Crossway Book Reviews

Book Review: Prayer by John Onwuchekwa

John Onwuchekwa has written a 100 page treatise that is equal parts practical strategy and passionate appeal for the church to be once more a house of prayer.

This thin tome is called, Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church. I was provided a digital copy of this publication by Crossway Books for the purpose of review.

Onwuchekwa writes in a casual style that is engaging, frank, and convincing. This book covers the who, what, where, when, and why of corporate prayer. It is filled with memorable witticisms, relatable analogies, and profound one-liners.

I have to say that I was caught off guard by the candid style of Onwuchekwa’s writing, but quickly found it warmed what can be a cold and pious topic— prayer.

And that is just the point of the book– to pump the life blood back into prayer, to take away visions of singular monks muttering in stone cellars, and to replace those images with a scene of holy siblings giving passionate, plainspoken talk to our Father within the rooms of the home church we love.

Onwuchekwa does not take prayer for granted. He recognizes that many people are intimidated by prayer. There are Christians who love God but prayer is a foreign language that they would never attempt to speak in public.

Luckily, prayer is supposed to be taught, and Jesus teaches it as the author takes care to address.

And Onwuchekwa teaches leaders how to orchestrate a culture of prayer in their church bodies.

I found myself more and more excited about prayer meetings as I read this book. The fever pitch of this was the last chapter, which is fully dedicated to the argument that corporate prayer is an act of evangelism.

Prayer comprehensively details the function of prayer in the mechanics of unity.

Beyond argument and to delivery, this book is highly understandable. Every description is deep. Onwuchekwa uses mnemonic devises and systematic descriptions to take the information he provides from instructional to actionable.

I found two features of Prayer especially helpful. One was a novel and inspiring explanation of the well known acronym ACTS, and the second was the conclusion that serves as an index of “prayer meeting pitfalls” and how to avoid them.

ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication is a common discipleship tool. Onwuchekwa manages to speak on each topic with an awe that freshens and inspires.

The conclusion is functionally a list of warnings and solutions to keep a burgeoning prayer culture on track. Onwuchekwa mentions in the introduction of the book that he was a consultant in the past, and this final passage utilizes his aptitude in coaching.

Take it to heart and put it to practice; Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church is an invaluable equipping resource for the church that desires to grow together and go together to reach the nations.



Crossway Book Reviews

Book Review: Caring for One Another

Edward T. Welch, a powerful voice for addressing mental health in the church fearlessly and lovingly, has created a slim resource to be used in small groups called, Caring for One Another: 8 Ways to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships. 

I received a digital copy of this resource for review from Crossway Books.

Let me begin my review with a disclaimer: I read this individually not in a group, so I can not speak to its effectiveness in facilitating conversation in a group. However, the content, writing style, and delivery make me feel pretty strongly that this will be a valuable resource to churches, families, and other community groups who desire to be in godly community with one another.

One awesome feature of the book, in regard to group use, is that each lesson is extremely short and intended to be read aloud as a group. It is designed to be homework-free!

There are typically only three questions for discussion per lesson. This shows acumen on Welch’s part. He delivers the information in a format and on a timetable that is practically accessible for the “real life” small group member.

This book is at its heart a call to “move toward” people not away from them. Move toward them when they suffer; move toward them when they sin.

Also, move toward others to enjoy them. Set out intentionally to delight in other people.

It is easy to see Christ immediately in these recommendations. God delights in us and is attentive to us, so should we be to others. God does not shy away from us, nor should we shy away from others.

This boldness does go two ways, Welch recommends developing humility by asking others for prayer and for help.

Classically in a “care ministry” we envision a stronger care “giver” and an invalid recipient of care. Welch immediately nips that idea in the bud, in “Lesson 1: With All Humility,” explaining that caring for others requires humility, which means that all parties must be willing to ask for help, most importantly the help of being prayed for.

Prayer continues to be central to Welch’s approach to creating a community of mutual care. He says that part of becoming more personal with someone, is to pray for them regularly. This focus expands in that, Welch exhorts his readers to become comfortable with praying over people, particularly if they are struggling with sin.

Here again, we get the impression that Welch believes our care for others must be intimately tied up in our conviction of God’s care for us. Both the styling and methodology of our caring should be merely a re-enactment of the love we receive from Christ. In the way God loves us, we, like children do, imitate our Father, and act that love we’ve witnessed out in our every day.

