Game Show Tells How to Reach Postmodern Culture
Post-Modern Pilgrims: First
Century Passion for the 21st
By Leonard Sweet
Broadman and Holman
224 pages, hardcover, $19.99
Reviewed by Andrew Careaga
What can the church learn from the success of the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and the online auction site eBay? Plenty, if you take to heart Leonard Sweet's thesis in Post-Modern Pilgrims. In this new book, Sweet, a noted theologian, church historian and expert on postmodern culture, describes how Millionaire and eBay owe their success to their "EPIC" approach to their audiences.
In Post-Modern Pilgrims, Sweet takes readers on a pilgrimage into the postmodern world, where truth is relative and subjective experience counts for more than the quest for meaning through rational, empirical approaches. Sweet, a professor at Drew University, urges church leaders to embrace four "EPIC" principles--to become "experiential," "participatory," "image-driven" and "connected"--in order to engage souls. He devotes a chapter to each principle and gives examples from current culture--eBay, Millionaire and other models--to show how they can bring the church up to speed with the culture.
Readers of Sweet's earlier works, particularly SoulTsunami, may find Post-Modern Pilgrims vaguely familiar. In fact, Post-Modern Pilgrims is an amplification of one of SoulTsunami's "life rings." Nevertheless, Post-Modern Pilgrims is an excellent introduction to postmodern thought from one of the church's leading thinkers.
How Christian Is Christian
By Dr. Gary L. Almy
326 pages, paperback, $24
Reviewed by Julie Roe
Author and psychiatrist Dr. Gary L. Almy opens his recent release, How Christian Is Christian Counseling, stating a simple goal: "I have written this book for those who care about learning the truth concerning counseling psychology as it is practiced today." What follows is a diatribe arguing that the combination of psychotherapy and Scripture is a "gross incompatibility."
Thirteen of the 15 chapters are devoted to his belief that psychotherapy is "flashy, facile and foolish human ideas, that offer the troubled in spirit nothing of value and, worse yet, leads them toward destruction." Only the final two chapters describe alternative therapies for emotional issues. Almy supports assessing physical aspects of disease, mental functioning and spiritual issues. In the absence of physical or mental disease, he counsels against psychotherapy and recommends that patients with emotional symptoms seek biblical counseling and discipling ministry of the church.
Many Christian counselors use a combination of the church, biblical counseling and various psychotherapy approaches that contribute toward a patient's healing and wholeness. They believe, for example, that God unblocks a painful memory from a hardened, insensitive heart so that feelings can flow and healing begin. The Holy Spirit guides the therapy and helps the Christian client use "remember, repeat and work through" to unblock a painful memory, experience subsequent feelings and understand how these experiences may have influenced their choices.
Healing begins as the Holy Spirit penetrates the softened heart with love and "renews the attitude of the mind" and the client "puts on the new self" (see Eph. 4:23-24). The client is convicted of his own sin; he does not blame others, as Almy suggests. When repentance follows and clients are "eager to do what is good" (see Titus 2:14), their relationships with God, self and others are improved.
In reading this book, Christian counselors and ministry leaders will do well to take Almy's own counsel and "constantly compare human wisdom with the teachings of the Scripture."
The Word and Power Church
By Doug Bannister
208 pages, paperback, $16.99
Reviewed by David Munizzi
The war may be over! In The Word and Power Church, Doug Bannister heralds the coming of the "blended" church--a growing number of Christians who embrace the best from the evangelical and charismatic traditions.
Bannister traces his own journey from being a fervent, idealistic evangelical who was taught to look skeptically upon charismatics to discovering the relevance and necessity of the gifts and working of the Holy Spirit in the church today.
Pastor of Fellowship Church in Knoxville, Tenn., Bannister shares his own experience of Spirit baptism. A thorough and somewhat painful study of 1 Corinthians 12:1-4 led him to reject his long-held view that the charismatic gifts had ceased with the age of the apostles.
Then during a time of prayer and fasting, he found himself crying out to God: "A torrent of words in a language I had never spoken before welled up within me and poured through my lips...I didn't know what I was saying, but sensed my soul worshiping God with a passion I had never experienced before."
Pastors and laymen alike will find this book an inspiring message for our times.
