Free Church Books: Reviews

This month’s book reviews from Free Church Books.

Our books this month are a typical spread of those available to Christian readers; we have biography, mission, personal spirituality and the Christian life. We hope you enjoy our reviewers’ thoughts on them.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: ’10 Women Who Overcame’, Dayspring MacLeod (2022) 

This is not a book of biographies of interesting people, rather it is a book of very contemporary issues, with insight from interesting people who confronted them head-on. In this way we learn from the lessons gleaned in the heat of hardship, and see God’s hand in the real-life testimonies of faithful women. 

Dayspring has chosen 10 issues facing all of us in some way or another today, whether we are struggling with them ourselves, or someone around us is, or whether we want to think through them biblically. These include marriage, eating disorders, sexuality, forgiveness, bereavement and others. In choosing the testimonies of 10 interesting women, Dayspring helps us to see these issues personally, and engage with them so much more richly.  

However, it is Dayspring’s own insights which I found most useful and thought-provoking as she brings Scripture to bear on these topics, and as she turns the lessons into devotion by challenging and encouraging in equal measure. Each chapter ends with the question ‘Can I bear fruit?’ in the midst of these difficult circumstances. In each case the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ as the testimonies bear witness. There are further questions for group study or individual reflection, which make this a perfect book for use in women’s bible studies or for one-to-one discipleship. I heartily recommend it. 

This book is available from ( 

Anne Norrie, St Columba’s Free Church, Edinburgh 

‘Jars of Clay’, Catherine Haddow (2020) 

Do you suffer from crippling anxiety or long to help others in their daily struggle with anxiety? If so, Jars of Clay is a very helpful, timely and practical book for you. When experiencing anxiety, it can be difficult to focus and concentrate long enough to be able to read much. However, this book is written in short, manageable chapters, each ending with questions for reflection, making it very readable. Catherine Haddow brings a lot of knowledge, understanding and insight to the reader, not just because she is a chartered psychologist, but because she too has suffered from anxiety which lends authenticity to her writing.  

The book explains what anxiety is and how it can affect us, at both a physical and spiritual level. It helps us examine if our anxiety stems from putting our trust in material things, our health, or our relationships – treasuring these things more than God. The reader is helped to understand how ‘The outer manifestations of anxiety reveal the allegiance of our inner soul. We put misplaced trust in things other than God.’ Through highlighting biblical truths and showing the reader how ‘the treasure of the gospel is present and active in every uncertainty we face’, Catherine Haddow aims to bring us into a greater relationship with God and to treasure ‘the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ’ above all else in order to find deep and lasting peace in Jesus. She reminds us that God ‘will help us because He loves us’. 

This book is available from ( 

Joanna Shearer, Dunblane Free Church 

‘Love Your Church’, Tony Merida (2021) 

I love my church. I love the people in my church. I love gathering together with those who attend my church. One thing many of us learnt through the pandemic was how much we missed meeting together on Sundays with our churches. We missed hearing from God’s word together. We missed the chat after the service over coffee. We missed seeing all the different people who make up our church family. 

But if I am painfully honest, there were times when watching church online from the ease of my own home was comfortable. I would wear what I wanted, make a really nice coffee and I didn’t have to have awkward conversations with anyone else. In those times I need reminded of the goodness of the church and a bigger vision of what the New Testament shows us about Christ’s church.  

I found Love your Church by Tony Merida the reminder I needed. In the book Tony Merida unpacks eight “glorious privileges of being part of the church.” I love the fact he calls each of these characteristics a privilege. So often we think of attending church, serving in church and the roles we have at church as a duty or something we tick of a list. Instead, this book helps us see what a joy it is that we get to do these things as part of the local church family we are part of. Tony Merida writes so that we’ll “be thrilled about being a part of local community of believers.” 

This would be a great book to use in the context of a one to one. The chapters are readable, short, and full of practical tips to discuss. There is section of questions at the end of the book which would be excellent to use to stimulate conversation after reading the chapters.  

Above all, Love your Church is a very timely and helpfully practical book for all of us. Whether we have embraced being back at church or we are struggling to know how best to love our church, this book will help us see why we should invest our time and lives in our local body of believers. 

This book is available from (

Rachel Sloan, Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh & FIEC 

‘Salvation to the Ends of the Earth’, Andreas J. Köstenberger with T. Desmond Alexander (2020) 

It is good to see that ‘mission’ has been receiving a good deal of attention in books published in recent years. Hopefully, this means that Christians are learning more about the importance of the theology and practice of mission and that preachers are placing more emphasis on mission in their sermons. 

This new book is primarily aimed at theological students and preachers, although other determined readers will be able to benefit from it. It surveys biblical material relevant to ‘mission’, with one chapter on the Old Testament (by Desmond Alexander) and four chapters on the New Testament, plus a conclusion, by Köstenberger. While this book bears the same title as the first edition (co-written by Köstenberger and P. T. O’Brien and published in 2001), it is substantially a new book written primarily by Köstenberger. 

Since a lot of material is covered, most passages receive fairly brief discussion. The footnotes, however, are full of references to further reading. 

Köstenberger provides some explanation of the basis on which passages have been chosen for inclusion in the discussion, but the definition of ‘mission’ adopted remains rather vague. Given the significant discussions in recent scholarship on the meaning (and usefulness) of the term, it would have been good to have some discussion of the definition. Interestingly, Alexander adopts Chris Wright’s definition in his chapter so that creation and new creation are included. 

Although there is some brief reference to ‘a missional reading of the entire Bible’ and the ‘mission of God’ (mission Dei), there is little discussion of these important concepts. Readers unfamiliar with these concepts will have to look elsewhere for further explanation. While it is understandable that a ‘biblical theology’ would focus mainly on biblical studies, I think the book would have been strengthened by some more engagement with missiological literature. I noted with interest that while the phrase mission Dei is used numerous times in Desmond Alexander’s chapter, it is virtually absent (apart from one reference on page 147) from Köstenberger’s chapters. While Köstenberger is clearly happy to use the phrase, this perhaps indicates a difference in emphasis between the two authors. 

Students of mission will certainly want to read this book and it may be a good starting point for preachers. I think that Chris Wright’s book, The Mission of God’s People (Zondervan, 2010) would still, however, be my recommendation for a survey of the Bible’s teaching on mission. 

This book is available to purchase from ( 

Alistair I. Wilson, Edinburgh Theological Seminary