The Power of Vision 3rd edition: A Review

The Power of Vision by George Barna

In this latest edition of The Power of Vision Barna explores the continued importance of church leaders having God’s vision for their church. Barna’s working defintion for what vision is is “a clear mental image of preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants to advance His kingdom and is based on an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstances.”

In thirteen chapters Barna explores the meaning of vision, the importance of vision, and the impact of vision for ministry in the local church. I do think Barna gets his components of capturing God’s vision wrong in his sixth chapter he begins with self knowledge moves to contextual knowledge and ends with knowing God. You can’t rightly know yourself unless you know God, you can’t rightly understand the context you are in apart from knowing God. I believe that knowledge of God is foundational for every aspect of the Christian life. He helpfully points to the importance of prayer but should have addressed prayer before knowledge of self and context.

I have a bit of apprehensiveness in regards to book like this as they place a great deal of emphasis on something the New Testament in silent on. Paul doesn’t encourage Timothy and Titus to be visionary leaders, he encourages to be faithful leaders. Barna presents vision as this almost gnostic secret knowledge that God only provides to a select few, whereas in the New Testament we do have God’s vision for the church a community of disciples making disciples walking in holiness.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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42 Seconds: A Review

42 Seconds The Jesus Model for Everyday Interactions by Carl Medearis

As Christians we’re called to share the gospel, the good new of what Jesus has done, with those we come across. How do we do that? Carl Madearis in this book explores Christ’s conversations in the gospels to help readers see a pattern for personal evangelism in how Christ interacted with people.

This book is comprised of twenty short chapters divided into four sections. The first section explores the principle of being kind to those we are interacting with. The idea behind niceness being that we are to notice people, greet people, and developing a personal interest in people. The second section addresses the importance of being present attentive to the person we’re talking to as opposed to simply thinking of what we want to say and how we’re going to fix their problems. The third section addresses the need for boldness in making a gospel transition. The final section addresses the importance of Christ-likeness in gospel conversation.

Overall this book provides good insights into evangelism. While it might not revolutionary or groundbreaking it is a biblical and thought provoking reminder of the importance of sharing of faith and the importance of following the model of Christ.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

The Come Back Effect : A Review

The Come Back Effect by Jason Young and Jonathan Malm

This year has brought two great resources for understanding how to best reach out and engage with church visitors, the first resource was Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom Rainer which I reviewed here earlier this year. The second is this title.

This book helps church leaders thing through the things they do to to engage and understand those they are seeking to create a meaningful connection with. It does so by focusing on the role of hospitality in the local church. Oftentimes in the church we view hospitality as what is done for those in the Bible, a concept alien to the New Testament. I think one of the most important chapters in this book and the most applicable to churches of all sizes is chapter 4. In this chapter the authors discuss the importance of as they call it “being fully present.” This chapter addresses the importance of verbal and nonverbal communication in conveying attention, cues that are applicable to any social interaction.

There are aspects of this book that are more applicable to larger churches but the general principles apply to all churches and all believers. It’s easy for church leaders to forget how someone coming to a church for the first time might see and experience things, this book explores the impact that taking those first impressions can have if done well.  If you’re trying to figure out why people visit your church once and never return this book will prove to be very helpful.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Preaching by the Book : A Review

Preaching by the Book by R. Scott Pace

While there is no shortage of books on preaching and sermon preparation R. Scott Pace has provided a concise and valuable contribution on the task of preaching.

In three sections composed of eight chapters Pace provides a general overview of the what, why, and how of preaching. In the first section he explores the importance of textual preaching and the priority of allowing the form of Scripture to shape the form of the sermon. In the second section he addresses studying the text and forming the sermon outline. In the third and final section he addresses the importance and use of introductions, illustrations, and invitations.

This book would make a helpful refresher to experienced preachers and a helpful introductions to those starting out as preachers. As a preacher I know I must constantly be growing, learning, and improving on this area of ministry and this book has helped me to do just that. The two chapters that have helped me the most are the chapters on illustrations and invitations. If you’re a preacher I would encourage you to get this book, if you’re aspiring to pastoral ministry this book should definitely be added to your list of reading.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

The Fellowship of Suffering: A Review

The Fellowship of the Suffering by Paul Bortwick and Dave Ripper

While many books seek to address the why of suffering or how to cope with suffering this book addresses he formative role suffering plays in light of ministry and mission. The authors draw from Scripture and the lives of others to illustrate the important role suffering plays in shaping believers for ministry to God’s glory.

In four parts the authors point to different ways suffering is important for our spiritual formation. In the first section the authors address how we view suffering and how we should understand suffering in light of Scripture especially the fact that suffering will not disappear in this present age. The second section addresses the role suffering plays in drawing us closer to Christ and in fostering spiritual growth. In the third section the authors explore how suffering makes us better able to minister to others who suffer. In the final section addresses the role of suffering in relation to the Church’s global mission of making Christ known.

