Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving
by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman and Donald C. Guthrie
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a denominational executive. We were discussing people that we both knew, and one of the people that came up was a person who I knew in seminary that was no longer in local church ministry. That led to a conversation about the people I went to seminary with, and a discussion about how many of them have left pastorates and leadership positions in ministry, never to return to ministry service in congregational life. It turned out, at least half of the people I studied for the ministry with are no longer in church leadership.
I share this, not in judgment, but to make the point that the work that Burns, Chapman and Guthrie have done in Resilient Ministry is important work. What these three ministers and scholars have done is engage in a five year study among ministers that helps them understand what contributes to longevity and resiliency in ministry, and what mitigates against it. What they discovered was not earth shattering, but it was deeply insightful.
Resilient Ministry, according the authors, in defined by healthy practices in five key areas. Those areas are spiritual formation, self-care, emotional and cultural intelligence, marriage and family, and leadership and management.
There is a lot of good insight to read, but this book is just as good to read in small chunks. I read little sections at a time. What formational practices sustain pastors? What to pastors who cannot endure in ministry share in common in their formational practices or lack of them? What stressors does ministry put on a marriage, and how is that addressed?
What is even more compelling are the stories and the descriptions that come directly from the study throughout the book. Some of the confessions are so raw that the reader is emotionally moved to examine their own life. Others are practical enough to be put into practice immediately after reading the quote.
I think this book deserves to be read in every seminary, and should be on every pastor's bookshelf. It has that much insight and truth into the professional and personal experience of ministry life.
Monday, January 20, 2014
The Butterfly Effect
By Andy Andrews
Simple Truths/Thomas Nelson
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Wow! What an amazing book.
This book briefly describes what is known as the butterfly effect. Briefly stated, the idea is that a butterfly can flap its wings in a jungle somewhere, and that small act can set off a series of reactions that can lead to a hurricane being formed in another part of the world. At first this theory was mocked, but now, in a more scientific and general sense, the idea has been proven and is considered a scientific law.
Andrews uses this law of science and delves into human history in order to point to an important truth--everything matters. The decisions we make have far reaching impacts. He recounts the stand of General Chamberlain at Gettysburg, and shows how one small skirmish on one small in in one battle in one war changed the whole course of human history. He does the same with the story of Norman Bourlag, whom, through a series of relationships, he traces back to George Washington Carver, and his adopted parents.
Andrews then encourages all of us to remember that we can make a difference. And that our seemingly small acts of faithfulness can have a great impact.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The Weight of Mercy: A Novice Pastor on the City Streets
by Deb Richardson-Moore
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Occasionally I am sent a book that I lose track of for a while, and then I find it and discover I am supposed to review it. At that point it keeps getting put further and further down the review cue. Unfortunately, that is what happened to The Weight of Mercy. Having had a chance recently to look it over, I wish I had been able to share it with you sooner.
This book is about a woman who was a journalist who was called to ministry. She eventually accepts a call in an inner city ministry. While there she has many ups and downs. She thrives and grows as a minister, and has several unique adventures and stories to share along the way. Pastor Richardson-Moore's story is compelling because she is a Baptist, an inner city minister, and a minister in the Deep South, which makes the combination of other factors all the more interesting.
Richardson-Moore writes like the former journalist she is. She tells a story well. She gets her facts straight and her story clear. She reports. Their is not much preachy talk or embellishments in this story, it is simply one person sharing their unique journey.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
by Michael J. Kruger
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Every couple months or so, I watch a television show, read an article, or read a blog post that seems to promote a certain theory about the development of the New Testament. The language Kruger would use for these theories is that they have a viewpoint that promotes a view of the canon that is "external" to the Church and to the Scripture itself. The most common of these theories would say that we have now are our because Constantine and the Roman government forced the church to set a list of New Testament Scriptures in stone, and to avoid those other writings that might be revolutionary, counter to the mainstream of the faith, which also included documents such as the gnostic gospels.
Several conspiracy theories have adopted this Constantinian, external view of the development of the Canon. Some of the more popular writers that claim that the development of a clear understanding of the New Testament didn't happen until Constantine forced it on the church. People like Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman have been foisting these conspiracy theories about the New Testament canon upon the church for decades. Lately, with the re-discovery of the gospel of Judas and emphasis on other similar, later, unorthodox writings, it has become more popular to emphasize and foster these concerns.
