The Books on My Bookshelf 2019

favorite books of 2019Had you told 13 year-old Peter Witkowski that he would be reading thousands of pages every year, his eyes would have rolled upward and his mouth would have broken into a sarcastic laugh.  Despite my youthful misgivings and limited prophetic abilities, I have come to love books. I count them as some of my truest friends. They have guided, encouraged, and challenged my heart and mind.

Given my academic studies and profession, my tastes unapologetically bend towards history and theology. Though I read a good deal of academic literature, I have found such literature to possess an engaging sense of readability. Below are the three books that most prominently snuck into my conversations with April Witkowski and a few others in 2019. Though all are not academic in nature, I found all of them to be enjoyable reads.

George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father

Thomas Kidd

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“With apologies to the Beatles, George Whitefield was the first “British sensation.” The missionary to Georgia quickly outgrew the confines of his Savannah assignment and metamorphosed into the first great American preacher. He profoundly shaped the America Christianity as he preached to overflowing churches, challenged other pastors to preach the doctrines of grace, denounced the faculties of Harvard and Yale for their lack of spiritual vigor, and employed the technology of the printing press with unprecedented skill. Since his death, historians have either stomped upon the preacher’s grave in frustration or have desecrated his memory by pulling out one or two choice biblical lessons that ignore the scope of his life and ministry. Kidd attempts to avoid both extremes. He explores and defends Whitefield’s robust faith, giving credence to the preacher’s spiritual believes and experiences. But Kidd also wrestles with Whitefield’s faults, chronicling his odd (and at times comical) interactions with women, his self-awarded sense of grandeur, and his promotion of slavery. Kidd provides readers with a sympathetic and honest presentation of the first “British sensation”

Whitefield may have adopted modern marketing and communication methods, then, but his message was traditional and Calvinist. Instead of softening his view on the depravity of man in response to humanitarian critics, he emphasized original sin more. Whitefield spoke regularly of how people in their lost state became “sunk into the nature of the beast and the devil.

America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation

Grant Wacker

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Readers who engage Grant Wacker’s book will discover a wealth of insights into the depth of breath of Billy Graham’s influence over America. Wacker looks at how southern culture, the civil rights, the economy, and many other factors shaped Graham and were shaped by him. While Wacker paints an endearing picture of Graham’s heart for reaching the lost, the author also deals with the pragmatic realities of Graham’s life and ministry, discussing how Graham worked with Mormons, interacted with racists, and formed an almost monolithic support base middle-class, white evangelicals. Those seeking to understand the many and varied ways Billy Graham’s life has shaped their culture will find Wacker’s book to be a fascinating and beneficial read.

To say that Graham possessed an uncanny ability to adopt trends in the wider culture and then use them for his evangelistic and moral-reform ability purposes is another way of saying he possessed an uncanny ability to speak both for and to the times. Speaking for required him to communicate in a registrar his listeners could hear. He legitimated their social location by guaranteeing that their values would count…Yet…he spoke to them as well. He helped shape their consciousness…Speaking to Americans mean that he challenged them to live up to their self-professed values of biblical equality, moral integrity, and social compassion.

Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat

Giles Milton

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Prior to World War 2, to be British was to be one who championed “decency and fair play.” But as the Nazi military machine filled Europe with death, Winston Churchill decided to liberate the British army from her people’s high sense of morality. The Prime Minister empowered Cecil Clarke, Colin Gubbins and others to research and deploy the dirtiest tools of warfare. The stories that follow appear more fanciful than the tale of Beau Geste. Yet these stories arise not from Milton’s imagination but from the British National Archives. Readers cannot help but be drawn into the tales of misfiring rockets that became for the first anti-tank weapons, daring assignation attempts that snuffed out hated Nazi leaders, and commandos raids that resulted in ships disappearing into the night. As author P.C. Wren noted in 1926, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Milton has rediscovered this maxim afresh, providing his readers with a fantastic read. In addition to chronicling the spies’ bravado, Milton found ways to discuss the humanity of his subjects, weaving details into his book about how their sixteen hour days and long alcohol filled nights strained marriages, enhanced their grief, and resulted in a tank being driven to church. Milton has put together a compelling string of stories that reveal both the strategic benefits and the human cost of Churchhill’s ungentlemanly warfare.

A Ministry of Ungentlemanly warfare. If its name was amusing, its role was anything but. It was to subvert the conventions of war – punch below the belt…Any German target, however soft, was to be considered fair game, and no weapon was to be considered off limits. “This from of activity was of the very highest importance.’ Said Churchill.

