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Rethinking and Re-imagining Church Ministry

I admit to not being inclined to early adoption of new ideas with a habit to wait and see how new ministry philosophies play out and bear fruit over time. I wish now I had read THINK ORANGE by Reggie Joiner (Orange, 2009) before because it is truly a book whose time has come. The book is divided into two parts, the first makes the case for the fully integrated understanding of both families and church as partners. Chapter 2 “Bright Lights” contains a personal and robust doctrine of the church while Chapter 3, “Warm Hearts” explores Deuteronomy 6 and its implications for the family in God’s economy.

Part two explores Five Orange Essentials:

Integrate Strategy

Refine The Message

Reactivate The Family

Elevate Community

Leverage Influence

These are expanded upon and applied specifically in the concluding section titled concentrations. The graphics, summaries, and visual color make the book very engaging to read. Reggie Joiner is personable as well as vulnerable in anticipating questions in the mind of the hearer. Orange is now so much more than the original book with both national and regional conferences creating space for the discussion of these integrative ideas combining church and family responsibilities. In order to keep up with the ongoing discussions of all aspects of Christian ministry this book must simply be read and reflected upon. After personally reading the book and interacting with some of its architects at a recent youth ministry conference I am committing to attend a local Orange gathering this year in order to stay current in this important ministry conversation moving forward. Get this book and read it!

 

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A “Must Have” For Travelers To Greece

My wife and I recently returned from a wonderful tour of the most significant Biblical sites in Greece. We traveled with other graphologists and Biblical Studies professors under the leadership of Tutku Tours. It was a fantastic experience and one that I would recommend to any one who desires to increase their background knowledge of the New Testament. The tour exceeded my expectations in every way but I almost missed out on on what I now view as an absolutely indispensable traveling companion THE GUIDE TO BIBLICAL SITES IN GREECE AND TURKEY By Clyde Fant and Mitchell Reddish (2003, Oxford University Press). While our guide was fascinating and very well informed the information and site maps contained in the book made previewing the site information and then referencing the information on site and then even recalling and placing the pictures I took while reviewing the information in the book made the volume worth its weight in gold! Each section was laid out like the section on “Philippi” which begins with a short over view then moves to Location and History proceeding on to Biblical Significance and concluding with the Site Visit section augmented with maps and photographs. The Site Visit section also included information on later elements related to church history of the sites. All of the sections were excellent but of special interest were the sections on Athens and Corinth. If you are going off to explore Biblical sites in Greece or Turkey either on a tour or as an individual do yourself a big favor and take this book along and keep it close at hand. Even if your exploration is from an arm chair if you are interested in Biblical sites this is a volume you should have on your shelves. I wont leave home with out it- as I venture out in the future It is highly recommended!!!!

Beautiful Thoughts

After hearing Danielle Strickland at recent Global Leadership Summits and being very impressed I was on the lookout for one of her books. Recently I bought a copy of A BEAUTIFUL MESS by Danielle Strickland, Monarch Books, 2014 and was not disappointed.

The book uses the Biblical framework of Gods creative work in Genesis to help 21st century followers of Jesus  understand chaos, order, beauty, creativity and the role they play in Gods plan for each life. Danielle who is a Major in The Salvation Army  is a gifted speaker and author who specializes in powerful stories and quotes, like “You’ve got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight” Bruce Cockburn.

The engagement with the theme of chaos makes this short book (only 121 pages) rather unique. Since current generations deal with tremendous amounts of anxiety and fear being able to embrace and navigate things not in their control is a major issue. The book is made even more useful by the inclusion of discussion/reflection questions at the end of every chapter.

The thesis and genius of the book can be summarized by the opening words of the concluding chapter,” The way God creates is breathtaking…Out of chaos pain, sin, fear, darkness God spoke and everything began to look different…This matters because the way God created the first things are a pattern for the way He re-creates all things” (p.119)

This is an excellent worth reading and recommending to others so all can understand just a bit better the beautiful mess of our lives!!

C. H. Spurgeon As Preaching Mentor

C.H. Spurgeon has long been rightfully regarded as The Prince of Preachers. His sermons recorded in print continue to inspire and instruct even into the 21st century. KINDLED FIRE by Zack Eswine (2006, Christian Focus Publications Ltd.) which began as a Ph.D. dissertation utilizes the pulpit methods of Spurgeon drawn from his sermons and his lectures to his ministry students.

The book is organized into four sections. Section one explores The Preachers Story under the chapter titles Preparing Our Hearts, Clarifying Our Work, and settling Our Convictions. Each of these chapters contains not only excellent content but specific actions points of application as well as discussion questions for further reflection and an introduction that includes points to look for in the chapter and an overview. Part two is The Preachers Practice, which explores sermon delivery, use of the imagination in preaching and motivating hearers in preaching. Part Three focuses on the Preachers Power which highlights the work of the Holy Spirit in the preaching process. Part four deals with The Preachers Limitations including criticism and sharing ministry communication.

