Reviews & Resources





Researcher explores needs of 21st-Century Church, Author explains how to reach the Black Middle Class, Release offers Futuristic Gospel, Curriculum gives Youth a passionate encounter with God.

BOOKS

Pollster Reveals Needs of 21st-Century Church

The Next American Spirituality: Finding God in the Twenty-First Century

George Gallup Jr. and Timothy Jones

ChariotVictor Publishers

205 pages, hardcover, $18.99

Reviewed by Chris Maxwell

George Gallup Jr. teams with author Timothy Jones in The Next American Spirituality, a breakdown of revelations regarding trends that uncover the American church's future. From modern faith relations to common longings to the practices of prayer, sermons and church views, the book's themes cover a wide range of disclosure. It investigates beliefs while reaching biblical conclusions of how Christians should respond.

Gallup does more than carry his popular family name. Serving as co-chairman of The Gallup Organization and chairman of The George H. Gallup International Institute, he knows what to study, how to reach conclusions and ways to observe the effects of those causes. Timothy Jones is an author, editor and speaker specializing in the spiritual life. Their teamwork reveals how a new century and new millennium bring more than a change in numbers.

Why do people attend Sunday school? What stands between the unchurched and involved members? How can Bibles become a key part of people's lives? How can churches progress? Research of such questions proposes explanations, clear concerns about America's spirituality and a challenge. Christians must respond properly to today's world to help this generation find God.

Preaching to the Black Middle Class

Marvin A. McMickle

Judson Press

160 pages, paperback, $16

Reviewed by Frank King

Since the 1960s, two separate and unequal groups have emerged within the black community. While the black middle class is larger than it has ever been--today exceeding 25 percent of the black population--the black underclass is also larger than it has ever been, causing more and more alienation between the two groups.

Most of these middle-class blacks, however, still affiliate with predominantly black churches that are often located in the inner city, posing challenges for pastors to meet the needs of such different groups. One congregation is the membership that drives into the inner city on Sundays and, perhaps, through the week for worship.

The other congregation lives in the neighborhood around the building and turns to the church for hot meals, support groups, day care services and even temporary shelter. In his book, Preaching to the Black Middle Class, pastor Marvin McMickle details the specific needs of the black middle class, while explaining how to mobilize them to reach urban communities.

McMickle, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland and associate professor of homiletics at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, uses his church's community outreach as an example. According to 1990 Census figures, unemployment exceeds 40 percent of Antioch's surrounding neighborhood, and the number of children living in poverty there exceeds 60 percent. In Preaching to the Black Middle Class, McMickle shows how middle-class blacks are poised to help transform these communities.

"More than any other institution in these communities, black middle-class churches are unlikely poised to provide a wide range of services, programs and resources to a population that otherwise might not be served," McMickle says.

Preaching to the Black Middle Class is an insightful resource for any ministry or person who wants to be "salt" to the inner city. Sample sermons occupy about one-third of the book. The final chapter speaks to white churches with black middle-class members.

The Awakening

By Friedrich Zuendel

Plough Publishing House

147 pages, paperback, $10

Reviewed by John M. DeMarco

This inaugural English translation giving the account of a German church's journey of spiritual warfare and renewal is a riveting testimony to the power of prayer and repentance. Author Friedrich Zuendel tells the story of Johann Christoph Blumhardt, a 19th-century pastor in the Black Forest who, along with a team of others, ministered to a demon-plagued young woman and waged spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness.

When the dark forces were finally expelled, a wave of confession and repentance hit Blumhardt's congregation that set forth a manifestation of spiritual and physical healing. The reader is drawn into the drama of the story as Zuendel describes the joy and despair associated with Spirit-led church renewal, and the attacks and criticisms that seem to surface as natural complements.

The book's weaknesses are theological in nature, and center on two short implications embraced by Blumhardt and matter-of-factly expressed by Zuendel: one, that demons are dead human beings, as opposed to the biblical portrayal of them as fallen angels; and two, that surgery is only for those without faith, rather than seen as one of God's available instruments provided for potential healing.

Fortunately, these aspects do not taint the full testimony of what was a powerful move of God in response to a faithful and persevering pastor, who relied on prayer and refused to yield his territory to the grasp of Satan. Zuendel articulates that the power of the Spirit expressed by Jesus 2,000 years ago is very much available today, and encourages readers of all generations and geographical settings to take hold of the victory that is at hand and seek freedom from bondage.

NIV Pastor's Bible

Mike Vander Klipp, editor

Zondervan Publishing House and Group Publishing

1,216 pages, leatherbound, $49.99

Reviewed by Tom Gill

Zondervan's NIV Pastor's Bible would be best described as a field manual for pastors. This unique tool is invaluable for pastors and leaders alike and covers topics that every pastor faces.

The NIV Pastor's Bible contains 64 pages of helps for the pastor. Subjects covered range from grief counseling to discipleship to issues of sexual ethics. Each topic includes what to do and what not to do in those situations, including what questions not to ask.

For example, when counseling grieving parents, the book recommends: "Don't say: 'You can have more children.' Better to say: 'No one can ever take your child's place. Every child is precious and special.'"

The resources, coupled with the NIV text, are very well organized. This Bible represents an important milestone in ministry helps by putting them at the minister's fingertips. It is invaluable to anyone involved in ministry at any level.

To be released at the same time is the NIV Fruit of the Spirit Bible from Zondervan Publishing. Containing 52 weekly studies, 200 in-text epigrams and 40 Bible character profiles, this Bible promises to help believers cultivate the nine fruits of the Spirit. For example, the devotional for week one focuses on love and its multifaceted role in the Christian's life.