Witkowski Memo: Amissville Start Date

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I will preach my first sermon as the Senior Pastor of Amissville Baptist Church on April 22, 2018. On that day, I will kick off our study in 2 Timothy, working through each phrase and verse found in the text to expand and deepen our knowledge of the one true God. I look forward to seeing all my ABC family that day and warmly welcome all in the area to come worship with us!

As we continue to pack boxes, to switch around official documents, and to ready for the arrival of our baby, we want to thank both our First Baptist Church Eastman family and our ABC family for all that they have done.

April and I have been deeply blessed by the multitude of compliments, encouragements, and hugs that are being showered upon us and upon our kids by our FBCE family. You have loved us well through this transition, doing above and beyond what we could have anticipated. We thank God for you and for all the many memories that we have formed together while doing Easter Egg hunts, watching toddlers, leading VBS, fellowshipping together, and teaching together. God is good!

fcb64785-f132-497f-b1ae-4d58b1ad9535While April and I leave our FBCE family with full hearts, we enter into this transition period with great excitement, looking forward to developing bonds with our ABC church family. We are especially thankful for Dr. John L. Lindsay Sadler and for the Elders of ABC. They have diligently worked and sacrificed to lay down the foundation for ABCs future, a future full of gospel hope and godly expectation! April and I look forward to working with the Elders, Deacons, and members of ABC to build up and to expand upon their fruitful labors.

When April and I look around our house and see that our living room resembles a storage unit, our hearts fill with joy. We know that God is leading us to ABC. He led each member of the search team to my resume before they met to discuss potential candidates. He made April’s and my path to ABC clear and direct, including the unanimous call. God has been good, gracious, and faithful throughout this process. He had done far more than we could have ever hoped for! And April and I know he will do far more than we could ever anticipate or hope for when we arrive in Amissville.

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As we wait for that day, we find our hearts increasingly encouraged by and drawn to our new church family. The leaders of ABC and many, many others have been faithfully loving us from afar. They have helped us find doctors, places to rent, office furniture, phone numbers, and so much more. We praise God for you and cannot wait see you face-to-face!

Counting Down The Days,

Peter and April Witkowski

Witkowski Memo: Amissville Baptist Church

peter-and-april-1I was elected by unanimous vote to become the next Senior Pastor of Amissville Baptist this past Sunday, February 25, 2018! For past several months, April and I have fervently sought God’s will for us and our family. We are firmly convinced that God has led and is leading us to serve with the wonderful people of Amissville Baptist church located in Amissville, Virginia.

Over the past five plus years, April and I have learned much about the character and power of God as we served at First Baptist Church, Eastman. We have faced some of our darkest days at FBCE, burying our first born son, Peter Alexander Witkowski, and walking through a variety of trials that have stretched and shaped us into the image of Christ. But we have also been blessed by our heavenly Father and by the amazing love, support, and generosity of God’s people at FBCE. Though April and I have experienced some of the hardest times of our lives, we have also experienced some of the greatest moments of our lives while at FBCE.

downloadWe will leave behind many cherished friends who have lovingly worked, laughed, and cried with us as we sought to reach the families of Eastman, Georgia with the gospel. We thank God for our church family and for all those who have lovingly served in the nursery, on Wednesday Nights, in Sunday school, and during the summer months! FBCE is filled with many amazing, men, women, and youth! Thank you!

I especially want to thank Joe Daniel (former FBCE Pastor of Discipleship), the M4G Kids’ Ministry Leadership Team, and the Bus Ministry team for their selflessness, kindness, and support. The success of the FBCE’s Kids’ Ministry is directly tied to their ideas and to their never ending labors of love that have shaped everything from the Wednesday Night Quest to the Back to School Connection. April and I have been blessed to call all of you our friends these last five plus years. We will miss you as we move to Virginia. If we could take you with us, we would. But we are excited to see how God will use you at FBCE in the days ahead!

Our last day at FBCE will be Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018. During the next few weeks, we will be vigorously working to equip our FBCE family to continue the FBCE’s Kids’ Ministry. We will also be diligently working with our ABC family to prepare for our arrival in Mid-April, 2018.

am_baptWe know that many things in our life are about to change. We enter this new phase of life with hearts full of joy and excitement, trusting in the sovereignty of God. We have seen the hand of God preparing us for ABC and leading us to ABC. We look forward to partnering with our new ABC family for the purpose expanding our shared faith and for the purpose of reaching Northern Virginia with the gospel!

On to Virginia!

To God be the Glory!

Peter and April Witkowski

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