Every thoughtful preacher or teacher of the Bible sooner or later faces questions of the nature of biblical theology, its relationship to doctrine (systematic theology), and the practical application of both to the ministry that edifies the church. Following in the footsteps of Geerhardus Vos and Edmund Clowney, Michael Lawrence has provided us with a masterly study that relates biblical theology to systematics, and then applies both to the ministry of the church. This skillfully executed integrative approach breaks new ground in the practical application of biblical theology. Its thoroughness without being over-technical makes it accessible to anyone who wants to be a better preacher or teacher of the Bible.
Former (Retired) Lecturer in Hermeneutics, Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia
If the kind of biblical theology described and commended by Michael Lawrence in this superb book were to take root in the preaching and teaching ministry of pastors, and get into the bloodstream of lay people in the churches, things would bode well indeed for the improvement of our collective grasp of and obedience to the whole counsel of God. Lawrence not only does a brilliant job of introducing a sound biblical theology, but also relates it to the ministry of the church. He offers one of the finest and most accessible discussions of the relation between biblical and systematic theology that Ive ever read. This is a pastoral must-read for our times. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
J. Ligon Duncan
Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi; President, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals; Adjunct Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary
Studies on the relationship of theology to ministry seem to be quite rare. In fact, some books designed as guides for ministry often portray suspicion of and hostility toward the theological enterprise. On the other hand, some theologians think that such guides are not worthy of serious attention. What is desperately needed is a work that recognizes the significance of the work of theology for ministry, while simultaneously recognizing the importance of doing theology for the church. Michael Lawrence has brilliantly met this need in this clearly written and compelling volume, which envisions afresh the work of pastor-theologians. I believe that Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church will certainly be one of the most important books for pastors and theologians to read this year.
David S. Dockery
President, Union University
I commend both Lawrence's book and the wonderful ministry at Capital Hill Baptist Church, where they are putting this book into practice.
Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Chicagoland Area; radio teacher, Walk in the Word
Usually, you have to go to different sections of the bookstore to find good books on biblical theology, systematic theology, ministry, the church, and the Christian life. At the very least, the relationship between theory and practice seems strained. However, this book brings these concerns together. Michael Lawrence believes that good shepherds are theologians and good theologians are shepherds. For anyone who believes that theology needs the church and the church needs theology, this will be a welcome resource. For anyone playing with the idea, it will be a compelling one.
Michael S. Horton
J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
According to the Apostle Paul, one of the central works of pastoral ministry is rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), and it takes diligent study to be able to do it. According to Michael Lawrence, it is also vital to rightly apply the word of truth to the life of a congregation, and to be certain that the application is faithful to the united story of the entire Scripture. In his book Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church, Lawrence skillfully guides his readers in constructing a biblical theology, the whole story of the whole Bible, and teaches them how to derive lessons from that story. But Lawrences heartbeat is the right application of the story and those lessons to the daily life scenarios every minister faces. This work is a succinct, readable manual on the right application of the storyline of the whole Bible to the common issues of daily life which pastors will inevitably face as they minister in the 21st century. It is a valuable addition to the library of any pastor who yearns to see Gods word bear fruit for eternity.
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Durham, North Carolina
I am grateful that this book has been written. Its an ambitious bookbroad in scope and simultaneously rich in insight. Its biblical, systematic and pastoral theology are presented in a lucid and accessible way, its case studies are pastorally helpful, and its polemics are thought-provoking and penetrating. Michael has done us a great favor by grounding his subject material in the cut and thrust of ordinary pastoral ministry while at the same time stimulating us intellectually. His unshakable commitment to propositional revelation, the centrality of the Bible in church ministry, and his unflinching belief that God works by his Word are a great foil to much theology in vogue in the church today. This book is a bell ringing in the fog of American Christianitywith its extremes of prosperity, market-driven, and emergent theologythat we at the ends of the earth in South Africa have sadly not escaped. It calls us back to the old fashioned, tried and tested practices of exegesis, hermeneutics, and preaching that have fed the Christian church for centuries. May God use it to nourish his church, which often seems undernourished both in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.
Grant J. Retief
Rector, Christ Church, Umhlanga, Durban, South Africa
With biblical illiteracy in the church at an all-time high, faithless and banal preaching the seeming norm, and Christian leaders impressed more by stories of success in the marketplace than the biblical story of redemption, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church comes as a much needed correction. Michael Lawrence is surely right: One must understand the grand story of Scripture to rightly interpret its constituent parts. When the story is misunderstood or ignored, then Christian preaching and ministry will inevitably suffer. Through definition, explanation, and example, Lawrence has produced a thorough and practical guide to correct biblical interpretation, Spirit-empowered exposition, and faithful ministry.
Todd L. Miles
Assistant Professor of Theology, Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon
Biblical theology is the missing tool for so many pastors and yet is such an essential tool for rightly handling the Word of God. Michael Lawrence leads us step by step from theological foundations all the way through to real life applications of biblical theology. In other words he shows us how to read and use the Bible rightly on its own terms. He skillfully blends scholarly insight with down-to-earth pastoral awareness and covers a huge amount of ground in the process. This is a great example of theological thinking for the work of ministry. You may not agree with every conclusion he draws but you cannot fail to benefit from interacting with his thinking.
Minister, Avenue Community Church, Leicester, UK
I am deeply thankful for this important book and pray it will be widely read and greatly influential! There is no greater need in the church than biblically grounded theological discernment that informs everyday life. The perspective and methods of 'doing theology' that Michael Lawrence provides are crucial for developing this distinctively Christian view of life. Ministry methods and foci today are so often determined by pragmatism, consumerism, trends, and the latest opinion polls rather the an holistic understanding of the Bible. Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church points the way out of this man-centered approach and helps equip leaders for God-honoring, gospel-advancing ministry. Lawrence writes with the depth of a careful theologian and the heart and experience of a loving pastor. Here he models what he is wanting to produce with this bookpastor/theologians who understand the whole counsel of Gods word, and are able to translate it into the lives of Gods people for the glory of God.
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, Biola University; Pastor, Grace Evangelical Free Church, La Mirada, California