I’d commend this book to pastors and especially those who are preparing for ministry. To often in ministry we find ourselves unprepared for suffering or unsure what role past suffering might shape present and future ministry and this book ably addresses those two realities.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Eschatological Discipleship: A Review

Eschatological Discipleship by Trevin Wax

In this book Trevin Wax addresses the task of discipleship in light of one crucial question. What time is it? Wax sets the Christian understanding on the world and history over and against the prevailing worldviews of progress, sexual revolution, and consumerism.

In the first section of the book Wax lays the foundation for understanding concepts of worldview and wisdom with a view to their relationship to the task of discipleship and understanding the times. In the second section explores the biblical foundations that support his understanding of eschatological discipleship drawing on both the Old and New Testaments. The third section explores Christianity and its relationship to the prevailing worldviews of our culture. The final section explores how eschatological discipleship can shape spiritual formation.

Not many books on the topic of discipleship address the philosophical and worldview issues addressed in this book. Wax’s book is helpful in addressing these neglected issues in the task of discipleship. As seen in the book when we are and where history is going are two important questions that must shape and inform our understanding of what it means to be disciples of the risen Christ. This book will help any reader understand how to live as a citizen of heaven in the present time.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Enter the Ring: A Review

Enter the Ring by D.A. & Elicia Horton

A truth I have learned in ministering to couples is that marriages don’t end because couples fight they end because they either stopped fighting or didn’t fight fair. In this book the Hortons provide biblical advice on how couples can fight to stay together in a world that pulls marriages apart.

Throughout this book the Hortons point to the importance of pursuing Christ together for the health and well being of the marriage. Common problems like how to manage family relationships are addressed from a biblical perspective. The importance of shared goals and communication in every area especially finances are demonstrated.

I have known far too many couples divorce because they weren’t willing to fight for their marriages and as a result damaged their gospel witness and the witness of their church. I would commend this book to couples and to pastors looking for resources to use in premarital and marital counseling.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Embodied Hope: A Review

Embodied Hope by Kelly M. Kapic

The best books to read on suffering are those written by those who are personally acquainted with it. Author and professor Kelly Kapic writes not as one detached from suffering, but as a fellow-sufferer and the husband of one deeply acquainted with pain and suffering.

In eleven chapters Kapic provides pastoral and theological wisdom in regard to pain in suffering. In the early chapters of the book Kapic addresses how pain and suffering often tempt us to think ill of God and the need to be reoriented to God and the place of lament and questions in pain in suffering. In the second of section Kapic points readers to the cross and the significance there is in Christ’s identification with us for the pain and suffering we find in this world. In the final section Kapic addresses the importance of community for suffering saints, also noting how in  suffering there is a temptation to isolate oneself from community for fear of how others will react.

Of all the subjects one could read about it might be asked why anyone should want to read a book on pain and suffering. Kapic speaks to certainties of life in addressing pain and suffering. If you are a Christian you will suffer in some way, it is part of being a follower of Christ sharing in His sufferings. Not only that those you love and know will suffer. If you are in ministry everyone you minister is suffering or will suffer. Kapic’s book is a valuable resource that points faithfully to the bedrock foundation we have in hope even and especially in the midst of suffering.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Becoming a Welcoming Church : A Review

Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom Rainer

This latest title by Thom Rainer addresses the importance of the church being a welcoming place for new guests. What stands out is that as true in many areas of life common sense is not that common. Rainer draws from his experience in consulting churches to provide basic guidelines in regards to becoming a welcoming church. If you’ve followed Rainer’s blog over the year there really isn’t anything new or unheard of in this book but it is still a useful resource nonetheless.

In six chapters Rainer walks the reader from self-examination regarding whether the local church is as welcoming as we think it is, to seeing how outsiders experience church, to practical steps that help in being a truly welcoming church. What Rainer points to isn’t a seeker-sensitive understanding of the church, he’s pointing readers to simple things like clear communication and cleanliness.

As I said if you’ve followed Rainer for any amount of time you’ve probably seen much of this information in some form on his blog. While my church does practice most of the things he points to as being important for a welcoming church this book has given me some things to think about. This is especially true in regards to the meet and greet time, I think it’s too easy to forget what those times are like for someone who is a first time guest and the danger of coming across as disinterested in them or desperate for them to stick around neither of which are good. Over all I think this is a good resource for pastors and for church leaders especially those who might not get on the internet.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Review

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith by Gregg R. Allison

This latest title by SBTS theology professor Dr. Gregg Allison is a true gift to all pastors and teachers in the local church. Many pastors strugggle knowing they should teach their people the major doctrines of the Bible but lack a suitable plan or outline to do so. In this book Allison has provided a must have resource that will enable pastors to lay a foundation of theological soundness in the lives of their people.

In eight sections comprised of 50 chapters Allison walks through all the most important doctrines beginning with the doctrine of God and going all the way to eschatology. Each chapter provides a general overview of the doctrine in question, a general guide to teaching the doctrine, and a teaching outline with a list of recommended resources.

This might be one the most helpful resources for pastors published this year. My recommendation would be to get it and use it to teach your church or a class in your church.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.