by Major Peter
By what one might consider a confluence of complementarity and
destiny, I was born with a passion to write and a curiosity
about nuance in language. From a young age, the meaning of
words and how they fit together has intrigued me. My mother
puts it down to a literary gene in her great-grandfather
resurfacing five generations later in her Salvation Army
officer son! Herman Windolf was a Baptist minister who
migrated from Germany to Australia in 1878 and settled with
his family in a rural community in the state of Queensland.
There he wrote many books, some of which can still be found in
the Queensland state library.
Twelve of my now 56 years have been spent in formal
editorial/literary work, and more in the wider field of
communications. Writing and reading during these years became
more than a passion. They were elevated to the level of
discipline and responsibility, such were the demands upon a
religious editor and communications practitioner to know the
state of affairs in both church and world, and, subsequently,
to publish material that would inform, challenge and inspire
readers. It was never about filling column inches on pages
(only) or devising clever communications strategies (only)!
Throughout my adult life I’ve written for one journal or
another, have been editor for projects large and small; and
have written and been a contributing writer for several books.
All along, my reading has influenced my writing and, of
course, my life.
Categories of books I’ve been interested in have varied
according to my personal journey at the time. As a
26-year-old, fresh out of The Salvation Army Officer Training
College in 1987, my interest was almost exclusively in growing
my corps with people experiencing new life and hope in Jesus.
My writing and reading reflected this focus. I devoured books
by church growth practitioners who had become prolific
authors. The big three were
Donald McGavran, C.
Peter Wagner and Paul Yonggi Cho.
Growth, Leading Your Church to Growth, Your Spiritual Gifts
Can Help Your Church Grow, More Than Numbers and Prayer: Key
to Revival are five books from that period that still find
space on my bookshelves. Their content flamed my mission and
shaped my vision profoundly.
Today, through the lens of hindsight, we question the Church
Growth movement and how it morphed into a science with a focus
on formulae that burdened the Church. But the pure water of
Church Growth – that the life-transforming love of God in
Christ is most effectively communicated through relationships
and along cultural pathways, underpinned by powerful prayer –
was deeply birthed in me and is still a part of what drives my
personal Christianity and my passion for The Salvation Army to
be a world-transforming movement of God.
Later, spiritual renewal became a major focus and continues to
be an intrinsic part of what I believe is necessary both for
my own life, daily, and for the Church of God as a whole. My
writing has reflected this focus too – again, shaped not only
by personal experience and by observing the experience of
others, but also by my reading.
comes to mind with his profound and beautifully written book
In the Name of Jesus.
The Man Perfectly
Filled with the Spirit has been a constant reference, not
to mention the more recent
Fresh Wind Fresh Fire
Jim Cymbala and
Other Voices by
Faragher. The latter helps Salvationists particularly
as it explores contemplative spirituality in the context of
The Salvation Army. Five excellent books!
Throughout the span of my ministry, I’ve also had a focus on
leadership. This has intensified in recent years, as we have
increasingly realised the critical place of leadership in the
Church of God, pushed by the global development of leadership
as an academic field of study. Five books that have helped
shape both my leadership practice, and, therefore, my writing
on leadership, are:
Spiritual Leadership by
J. Oswald Sanders,
Leading Change by
William W. George,
I must confess to being increasingly drawn to biographical
writing over the years. With biography, including
autobiography, the reader is influenced by the power of story
that weaves together the progression of a woman’s or a man’s
life and the principles and priorities that drove them through
both adversity and triumph. I find this inspires me more than
any other kind of writing. The reading leaves its imprint upon
me; principally, to be a better and more faithful steward of
my life and my ministry, my relationships and my contribution
So you can imagine that I have devoured Salvation Army
biographies and autobiographies such as
The Gate and the Light,
a superbly written book that tells the story of a man with
tremendous gifts, a humble heart and a deep love for his Lord
who as a cadet never would have dreamt of being General of The
Salvation Army. Like a well-written biography should, the book
has significant historical value. Brown discusses critical
periods in the life of The Salvation Army with great
statesmanship and sensitivity.
Other biographies that have impacted my
life include A Very
Private General by
about the life of General Frederick Coutts;
If Two Shall Agree
Carroll Ferguson Hunt,
about the lives of General Paul A. Rader and Commissioner Kay
Saying Yes to Life,
the autobiography by
General John Larsson;
about the life of former US President Harry Truman; and
Long Walk to Freedom,
by Nelson Mandela.
Finally, when I became a Christian after going my own way for
a while as a teenager,
Billy Graham came
into my hands. The writer somehow seemed to see what was
happening in and through Graham’s life from a heavenly
perspective and conveyed this with great profundity in print.
There was an aura around Billy Graham and the crusades that
developed around his preaching. One could only describe this
as an immense anointing of the Holy Spirit on the great
evangelist’s life and the power of Christ within to keep him
and his ministry in a place of full integrity – a state of
mind and heart and practice that continued despite the
challenges to integrity that world renown must have brought
I always felt there was no guile in Billy Graham, and
Pollock’s book inspired me at the very beginning of my
Christian journey to follow the evangelist’s example of a life
totally dependent on God’s power and given fully to God’s
saving purposes in Christ.
All of these outstanding books are still available for