For the multi-tasking pastor/performer trio Phillips, Craig & Dean, music and ministry fit like hand in glove.
Since their debut concert in November 1991, Pentecostal pastors Randy Phillips, Shawn Craig and Dan Dean have juggled the demands of full-time church ministry--and found time to cut nine albums (including 17 No. 1 singles), selling more than 1.6 million units. Now the harmonious trio of Phillips, Craig & Dean (PC&D) has just released its 10th album, a new praise and worship project, Let the Worshippers Arise.
Sure, they've been busy. But in the last 13 years, all three members have discovered that their musical efforts complement their ministries: whether in the sanctuary or in the concert hall, PC&D has devoted its energies to ushering the people of God into worship.
"Everybody has a calling they must be faithful to," says Phillips, the associate pastor of Promiseland Church in Austin, Texas. "Ours is to call the church into a closer intimacy with Jesus, and we do that through our music."
"As a pastor, I'm interested in people experiencing God--not just knowing about God, but knowing God." The senior pastor of Heartland Church in Irving, Texas, Dean explains, "[When planning a CD], we go in asking, 'How can we draw the audience closer to the presence of God?' We don't want it to be about 'these are great songs,' but 'this is a great God."
"This is our third project with more of a vertical message, performing songs that are of the praise and worship genre," Craig says. "Speaking for myself, I just can't get enough of it. It's part of who we are at our core."
"Each of us began as worship leaders in our churches, so it's a very natural thing for us to continue," says Craig, who is music pastor of South County Christian Center in St. Louis.
Let the Worshippers Arise is self-admittedly reminiscent of early PC&D recordings with its focus on up-tempo cuts backed by strong ballads. But what's also apparent about the CD is that the songs were obviously born from difficult life experiences.
For example, Dan's wife, Becky, was almost killed in a car accident 1-1/2 years ago. He was with her through every step of her miraculous recovery and rehabilitation--something that he says not only strengthened their relationship, but also strengthened his resolve to be a man of pure worship.
This drive is reflected in the lyrics to a song that he wrote with Gary Sadler titled "Be the Praise of My Heart": "Not just a song that I sing to You ... / You see my soul laid open and bare / ... This is my prayer/ the praise of my heart."
In addition to writing or co-writing four songs on the project, the trio has made it a priority to embrace songs that they see the church beginning to embrace. This includes the title track, which Phillips discovered on his weekly TV program, Awakening. The praise and worship-themed show sought to discover the best song from an unknown songwriter, and Michael Ferrin of Texarkana, Texas, took home the top prize.
"When I heard him [Ferrin] sing it live it was one of those moments," Phillips recalls. "I think when people hear it, it's going to cause them to reach out to Christ with a renewed passion."
The Warrior's Heart
By Harry R. Jackson Jr.
"The church is an army," Harry Jackson writes in the Warrior's Heart, "Not a volunteer fire department." This statement sums up the author's contention that spiritual warfare is not merely an optional duty for believers--it is a serious and crucial endeavor that we all are involved in, whether we know it or not.
Jackson argues that Westerners have become too rationalistic in our worldview, attributing natural events to natural causes and spiritual events to spiritual causes. On the contrary, he writes, "The spiritual precedes the natural and the natural explains the spiritual."
In other words, events in the physical realm, whether they be political, social, familial, and so on, usually have a corresponding cause in the spiritual realm. Likewise, situations in the physical world may often be indicators of what is going on "beneath the surface."
However, Jackson is reluctant to portray spiritual warfare as an ethereal activity. Rather, he contends that it is a practical venture that must be rooted in the disciplines of daily life.
This is why the bulk of his book is focused not on the mechanics of battling spiritual strongholds, but on the inner life and relationships of the warrior.
On a topic in which some authors have a tendency to write based on personal experience or sketchy revelations, readers will appreciate the fact that Jackson is well-read and engages diverse sources to present his unconventional but insightful take on spiritual warfare.
Summoned to Lead
By Leonard Sweet
Not another book on leadership ... That's what you're thinking, but don't let the nondescript title of this fresh, new book fool you.
Leonard Sweet is known for the new and the fresh, and his recent books on postmodernity, leadership and "being" the church have spawned a cadre of faithful disciples. But Sweet's poetic writing, historic quotes and creative imagery do more than describe artistic ideas with no practical means of applying them. Rather, he combines biblical truth and ancient principles with modern, high-tech tactics for those of us who are still figuring out what leadership is all about.
