Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Book Review of The Missional Quest by Lance Ford & Brad Brisco

The Missional Quest: Becoming a Church of the Long Run
by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco
ISBN 978-0-8308-4105-9
IVP Praxis
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have been reading about and discussing ideas about what it means to be "missional" for years. Our church was even rewarded for being externally focused and reaching our community through going out and connecting with the people, civic organizations, and government we worked with by our Regional Leadership. Missional Leadership gets me excited about being a part of the church, and a part of the vision Jesus had for his kingdom (as opposed to mine or our kingdom).

Unfortunately, to be honest, much like terms such as emergent and community, I think the term is quickly bordering on being overused in church circles. I remember my denomination (ABC/USA) doing this big nationwide tour from my denominational headquarters to teach us what it meant to be missional. What we learned is that they liked missional slogans and lingo, but they really did not know that much about what the "missional church" conversation was all about. Instead they were seeking to re-brand the denomination a little to get more money for traditional missions and the United Mission funds of the denomination while really changing nothing about how they see and do church. My experience was much the same with other denominations I deal with these days in the federated church I serve.

Don't let the overuse of the missional nomenclature keep you from exploring what people who are really practicing and living missional church life have to say. Lance Ford and Brad Brisco are leaders in what the "missional church" conversation is really all about. And the Missional Quest is a fantastic book that balances church vision and philosophy with clear practical steps to grow one's church from a self-serving consumer business model to truly living the kingdom of God in their community, neighborhood, and world.

The Missional Quest is very much a how-to book, but a how-to book that is more descriptive than prescriptive. Early on in the book, it takes on the importance of spiritual formation in the missional church. After all, if we are going to bring Jesus into the world, it kind of helps to know him and be connected with him intimately.For this reason, rhythms of spiritual development and mission, outreach, and connecting with our communities need to be paired.

It also takes on the importance of equipping people for ministry, of ministering to people's real tangible needs, and of really connecting with people where they are at, out in the world, and continuing to bring the church to the world instead of expecting the world to come to the church.

I enjoyed the discussion of place in relationship to missional living. Included in the discussion of place are missional practices that help grow us and help us at the same time bring Christ to others. The small group material was very helpful as well.

Much of what I have read in missional church conversations as well as similar outreach efforts focus on church planters. This book, although supportive of church planting, believes that by God's grace it is possible to transition churches to a missional focus. That was very encouraging to me.

I look forward to reading more books by the rest of the Forge Ministries folks, as well as these two specifically.

Book Review of the Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears
by Mark Batterson
ISBN 978-0-310-33073-8
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Each year our D.S. gifts each of the ministers under his supervision with a book to think about and read for the upcoming year. This was the book we received a couple of years ago. I am just now getting it finished.

The guiding story that launches this book comes from the Hebrew book "The Book of Legends". It is about a man that lived a century before Jesus named Honi, and Honi  prayed boldly enough that God answered his prayer and ended a drought that afflicted the whole nation of Israel. Part of what he did was to draw a circle, and tell God he was not going to leave the circle he drew until God brought the land rain. And, as Honi's prayer was answered, people were moved to renew their faith and to understand the true power of bold, big prayers.

Batterson then draws from Honi, from Scripture, and from his own personal experience to describe for people the power and importance of intercessory and petitionary prayer. There are many helpful slogans and prayer practices that Batterson shares, such as "praying through" instead of just "praying to", praying for big things,  making your prayers specific, keeping a prayer journal, establishing a regular prayer habits, about having goals brought to the Lord in prayer and so on.

For people who like specifics, this book has plenty, both from Batterson and his friends in his church and around the world. The Circle Maker is nothing if not practical.

My biggest challenge in reading this book is that many of the examples, instead of changed lives, had to do with wealth, personal achievement, and real estate purchases. And, while that is more helpful than hearing about biological prayer requests all of the time, I also would like to hear more about how prayer changes lives and not just bank accounts.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Book Review of Frameworks by Eric Larson

Frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament
by Eric Larson
ISBN 978-0-615-63312-1
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Frameworks is a nice book. It feels nice when the reader holds it. It has beautiful pictures, and it has a nice cover. It also has a nice concept. Larson goes book by book through the New Testament, and really digs into the main themes and the point of each book of the New Testament. The visual aids are really well done, as well as some of the questions that lead the reader to go deeper in their knowledge of the Bible.

