Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: Ministering to Problem People in Your Church

Marshall Shelley has updated his book about "well-intentioned dragons" in the church.  I'm glad he did.  Reading the real-life stories of pastors who have dealt with difficult people, been scarred by the experiences, and/or been strengthened through the experiences helped me evaluate my own actions. First, am I being a difficult person. Next, am I properly ministering to the difficult people in my life.

I especially appreciated the information about coping with mental illness within the church.  So often it is ignored, whispered about, or spiritualized (just have more faith and you won't be depressed, schizophrenic, etc.)  Shelley recommends practical strategies such as setting clear boundaries with those who are struggling so they don't completely drain the pastoral staff.  He also offers a beautiful story of how a pastor and his church dealt with a disruption of their worship service by a mentally ill woman who was off her medication.  Their kind and helpful example was alone worth reading this book.

This is an absolutely essential resource for anyone doing ministry in a church of any size.

I received a free e-Book from the publisher, Bethany House, for my review.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

No More Guilty Pleasure

A review of Desiring God by John Piper

As a Christian I had always understood and accepted that the chief end of man is to glorify God…but I got stuck on the second part.  Enjoy Him?  Wasn’t the Christian life supposed to be hard, with denying oneself, taking up one’s cross daily, and being persecuted?  Yes, I knew I was supposed to worship as well as obey; However, I felt guilty if I enjoyed the worship “too much.”

John Piper’s book is the antidote for the Christian who has trouble enjoying life.  Pleasure is not a dirty word for the person who is following God.  We glorify Him best when we are enjoying Him, in good times and bad.  Piper covers worship, money, marriage, suffering, and much more, all from the perspective of desiring and enjoying God.

I received a free review copy of this book from Waterbrook-Multnomah.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Gospel and Acts in Story Form

Moody Bible Institute professor William H. Marty presents the drama and heart of the Jesus story sequentially, using all four eyewitness accounts from the New Testament.  Like his book The World of Jesus (also from Bethany House Publishers) Marty includes historical and cultural notes to enlighten the reader about practices or events that may seem strange to the modern Western mind.

This short book would make an excellent group study.  Consider it as part of a New Testament survey course for new Christians or for youth.  Dr. Marty has a gift for making the Bible and its historical context accessible to all people.

I received a free review copy of The Jesus Story from Bethany House publishers.

Book Review: Letting Go of your Limitations by Sandie Freed

Sandie Freed wants to see God’s children freed from their self-imposed limits: legalism, disappointment, pride, fear, etc. She starts with the example of Saul’s (Paul’s) life.  He was a legalist among legalists, a Pharisee. Jesus confronted him and the proud Saul became the servant Paul through a process of letting go of his past.

Freed offers the encouragement that all Christians can experience the transforming power of God in their own lives.  She reminds us that repentance means to change the way we think.  To help us along, questions for reflection appear at intervals throughout the book.  I recommend it for individual or group study.

I received a free review copy of Letting Go of yourLimitations from Chosen Books.  

Review: A Call to Resurgence

Pastor Mark Driscoll writes from experience.  He ministers in a city (Seattle) where fewer than 20% of households have children.  To someone like me who has lived in the Midwest and the South my entire life, it is hard to imagine living in such a place or ministering outside the Sunday School/look at our great nursery/married couples class models. But we all have to learn to do this if we are to experience a resurgence of the gospel ministry of Jesus Christ.

Mark helps us to understand our “tribes” (the different “flavors” of churches in America) and how we can cooperate and reach out to the unchurched.  There is a whole chapter on repentance, with a call to “…repent of both unrighteous sin and self-righteous religion.”
I recommend this meaty book to everyone with a stake in seeing people reached with the transforming and saving power of Jesus Christ.  Church staff, teachers, parents, single adults and mature students can all benefit from reading A Call to Resurgence.  You can also visit Mark Driscoll's website, The Resurgence for more information, ideas, and encouragement.

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale, the publisher.