Saturday, May 09, 2015

Book Review of A Second Shot of Coffee With Jesus by David Wilkie

A Second Shot of Coffee with Jesus
by David Wilkie
ISBN 978-0-8308-3693-2
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

For a few years I was a devoted follower of Coffee with Jesus on Facebook. Then, the first book came out, my friend list increased on Facebook, and I did not see much from my Radio Free Babylon feed. So, when I got A Second Shot of Coffee with Jesus I was excited to see what the latest Word was from the witty and somewhat offbeat comic strip.

I was pleasantly surprised that the strip maintained its high quality, and yet at the same time Coffee with Jesus seemed to grow up a little bit as well. In my opinion, the early version of the messaging of Wilkie tending to lean heavily on pointing out some of hypocrisy and ideosyncracies of the contemporary Christian church. The strip certainly continues this theme from time to time, but it has developed depth and breathe that I did not anticipate. Wilkie has continued to be humorous, but has also mixed in some general cultural criticism and some pretty thoughtful messages about God's grace and love. Also, some thought provoking insights about spiritual warfare. I have enjoyed this book thoroughly.

For those who enjoyed the first book, this "second shot" eschews thematic messaging for volume of comic strips. Some of them have appeared online, but there are others that were saved specifically for this book.

My only criticism of the book has to do more with my age. The print seems awfully small in this book (with the strips), and it takes some effort for me to read that print at times. Nevertheless, it will sit out on my desk, and eventually my coffee table, should I ever get one.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Book Review of Spiritual Equipping for Mission by Ryan Shaw

Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God's Message Bearers
by Ryan Shaw
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I recently went to a wonderful retreat led by a missionary serving my denomination in Mexico. He began to share about how he had been serving tirelessly on the mission field, and encountered a good measure of success in his ministry there. Yet, at the same time, he felt he was spread more and more thin in his ministry. He was doing and going for the Lord, and yet he felt less connected to the practices and disciplines that brought him strength and spiritual health in his missionary journey. The retreat leader spoke about how God led him to a place of spiritual renewal in his ministry, and how he has been called to help other ministers and missionaries grow deeper in their spiritual journeys as well.

Ryan Shaw in his book Spiritual Equipping for Mission has similar concerns to my new friend. As a leader of a student missionary movement, he sees that many people on the mission field need equipping to grow deeper in their faith if they are going to have sustainable journeys as message bearers of Jesus and if they are going to form disciples instead of simply making converts. This book is focused on helping cross-cultural ministry servants, but it could be equally helpful for gospel message bearers in local churches in the United States.

Shaw chooses to use the term "message-bearers" to refer to missionaries. He discovered that the term "missionary" has a top-down, negative, and colonial connotation. So the term message bearer is used for those in cross-cultural ministry in this book. This terminology has the added benefit of being more holistic. It speaks of a missionary as one who comes and lives and embodies the kind of life that Christ offers by what they say but also by how they live. It speaks in terms of identity instead of task. I think this is brilliant.

Most of the book details each of the 10 spiritual disciplines of cross-cultural message bearers. These include:

  • Being saturated in the powerful presence of God
  • Embracing humility
  • Hungering and thirsting for God
  • Being clothed in God's Word
  • Discerning God's Guidance and Revelation
  • Pursuing a Lifestyle of Prayer
  • Cooperating with God's twofold purpose
  • Understanding the Times and Seasons of God
  • Persevering with Steadfastness and Stability
  • Pursuing a Focused Life
This will be a great guide, not just for international missionaries, but for each believer on a mission to bear the message of Christ to the world.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Book Review of Busyness: Finding God in the Whirlwind by Juanita Ryan

Busyness: Finding God in the Whirlwind
by Juanita Ryan
ISBN 978-0-8308-3107
IVP Connect (Lifeguide Bible Studies)
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Ever felt like you are so busy that it is difficult to discern and sense the presence of God in the middle of the whirlwind of activity and conflicting expectations? Juanita Ryan has too, and she has developed a Bible Study for people and groups of people that struggle with finding God in the midst of a hectic life.

While I might council many people living in the middle of a whirlwind that they need to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from their life, as Dallas Willard once advised someone he was mentoring, I do think Ms. Ryan presents to the church a valuable resource. She speaks to people in the midst of their busyness, and challenges them to set priorities, rest, and choose joy and service over bitterness and being self-serving. Since so many people feel so very busy in our world, this might be a good place to start to connect with people and begin to challenge them to bring Christ-centered practices in the midst of their personal chaos and find refreshment and healing.