The perplexing thing about Frameworks is that it does not fit easily into a certain mold or type of book for a certain type of reader. The way the book is organized and put together, it could almost be a coffee table book--yet in many ways it is too deep to be just that. It would also be an excellent text for a Bible survey class in a church, although in my church it would be much too spendy for that kind of thing. When I will probably use this is when I am in a mentoring relationship where I am trying to help someone get a better biblical foundation. Larson does a great job of helping the reader go deeper, without overwhelming them. And the visual presentation will make it less intimidating for people do not feel comfortable with a different kind of book.

Book Review of Get Your Teenager Talking by Jonathan McKee

Get Your Teenager Talking: Everything You Need to Spark Meaningful Conversations
by Jonathan McKee
ISBN 978-0-7642-1185-0
Bethany House
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This book is a good book with a relatively simple idea. In Get Your Teenager Talking Jonathan McKee has offered a very practical discussion guide to get adults visiting with young people.

The guide begins with some general tips about starting conversations with teenagers. I don't think it is awful hard, but I am aware than many people do.

Then there are 180 conversation starters. These conversation starters begin with an open question designed to get conversation and dialogue started. Most of the questions are pretty interesting, and would even be good questions to ask at a dinner with friends.
In each conversation the reader is also given an insight to guide their listening with each conversation. After that, there are also some follow up questions, as well as as some more questions that push the conversation to a deeper and more personal and intimate level.

I would think this book would be an excellent resource in a number of settings. It might be helpful in a family devotion time with teenagers. It might also be very helpful in a small group, or as an icebreaker conversation in a fairly inactive youth group. However, I think its original design is just to get parents and kids talking with each other about issues and situations that matter in their lives. I will both keep this book and share it with others. Not very many books are quite so practical.

Monday Morning Quarterback: 8.3.14

6:50am  Wake up. Stayed up later after going to watch "Tammy" with my wife the night before. Last week increased our movie date nights by double for the year, since we usually only do that around our anniversary.

7:00am  Help get the kids breakfast started.

7:10am Shower time. Shaved on Friday, so need this Sunday. Yipee

7:30am Iron clothes, get dressed etc. What? No shirts ripping? No spills? No struggle to find my stuff? This day is going well!

8:00 Grab a G2 and head out the door. Get to the church. Unlock the back door. Check the church parking situation with the motorcycle fiesta/travelling wall. Everything seems to look good. Walk in the church and see that Tracy has delivered on the sign for the Under Construction theme. I put the sign in front of the pulpit. Rock on!

8:10 Settle in. Pray. Review message. Plan children's message. Realize I am going to have to run home to pick up a plant.
8:40 Run home and pick up a plant.

8:45 Begin to observe who is coming to church. Each week I send out postcards to people I see that have been gone. This ministry seems to have shown fruit, as I see several folks coming in that I had sent cards to because they had been missed in worship.I hear people questioning the appearance of the sanctuary as they walk in. This is what I want. To grab people's attention and shake them up a little bit. Caution tape is hung on the pillars. Road Work Ahead Signs and under construction signs around the church. A big ROAD WORK AHEAD construction sign leaning on the pulpit. And now a flower. People start asking, what does a flower have to do with all of this? PERFECT.

9:00 Start out worship.

9:10 First hymn sounds ok, but not great. Such is the case when it is a new hymn with an old tune. I am picking mostly Psalms. Again, as we face the under construction theme, I want people to try some different things.

9:20 Prayer time is fairly brief. Thank God. Sometimes there are folks in our church that have prayer request tirets, spouting requests as nervous ticks from out of nowhere. It makes the service drag on

9:30 Get into the pulpit. I preach with a limited outline. I am excited about the UNDER CONSTRUCTION SERIES, and do well. People seem to connect with my preaching. I get good non verbal feedback. I am less precise, there are more filler words, but I am also less note bound.

9:52 I finish sermon and feel good. Now it is a race to see if we can get done in an hour

9:59 Closing hymn and benediction are all that is left. Then, from out of nowhere another prayer request is shared by someone with prayer terretts about praying for first responders during rally week. I handle that request while deftly moving us to the sending song. Well played on my part I thought

10:02 Service is finished. Two minutes long. People can live with that, although there are some rushing out the door during the final hymn.

10:15 Visit with people for a while

11:15 Drop in on the end of the missions meeting. Some folks seem a little grumpy. Wonder why,

11:30 Everyone leaves, I lock up.

