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Friday, November 23, 2018

"Adoptive Church" (Chap Clark)

TITLE: Adoptive Church (Youth, Family, and Culture)
AUTHOR: Chap Clark
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018, (208 pages).

A lot of churches struggle with youth ministries. Even those who are relatively successful are concerned about how their work could be sustained. Many are constantly looking for youth ministers and children ministry workers. Once found, chances are the work is outsourced to the creativity and diligence of such workers. Unfortunately, the weakness of such a model is that it tends to be isolated from the rest of the church ministries. Once the youth worker's enthusiasm wanes and the interest of youths starts to shift, the entire youth program goes into a state of flux. In a youth-oriented group, for all the highs of being able to play and interact among their age group, they lack the benefits of being connected to the larger Church. We need a brand new rethink about youth ministry as a whole. We need to find ways to help them connect with the larger community. Author and professor Chap Clark proposes an adoptive strategy to knit the whole Church together as a family of Christ. The solution is not better programming. It is becoming a more inclusive Church. Doers tend to focus on activities and things to make youth ministries exciting. Disciplers look toward the Great Commission as the motivation for all their activities. Clark's model is a blend of both toward the ministry of adoption. Families that play together stay together. People who play together bond closer. This is done through the three keys of adoptive ministry: Nurturing, empowering, and including young people. Using the parable of the sower as an example, he notes that the soil condition is where our fostering efforts should aim at. Create an environment where people are encourage to want to know God. Nurture the soil so that one's faith could flourish.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Didn't See It Coming" (Carey Nieuwhof)

TITLE: Didn't See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences
AUTHOR: Carey Nieuwhof
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook, 2018, (224 pages).

We don't like being blindsided. We hate it especially when we miss the signs that appear so clearly, yet we miss it so dearly. Managers miss seeing disgruntled employees. Couples miss the signs of a troubled marriage. Young people miss out on the opportunities for change. Worse, some ignore the warning signs even when they are glaring right at them. When we didn't see it coming, we are left wondering why we miss the proverbial forest for the trees. The key questions in this book are: "Could they have seen it coming? Can you?" According to author and pastor Carey Nieuwhof, we have ample symptoms and warning signs. What we need is attentive listening and discernment. While writing from a Christian perspective, the author makes this book readable from non-Christian perspectives without being "preachy." Thus, all the "seven greatest challenges" are generic and could be appreciated from a human standpoint.  Each challenge has two chapters allotted. The initial chapter tells us why we need to take the challenge seriously. This is followed by a constructive response to show us how to do something about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Since the Beginning" (edited by Kyle R. Greenwood)

TITLE: Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages
AUTHOR: Kyle R. Greenwood (editor)
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018, (336 pages).

The word "Genesis" means origin or beginning. It addresses questions about the origin of all things and the way the world was made. It is where history all begun. With the texts clearly written in Genesis 1 and 2, one might think the matter is resolved. Not really. There are different interpretations that demand attention. Even the word "literal" could have different meanings. In this book, we learn about attentive listening to these different perspectives. The purpose is to broaden our space for conversation so that we can better understand the texts and the nuances that come with them. The different views are provided by ten different scholars, each of them experts in the field they teach. There are both Jewish and Christian scholars and theologians. There are historians and Early Church teachers. The authors are also drawn from different denominations and faith backgrounds to give the book an ecumenical look and feel. A key observation is that many modern readers interpret Gen 1 and 2 from a modernistic perspective, and pay scant attention to how the early readers and listeners' understanding. In other words, our modern interpretations are biased toward our understanding instead of the original meaning. In order to establish a common framework for discussion, the four "explicit issues" are:
  • How 'days' are treated
  • Cosmology
  • Creation and nature of humanity
  • Garden of Eden

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"Redeeming How We Talk" (Ken Wytsma and A.J. Swoboda)

TITLE: Redeeming How We Talk: Discover How Communication Fuels Our Growth, Shapes Our Relationships, and Changes Our Lives
AUTHOR: Ken Wytsma and A.J. Swoboda
PUBLISHER:Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2018, (224 pages).