In The Question of Canon Kruger follows up some of his other work to emphasize a more traditional view as, in fact, more historically grounded and intellectually tenable. He does so by addressing five areas of concern. Honestly confronting the biblical deconstructionists, he makes a compelling case for the core of the New Testament coming together in the late second century instead of the fourth.
For pastors and students of Scripture, this is an important apologetics piece to have on your shelf, both to study and to share with others.
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
It is the day before the big day. Tomorrow Jennifer will be starting her second round of chemotherapy. And so, it is an evening of preparation.
For the last several months, I have been doing most of the bathing for the girls. When I am out for work or something, Jen would fill in. But, for the most part, it has been my job for a while now. This week Jennifer is bathing the kids, trying to spend a lot of time playing games with them, and teaching them about drawing letters as well as other things. She is anxiously trying to get things done at work. She is planning out her health care in her head for the next several months, if not years. The floor is constantly being picked up. The tables are being cleared off. I try to keep up with her but I cannot. It is Chemo Eve, and her energy and anxiety are both in overdrive.
We have had several Chemo Eve nights in our home but tonight is different. Jennifer is beginning the Taxol phase of her therapy. That means chemicals once a week. The side-effects are supposed to be much less. However, when it comes to her health and her chemotherapy, Jennifer is a strong believer in Mr. Murphy and his laws. So, she fears she will again succumb to becoming a "chemo-zombie", that she will be unable to care for her family as she wishes. So tonight, and earlier this week, she is striving to do everything she can now that she might not be able to do later.
The bedroom floors are being cleaned. The clothes are being folded. Blog posts are being made in abundance. All preparations on the Eve of the Chemo.
And tomorrow we begin the new phase of the journey. A chemical treatment that is designed to be more like a series of body blows to cancer, as opposed to the haymaker roundhouse punches of the A-C Treatment. Jennifer is ready. But she is keeping busy making sure she is ready. It is the way of anxiety and chemical therapy for cancer. It is Chemo Eve.
This year one of my goals is to establish a more "regular" devotional routine. It is not that I don't spend time studying my Bible or prayer, it is just that in the last couple of years I really have not had a plan and stuck to it in this regard. I do one thing one day, and another thing the next. And there is a reason why this happens. I have quite a few devotionals. I like having and using them. Why not use as many of them as possible?
The problem is that I don't get any real consistent teaching, learning and formation by hopping from one devotional to the next. There are times when I want to use special devotional structures. For instance, I like using special studies for Advent and the Lenten season.
Last night I performed an inventory on my devotional resources. I have at least 15 options on my Kindle. That that does not include my YOUVERSION app.
I have at least 48 options for yearly devotionals in print. And then several more that are for forty days, once a week, or the like. To be fair, these also include prayer books, which are, in my opinion, to ritualistic to be described as devotionals. Though, they do guide one's daily prayer life.
There are other seasonal devotionals. And then there are business/leadership meditations from the likes of John Maxwell, Peter Drucker, and Laurie Beth Jones.
In case I forget, having three denominations provides me with three options on the "periodical" kind of devotionals, which include the Upper Room (United Methodist), the Secret Place (American Baptist and Disciples of Christ), and These Days (PCUSA).
So what is a guy to do. They all look neat. Do I want to go trendy and use my devotions from Sarah Young? Do I want to use my devotional time to read Bible verses accompanied with excepts from popular authors? Do I want to get in touch with the church ladies and use the free devotionals I downloaded from Beth Moore? My options are endless.
So then it comes down to, what are my goals?
1. To read through a good portion of the Bible
2. To have a more structured habit of intercessory prayer
3. To be taught by one person through the year and thus renew my mind through a "literary" mentor in the faith.
Thus, the plan will be
1. To use "Uncommon Life" as my regular devotional
2. To use my prayer journal for my regular prayer time
3. To choose a devotional that gets me reading large portions of Scripture, if not all the way through it. This will be either YOUVERSION on my Kindle or PAUSE from NavPress, Write reflections in my bible study journal.
