Church in Hard Places (A Review)

There’s a sad reality that there are few solid resources that help inform and instruct in ministering poverty stricken areas. Mez McConnell and Mike McKinley have helped fill that need in Church in Hard Places: How the Local Church Brings Life to the Poor and Needy.

Mez and Mike challenge many of the prevailing notions surrounding ministry to the poor. It’s often assumed that the poor don’t need to be bogged down with things like doctrine. Some often see the church as being more of a hindrance in ministering to the poor, often favoring  the ministry of parachurch ministries over those of the church. The authors demonstrate that in jettisoning doctrine in ministering to the poor a disservice is being done. They demonstrate from their ministry experience that when ministry to the poor occurs in and through the local church that real transformation occurs, as this is a ministry the church cannot delegate to an outside organization.

Much of what the authors point out seems so counter-intuitive. It’s easy to think that the before one can minister to those affected by poverty their material needs must be the first priority. This however isn’t the greatest need on anyone rich or poor the greatest need is a need that can only be met with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for this book because it addresses a ministry context often ignored. Many of the areas in need of gospel-centered ministry are hard places. I’ve personally been challenged by this book and hope other pastors and church planters will take up the challenge presented by this book.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

Best Books of the Year

Many people at this time of the year are composing lists of the best books published this year, I’m going to add a twist to that and list and comment on the ten best books I’ve read this year, some were published this year and some not.

10.

This book which serves as a companion to Dr. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. This book was part of assigned reading for Dr. Cribb’s internship class. This book provides helpful suggestions on how to implement the spiritual disciplines in your daily life, as well as how to remove a lot of the clutter that prevents you from pursuing God. If you don’t own this book you need to.

9.

Author: Marcus L. Loane

This book provides short and deeply moving biographies of David Brainerd, Henry Martyn, Robert Murray M`Cheyne, and Ion-Keith Falconer. All of those men were faith ministers of Christ in their home lands and to the nation. All lived remarkably short lives each leaving a profound impact of the history of the church. I learned from reading these biographies that it is the quality of faithfulness and not the quantity of years that decides our impact for the Kingdom. If you’ve never delved into Christian biography this is a good place to start.

8.

Author: D.A. Carson, Glenn Sunshine, Jon Hinkson, Timothy George, Brad Gundlach, Ra…

This book will open your eyes to what God has been and is doing among the nations. It really destroys the Americancentric view of missions and gives credit where credit is due in regards to the missions endeavors of other countries. The chapter discussing the Great Commission and the Reformation provides much needed insight to that part of history.

7.

It is wonderfully well written and provides a sympathetic review of the resurgence of Reformed theology in the church. It has at the same time an objectivity that is refreshing in that the author did not just interview Calvinists to learn about the resurgence.

6.

Author: Arnold A. Dallimore

Everybody loves Spurgeon but most only know him through anecdotal stories told in sermons. I was just like that. This book opened my eyes to the breadth and efficacy of the ministry of one of my heroes in the faith C.H. Spurgeon. If the two volumes autobiography intimidates you this would be a good place to start.

5.

Author: John, Piper

Has really shaped my understanding of what it really means to preach the word of God. It really drove home the high calling that ministers are given in being called to preach. If you feel called to preach this needs to be on your book shelf and on your reading list.

4.

Author: D. A. Carson

This book really challenged my understanding of the love of God and the nature of the atonement. Carson is an insightful exegete who in a short number of pages can shed light on some of the deepest and most meaningful issues in Scripture.

3.

Author: John G. Paton

The story of one of God’s faithful missionaries as told by himself. I wept when I finished the book.

2.

A really insightful apologetic book. His use of Van Tillian presuppositionalism and ability to engage with culture was very insightful. I would rank this pretty high among apologetic resources.

1.

Carson’s memorial to his father. This book will inspire all of us ordinary believers seeking to be faithful to God in ministry. D.A. Carson’s testimony to the character of his father is deeply touching and inspiring. This is a book that should be read by every father, husband, and minister.

Missions, Video Games, Action Movies, and a Nation of Wimps

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Bob up there and his 745,000 other friends and family members have never heard of Jesus, their Tukulor, Pulaar of Senegal and all Muslim. No man wants to go to them, but at least we have that  Jesus movie to send to them because we’re too lazy go. The Jesus movie replaces a real living witness to Christ with a video that requires no sacrifice, missions without sacrifice has no basis in the Bible.

Missions, Video Games, Action Movies, and a Nation of Wimps:
This week we had the privilege of having Dr. Akin the president of SEBTS speak on the topic of missions for two days from the Scriptures and the lives of three missionaries. He brought up something I knew about but never really chewed on, the lack of men going into missions and ministry in general. I’ve been thinking about things in our culture which serve as a hindrance to being committed to serving Christ among men. I say men specifically because these are things that have been directed at men.

We live in a country where around 62% of video game players are men and the average age of a video game player with the bulk of video game players being 18-49. As of 1999 Ninety-two per cent of boys played video games. Now let’s just assume that Christian guys fall in line with the statistics. If so many young men are being effected by video games then the question is what kind of influence are these video games having? what kind of examples do they set for the player? Do they promote Christlikeness?

Well to answer those questions let us look at what young men are playing, the following are the top 3 games in various systems.

PS2:
* Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (15 million,may include PC and Xbox versions)
* Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (14.87 million)
* Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (12 million)
* Grand Theft Auto III (12 million, may include PC and Xbox versions)

XBOX360:
# Halo 3 (8.1 million)
# Gears of War (4.5 million)
# Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (3.118 million approximately, 3.04 million in US,78,000 in Canada)

So the majority of these games on the most popular systems have one thing in common for the most part. They endorse violence and immoral activity. That’s the example feet or cars swift to shed blood and do evil. For charities sake we can even assume that all the Christian men are playing Gran Turismo 3. The question still remains does it promote Christ-likeness? I would presume the answer is no, while it may not promote negative virtues, it does not promote positive spiritual growth, and would seem to go against the command to redeem our time Eph 5:16.

Let us move on to action movies and shows and ask the same questions of them. Do the men in action movies and action shows promote godly character and Christ-likeness? Is Jack Baeur a good role model for Christian men? Does he reflect a Christlike character? What about Jack Sparrow, Jason Borne, James Bond, or various other action movies characters? Biblically I’d say no. If you disagree look at the portrayal of Christ in 1 Peter. There’s the sexual content in those movies to, but I guess compromise is ok in our culture.

What do these two influence give us? A Nation of Wimps. Men desensitized to violence, pain, and suffering. Men with seared consciences. Men who look up to those who do violence in their own name rather then endure suffering trusting in God. Not men like Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries who laid down their lives knowing that the Auca were unprepared to appear before the judgement seat. If they were “manly,” which is really wimpy by Bible standards, they would have mowed down the whole tribe with machine gun fire, because that’s what our society sets as the pinnacle of manhood. God have mercy on us.

The only solution is for men to pull the plug, you’re shaped by what you take in and if you take in the garbage of our godless culture it’s no wonder you could care less about the kingdom of God and the souls of people who have never heard the gospel. There was a time when Christians saw this life as an opportunity to serve God and develop holiness, a time to prepare to be in heaven. Theater and games were vanity and unworthy of pouring our lives into them. Today we know better that’s why in West Africa there are 47 female missionaries and 3 male. We learned the ways of the serpent and today it’s the men who are being deceived and led astray. Some would call them men of old who considered the work of Christ and the care of their own souls so important fanatics and legalistic. The Bible says they were men of whom the world was not worthy, pilgrims, aliens, wanderers seeking a city whose builder was God, whose citizenship was in heaven and not X-Box live.