Into the Future

Elmer Towns and Warren Bird

Revell Books

256 pages, paperback, $14.99

Reviewed by Christine D. Johnson

Elmer Towns and Warren Bird join forces to call the church to effective future ministry, highlighting 14 trends the church is experiencing and profiling churches that exemplify those trends.

Two crucial issues underlie this book: Calling churches from program-centered agendas to Spirit-driven ministry and helping the church regain a clear vision of the essentials of the faith.

Towns and Bird seek to move churches toward such goals as church health and quality, targeted outreach and empowerment of lay leadership. This book is written for pastors and lay leaders who are willing to do what it takes to move the church toward an excellent future.

MUSIC

Worship With International Flair

Tongues of Fire

By Various Artists Rhythm House Records

Reviewed by Doug Joseph

For those seeking new sounds in worship, Rhythm House Records offers an exciting release that showcases some great worship offerings in some unexpected venues with a large cross-section of artists. Pushing tradition to the side, Tongues of Fire clearly will reach a new and younger audience with the sounds that they are more familiar with and a lyrical message without worldly compromise.

Tongues of Fire encompasses an international array of artists and as a result carries a fresh sound and feel to it. Gone are the expected worship sounds of most mainstream offerings, and in their place are sounds spanning a variety of styles.

Some songs, such as "Tehiliah" by Mary-Kathryn would easily fit on the albums by Irish songstress Enya. Others, such as "Blood & Fire" by Christafari, pack a distinctively reggae influence. The mix is really clever and well-produced.

There is not enough good that can be said about the project and the hopeful artists that it represents. Almost every track is unique and just plain fun.

Each of the songs on the disc shows originality and represents a tremendous new horizon for this wave of musicians and even possibly the vehicles that worship can be carried on. It is worth recognizing Rhythm House Records for making a project that clearly thinks "out of the box."

tri-city4.com

Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers

EMI Gospel

Reviewed by Twanna Powell

After a five-year hiatus, Donald Lawrence and his stellar vocal ensemble, the Tri-City Singers, blaze into the new millennium with their latest release, tri- city4.com.

tri-city4.com has a futuristic flavor featuring sci-fi and technological sounds that make this album a breakthrough project. Lawrence masterfully intertwines modern-day ministry with excellent vocal and musical orchestration.

Tracks such as "Testify" and "The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" are pulsating, funky grooves that are guaranteed to make you bounce to the beat. "Never Seen the Righteous" takes the message of Psalm 37:25 to another level with its blend of solid R&B rhythms and jazzy horns. Lawrence also puts a hip twist to the gospel classic "Sign Me Up," featuring the amazing vocals of Doug and Melvin Williams of the Williams Brothers.

tri-city4.com also provides strong ministry on such tracks as the uplifting ballad "God's Favor," which features on lead vocals gospel sensations Karen Clark-Sheard, Kim Burrell and R&B songstress Kelly Price. On the smooth and soulful track "Blessed," Lawrence has a personal conversation with God, thanking Him for His goodness.

tri-city4.com is a remarkable accomplishment by Donald Lawrence and Tri-City Singers. It is a landmark project to be remembered in 21st-century gospel music.

YOUTH

Helping Youth Develop A Passion for Jesus

Jesus: No Equal

By Barry St. Clair

Standard Publishing

176 pages, paperback, $9.99; leader's manual, $6.99

Reviewed by Eric Wilbanks

Youth pastors are often frustrated when students abandon their faith, but youth minister Barry St. Clair has written a book that may help curb that trend. In Jesus: No Equal, St. Clair, head of Reach Out Youth Solutions in Atlanta, encourages pastors to help youth establish a revelational and intimate relationship with Christ, understanding who He is and who we are in Him.

The six-week discipling resource traces the birth, ministry, death, resurrection and second coming of Jesus. It encourages students to discover who Jesus really is and learn how He can use them to reach their generation.

St. Clair writes in his trademark conversational style, as students get to know more about the character, mystery and intrigue of history's most mind-boggling individual. The resource comes with a companion CD, with St. Clair offering contemporary Christian music and video clip suggestions and illustrations for use in large or small groups. Using a wealth of examples from the Scriptures, St. Clair offers a rich journey into a deeper relationship with God.

How to Have a Great Sunday School

By Wes and Sheryl Haystead

Gospel Light

269 pages, softcover, $19.99

Reviewed by Douglas King

For those who have just been appointed Sunday school teachers or are looking to revive their existing program, Wes and Sheryl Haystead have just the cure. In their workbook-like manual, How to Have A Great Sunday School, the Haysteads explain the nuts and bolts of leading an effective Sunday school program.

The book is written in short, easy-to-read chapters that offer information on the benefits and purpose of having a Sunday school, how to choose a curriculum, how to design a session plan, how to organize for effective learning, how to hire and set job descriptions, how to work with volunteers, training and facility requirements. It also contains creative ideas, guidelines and examples.

Part of the book's appeal is that it was designed to be both a practical workbook and a how-to text. Each page is perforated for tear-out and photocopying because many of the pages are actual forms, schedules and organizational charts.

To facilitate readers looking for information on specific topics, each chapter begins with bulleted summaries titled "What the Chapter Tells You" and "What This Chapter Shows You."

There are also a handful of icons that represent the ideas and concepts pertinent to specific age groups, as well as icons that represent topics to help the reader gather only the information they desire without having to read the entire book.

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