In Summoned to Lead, Sweet offers hope for those who don't fit in--who feel they just don't have leadership gifts. Rather than simply offering disconnected ideas, he draws principles from the story of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, who in 1914 was stranded in an ice flow, but miraculously led his crew of 27 to safety after 22 months of peril.
Sweet demonstrates that, for Shackleton--and for us today--leadership is more often art than it is science. Thus, as his core principle, he believes that today's church leaders must sense rather than seek opportunities to rise up and lead. Like Shackleton, core relationships and caring endurance allow leaders to guide teams toward victory.
Why Care About Israel?
By Sandra Teplinsky
In answer to the question raised by the title of her book, Sandra Teplinsky contends that the church must care about Israel because the way God deals with Israel is the way He deals--and will deal--with the church.
She encourages readers to move beyond seeing the nation as merely a "prophetic timepiece" to predict eschatological events and suggests that, more importantly, Israel gives us a window into the heart of God: His compassion, longsuffering and love for His people.
A large portion of her book is devoted to exposing what she believes are centuries of misperception regarding Israel that began early in church history, explaining the biblical relationship of Israel to her God and discussing the present role of the nation in revealing God's glory.
Although she writes with the average reader in mind, Teplinsky has studied and thought extensively on the subject and hopes that the book will fill a void left by numerous popular books on the subject, many of which she believes amount to virtual "Arab-bashing."
"Ministry to Israel is more complicated than asserting land rights," she argues. "God wants to restore Israel both physically and spiritually."
In her book, Teplinsky confronts "replacement theology," which would argue that Israel has been superceded by the church. But she also tackles the "two covenant" view which has become popular in some circles of the evangelical and charismatic world: the suggestion that Jews do not need to be evangelized, and that they can be saved through the old covenant.
By G. P. Taylor
A comet, a mysterious book, a fallen angel and numerous creatures too strange for words fill the pages of G.P. Taylor's sequel to The New York Times best seller, Shadowmancer.
Although Wormwood chronologically follows Shadowmancer, its setting and characters are almost completely different, and those who haven't had a chance to read the first novel will have no problem picking up the story:
A comet appears in the night sky with London in its crosshairs, and Dr. Sabian Blake is the only one aware of it--thanks to the Nemorensis, a strange book that few have been able to interpret.
With Wormwood, Taylor has crafted an imaginative tale with an even more engaging plot and interesting characters than its prequel. Fans of both fantasy and historical fiction will appreciate his depiction of 18th- century England as a setting for spiritual warfare. The story is sometimes dark and the characters complex, but, as Taylor contends, evil is often the most effective backdrop for conveying good.
Hide It in Your 'Palm'
PDA-based Bible-software options put study tools at your fingertips.
Now, the PDA you use for keeping appointments and jotting notes can serve as an on-the-go Bible-search tool. Whether you have a first-generation Palm Pilot or a brand-new iPAQ, Olive Tree Bible Software (www.olivetree.com) offers a software package to suit your fancy.
The basic BibleReader and several Bible translations (including the KJV and the ASV) and tools are available free of charge for both Palm and Pocket PC platforms.
For $24.95 one can upgrade to the standard package, which includes four Bible versions (KJV, ASV, NASB, The Amplified Bible and NASB), a Spurgeon devotional, a Matthew Henry Concise Commentary and Nave's Bible Dictionary. In addition to these, an advanced package includes the ESV; Jamieson, Faucet and Brown Commentary; the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia and more.
Greek and Hebrew buffs will appreciate the available Gramcord-tagged texts of several versions of the Greek New Testament, Hebrew Old Testament and Septuagint with parsing information and on-screen Greek and Hebrew font display.
While BibleReader's advanced features may take a while to master, the basic operation is simple enough to learn in a matter of minutes: write your own notes linked with Bible references, perform detailed searches and bookmark your findings.
Speed and performance of the software depends on the age of the PDA, but BibleReader is designed to work on Palm software version 3.1 and newer, and from OS 3.0 and newer for Pocket PC.
For instance, a word search on the rather antiquated Palm Vx for the word "palm" in the NASB New Testament yields two instances in less than 10 seconds. Newer models will complete the search much more quickly and allow the user to take advantage of such benefits as color-coding and highlighting of text.
For those who haven't mastered the handwriting recognition on their PDAs to enter references directly, books, chapters and even verses can be accessed with a few taps on the screen.
What is the best ministry-related book you've read in 2004? Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life, John Bevere's Drawing Near, Bill Hybel's Volunteer Revolution--or something that we haven't heard of yet? Participate in the poll by visiting us at http://www.ministriestoday.com. Look for the results in a future issue of Ministries Today.