There is endless chatter these days about community and relationship and “living life together.” These 8 lessons for cultivating relationships are the most practical– and I wager most viable– suggestions for actually accomplishing community, relationship, and togetherness that I’ve seen.

These 8 lessons are even possibly the only viable plan for achieving the kind of authentic relationships the church craves, for one important reason– Welch incorporates caring relationships into our individual Christian walk, our individual Christian disciplines, and our typical Sunday small talk.

Rather than chiding church-goers for being chilly and aloof to each other, he explains how to move from small talk to deep and sensitive conversations. He takes a person with an established prayer life, and explains how even that is a place to invest in a new friend.

We can only build on what we know. And that is what Edward T. Welch teaches in Caring for One Another— simple, non-technical, understandable, universally achievable ways for laypeople to extend our relationships with Jesus into our church relationships.

Jesus says in John 17:25-26 that his work was to reveal the Father to the disciples, and that he would continue to do so until “your love for me will be in them.” Welch describes in an easily-digestible manner, the only skill all Christians need– the ability to give to others the love given to them.


Crossway Book Reviews

Book Review: Story of Redemption Bible

Story of Redemption Bible is a Crossway Books publication with commentary by Greg Gilbert, which I received from the publisher for review.

I am beginning to realize that Crossway tends to produce bibles that are more niche than universally directed. The bibles they release have unique, few, and specific features rather than a sampling of the typical and essential features.

Reviewing this bible, as it is different from the typical, allowed me opportunity to research bible formats, features, translations, equivalence, uses; also to consider what I would like in a bible version and format.

So, I’ll lay out a roadmap of how I’m going to go about reviewing Story of Redemption Bible:

  • I’ll break up the review in sections:
    • physical description, features, missing features, commentary, strengths, translation and purpose
  • I’ll discuss my recommendation of Story of Redemption Bible

Review by Section

Physical description-

This bible is thick and hefty. It is hardcovered and I’d presume, a stay at home resource. Like many of Crossway’s bibles, it is embellished with beautiful flourishes. It has a lovely cover page and presentation page. It is illuminated with a cream and gold dust cover. There are also small illuminations on the cover page of each book. The page references and chapter numbers are gold. The text is in a single column with a nice readable text size.  All the pages are cream. It has wide note-taking margins and note pages in back.

So, overall a very visually appealing bible, aesthetically unique from other bibles. Also physically unique to this format is that the maps provided are inserted into the text where they are relevant– this is actually consistent with the placement of the commentary as well. As much as possible, this bible is layered. It streamlines everything in the reading experience into one continuous presentation. This is opposed to how most bibles have divided and segregated sections– text here, references there, maps in the back, commentary below. This bible tells you what to look at when.


This bible features chapter and verse breaks, subheadings, translation notes (few), wide margins, maps inserted into text, commentary inserted into text, two reading plans at back, an index of title illustrations, an illustrated timeline of the bible, and a pertinent preface and introduction. So honestly, relatively few features, but very intentional features. Everything about this bible encourages you to read straight through without sidetracking or meandering.

Missing Features-

Missing from this bible are some pretty standard features like a dictionary, concordance, word study system, cross-references, notes, or index of maps. The pages are visually pared down, looking nearly like a regular book– maybe a textbook more than novel, but definitely not like your average bible.


The commentary is very plain-spoken. It is written in a casual, understandable way. It is non-technical, without jargon, and Gilbert even explains himself when he uses an insider term, like “Lord’s day.” The commentary is inserted into the appropriate places in the text, rather than down below the columns of text how you’d typically find it. The commentary is not life application, it tends to deal in summarizing, introducing, or explaining the text around it. Gilbert serves as a narrator or tutor.


I love the reading plans. One reading plan layers books of the bible together so that you read contemporaneous texts at the same time. For instance, Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Esther are contemporaries of each other, but not all of those books are near each other because of how the bible is typically organized (by genre, length, then chronology.) The reading plan directs you to the books that would belong together if they were organized by association.


I here want to show how this bible is both a book and a bible, and to compare it to other bibles that fall in that same book-bible category, expressly due to biases that occur when creating a special-use bible, or a bible with an intended purpose.

So this bible is in fact a bible. This is because of the translation- it is a ESV translation. So the way the text was translated from the original language is above board and is in no way swayed by the intended purpose of the publisher and commentator.

Compare that to the Voice or the Message. The Voice, particularly, is a dynamic equivalence translation, meaning they chose the words in English that are, yes, a viable translation of the original words, but not necessarily the truest. The Voice picks from the array of possible translations the words that fits the worldview of the translators best. So you start to get not just a translation but an interpretation.