When God Builds a Church
By Bob Russell with Rusty Russell
Howard Publishing Company
304 pages, hardcover, $19.99
Reviewed by Chris Maxwell
Author Bob Russell's When God Builds a Church is not a Pentecostal outburst or a Holy Ghost show; it is a motivational, systematic testimony of how God makes the impossible occur in a local church.
Russell, who has pastored Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., for more than three decades, and son Rusty tell the story of how God can build the "city on a hill" that Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount. Yet the pair say it is only possible as pastors submit to God's will for their churches. They share the 10 principles that helped them see transformation in their own congregation, including worship, stewardship, leadership and faith.
The Russells do not push readers to repeat their habits, but to grasp the basic principles. Bob Russell writes: "You can't fight Goliath wearing Saul's armor...[But] the 10 principles discussed in this book should be enlisted by every congregation."
Churches of today must grasp that and truly let God build His church.
Worship His Majesty
By Jack Hayford
252 pages, paperback, $12.99
Reviewed by Liz Kelly
Hayford's classic work on worship, originally released in 1987, has been reissued with updated material from recent articles and lectures offered by the author and founding pastor of Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif.
In Worship His Majesty, Hayford purports that "Worship holds the solution to the dilemma of mankind," namely separation from God--and answers the age-old questions: "What are we here for?" and "Why are things as they are?"
Hayford emphasizes that "whom or what you worship exerts tremendous influence over what you are...You become like the god you worship." Through examples from key figures in Scripture, he also emphasizes that worship is accessible to all, true worship involves the whole person and that worship is particularly important in desperate times. Known for composing "Majesty," Hayford also discusses the importance of song and worship.
While reading this book, you may suddenly be struck with the urge to get up and start singing worship tunes. Our hunch is, Hayford would approve.
A Church Family Affair
By New Divine Destiny
Tommy Boy Gospel
Reviewed by Twanna Powell
For its debut release, New Divine Destiny made it a family affair. Be Ready showcases the rich production skills of renowned gospel artist John P. Kee and older brother Alphonza, who leads the talented 23-voice choir made up of members from the Charlotte, N.C.-based New Life Fellowship Center, where John Kee serves as pastor. In fact, New Divine Destiny is also known by the nickname "The Church Choir."
On the traditional side, the disc features such tracks as "I Want to Be Like Him" and "If My People." Besides some minor musical overproduction, Be Ready also shines on is urban track. The title song is a funky groove featuring the jazzy vocals of labelmate Tonex. John P. Kee also gets a piece of the action on the praise jam "The Rock."
New Divine Destiny also achieves excellence with its soulful ballads. The group's vocals serve as beautiful backdrops to such tracks as "Tell Me the Truth" and "Now Unto Him," which minister about the realness of God's love and power respectively.
New Divine Destiny has made its presence known in the gospel music industry with this tremendous debut effort.
By Vineyard Music Group/UK
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg
Surrender is the latest release from Vineyard Music/United Kingdom, but unlike its predecessors Come Now Is The Time and Hungry, this project from across the pond is a studio recording of 11 new songs. Like many sequels, Surrender is not as good as Hungry, but it has its own strengths. The lyrics are simple, the voices pure, and the lyrical direction is clearly vertical. The rich combination of worship leaders adds a unique flair to each cut.
The album has the strong acoustic flavors Vineyard is known for, but it's clearly distinct from the usual offerings. This release is recommended for Vineyard fans and worship leaders.
Lessons From Columbine
By Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott with Steve Rabey
Thomas Nelson Publishers
224 pages, paperback, $12.99
Reviewed by Ken Walker
Released on the April 20 anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, Rachel's Tears accomplishes in the spiritual realm what Misty Bernall's book did in providing insights about parental intervention. Reading Rachel Scott's prophetic journal writings and how she remained true to her faith--despite very human struggles--will stir heartfelt emotions.
The book will strike a chord especially among charismatics, given Rachel Scott's Pentecostal ancestry and participation in a youth group sponsored by Marilyn Hickey's church.
Rachel's Tears also sheds further light on this teen-ager's martyrdom, which her mother later downplayed because of doubts about its authenticity. Since then, the account has been verified.
The authors have crafted a true-to-life reflection of their daughter. But they also deserve credit for addressing the pain she felt when their marriage dissolved in her elementary school years.
Rachel's Tears will have its greatest impact if society heeds its message--that the answer to avoiding future Columbines comes not from gun control, but changed hearts. *
Sweet says pastors can learn from popular culture.