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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Review: "The U-Turn Church"

TITLE: The U-Turn Church - new directions for health and growth
AUTHORS: Kevin G. Harney & Bob Bouwer
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011, (210 pages).

The idea of a U-Turn essentially means moving from unhealthy to health, from stagnation to growth; from something aimlessness to purposefulness. It is no longer time to carry on business-as-usual for churches that are not growing. It is time to make a U-turn! This is the premise of the authors, that churches need to grow in terms of numbers as well as spiritual vitality.

What the Book is About

The authors guide the reader by firstly recognizing a need to change our current mode of doing church. This recognition comes about beginning with God, granting us holy zeal, a deep sense of urgency, a clear vision and continuing prayer. Without these it is not even possible to talk about any U-turns. In other words, before we can even make a U-turn, we need to know WHERE to U-turn from.

The second part of the book deals with the details of what a U-turn looks like. Churches need to U-turn by:
  • Moving from 'Personal Preferences' to 'Biblical preferences'
  • Recognizing at least 6 kinds of roadblocks impeding the unleashing of leaders in the Church
  • raising our expectations from low to high, in terms of seeking and doing God's will
  • developing a 'tough skin' against well-intentioned dragons, and retaining 'soft hearts' toward people, especially those who attack us, rightfully or wrongfully.
  • Adopting 6 holy risks (p136-141) and 8 principles (141-146)
  • outreach and evangelism
The third part of the book contains reminders that U-turns are to be constantly ongoing. This section is important, so that whatever good that has been done in the beginning and the middle will not be easily unraveled.

My Thoughts

This book is deceptively simple but contains many gems of wisdom harnessed from years of painful pastoral experience and joyous results of growth and vitality. Harney and Bouwer are generous with their examples, honest with their pain and disappointments, and passionately convicted that it is possible to U-Turn any Church toward health and growth. This is a necessary book for pastors looking for hope and encouragement. It is a vital book for leaders wanting to see real change in the Church. There is great stuff for cell group members to examine themselves using the exercises laid out in the book.

Use it in Bible studies. Use it at leadership seminars. Use it at preaching a sermon series. This book has wide applications, for Church work as well as personal growth.

Ratings: 4.25 stars of 5.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review: "Hannah's Hope"

AUTHOR: Jennifer Saake
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005, (224 pages).
Reviewed by: Conrade Yap

Honest. Heartbreaking. Hopeful. These words capture the essence of the mood of the book. Jennifer Saake shares her struggles in this book about simply trying to be a mother. For some mothers, conceiving a child looks easy, even though one is not necessarily in the 18-23 years old range. For others, adopting a child seems like a breeze. For some who have the nightmare of miscarriages are mercifully limited to one. Not Saake. On all three fronts, the author harbours painful feelings about being a 'failure' in childbearing, adopting, and successfully carrying a child to full-term.

In utter despair, Saake who once dreamed of having 8 kids, finds solace in the biblical life of Hannah, who cries out to God constantly for comfort, for understanding, and for hope. She describes her struggles with infertility that has often resulted in anger and bitterness. Moreover, she is that normal Christian girl, who says her prayers, read her Bible, do good works, and remains faithful to her husband. The thought of infertility as a form of 'punishment' from God seems unbearable. Along with her three miscarriages, and two adoption failures, life seems cruel to this young woman of God. Thankfully, the book does not end up becoming an emotional obituary page of her struggles. It is filled with frequent glimpses of hope, how Saake clings on the God in her most trying moments. It is filled with love that she has received. It is filled with lots of biblical references on how God has held on to her.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Book Review: "The Book that Made Your World"

TITLE: The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization
AUTHOR: Vishal Mangalwadi
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2010.

Amid a tide of books that bash Western culture in general, and books that lament the deterioration of the West, Vishal Mangalwadi puts a needed corrective to stem the tide. In fact, he does more than that. Like a surgeon, he pieces together the scattered fragments of historical facts that Western civilization come from, and weaves a beautiful picture of Western civilization that owes much to biblical theology. While the West has largely lost its religious soul due to secularism, he makes a call to all to recognize the positives that are stronger than all the negatives combined. This book is rich with historical information, and insights for the modern Western mind. We can learn about the roots of Western civilization. We can understand the perils of a man-centered philosophy that will derail all the good that has been accumulated over the years. Most importantly, it is a book that reminds us to come back to fundamentals, the rich historical past that can pave the way for a bright future.

My Comments
The Mangalwadi I heard from my student days is the same I read here in this book. The author unabashedly embraces Western culture, especially the ones that are based on biblical principles. He makes a compelling case for each aspect of Western culture, basing his observations on his personal disappointment with his own Indian cultural tendencies toward corruption, lack of compassion, and a deficient motivation for cultural advancement. At some points of his book, he does appear to be uncritical in his open acceptance of things Western. That said, he does place several disclaimers. He acknowledges there is a difference between biblical and non-biblical practices in Western culture. This is not merely a book about the superiority of Western civilization. This is more of a book on biblical faithfulness that will sustain not only Western culture but ANY culture. This is the main contribution in the book.

There is a notable pattern in the way Mangalwadi structures the book. He begins with the need for a ‘soul’ for any credible civilization. Such a soul will spur developments in other parts of culture, such as a right understanding of self (humanity); a right way of thinking (rationality); a progressive technological and scientific discoveries; the development of languages; the strengthening of the fabric of society through right morality, family values, and compassionate attitude toward all of life. From a biblical perspective, true wealth and true liberty can be understood. With all of that in place, there is the role of missions, to share this good news with the rest of the world.

This book contains a huge volume of information to chew upon. It will not take the reader long to discover the consistent arguments throughout. It is basically a cultural call to biblical values and principles. Written not only for the Asian cultural mindset to learn from the West’s traditional dependence on biblical theology, it is also a subtle reminder for the modern West, to learn from their own past. Lest they forget the truths that gave them what they have now.

Ratings: 4 stars of 5


This book has been sent to me by Thomas-Nelson & NetGalley free of charge without obligation for a positive review. Opinions expressed are freely mine.