Story of Redemption Bible is not like that. The translation is totally fine, but an interpretation does present itself in that the commentary is inserted into the text making it less avoidable than if the commentary were below the text like most life application bibles. There are no theological arguments in the commentary, no cross-referencing or substantiating scriptures, but there are plenty of theological assertions.

For me, that starts to put this bible into a devotional category, or a bible study book.


The purpose of this bible seems to be: to answer common questions about the bible, and deal with the time, story, and bible-reading experience.

It also seems to be formatted and written for the unchurched, under-churched, and reluctantly-churched.

The commentary specifically has a “teacher’s voice” to it, like it is toned to make the bible more approachable and culturally accessible. Nothing about the commentary assumes the reader has prior knowledge of the bible.

My recommendation of Story of Redemption Bible

I definitely recommend this bible to anyone who really feels intimidated by bible reading, because the commentary is designed to help you sum up what you just read and prepare for what you are about to read. So, in effect, it helps you “keep track” of the storylines. That is very helpful in the Old Testament particularly!

This bible could legitimately be used as a group bible study resource with how relatable and explanatory the commentary is, as well as having ample note-taking space within the bible.

However, I wouldn’t recommend this bible for use in personal study for a more seasoned bible reader. The commentary inserted is a bit distracting, and it’s not really suited for depth. The lack of cross-references makes hermeneutic study impossible without other resources. I prefer not to use a Strong’s concordance in my personal reading time, so I like a bible with cross-references.

Overall, it is a unique format with an obvious commitment to making the unity of the biblical books evident and easily accessible. It is a learning about redemption bible.


Crossway Book Reviews

Book Review: Even Better Than Eden

I just completed a journey through the meta-narrative of the Bible through the lens of 9 “stories” or themes foundational to the Genesis story and consistent through to Revelation. This courtesy of Nancy Guthrie’s new book released just last month by Crossway, from whom I was able to receive a complimentary copy for review.

Even Better Than Eden by Nancy Guthrie is an accessible missional resource that is rich in storytelling and Reformed theology.

Guthrie’s work is a presentation of the gospel in a truly missional fashion: it is conversational and necessitates conversation; it is highly metaphorical and experiential; and though it is laden with heavy and unrelenting theological assertions, those assertions are expertly layered into a disarmingly vulnerable and empathetic offering.

The style of her writing is an accomplishment that would be readily accepted by the undecided, un-discipled, or estranged from faith. Her winsome approach to the Bible’s story as thematic rather than overtly theological is worshipful, and zooms out to an eternal perspective in a way that would foster great conversations on deep/hard/sensitive topics that might be otherwise difficult to broach in a church setting with a spiritually and experientially diverse group of people.

While Even Better Than Eden is written in prose that is whimsical enough to be enjoyed curled under a knit blanket with a cup of tea in the way of more frothy publications in the Spirituality/Self-Help/Christianity category for women today, it offers the benefit of true Biblical meat.

My one recommendation to the small group leader or discipleship mentor is to be aware that toward the end of the book Guthrie comes directly forward with a covenantal perspective on the Old Jerusalem where most of the book is a New Covenant Theology argument. This is obviously fine if you are of the Reformed/Calvinist tradition, but for small groups and discipleship pairs in Arminian/Wesleyan churches, a brief overview of the various covenant beliefs would be good to avoid confusion between doctrine taught from the pulpit and those explored in a study of this book.

Perhaps this theological conflict could be brought up amongst the study questions provided at the end of the book. Guthrie also provides great sources in her own appendices, providing: “Notes,” “Bibliography,” “General Index,” and “Scripture Index,” sections. She really does provide a framework for any discussion of disagreement on the book’s underlying theologies.

Here is another great resource to use for such a discussion. Written by John Piper, himself a doctrines of grace, Reformed theology subscriber, he however, does not adhere to any one covenant theology making him a good platform for an open exploration of a potentially divisive point of theology amongst denominations and traditions. Below is the link to an article where he simplistically compares the three main views on the structure of God’s relationship to man over the whole of Biblical narrative:

Overall on Even Better Than Eden: I greatly enjoyed the writing style and general argument of the book. I found it refreshing. While reading it, many of Guthrie’s insights caused me to experience not only a legitimate surge in my head knowledge of being loved by God, but also moments of genuine affection with the Lord.

Buy it here: