Asking lay preacher students to pay $50 for a textbook seems a bit steep, but Mark Allan Powell's Introducing the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2009) is such a superb book that we've done just that in our new Certificate IV unit. Powell teaches at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. He has a PhD from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia.
Powell's writing is sharp, comprehensive, detailed and witty. "If Jesus has written his Sermon on the Mount for an English composition class, he probably would have gotten it back marked with red ink." The chapters are filled with sidebars highlighting historical, theological and interpretive issues. It's well-referenced (including Internet links) and has its own website with resources for teachers and students.
What I love about this classy, hardcover book are the colour images. It's full of both classical and contemporary (eg. He Qi) gospel images of all kinds, many of which I'd never seen before. Watch a video about the book by the author here. Thanks to Vicky and Liz from Uniting College for finding the book and putting the study unit together.