, and footnoes the Book of Discipline of the Church of Scotland. A little commentary perhaps? Attributed in database to James Guthrie but I see nothing in the text that indicates that, only: “by a Minister of the Church of Scotland”. Talks about deacons being those who see to needs the poor and sick of church (no mention of others outside the church) “so the poor may not be put to begging, to the grief of thei spirits, and the reproach of the Gospel.” The work is to be done in conjuction with elders, with the advice of assigning an elder and a deacon to various sections of the church. The duties are to remain distinct, however; “as if they were both one, either appoitning none for the office of Deacon but leaving that charge also upon the Elders, or else giving the Deacons the same power and imployment with the Elders.”

James E. Dolezal. 2017. All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism. Reformation Heritage Books.

It is sad to know that evangelicals, calvinisitc and otherwise, are challenging Trinitarian orthodoxy. But perhaps this book and others like it will help us remember why the old truths are still important. Highly recommended. At Amazon.

John Gottman and Nan Silver. 2015. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. Revised ed. Harmony.

My second time reading this. See notes under the marriage section on my recommending page.

John Gottman. 2002. *The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships. Reprint. Harmony.

My second time reading this. See notes under the marriage section on my recommending page.

January 2019

Virginia Richardson. “Constructivist Pedagogy.” Teachers College Record 105 (2003): 1623–1640.

Online here. Read in connection with an article promoting “active-learning”, a very helpful summary of active-learning teaching strategies, and a warning about this pedagogical catch-all term.

Read notes on John 1:34ff from Calvin, Cyril of Alexandria and the excellent modern commentator Frederick Dale Bruner; also sermons by Chrysostom and Augustine. Augustine has several interesting things to about Nathanael and his interaction with Jesus.

Michael J. Kruger, ed., 2016. A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized. Wheaton: Crossway.

A collection of well-written introductions to each New Testament book. Always helpful. I’m using this right now as one of my prep-resources for the NT Survey class I’m teaching. At wtsbooks.

Thomas Foxcroft. 1733. The Divine Right of Deacons. Boston: Green for Henchman and Phillips.

Isaac Watts. 1747. The Rational Foundation of a Christian Church and the Terms of Christian Communion. To Which Are Added Three Discourses, Viz. Disc. I. A Patter for a Dissenting Preacher. Disc. II. The Office of Deacons. Disc. III. Invitations to Church-Fellowship. London: Rose and Crown in the Poulty and Buck in Pater-Noster Row.

Isaac Watts impresses me. I explain why here and include the outline for this reading.

James T. Dennison, Jr., ed. 2014. Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation. 4 vols. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books.

Useful again and again. This time I’ve combed through these volumes reading all I could find on the diaconate and almsgiving. Reading these confessions one after another reveals surprising insights. At wtsbooks.

Anon. 1641. *Reasons Why the Hierarchy or Governement of the Chvrch by Arch-Bishops, Lord Bishops, Deanes, Arch-Deacons, Chancellor’s and their Officers, exercising Sole or Superior Authoritie in Ordination and Jursidations may and ought to be Removed.

Gives three main reasons and answers various objections. At EEBO, subscription required

James M. Wilson. 1869. The Deacon: An Inquiry into the Nature, Duties and Exercise of the Office of the Deacon, in the Christian Church. 2nd Edition. Philadelphia: William S. Young.

I posted some thoughts here.

Timothy J. Keller. 1997. Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road, 2nd Edition. P & R Publishing.

Michael Kibbe. 2015. From Topic to Thesis: A Guide to Theological Research. IVP Academic.

Easy to read, to the point, and very helpful. This is my third time reading it; I’m pretty close to having it internalized. At Amazon

C. Wright Mills. 2000. “On Intellectual Craftsmanship.” In The Sociological Imagination, 40th anniversary, 256. Oxford University Press.

This essay explains what it means to do good work as a sociologist, but it applies well to anyone engaged in “knowledge work,” as it is called today. It is brilliant and full of good advice. Older books on pastoral theology have sections that sound very similar to this essay. I came across it when learning about the zettelkasten method of note taking. Online here.

I’m slowly importing some of my pre-2019 data from Goodreads and posting it below.

December 2018

Patrick Rhone. 2016. Enough. Kindle Edition

Ryan McGraw. 2017. How Should We Pray at Prayer Meetings? Reformation Heritage Books. And McGraw, Ryan. 2017. How Do Preaching and Corporate Prayer Work Together? Reformation Heritage Books.

I wrote a brief overview of these mini-books.

November 2017

Alan Jacobs. 2017. How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. Currency.

Here is a brief review and some of my favorite quotes.