11:45 I get home

12:12 I help with lunch. Then get distracted while Jen finishes up what I start.

1:00  Put kids to bed. I do powerpoint for evening

2:30 Powerpoint finished

2:45 Girls get up from naps

3:15 Run to store with family

3:30 Let kids play while I read and visit with Jen and watch kids. The way Sunday afternoons in the summer are supposed to be. Lots of laughs, a few cries, and a peaceful hour or so.

5:00 Go back to work to prep for the evening service

5:15 Get evening powerpoint on flash drive

5:35  Finish setting up worship space for evening.

5:45 Visit with folks. Remember to go get pens

6:00 Begin worship. I preach the same service as the morning

7:30 Worship ends

7:45 Talk with gentleman who is a leader in the recovery movement in our town that comes to our evening service. Good conversation about life, spiritual growth, and reaching out to folks in need of a clear direction in their life. He brought two friends. They are both excited to come back. My wife knows one of the visitors from working at Social Service. Conflicts of interest like this abound when your wife is a social worker in a town of 4000 people.

8:15 Get home from work

9:00 Put Karis to bed. About a 20 minute ritual.

9:30 Head out in a quest to find Jennifer a pizza. She saw and ad. Now she is hungry. Neither of us have had dinner yet.

10:00 Get home from running all over town. Pizza from Subway. Ice from Fresh Start. Drinks from Dakotamart Gas. Arghhh. Poor customer service all the way around.

10:15-MIDNIGHT Jennifer and I watch Catfish TV. I say that Cashfishers are either fat people who are ashamed of how they look or homosexuals. There is one of each in these two episodes. Called it!

MIDNIGHT-1 I can't sleep without alone time. I spend an hour doing nothing after Jen goes to bed. Then I go to bed as well.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Under Construction: Article for the paper on 8.5

16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. (2 Cor. 4:16 CEB)

Every once in a while I get in a conversation with someone about church and matters of faith. Usually somewhat isolated and from out of nowhere, I suppose because I am a preacher-creature, they say something like, “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites”.
I don’t often try and mount an argument at this point. One reason I do not argue is because I suspect that when people say something like this one of two things is happening. Either the person is speaking from a place of genuine pain coming from a difficult experience, or they are trying to pick a fight or be defensive, or all of the above. In any of these cases, trying to forcefully advocate faith and argue for being a part of a community of faith won’t get me very far.
Another reason I do not argue about this is because there is a ring of truth to the statement. No church will ever live up to the image of the ideal church that others place upon it, or the hopes that those that are a part of the church place on themselves.
Let me explain. If I am a believer in Jesus Christ in a biblical sense, I acknowledge that I am a sinful, broken person seeking to serve a perfect Savior that I believe is the only hope to make me whole, and in fact the only hope for the whole world. And I also acknowledge that although I am growing to be more like Jesus (I John 3:2), I am still a work in progress. I will be until the day I die.
As a Christian pastor, I see amazing things every day that God does in and through his people by the power of the Holy Spirit. I also see how truly messed up people can be, even people who say that they are believers in Christ. This does not surprise me. I know that as believers we are not even what we want to be, for even when we want to do right, we end up doing the wrong thing (Romans 7). I know that like unfinished works of art, God is still working upon each of us. And I know deep down in my heart that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—and I am compelled to follow him, and to participate in a community of faith because Christ draws me, and I know that even through the difficult moments in community God is making me into the person, and making you into the person, that he created us to be.
I have often issued a humorous invitation or threat, depending on how you look at it, to my congregation. I have often said that I am tempted to have a banner printed and placed on the front of our church building that says this, “No Perfect People Allowed, All Others Welcome”.

There is no such thing as a perfect person, other than Jesus. There is also no such thing as a perfect congregation of Jesus. The Church around the world is, I believe, the hope of the world. It is also continuing to be under construction. God is still working on his people, still working with his people. Seeking to make them whole. Seeking to work through his people to mend the world. God is still building his people, with Jesus Christ as the foundation stone or cornerstone. Thank God for his patience with me. Thank God for his patience with us. And thank God for the beauty and truth we find in the middle of the mess of life, and the light we find through the church in the darkness of this world. Thank God for the unearned gifts we received, including our own salvation. Thank God for his grace. Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterback 7.28.14

Monday Morning Quarterback 7.28.14

There is a blog that I follow on occasion written by a Presbyterian minister that I attended college with. Each week he writes a Monday Morning Quarterback post, reviewing the previous Sunday. I thought the habit might be helpful, both to look back on and to process through the previous week. I have kept several people's names anonymous here. I am not trying to keep secrets, but neither do I expect this to be read by very many people here in my church. I just need to begin thinking outloud about ministry in a way that people can offer input, and so I can see my journey in print on this blog. Here is the first installment

6:20  Wake up. I set the alarm for 6, but hit the snooze twice

6:30  Shower and shave the head. My weekly shave of my head takes a little bit of work. I recently bought a Flexball from Gillette, and after getting used to it, I am impressed with the job it does shaving my head.

