Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review: Churchless

Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect With Them
By The Barna Group (George Barna and David Kinnaman, Editors)
Tyndale Momentum, 2014
English, 224 pgs

Churchless people are all around us: among our closest loved ones, at our workplaces, in our neighborhoods. And more and more, they are becoming the norm: The number of churchless adults in the US has grown by nearly one-third in the past decade. Yet the startling truth is that many of these people claim they are looking for a genuine, powerful encounter with God—but they just don’t find it in church. What are they (or we) missing? How can we better reach out to them? What can we say or do that would inspire them to want to join a community of faith? Containing groundbreaking new research from the Barna Group, and edited by bestselling authors George Barna (Revolution) and David Kinnaman (You Lost Me), Churchless reveals the results of a five-year study based on interviews with thousands of churchless men and women. Looking past the surface of church attendance to deeper spiritual realities, Churchless will help us understand those who choose not to be part of a church, build trust-based relationships with them, and be empowered to successfully invite them to engage.

I received a free copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.  No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Attempting to divine understanding of viewpoints and motivations from data is daunting task, particularly with a research topic regarding belief and corresponding church attendance. However, the Barna Group has done an outstanding job gleaning understanding from more than five years of research into American trends and beliefs regarding church attendance. General Editors George Barna and David Kinnaman have compiled and distilled a tremendous amount of data into useful information regarding the current state of church attendance, what is motivating thecurrent Millennial generation’s choices, and the efficacy of outreach tools.

This book is going to be found useful by churches who are sincerely seeking and understanding of the viewpoints and desires of a generation that increasingly views church attendance (and membership) as less important than preceding generations. Techniques using mass media (direct mailings, advertising attempts, etc.) are indicated as being bypassed completely. However, cross-generational connections through testimony leadership, acts of service, and meaningful community interactions through the church are demonstrated as more likely to generate positive interest. To this reviewer, the data supports that the core concepts of intentional discipleship, personal testimony and authentic Christian service as described in the Great Commission and throughout the New Testament are the most effective means of reaching the Millennial generation.

Some of the data presented in this collection may be disturbing for those readers comfortable in a “business as usual” mentality. According to the data, less than 50 percent of American adults are considered “actively churched.” However, closer examination of that statistic demonstrates that “actively churched” means attending a church at least one time per month. Many in church circles might dispute that definition as “active”. Likewise, the rising number of “dechurched” – now at 35 percent – should be alarming.

This reviewer gleans that churches should seriously consider their outreach efforts. Impersonal mass media is clearly declining as an effective means of outreach, but this may be a positive development. Churches need to return to their historic (and scripturally prescribed) mandate to personally make disciples through intentional teaching. As they do so, lovingly caring for their community through sincere and consistent service will speak more to Millennials than slick advertising and programs.

This book is ideal for church leadership – pastors, deacons, elders, teachers – or even small groups desiring to understand the perspectives of those whom they are attempting to reach with the Gospel.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Book Review: The Forgotten Knight

The Forgotten Knight
By Emilie DeRitter
Outskirts Press, 2014
English, 228 pgs

Sir Christopher of Calidore has had better days. He has no kingdom to defend, he is locked in a curse, and then he found himself swimming a moat and battling a wizard - all to rescue the most spoiled princess in Christendom. Now, he and his companion, a mysterious sorceress who was once advisor to his former liege, are escorting the opinionated princess home. Along the way, they are forced to battle evil and help those they find in need. With a little assistance from some strange friends during their journey, they struggle to find a way to change their destinies, break the curse that binds them together and reclaim their lives.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author for the purpose of this review.

For a first novel, this is outstanding. It is an adventure with humor and a touch of romance. The characters are so well developed. Ms. DeRitter has done a fantastic job of conceiving a "fairy tale" land and characters. I kinda wish it didn't end as it did so there would be more from the story in the future, but it is a satisfactory ending. The only thing it was missing for me was a map so I could visualize the journey. I particularly enjoyed the ogre and dragon cave parts.

