Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review of Feasting on the Word: Lenten Companion edited by David Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Kimberly Bracken Long

Feasting on the Word: Lenten Companion--A Thematic Resource for Preaching and Worship
edited by David Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Kimberly Bracken Long
ISBN 978-0-664-25965-5
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Quietly, Feasting on the Word and Westminster John Knox Press are becoming the go-to resource for pastors and worship leaders who are seeking high quality, biblically-grounded resources to guide them their study and liturgy. This newest Lenten Companion is another great piece to an already irreplaceable series of resources.

The Lenten Companion, like the Advent companion, does not directly follow the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). Instead, provides readings, resources, and commentary based on a set of Lenten readings that focuses on the Gospel of John on Sunays, and on a broad view of fasting through Midweek services. For Weekend services, there is also an old Testament text that is provided, but there is a strong emphasis on the word and works of Jesus during Lent, as is appropriate.

The resources are organized in chronological order. The weekend service materials begin the companion and include liturgical resources, a children's sermon guide, song suggestions, and a fourfold biblical commentary for both the Old Testament and New Testament texts.

The midweek resources are more scripted. They do not include items such as a children's message. They do include a homily that is already written for the preacher to use if they choose.

The Tridium resources are also available for Holy Week (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday). They are similar to the midweek service materials, but with a little more depth, in my opinion.

I am not using this resource this year. I was already hard at work planning Lent and its accompanying programs by the time I go to work on it. But if given the opportunity, I do plan to work with this resource in 2016. In fact, I am looking forward to it!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review of Building Your Volunteer Team by Devries and Stratman

Building Your Volunteer Team: A 30 Day Change Project for Youth Ministry
by Mark DeVries and Nate Stratman
ISBN 978-0-8308-4121-9
IVP Praxis
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I was a youth pastor in some form for 13 years. For the last 7 years I have been a solo pastor of churches in Colorado and South Dakota. The last three school years I have been assisting with our youth ministry program while serving as the pastor. If I were to jump back into youth ministry again, I would grab a hold of this book and run with it, implementing the 30 day plan at some point very early in my ministry at my new church.

This book is written by the fine folks at Ministry Architects, a wonderful, thoughtful, research based operation that offers the best in consulting ministry for churches striving to build and grow their youth program. My experience with this organization was very affirming and helpful in my ministry. This book will be a great resource for people eager to build a team of youth ministers, and who at the same time are unsure on how to accomplish that lofty goal of building a ministry team.

Each week has a particular segment of this job to work on, and each day has steps to take in order to build the team in a month. By the end of the month, you should see progress. The back cover guarantees the process. If you purchase the book and don't like the results after thoughtfully implementing the steps, simply return the book and get reimbursed.

This book needs to be on every pastor's bookshelf, and every youth minister's bookshelf as well. It is just that helpful of a book.

Book Review of Faith is Like Skydiving by Rick Mattson

Faith is Like Skydiving And Other Memorable Images for Dialogue with Seekers and Skeptics
by Rick Mattson
ISBN 978-0-8308-4411-1
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

When I was in college, my friend was trying to figure out relationship issues. He became my roommate, and we would check out Gary Smalley videos from the local library and discuss them. Smalley's videos described the process of using "emotional word pictures" with one's spouse and children in order to effectively communicate what was on one's heart. The idea was that the communication was more effective when one used these word pictures than when one simply used concrete statements. Rick Mattson takes a similar approach, and strangely enough he applies this approach to the task of Christian apologetics in Faith Is Like Skydiving.

Each chapter in Faith is Like Skydiving takes on a different issue in explaining and defending the faith. Each chapter has a phrase that is an easily memorable title. That phrase addresses a certain objection to the Christian faith with a word picture than serves as shorthand for an intellectual argument against the objection to faith. It is a brilliant idea. And it helps folks communicate what they believe well and remember what they have learned about defending the faith easily.

This would be a great book to read alone. It would be an even better book to go through in a group and discuss chapter by chapter.