7:00  Wake the wife up, who is already getting ready because the kids are beginning to crawl in bed and wiggle a lot.

7:30  The company begins to make their way upstairs as I am trying to help watch the kids and iron my clothes for the morning

8:00  I get out the door on time! This is good news and it feels good to get in the office by 8. I will need to work on the children's message, go over the sermon once more, unlock stuff, turn on the sound etc. Excited for the morning

8:30  Ushers and greeters begin to arrive. Communion prep people are also at work.

8:45 Steff shows up. She is a friend from college and will be doing one of two special music pieces. Her family is with her. I love those kids. I love kids more now that I ever have. My babies do that kind of thing to my heart.

8:50 Our friends from the Springs arrive. I greet people in the sanctuary. I watch for people to introduce themselves to our guests. Very few are doing so. I try to make the effort to make introductions with some people. But mostly after saying hello I greet and watch. We have set hospitality as a goal, and in recent weeks it is beginning to show that we do a piss poor job of even introducing ourselves and being polite, much less being friendly and hospitable. I file this in the back of my mind.

8:52 I go get the wireless microphone on. Check on the nursery. Take one of the guest kids back to the nursery. She wants to hug me and wants me to carry her. Very sweet

8:53 A member begins to vocally complain that she is going to be stuck helping the nursery attendant because there are so many kids. DEEP BREATHE.

9:00 Worship begins. Announcements are few. Attendance was mediocre. Will be after count is adjusted, in the 80s. Thank goodness all my friends are here. I have been praying for a monthly average of 100 by the end of the year.

9:05 The first hymn sounds great.

9:25 The prayer requests only last 10 minutes. Praise the Lord.

9:35 Sermon begins. I try to go with an outline, and having all my notes on one sheet of paper. I begin to notice who is gone and who is there. Will need to adjust the sermon as we go. 

I also wonder how many of them are attending worship with our former pastor, just out of town. The thoughts only make me angry. Why did the Conference place us in competition like that? For the last few years I have tried to get the D.S. to share what the boundaries are, and what the book of discipline says about former pastors and retired pastors and their relationship with the church. I have received mixed answers.

For the last few years I have dealt with a previous pastor that has had a difficult time detaching from the congregation, in my opinion. Is it appropriate for pastors that have left their appointment to continue to lead and attend Bible studies, attend and greet people at funerals (even if it is because he worked his way onto the funeral home staff after he left the pastorate here), to show up at church mission and birthday dinners, to attend Easter worship, to have a pastor's spouse lead disaffected members in Bible study, do solos in church, and be asked to participate in choir? Perhaps the Methodists realize that they are not going to have a pastor here for a while and are seeking to push people toward the town and country Methodist church? To offer input to the personnel regarding my job performance? I don't know. 

I have invited them back to the church. So far that invitation has been declined. So occasional visits are made, with the former pastor at one point getting up to leave when I got up to preach. The church doesn't see anything wrong with this. To me it feels like poor boundaries. But, I don't think I can deal with it until I am clear what the ethics of Methodist tradition include. All I know is that I have enough to deal with without having the former pastor in competition, which is now front and center with him pastoring a church less than 15 minutes away.

I don't want to be angry when I preach. I want to speak God's grace. Must push these thoughts to the back of my head. 

I see Mike and Lynn in balcony. This encourages me. They see me and smile. I look at Marce. She is smiling. I see Garry. He is a good listener. Appreciation of the people that are there replace my frustration with who is not. That is nice. I move on.

I try to preach, but I am dealing with a subtext. The parable is the parable of the wheat and tares. The parable deals with not trying to "pull the weeds out" (symbolizing unbelievers) until the harvest. 