4. To supplement these commitments with other devotionals and prayer books. Plan this out in my devotional planner.
Hope that works. We will see.
Monday, January 06, 2014
On Sunday, June 5, 2013, Steve Wolfe passed away. I will miss him.
I met Coach Wolfe when I was a freshman in high school. He was my wrestling and my football coach. Many people will share about his accomplishments in the next couple of days. He was a committed family man, a accomplished athlete, a dedicated coach, a man of faith with a deep commitment to his church and his community. I would like to share what Coach Wolfe meant to me.
When I first met Coach Wolfe, I had just moved to Alaska. I was picked on and pushed around on a daily basis. I was struggling academically, emotionally, and personally. I was in a new place. I did not know where I fit or belonged.
Somehow, I think at the encouragement of Darrell White, I was drafted as the manager of the wrestling team my freshman year. I wanted a varsity letter, and I could get one if I was the manager of the team. So, I did it. And, I continued to get picked on by the upperclassmen I served. Every trip. All the time.
In the midst of all my difficulties, Coach Wolfe saw something in me as a person and an athlete. He encouraged me. Along with Coach White, he coaxed me into wrestling in one tournament my freshman year. Then, after playing football my sophomore year, I decided to wrestle as well.
My first year I was atrocious. I won enough matches to letter, but not by much. I was a first year wrestler wrestling varsity heavyweight. Coach Wolfe worked with me to get better every day anyway.
As I entered my junior year, he came to identify that I was a kinesthetic learner. I stayed after practice every night, and he worked with me and often Ivan on moves. He discovered that he needed to literally put my body into position and move me through the moves he was teaching with his hands. Once I felt what I was supposed to do, I often got it. And then as I practiced it I got better and better.
So he put in hours and hours of working with me. And his help paid off. I ended up going from 9-23 my sophomore year to a 50% win record my junior year. This was deceiving because I was much improved the second half of my junior year, barely missing the state tournament.
It was also at that time that my mother's boyfriend died. Having been with my mom since I was 5, he was really like my step-father. Steve not only invested in my wrestling skill, he invested in me as well. He picked me up to lift weights with him and Ivan in the summers. He stood up for me with other kids and other teachers. He ran with me. He encouraged me. He cared.
By my senior year, his work with me had paid off. I placed 3rd in state. I set the record for pins, wins, and varsity points at the time. I was a captain of both the football and wrestling teams. I was the Homer High School Male Athlete of the Year. As an athlete I went on to be a two-time Academic All-American football player. I would have given up on myself and quit if Steve Wolfe did not trust in me, believe in me, and invest in me.
Coaching was more than a way to stay athletic for Steve. It was his vehicle for reaching out and loving kids, of helping young boys become men, of reaching out to the lonely and downtrodden, the lonely and the lost, and using sports to help form them into the kind of people they could be. It was his mission and his ministry. With me, he found a beaten-up, lonely kid devoid of confidence and saw potential in me that I did not see in myself. He believed in me when nobody else thought I was worth believing in. And, although I still struggle with confidence in certain parts of my life, he taught me that I have the strength within me to overcome, to make a difference, to matter for something. My father did not do that. My teachers, family and friends did not do that. Coach Wolfe did that. And for that I will forever be grateful.
Sunday, January 05, 2014
The Fire that Consumes
by Edward William Fudge
Cascade Books (Imprint of Wipf and Stock)
Reviewed by Clint Walker
In the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion trying to sort out Biblical truth from medieval myth and historic church dogma when it comes to the afterlife. Books like Rob Bell's Love Wins and Sprinkle and Chan's Erasing Hell have hit the bookshelves, both discussing how the preaching of the kingdom of God and eternity with Jesus has to do with the eternal torment in hell for unrepentant unbelievers.
Long before these men were debating the issue, Edward Fudge was quietly making the case for conditionalism, or annihilationism, depending on what you would like to label it. In either case, Fudge first entered the debate on the nature of hell in 1982 with The Fire that Consumes. Now, more than thirty years later, the book is as relevant as ever, revised and expanded in many places in order to speak to contemporary thought and scholarship on the issue.