Book Review of The Evangelism Study Bible

The Evangelism Study Bible
Notes by Evantell
ISBN 978-0-8254-2662-4
Kregel Academic and Minstry
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Each year there are several new study Bibles that hit the market. Some of them are oriented toward niche markets (hunters, housewives etc), while others of them are paired with new insights. The Evangelism Study Bible is oriented toward a mission, namely reaching unbelievers and convincing them to place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Somebody did a lot of work in putting the notes to accompany this NKJV bible. There are several "verse notes" at the bottom of the page like a traditional Bible. There are many helpful cross-references. There are several larger articles within each book of the Bible speaking to how specific texts will be helpful to evangelistic endeavors or insightful in showing God's mission throughout Scripture. There are also several helpful devotional articles that one could use even in teaching and preaching.In addition to this, there are evangelism "tips" throughout the notes as well. The back of the bible has a guide to sharing one's faith with others. This study Bible also have a helpful concordance

I think this would be a great study Bible for either a person that wants to become a better evangelist, or someone who wants to use the many resources enclosed to reach their friends and neighbors and teach others to do the same.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Good quotes (Discovered in The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg)

It isn't easy to let a text read you. Your thirst for knowledge and information often makes you desire to own the word, instead of letting the word own you"--Henri Nouwen

When you or I open the Bible, we are beholding the very words of God--words that have a supernatural power to redeem, renew, refresh, and restore our lives to what he created them to be.--David Platt

Scripture is not in and of itself divine, but we should respect, even reverence, Scripture as the divinely appointed medium by which God chooses to reveal himself to us--Donald Bloesch

Every word in the book (the Bible) is intended to do something in us, give health and wholeness, vitality and holiness to our souls and our body--Eugene Peterson

One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared to really enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer will we receive it.--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review of The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg

The Bible Study Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to An Essential Practice
by Lindsay Olesberg
ISBN 978-0-8308-1049-9
IVP Connect
Reviewed by Clint Walker

The Bible Study Handbook is a book with a simple title that packs a powerful punch. Whether it is being used by a person seeking education and teaching in how to lead a Bible study, or a person who is seeking to study the Bible better for themselves, Lindsay Olesberg provides a book that is easily readable, inspiring, and sure to help the reader to grow both in their passion for the Lord's Word and their ability to handle it well.

The book is divided into three parts. The first section provides "foundations". This is designed to communicate more of the "why" of inductive Bible Study, but I found that this section had some very practical guidelines.

The next section, "Building Blocks", highlights attitudes and values that are essential to bring to studying and teaching the Word if you are going to get the most out of it. This is excellent too, and points a person seeking to become a real student of the Word in the right direction.

The final section is called "tool box". The title of that section is self-explanitory. It gives practical helps to guiding others through inductive Bible study, and getting more out of that study oneself.

The appendices also provide good, brief guidelines for Bible teachers, and to a lesser extent Bible students.

I would recommend this book to pastors, christian educators, and all with a passion for going deeper in the word

provided by IVP in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review of Pursuing God's WIll Together by Ruth Haley Barton

Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups
by Ruth Haley Barton
ISBN 978-0-8308-3566-9
IVP Formatio
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I am in the process of transitioning our church leadership teams and committees into spiritual communities of practice. In other words, I am seeking to have each team and committee (eventually) not just be a group of people that seeks to do business, but a small group that has a particular ministry and learning focus. The idea is that leadership within the church will be a growing and learning process, and not just another meeting I have to show up to. The teams will become life-giving communities instead of simply obligations. That is the goal.

I was in the process of introducing this paradigm shift when I discovered this book. This book calls leadership teams in congregations and other Christ-centered organizations to become communities of spiritual discernment. The first three quarters of the book teaches the readers how to establish a discernment culture within the organization. The final quarter of the book unveils a clear, practical methodology for practicing discernment in leadership gatherings and communities.

I have enjoyed this book so much that I am in the process of buying the book for each member of the leadership board of our church with my own money. It is a suburb introduction to doing ministry in a different way. It is going to be a great tool for moving us away from a purely business model of church leadership, and moving toward being a wisdom-seeking leadership team. I love it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review of The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

The Sentinels of Andersonville
by Tracy Groot
ISBN 978-1-4143-5948-9
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Writing about war is a lot like writing about sports. It is easy to make a mess of doing either. On one hand, one can easy tend toward a sentimentality that lacks both realism and readability. On the other hand, one can get so overly bogged down in detail that the reader is bored to tears. Tracy Groot in The Sentinels of Andersonville avoids both these pitfalls.