A great new resource for small groups from IVP!

Book Review of Feasting on the Word: Guide to Children's Sermons by David L. Bartlett and Carol Bartlett

Feasting on the Word: Guide to Children's Sermons
by David Bartlett and Carol Bartlett
ISBN 978-0-664-23614-8
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Much of the Feasting on the Word resources feature highly practical worship resources for mainline churches. While focused on a practical matter of worship, the particular resource is more of a training manual on how to develop and present children's messages in church services. At the end of the text, there are a few dozen children's message manuscripts.

As one reads through this thoughtful book, one is challenged to think through a number of questions that the author's present in training their readers to work through the service. Some of those questions included are:

  • Should the person doing the children's message focus on the lectionary texts?
  • How do we develop intergenerational connections during worship?
  • What is the role of story in relationship to the children's message?
  • What issues and stories are appropriate for a children's message and what ones are not?
  • How should developmental concerns influence how you present children's messages?
  • How do you craft an effective children's message?
I enjoyed this book and its challenging the church to create better children's sermons. Yet, at the same time I know that what is here will be too heady and conceptual for many folks who deliver children's messages. This is not a book that will give you a quick fix for grabbing a children's message just before church on Sunday morning, but it will help pastor's craft children's messages with theological integrity and meaningful teaching for youngsters. All in all, a great book to have on my shelf!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review of Pray for the World

By Jason Mandryk
ISBN 978-0-8308-3686-4
IVP Books/WEC International
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Many Christians over the years have been blessed with the ministry of Operation World and their production of an extensive prayer guide that teaches us to pray for our world, while at the same time educating us to what is going on in the world. That guide leads prayer warriors through a daily prayer routine that helps them pray though the year for each country alphabetically.

Pray for the World is a more succinct prayer guide from the people at Operation World. This abgridged resource will be helpful for many people who want to pray for the world, but found carrying around a book much larger than their Bible a little cumbersome. Pray for the World organizes prayer themes by location in the world instead of by alphabetical order, thus giving its reader a guide to pray for a specific region through going to a certain section within the book. And the way it is organized lends itself to people being able to use this prayer guide as a reference source for global prayer, instead of a daily devotional guide. I really like it.

This, is a great resource to use in the life of the church. One could easily resource prayer groups, worship teams, and small groups with this guide to prayer. It would also be a great orientation to prayer for people in your churches that are considering short-term missions in an area of the world. I will keep this next to my denominational guide for prayer and missions, and refer to it often. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book Review of Money and Your Ministry by Margaret Marcuson

Money and Your Ministry: Balance the Books While Keeping Your Balance
by Margaret Marcuson
ISBN 978-0-97643566-4-5
Published by the Marcuson Leadership Circle
Reviewed by Clint Walker

In the last couple of years I have read several books on church stewardship and finances. Since there was very little education about such matters in my ministerial preparation and theological education, I have had to learn as I go on such matters. Margaret Marcuson is a writer I am acquainted with, She is a member of my denomination, and works in a part of the country that I was born in and would love to return to. She is a strong and gentle soul. I have learned to trust her wisdom.

Much of her work has been about helping ministers be more effective in their work by helping people be more aware of how the church functions as a social system and a family network of sorts, and this continues her work in that vein. Specifically, this book addresses how churches, leadership boards, and pastors function around the issue of money. True to form, Marcuson encourages churches and church leaders to come to know themselves and their history(s), learn what deeper meaning financial issues have for your faith community, and know where God is leading you and your church, and to adopt some basic principles and practices that will help you in your journey toward a healthy approach toward church finances in the future,  Ms. Marcuson's wisdom will not help your congregation get rich quick, but it might help your church deal with habits, challenges, and opportunities in church financial management with discernment, unity, and intentional wisdom that you may not have approached such matters with before.

Each chapter, in addition to having good insight, has a checklist that will help its readers implement the principles in the ministry of the reader's church. I thought this was very helpful. Not heavy handed at all.

I recommend this book to church leaders of all sorts of backgrounds. It has a lot of helpful words, and some thoughtful guidance on a challenging issue for most churches.

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.