Our church had made a stand to not let Mormons serve in our outreach ministry if they were going to make it their mission field. They were welcome to serve if they came as members of the community, but they were not allowed to wear their badges or promote their faith if they serve. When the missionaries heard this they decided not to serve. There are still people upset about our decision. They tell others I personally went not only to the Mormons but all the members to kick them out of the church. This did not happen. But the lies persist. 

So, in the service I want to teach the church not have an "us"/"them" mentality, but to still have covenant accountability and clear boundaries in our ministry and mission. But I don't want to focus there. So I don't. I try to focus on how God leaves us in the world among unbelievers and in the church among unbelievers so that his gospel can spread and we can grow. I think I got my point across.

9:49 I notice one of the kids falling asleep. Perhaps I need to wrap it up. I think I have done for hardly having looked at my notes.

9:52 Sermon finishes. Because of the air conditioning, I always feel like I am preaching in a tunnel. I feel spent and discouraged after the message. Did I really connect? I wonder. Now for communion. Decide it is better to switch the hymn to transition between the sermon and the Lord's Supper instead of the Lord's Supper and the offering. Hymn first will give me an opportunity to get centered as I lead the ordinance/sacrament.

9:58 Steff sings. I just close my eyes and let it soak in. It is well with my soul....it is well with my soul...I think of the history of this song, and listen to the beauty of her singing acapella. In this time of discouragement, I think of the context of the hymn and thank God for his grace in the middle of everything.

10:05 Lois plays Amazing Grace during the cup. It is also wonderful, but I am worried about the clock. 

10:08 Offering.

10:10 Closing song

10:11 Benediction.....YES

10:12 Greet people. Try and remember names. New couple says emphatically that they WILL BE back. Oh, I hope I hope.

10:18  Check attendance. Realize children are not counted. Amend attendance. Why don't they count kids. Hmm.

10:20 Go to Fellowship Hall for Refreshment time

10:40 Say good by to Steff's family

10:50 Go Home to say goodbye to the Martinez family

11:10 Martinez family leaves and I go get my stuff out of the office. 

1:00 Everyone naps but me. Ahhh quiet time.

1:15 I study for sermon #2--Nursing home. I usually do this in the form of three children's messages with a similar theme. This weeks theme: growth.

2:00 I head up to nursing home

2:10 I ask Trish (the nurse on duty) to make the announcement that church will begin at 2:30. She said that it was already done but that she will do it again. I am impressed with the changes at Castle Manor. People are actually helpful and friendly. But Trish is always helpful....

2:30 Worship begins at nursing home. 6 attendees. Best attendance of the month. This is my last week. I think about volunteering to do it every week. 

3:00 Worship ends

3:01 I visit with the residents that hang around for 15 minutes or so, and learn more of their stories. 

3:45 After running for groceries I get home. After the weekend and the day I am wiped out. Feel bad I am not playing with kids, so I try, but I am a million miles away

5:00 Go to get caught up at church. Meet someone on the way from the parsonage to the church that has a deep and important life concern. We talk until 5:50. 

5:50 I rush to get stuff from the office to the fellowship hall for the contemporary service. Then realize we have no A/V person. Worship leader makes hard copies of the songs. Attendance 15. Ugghhh. Back to where we started with this group when I got here.

6:10 Start service. Realize that we have not set communion up. We will do that during our greeting time after singing

7:05 Service gets done. Land speed record.

7:10 Talk w/ Chuck. He is such a good guy. Talk w/ Jenny too. Awesome couple. Wish they lived closer.

7:30 Everyone leaves and I can pick up

7:45 I get things locked up and can go home.

8:00 Love on kiddos

8:30 Put Karis to bed

9:00 Kiss Karis good night and veg out watching late night reality tv on TLC. Analyze villages that "Escaping Alaska" come from. Think about how they could have had greater diversity in participation of Alaska Natives...and mainly just try and not think.

12:00ish Go to Bed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review of Know the Heretics by Justin S. Holcomb

Know the Heretics
by Justin S. Holcomb
ISBN 978-0-310-51507-4
Reviewed by Clint Walker

What a wonderful tool. This book would be great for people who want to know a little more about church history, for those who want to know a little more about Christian doctrine, and for those who would like to teach a more in depth small group about Christian doctrine and why it matters.

Know the Heretics takes several key figures in church history, identifies where their doctrine went astray, why that heresy was dangerous to the church's life and ministry, and how the church dealt with the challenge of each particular heresy. There are also two small chapters on Judaizers and Gnostics, which were most evident from the text of Scripture than church history. The book for the most part, goes in chronological order. Most of the heretics are from the early church, but there are some later heresies that are dealt with as well.