There are important lessons on every page of every chapter but one of the most important truths articulated is, “Spirit attended ministry does not necessary remove depression, criticism ans sickness, Rather, it teaches and enables men and women to walk by empowered faith through these trials.” (p. 193). The author teaches homiletic classes at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis and his focus on connecting principles with applications shows his mindset as a teacher. I read this book to prepare for a semester of teaching undergraduate homiletics this spring and I feel both inspired and equipped with insights and quotations by the bushel to use in class. I would highly recommend this book to anyone teaching preaching classes,  preaching themselves or preparing to preach in the future. It is well worth the money to purchase and the time to read this excellent contribution to the preachers bookshelf.

“The Grand Itinerant”

A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles has added a valuable introduction to the passionate preaching ministry of George Whitfield titled THE EVANGELISTIC ZEAL OF GEORGE WHITFIELD by Steven J. Lawson (Reformation Trust, A Division of Ligonier Ministries, 2013). This book differs from a traditional biography in its focus on Whitfield’s preaching rather than a chronological exploration of individual life events. This invites application of the Whitfield’s ministry passions an practices.

Chapter 6 titled, A Mandate From The Lord is illustrative of the set up of the books other chapters. It is outlined:

Sovereignly Called

Relentlessly Driven

Spiritually Energized and

Supernaturally Effective.

The chapter includes a great number of quotes from both George Whitfield himself but also biographers of the past and present, These are footnoted and are easy to utilize in an appendices titled NOTES for further study or reflection. There is a strong motivational element that runs through these chapters so those seeking a more critical assessment of Whitfield’s practices will need to seek additional volumes but this short work of 132 pages is a great reminder of the importance of Whitfield’s preaching and the resulting revivals or an outstanding introduction to this significant preacher from the annals of Church History.

The book concludes with the words, “Truly, we want again Whitfields!” All who read the book will echo that prayer and seek to personally emulate the man called , The Grand Itinerant when he was turned out of the church and its buildings so he preaching where he was invited and even  in the out of doors so the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be declared in power!

Recipe For A New Start

In his book, The COMEBACK (2015, W Publishing Group) author Louie Giglio presents a refreshingly honest and inspirational journey of restoration and hope through the ability to overcome obstacles and begin again where ever one may be at the moment. Weaving personal and Biblical examples together with insight and emotion Louie pants a powerful picture that, “Its Not Too Late And You’re Never to Far” for a Comeback.

Chapter one is a personal narrative about the need for a comeback from a physical/psychological through the exercise of faith through praise. Chapter 2 centers on Jesus and the thief on the cross in Luke 23. This chapter feels like a transcripted sermon and when you can communicate as powerfully as Louie can that is a good thing. I follows a pattern of introduction, Text, illustration including examples of Jesus power from the Gospels and application. I was reading the book while speaking at a summer camp so this structure had a welcome pattern to it. The next chapters covered Old Testament stories including, Joseph and Sampson interspersed with the Prodigal Son and Lazarus from the New Testament. The book is strongly Christ centered which I appreciated and found impact full. The books content is augmented with a 6 part video curriculum of the same name that I have not seen yet. As someone who speaks and preaches a lot it is helpful to have sources of spiritual input for my own soul and life reflection. That is what this book did for me. If you are in a similar situation give this satisfying book a read, you will not be sorry.

Nurturing Our Inner Life In Christ

In a short 120 pages Calvin Miller, the author of The Singer Trilogy turns the lens  of his deeply reflective pastors heart on to the subject of deepening the believers intimate communion with Christ in his book The Table Of Inwardness (IVP, 1984).

The book begins with a Calvin Miler original poem titled THE TABLE which sets the stage well for a deeply reflective discussion on creating space and time for nurturing union with Christ. Each of the seven chapters begin with thought provoking quotes like “When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your success and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you” Henri J. M. Nouwen.

Each chapter is incredibly thought provoking and need to be read slowly and deliberately for maximum impact. Chapter One is themed The Issue of Inwardness. Brother Lawrence is featured as is a section on the dangers of inward reflection. Chapter Two discusses Barriers To The Inward Journey with the leading metaphor being developing spiritual hunger in light of the temptations to substitute sex, and power. Chapter 3 titled, the Needles Eye confronts consumerism and the need to develop the spiritual discipline of renunciation. Chapter four through 7 deal with the sufficiency of Christ, Prayer, obedience and “foreverness”.

This book came into my hands when I needed its timely reminders and opportunities to reflect below the shallow surface of many of the devotion books I had been reading. I recommend this book as I do all of Calvin Miller’s books. The older I get the smarter Calvin Miller’s writing appear. Which said more about my development than Calvin’s.

Read this book and create space to deeply respond and your walk with Christ will be positively impacted!