The book is available through Amazon.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Review: Beloved Dust

Beloved Dust
By Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel
Nelson Books, 2014
English, 205 pgs

Pastor Jamin Goggin and theology professor Kyle Strobel provide a path to abiding with God.
We were formed from the dust, but we were made for life with God. We often accept less. We make promises and set goals to try and grow, but holiness seems impossible. But the Christian life is not about looking or feeling like a Christian. It’s about abiding in God.

If communion with God is your goal, self-help strategies and personal resolutions will fail you. But Jesus Christ will not.

Drawing deeply from Scripture and narrating their own experiences, Pastor Jamin Goggin and theology professor Kyle Strobel wrote this book to be a companion for your journey with Jesus in the truth of yourself – as his beloved dust. This is not weighing tasks and rewards, but is a process of patience, prayer, and openheartedness.

Prayerfully read this book. Prepare your heart for the gifts God has for you. Beloved Dust invites readers to discover the fundamental simplicity and radical transformation of being with God.

About the Author
Jamin Goggin serves as Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Saddleback Church. He holds an MA in Spiritual Formation and and an MA in New Testament from Talbot School of Theology and is currently earning a PhD in Theology. He lives in Orange County, California.

Kyle Strobel serves as an assistant professor of Spiritual Theology at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and speaks broadly on spiritual formation, theology and the life of the church. Kyle holds a BA in Biblical Studies, master’s degrees in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics as well as New Testament Studies, and a PhD in Systematic Theology. He lives in Fullerton, California.

I cannot find anything wrong with the book theologically or Biblically. It is sound teaching. However, I found it to be very dry teaching. I can read a book in a day or two and this one was just not something that I was able to get through very quickly. It felt like the pages were multiplying as I read it.

The basis of the book is great. We are created beings and we cannot thrive when we seek to become like the Creator under our own power. We cannot seek to become greater than the Creator. We have to see ourselves for what we are and we have to accept that we have to have His help in any endeavor. Especially an endeavor to become closer to Him. We don't have it within ourselves to do this. We are totally dependent on Jesus and His mercy and grace in our lives. 

 I can see this book as extremely useful for both a new Christian who wants to explore and grow in their relationship with Jesus. I can also see this book as extremely useful for a "seasoned" Christian who needs to allow revival in their life.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review on both this blog and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been or will be received as a result of this review.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Review: Exploring Christian Theology, Volume One

Exploring Christian Theology, Volume One
Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel, General Editors
Bethany House, 2014
English, 272 pgs

From the Back Cover

The Foundations of Theology in Everyday Language
Dallas Seminary professors Nathan Holsteen and Michael Svigel are passionate about the key doctrines of Christianity. They want readers to know why they're important and why they matter. This volume includes two parts:
  • How Firm a Foundation: Revelation, Scripture, and Truth
  • God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
The authors explore these important topics in a concise and highly readable style that makes sense--whether you're a student of the Bible, a pastor, or someone who simply wants to know God better.

For each topic you'll find
  • An introduction, overview, and review of the key points
  • Several applicable Bible texts, including verses to memorize
  • A quick-paced history of the doctrine
  • Distortions to be aware of and avoid
  • Reading lists for further study
  • A glossary of theological terms

As a former Religious Education student and a current pastor's wife, I found this book to be exceedingly well done. I appreciate that the authors do not rush through the topics. They carefully explain each one. While the language can be at times studious, it is a fairly easy book to read. The glossary at the back of the book really can help those who may not have much study in the past. The beginning part of the book, called The Christian Story in Four Acts is a brief, yet thorough, overview of really the history of all mankind.

I appreciate the copious charts, graphs and illustrations. They do not distract from the topic and in some cases, can help clarify a difficult concept. The lists of books for further study are immense.

My husband is impressed enough with this book that we have already ordered the previous volume which was released in January 2014 (so how is this V1?) and will be ordering the next when it comes out. He believes these are essential to his ministry library.

I received a copy of the book from Bethany House in exchange for a review on this blog and a commercial bookselling website. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.