Fudge's professional training, primarily, is as an attorney, although he has some theological education as well. As an attorney, he makes his argument for the ultimate death of unbelievers, instead of their eternal conscious punishment. He does so by making a careful exposition of pertinent Scriptures, a detailed study of extra-biblical sources that informed New Testament thinking, as well as a clear discussion of the church fathers, and how the doctrine of hell evolved.
Fudge's arguments against a traditional view of hell are quite compelling. I am still considering them myself. Especially since the weight of his arguments come not from tradition or sentiment, as some of the arguments for even some of the best theologians do, but clearly they come directly from Scripture.
Whether or not you agree with Fudge, his arguments are worth listening to. And I am not the only one who says so. With scholars writing forwards for the book like Richard Bauckham and F.F. Bruce, as well as kind words from Max Lucado on his web page, a lot of people, even if they do not agree with Fudge, are sympathetic to his compassionate heart, his argumentation, and his ability to pay attention to the details of what the Scripture is saying.
Saturday, January 04, 2014
Love to Stay: Sex, Grace, and Commitment
by Adam Hamilton
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Adam Hamilton is the lead pastor of Church of the Resurrection in suburban Kansas City. He is a gifted teacher. Much of the resources that I have used from him have to do with studies of the Holy Land, although I have looked at other things he has put together as well.
In this book, Hamilton puts together a book (which has an accompanying video series) on marriage called Love to Stay. It is based both upon some basic Scriptural principles, and a study that Hamilton's church commissioned on love, sex and marriage.
There are several things to love about this book. Hamilton has a writing style that is clear, straight-forward, and thoughtful. The book is a quick read. It is a great "tune-up" book on some basic principles on having a growing, healthy marriage. The reader will find nothing earth changing with Hamilton, but they will find good, solid, biblical teaching with a contemporary tone.
Another thing I appreciate about what Hamilton does is that throughout the book, he shares parts of his own personal story. He does not do so to the point to where he makes the book about him and his experiences, but he shares enough that the reader can know that the guy that wrote the book on marriage is someone they can relate to.
I plan to use this book and curriculum, at some point, as a curriculum piece for a couples ministry. Perhaps even for premarital counseling. It would also be a good basic check-up on marital health for couples ministry.
Friday, January 03, 2014
God is Able
by Priscilla Shirer
B & H Publishing Group
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Priscilla Shirer is a well-known speaker to women, and women's groups. She is also the daughter of well-known evangelical Tony Evans. Shirer has written several books, of which this is her newest release. Like most of her books, this book speaks to the power and potential that believers have in Christ.
God is Able is challenges believers, and especially women, to believe that God is bigger than their problems and difficulties, and challenges and inspires the women she addresses to place their difficulties in God's hands. Each chapter starts with a "T" (Shirer must like alliteration), and each chapter progresses in helping readers trust God with the desires of their heart, while at the same time letting go of wanting to control things that they cannot.
This is an excellent book for Christians needing a little encouragement and inspiration. And if this book strikes your fancy, there is a lot more out there in terms of video curriculum and books to read, as well as opportunities to hear Priscilla speak.
Her website is goingbeyond.com.
Wednesday, January 01, 2014
Book Review of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (And Yourself) Through Diagnosis, Treatment, and Beyond by Marc Silver
Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (And Yourself) Through Diagnosis, Treatment, and Beyond
by Marc Silver
Reviewed by Clint Walker
I picked up this book as a part of the larger group of literature they were giving to breast cancer patients and their families via our cancer treatment center in Rapid City. (BTW people give out a cray cray amount of literature and books when you have a cancer diagnosis, or are related to someone who has a cancer diagnosis).
I found this book pretty interesting, and wished I had received it before we were as far along as we were in our cancer journey. It is pretty friendly to the male reader, offering brief chapters on clear subjects with clever titles. In these chapters subjects as diverse as sex, hair loss, parenting, and death are discussed.
The way the chapters were laid out, I was able to pick and choose what I wanted to read when. Some of the subjects were more applicable to me than others. The witty writing kept my attention, as well as the liberal use of personal stories from people who have been on the journey of having a wife with breast cancer.
Some things in the book applied more to people in big cities, such as shopping hospitals and treatment centers. Most of it, though, I could relate to.