The book makes one wonder, how will we identify heresy and false doctrine in our age? How will we deal with it in our churches? And, how should we deal with it in our churches?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review of Know the Creeds and Councils

Know the Creeds and Councils
by Justin S. Holcomb
ISBN 978-0-310-51509-8
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I love the KNOW series from Zondervan. It is easily read, and yet each book in the series packs in some great information about both Church History and Christian doctrine.

Know the Creeds and Councils sequentially covers a number of creeds and confessions of the church through time, leading up to the modern day. Included in the study is both the documents of the early church, some confessions from the Reformation era, as well as the import of Vatican II and some evangelical gatherings that the author felt were important.

Some of these creeds and councils are important primarily for the doctrinal standards they set. Others in the series of councils and creeds are more important because they pave the way for how the Church functions and does ministry and mission in the world. Some were more familiar to me from my study of church history than others. All of them, however, are important.

Book Review of Acts: Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Vol VI

Acts: Reformation Commentary on Scripture
ed. by Esther Chung-Kim and Todd R. Hains
ISBN 978-0-8308-2969-9
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This is the latest in the series that seeks to gather together Reformation perspectives on different portions of Scripture, and gather them together in a commentary. This particular commentary goes passage by passage through the book of Acts, drawing out what Bible teachers had to say about this portion of Scripture in this important epoch in church history.

Both of the scholars that have edited this particular commentary are fairly early in their academic careers. Esther Chung-Kim teaches at Claremont McKenna College in California. She is a student of church history, and appears to have a lot of experience with doctrinal history within the church, which comes in very helpful in compiling Reformation documents for a Bible commentary. Todd Hains is finishing his doctorate, but also has a career in editorial work at a Christian publisher. It is nice to see IVP empowering young academics in this commentary series. And, these two fine people did a fine job with this commentary.

The editors did a fine job of including a number of different Reformers, using quotes from both the "big guns" of the Reformation, as well as other resources that many people will know less about. This allows the reader to search a certain passage, and see quotes from Calvin and Erasmus next to quotes from Luther and the English Annotations.

The authors also do a great job of balancing certain schools of thought and interpretation that came about during the Reformation era. Some Reformers were more interested in one thing that another, or had local concerns that influenced their writing. The balance of perspectives helps us get a better picture of the Reformation, as well as of the Scripture as a whole.

I recommend highly adding this book to your collection, and considering a subscription to the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review of Virtuous Minds by Phillip E. Dow

Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development
by Phillip E. Dow
ISBN 978-0-8308-2714-5
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This book, as you might be able to tell from the cover, is a book on pedagogical philosophy. Specifically, the author wants educators to pay more attention to teaching students values that will help them grow throughout life instead of just facts that they will forget soon after learning them.

Virtuous Minds makes the case for intellectual character development through seven intellectual virtues. As the book description on the back cover states, "virtue is not just about doing the right things, it is about becoming the right kind of person."

Dow believes that this kind of education of persons can happen in churches, homes, and schools, but as an educator he has written this primarily as a resource for those seeking to formally educate young persons. There are 8 appendices in this book, and all of them have to do with implementing the program in the classroom.

The book starts off with a description of each of the seven intellectual virtues that should be cultivated. Dow then follows the virtues with the benefits of developing these character traits in young people. After that there are a few small practical guides on implementing the philosophy advocated in Virtuous Minds. Finally, there is a discussion guide for university students and church groups followed by appendices.

I think Phillip Dow has some interesting things to say here. I certainly believe that his goals are easier accomplished by charter schools and private schools than in our heavily regimented public school environment. I could especially see them into a classical education model.

Book Review of Justice Awakening by Eddie Byun

by Eddie Byun
ISBN 978-0-8308-4419-7
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Justice Awakening is a neat little book. It is simple. It is straight-forward. It is a passionate call to action.

Eddie Byun, through this book, argues for Christians to join God in being wholly committed to reaching out to help the forgotten who have lost the ability to fight for themselves.

This book begins with sharing the heart of God as it is revealed in Scripture. Byun looks at the themes of God's justice and compassion throughout history. He then exposes the scene today. He talks about the different ways that modern day slavery exists, from countries in the third world, to places that are next door or just around the corner. Some of the issues he brings up are well known, but others are less spoken about. After this, Byun shares why the church should care, and what the church should do in response to injustice and human trafficking in all of its forms.