We have lots of ways to communicate and to build bridges with one another. With the advancement of science and technology, we are spoiled with regard to the means of communication. We can choose long distance video conferencing, social media interactions, mobile telephony, emails, and face to face meetings. Unfortunately, for all the scientific advancements, there is something else that has not kept up: Progression of human graciousness. Impatient replies could result in quick tempered reactions. Mass distribution of highly charged opinions could lead to social unrest. With many demanding to be understood rather than to understand, people hurl accusations based on a limited perspective. As a result, relationships break down. Walls are strengthened. Bridges are torn apart. There must be a better way. Instead of rejection and abandonment, we need to redeem how we communicate. We need to arrest the decline in good old conversations and work on constructive words and redeem how we talk. This is the key point in the entire book. Some of the highlights in the book include:
  • Learning the nature, purpose, and practicing godly speech;
  • Recognize what technology is doing to the way we communicate
  • Practice the art of silence, loving listening, and tough talk
  • Believing that we can redeem our talk.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Cultivating Teen Faith (Richard Osmer & Katherine M. Douglass, eds)

TITLE: Cultivating Teen Faith: Insights from the Confirmation Project
AUTHOR: Richard Osmer & Katherine M. Douglass, eds
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2018, (240 pages).

One of the most important aspects of Christian leadership is about the preparation for the next generation of leaders. However, there are major obstacles that stand between the young and the Church. The pattern is similar. The young are simply not interested about the Christian faith. Youth ministries often have limited success.  Even if the children who grew up in Church are not keen to come. Such similar concerns spark the confirmation project, a three-year study of over 3000 congregations in America, spanning five different denominations. The twelve researchers gather both empirical data as well as apply their reflection on practical theology. Those who responded include parents, youths, workers, and leaders of church ministries. The name "confirmation" is traditionally used to symbolize the beginning of youth ministry. The researchers discover that youth ministries cannot be reduced to a one-time program or experience. Instead, they must be a process of intentional discipleship strategies. Using qualitative research methodology known as portraiture, they whittle down the selections to 12 success stories. It is also encouraging that youths who participated in the research find the following topics important for confirmation programs: God, Bible, The Lord's Prayer, Death & Resurrection, Experiencing God, Apostles' Creed, Meaning of Life, History, and Miracles. Interestingly, it was found that young people strongly mirror the faith of their parents. Those who participate in confirmation ministries are also more religious than their peers. At the same time, learning more about their faith does not mean they automatically grow. Significant factors include regular attendance at youth programs, VBS, Sunday worship, and camps. Youths who attend Sunday services regularly also feel a greater sense of belonging. The contributors take these five major findings and propose five ways to cultivate teen faith.

Monday, November 5, 2018

"The Portable Seminary, Second Edition" (David Horton)

TITLE: The Portable Seminary
AUTHOR: David Horton
PUBLISHER: Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2018, (752 pages).

Seminary education methods are rapidly changing. Many traditional institutions are seeing a decline in student enrolment which also impacts the rate and quality of faculty recruitment. Some are adopting more distance-learning options while a few are fully online. For all the pros and cons of the different channels of seminary education, some things do not change: The need to be equipped to do the work of the gospel. This book aims to fill the gaps left out by conventional theological education. Instead of going to the professor, it brings the professors to you. Instead of signing up for different courses each semester, we get a whole list of syllabus all bounded in one book. Apart from cost savings and time flexibilities, this book gives the mobile individual an additional option to learn at one's own pace. Some of the topics include:

  • Biblical Languages
  • Systematic Theology
  • Old Testament Survey
  • New Testament Survey
  • Apologetics
  • World Religions
  • Church History
  • Missiology
  • Leadership
  • Ethics
  • Christian Education
  • etc.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

"4 Chair Discipling" (Dann Spader)

TITLE: 4 Chair Discipling: What He Calls Us to Do (Like Jesus Series)
AUTHOR: Dann Spader
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2019, (160 pages).

Discipleship. If you pick up this book, you would most probably have heard of this word. You might even have read other books about discipleship. Search the Internet and one would see tonnes of books and resources about discipleship. Curiously, even though discipleship has been taught often and mentioned widely, one still get a sense of not having understood what it actually means. Maybe it is the terminologies we get stuck with. Perhaps we are not able to get away from set thinking or past mentality. We need a way in which we could easily remember what discipleship is, why it is important, and how we can go about implementing discipleship in our communities of faith. In this book, we have a fascinating model that is easy to remember and articulate. Using a four chair visual, we can intuitively connecting the dots from the lost to the believer, to the worker and the disciple-maker. Rather than becoming seat warmers, we are urged to move from chair to chair and to encourage others to do the same. For ten years, the author focused on the methods of Jesus, studying His main priorities, ministry manner and lifestyle. After debating about the various viewpoints regarding the patterns of Jesus' discipleship, Spader insists that if we study Jesus' ministry chronologically, we will discover an invaluable pattern of discipleship. The key thing is the understand the full humanity of Jesus and everything flows from there. This means learning of Jesus as fully divine and fully human. Learn what did Jesus do before going toward what would Jesus do. For His teachings are always congruent with His lifestyle. The issuing of the Great Commission dovetails naturally into the obedience of the Great Commandment.