Set in one of the most grizzly and ugly prison camps in the Civil War, and perhaps in all of American history, one becomes acquainted with Confederate citizens that become aware of the shameful and immoral way that people were treated in Andersonville. Each in their own time, they come to the conclusion that something must be done to end the cruelty, and hatch a plan to help end the shameful and painful treatment that many are enduring. Will they get caught? Will they follow through with their plan that will be seen as both treason and weakness. You will have to read the book to find out.

Book Review of Olinger Stories by John Updike

Olinger Stories (Everyman's Pocket Classics)

Olinger Stories
by John Updike
ISBN 978-0-375-71250-0
Everyman's Pocket Classics
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I used to be able to sit down and read a good, solid book by an excellent writer in a day or so. This is not the case since I had children. Now I hardly have enough time to use the bathroom in peace. For this reason, I like to grab collections of short stories when I can, and read small nuggets of good literature. And it is for this reason that I picked up these autobiographical short stories by John Updike.

John Updike is one of the leading writers of the 20th century in America.  Olinger Stories is a collection of his autobiographical short stories that has been out for a long time. This printing of this fine book is a small hardback. It has an excellent cover and a ribbon. It would be great for putting in one's purse and backpack and getting in a quick read while the kids are on the playground, or while you are waiting to be seen in the doctors office.

Book Review of Beneath a Navajo Moon by Lisa Carter

Beneath a Navajo Moon 
by Lisa Carter
ISBN 98-1-4267-5799-0
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Lisa Carter always grounds her books firmly in a place. Whether writing about her native Carolina, or setting her book in the culture of Hawaii, she writes mysteries, that often have a twist of romance, and help readers explore regional culture and people at the same time.

This book does much of the same. It is a book set in Navajo, on the reservation that reaches across multiple states in the arid Southwest. The protagonist, Erin Dawson, is a Southerner, unfamiliar with the ways of the Navajo people, who sees a crime take place. Because of her involvement in the prosecution of the crime, she is forced to both stay near the people and the place where the crime took place. She learns a lot about herself and the people around her, and even finds the opportunity to bond with a gentleman friend. Because this is full of mystery, crime, and suspense, the book reads quickly.

As is typical of Abingdon books, it expresses a faith perspective without beating you over the head with an agenda. Good stuff.

Book Review of Jesus is the Question

Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus asked and the 3 He Answered
by Martin Copenhaver
ISBN 978-1-4267-5514-9
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This is the book that I have been seeking for years. Martin Copenhaver, luminary of progressive Christianity and president of Andover-Newton seminary has written a book probing the questions of Jesus.

When I was in seminary, I had an internship of sorts at one of the traditional flagship churches of my denomination. Specifically, I was studying the nature of Associate Ministry, and participating in the broader life of the congregation. I did not really fit in. I did however, find myself captivated by a sermon series that Rev. Dick Olson was preaching called  "We Ask, He Asks", pairing the questions of Jesus with our very human concerns. Since then I have always desired to go deeper with this theme. Jesus is the Question has allowed me to do so.

Copenhaver artfully organizes the questions by topic. He probes deeply into where Jesus is seeking to lead his students and disciples with his questions, and then draws some humble conclusions at the end of each chapter. He also has "all the questions" in the back of the book, along with a discussion guide for classes and/or book clubs.

All in all, a fantastic achievement. If I don't use this is a study, I may use it as a guideline for a sermon series.

Book Review of Revival by Adam Hamilton

Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It
by Adam Hamilton
ISBN 978-1-4267-7884-1
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Revival by Adam Hamilton is a thoughtful, meaningful study of Wesley's life and the lessons that believers today can learn from his example. The book cane be read alone, or it can be used in concert with a curriculum series that accompanies it, Revival challenges believers--especially those of Wesleyan and Methodist backgrounds--to grab on to the spiritual principles of Wesley's life, and to appropriate them for their own Christian journeys.

Each chapter, in addition to being linked with a spiritual principle and an segment of Wesley's life is also associated with a place. Because of this,even in the book, there are several helpful maps and pictures that help readers get grounded with the Wesley story.

Revival is an easy read. It has both helpful historical information as well as meaningful spiritual insight. It is a book that deserves attention, especially from those within the Methodist and Wesleyan tradition.