Please pick up Justice Awakening. For some more aware of the issues involved, there will be sections of the book that will be review. For others, this book will open their eyes for opportunities for ministry that they had never thought of or discovered.

Book Review of Imitating God in Christ by Jason B. Hood

Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern
by Jason B. Hood
ISBN 978-0-8308-271-7
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Being a follower of Jesus is at one time simple, and then at the same time it takes a lifetime to figure out. Imitating God in Christ in a very academic, biblical, and theological way calls believers to imitate God in Christ. And in doing so, Jason Hood opens the eyes of readers to a beautiful way of understanding the journey of discipleship.

This book tracks this theme of imitation from Genesis (image of God), through the gospels (discipleship/apprentice language), and through the Pauline writings, where the imitation language is more direct and constant.

The book then goes on to describe a process for discipleship, and anticipate arguments against the thesis that is presented. It is a through, well-written book that is needed for our day and time. While the language of imitation is not new (see Thomas a Kempis for an example), in some circles it has been called into question for the tendency to describe imitation as a moral ethic, but not grounded in a relationship with Christ. Hood forcefully argues that this way of viewing imitation, from both sides of the theological spectrum, is short-sighted and fails to take into account the entirety of what Scripture has to say on the matter.

Read this book. Read deep. And begin to ponder anew what it means to be a Christ-follower.

Book Review of Balancing It All by Candace Cameron

Balancing It All: My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose
by Candace Cameron Burke
ISBN 978-1-4336-8184-4
B&H Publishing Group
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Candace Cameron Bure, the star of Full House and the sister of fellow thespian Kirk Cameron, has recently written a book that shares her story and offers advice about being a Christian mother. Her situation is unique because she is also doing some work acting, and her husband is a professional athlete.

This book is interesting and decently written, but will not be for everyone. Mrs. Bure has a more fundamentalist, conservative worldview, which makes its way into her decisions about parenting, marriage, and life. And while many women will relate to her struggles to balance responsibilities, not all of them will make the same decisions she has.

The book is interesting, and mixes biography and inspiration. I will most likely give it away to someone who can better relate theologically and personally to Bure's story.

The Perils of a Pastoral Staycation

I get 4 weeks of paid vacation a year. This is, for the most part, the standard vacation for ordained pastors in my denomination. My wife gets the equivalent of about 2.5 a year, but she also gets sick time and weekends. She also does not have a Masters Degree with 90 graduate hours of study. But I digress.

I am very thankful for my four weeks a year. I need them. There are folks I know, especially in the public sector, that get more. And there are folks I know that get less.

Our challenge, with Jennifer working part time, is that we don't really have the resources to travel for my time off. Nor does Jennifer have all of the time that I have to be gone, especially having just completed cancer treatment. Being on staycation though, is always fraught with challenges for a pastor, especially when one serves a church that compels the pastor to live in a residence provided by the church as part of their salary package.

One of the challenges comes when one tries to figure out what one should do during worship time on Sunday. Go to another church? Stay at the house? The problem with staying at the house is that it leaves you peeking out the window to see who is attending, and fearful that someone will want to drop by for keys. In the church we served in Fowler, our home was less than 15 yards from the sanctuary, which means that if we stayed in the house we not only were subject to the awkward sense of being home while people were worshiping next door, but we also heard worship next door from our living room.

This year is further complicated by me splitting my Sundays. I took Sunday night off last week, but Sunday morning off this week. My sister came into town on vacation, and I wanted to show her around the Hills for the week. So I did.

And because people know I am not far away, I am often drawn in to do things I otherwise could not if away on vacation. These things include:
  • Doing a funerals (this has happened at while on vacation more than once)
  • Answering questions about who to help with assistance vouchers
  • Going to church social events with family that I have been personally invited to
  • Continuing to "be the pastor" in the community even though I am not working which has impact on how I dress, what I say etc. Even though I am not working, the "weight" of ministry is still not removed 
  • Seeing everything that is happening at the church because I live right next door
  • Having garage sales for the church in my front yard
  • Responding to pastoral concerns via phone regarding illness etc.
  • Much more
Now, with some minor exceptions, there is no blame to be laid. This is part of the deal of the pastoral staycation, and why it is more difficult to leave work as a pastor unless one leaves town.

Perhaps pastors need to talk about home exchanges for vacation stays? I don't know. I just know that a staycation, although sometimes necessary in ministry, is never really completely time off.