Free Church Book Reviews

Our books this month offer the best of writers connected with the Free Church, along with titles designed to start or encourage you on your way with the Lord. 

‘Proving Ground’, Graham Hooper

‘Proving Ground’ offers forty short reflections on living as a Christian in the workplace. From dealing with frustration and corruption to handling ambition and treating co-workers with respect, Hooper’s book covers a wide range of topics. While the book consists of ‘reflections’ rather than a systematic theology of work, Hooper’s observations are always grounded in the Bible and contain practical advice and principles for dealing with challenges in the workplace in a Christlike manner. Occasionally his applications of scripture can be slightly loose (at several points he takes verses of Paul describing his ministry and applies them directly to secular work) but it’s clear that Hooper has a wonderful vision of whole-life discipleship.

One strength of Hooper’s book is just how broadly he understands the world of work. His personal work experience includes minimum wage factory work as well as high-level management in an office, and he’s worked all across the world. This breadth of experience means he’s able to draw upon all kinds of examples, so no type of work goes untouched. While there were occasional chapters that felt more relevant to certain sectors than others, for the most part Hooper does an impressive job of clearly expounding general principles that make a difference in any workplace. As a working woman, I particularly appreciated how Hooper’s examples aren’t gendered (he often describes women in managerial roles) and how he includes people of all ages and races.

My one critique of the book is that the central idea of work as a ‘proving ground’ for our faith really isn’t explored much in the chapters themselves. In his introduction, Hooper explains how work can be a place where our faith is tested and refined, but the chapters rarely refer to testing. This isn’t a weakness of the chapters per se, as they helpfully discuss the challenges of work, but anyone looking for a discussion of testing in particular will likely be disappointed. Similarly, the structure of the book as a series of reflections means that there isn’t much space for ideas about work to be developed in a logical, structured way, but there’s still more than enough food for thought here.

Ultimately, ‘Proving Ground’ is an excellent short book for any Christian involved in some kind of work, whether that be homemaking, management, industry, or hospitality. These forty reflections helpfully unpack what it means to do our work to God’s glory and provide biblical insight for dealing with workplace difficulties.

This book is available from Christian Focus.

Rachel Horrocks-Birss, St Andrews Free Church

‘Church Is Family’, Graeme C. Young (2022)

In his book, Graeme C. Young essentially conducts an in-depth New Testament study on church relationships and how that is expressed as a family through its structures, relationships, and leadership styles. The author takes a very detailed survey of the inter-relationships of Father, Jesus, and Jesus’ followers in the Gospels, in Acts and in the Letters. In each chapter he explores and expounds the use of words that shed light on the nature of family in each context and then applies in simple and practical ways how that should look like for us in our experience of living as family in the church. Young provides a useful 6-fold overall description of characteristics that describe family in each context: family speaks of providing, progressing, protecting, permanence, participating and purpose. The book concludes with the author’s personal experiences of how ‘church is family’ found expression for him in various churches he had been part of throughout his life. This is a well-researched, clearly written, practically applied book bringing to light and life an extremely important theological truth.  

This book is available from Amazon.

Colin Macleod, Gairloch, Kinlochewe & Torridon Free Church

‘Who is Who’, Jean Stapleton

Jean Stapleton is a prolific children and teens author with plenty of experience around them all her life.  This comes out in the language of her latest little treasure Who is Who. One of the greatest resources that the Beach Missions, Jean’s stamping ground, gave to its young teenage leaders was to teach them how to read the Bible and learn daily lessons from it.  Here we have a similar learning tool in miniature.  It is just the right shape to slip into a bag to learn on the move and with the Bible on a smart phone, you have everything you need for your young teenager to be doing some serious study.  Yet it doesn’t feel that way.  Each of the 40 names from the Bible are ingredients from real life and not always the common ones. For instance Peleg, a descendant of Noah or Malachi, the last of the known prophets.  The Bible search takes the student to unusual passages of the Bible to substantiate understanding, giving a rich depth to the message of the Bible.  It concludes with the wonderful names of Jesus: Saviour, Redeemer, Christ, Prince of Peace and our great High Priest. This is an essential for a teen’s bookshelf.  

This book is available from Christian Focus.

Ruth Aird, Penicuik Trinity Community Church

We are always looking for new reviewers to join the team. You don’t need any experience – just a love of reading and a willingness to write a paragraph of your thoughts. If you’d like to get involved, please email [email protected]