Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Ohio pastor encourages ministers to 'Raise' Their Cities, Rekindling the flame of the Spirit-Formed Life, Release offers Multicultural Worship experience, Software helps churches report noncash Charitable Giving

Mobilizing Churches To Transform Cities

It Takes a Church to Raise a Village
By Marva Mitchell
Treasure House
141 pages, hardcover, $16.99
Reviewed by Adrienne S. Gaines

When Bishop Marva Mitchell and her late husband were faced with the tragic, drug-related shooting death of a teen-age friend, they cried out to God for answers. Her husband, himself once a drug addict, asked God where the church was as violence plagued their neighborhood. His answer: You are the church.

That cryptic reply has led the Mitchells' Revival Center Ministries International in Dayton, Ohio, to weave itself firmly into the fabric of the community, touching families through truancy and drug prevention programs, and literacy and job training services, among a host of other activities. And oddly, most of the ministry's work is funded through federal grants.

In her book, It Takes a Church to Raise a Village, Mitchell shows churches how to reach their cities with methods that impact schools, jails and even the government. Drawing from the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," Mitchell asserts that it takes a church to raise a city, or "village," and it is the body of Christ's responsibility to accept the job. She encourages ministries to listen to the cries in their streets and make their services relevant.

Instead of focusing on building elaborate structures, churches must pour their resources into building up the "jewels in the pews," she writes. And though Mitchell asserts that welfare reform offers new responsibility and ministry opportunities to churches, she cautions against fostering dependency and recommends that churches find ways to move people from poverty to possessing their destinies.

A relatively quick read, It Takes a Church to Raise a Village outlines Mitchell's ministry model in detailed appendices and shows pastors and ministry leaders how to unearth the federal funding available. She believes churches and city officials can develop effective partnerships that relieve each party from unwanted control.

This book calls the church to a place of service and sacrifice. Mitchell asserts that this posture is key to reaping an end-time harvest. She encourages ministries to become an Esther church that is pure, wise, prayerful and orphaned from external controls.

Placed in His Glory
By Fuchsia Pickett
Charisma House
171 pages, paperback, $12.99
Reviewed by Deborah L. Delk

Author and speaker Fuchsia Pickett is clearly in love with her Lord and Savior Jesus. Through her books, Pickett has wooed readers into a divine romance with God. Her newest book, Placed in His Glory, continues this ministry.

Pickett teaches sound biblical doctrine and imparts a sense of awe as she describes how, where and with whom the glory of God resides. She tells readers of the glory in the Godhead--present in creation, worship, the incarnation and in redeemed vessels. After creating a thirst for God's presence, she explains how to yield more fully to God in order to receive more of Him.

Pickett also describes the characteristics of Christians who have yielded--servitude, humility, faithfulness and joy. These traits are the fruits of the Spirit and the attributes of God Himself, Pickett says. When believers yield to Him, they develop His heart and mind and become more like Him.

Pickett describes a vision of the church on the Mount of Transfiguration--just as the disciples saw Jesus shine with God's glory, the church, too, is to shine with this glory, she writes. Those who enjoy hearing Pickett speak will delight in having her pearls of revelation in writing. This book is great for those seeking a closer relationship with God.

Living the Spirit-Formed Life
By Jack Hayford
Regal Books
296 pages, paperback, $12.99
Reviewed by Chris Maxwell

Church on the Way founding pastor Jack Hayford once again provides information today's churches need in his book, Living the Spirit-Formed Life. Hayford opens with these instructions: "This is an adventure. You hold in your hands a handbook designed to help serious Christians find fulfillment in life and maturity under Christ's lordship by linking their souls to timeless practices and principles set forth in Scripture and proven valid."

Filling the book with practical and personal advice, Hayford describes a passion for God as the motivation that can lead to recovery of true Spirit-fullness. Comparing the popular business world's "Peter Principle" to Simon Peter--the Bible's Rocky, who also was a rough, unpolished champion--Hayford writes that leaders can work where God has called them with faith, creative power and stability.

Instead of stressing policy and procedure, Hayford invites readers to be transformed. He highlights commitment to obeying God's voice, observing holy rituals, practicing forgiveness, maintaining spiritual freshness, and modeling proper order and genuine worship.

Refusing to stand on a pedestal, Hayford reveals his battle with resentment, his struggle to read the Bible through in a year and his journey as an 11-year-old to learn how to walk in integrity. Then he closes the book by highlighting the Lord's prayer as the ideal prayer, blending it with guides for application. This resource will prove helpful for pastors wanting Spirit-formed lives and ministries.

Stuck in Halftime
By Bob Buford
166 pages, hardcover, $17.99
Reviewed by John M. De Marco

Christian entrepreneur Bob Buford received critical acclaim in the late 1990s for his books Halftime and Game Plan, which encouraged restless Christians to shift from vocational activities centered on success to endeavors that involved serving God's kingdom in unique ways that connect to their passions, gifts and callings. But Buford, who made a similar transition when he sold his successful cable company to launch nonprofit organizations that serve church and ministry leaders, found that many readers ran into frustration.

They felt God nudging them into new directions, but were unable to implement the changes they felt called to make. Buford's discussions with these individuals and his subsequent insights form the basis of the third volume in the Halftime series, Stuck in Halftime.

Buford emphasizes that halftime is a season, "a place to leave when its work is done." He notes that those feeling stuck in halftime should move more passionately in the direction God is leading. They should set specific goals, coupled with strategies for implementation. Often a "parallel career" must be launched to feel out a new vocation before an existing position is terminated.

Those considering switching fields should do a great deal of research, Buford advises. Time management, a balanced life and having "one thing in the box" that characterizes your life mission statement also are essentials for a successful transition into new endeavors.

Though Buford's examples are mostly profiles of very successful business people who have the resources to leave their current positions and make new investments, individuals less financially able to make radical lifestyle changes can still glean from his insights. They must look for the transferable principles Buford promotes and determine how God is calling them in the context of their unique situations.

The Life Giving Church
By Ted Haggard
Regal Books
272 pages, paperback, $12.99
Reviewed by Chris Maxwell

Through the pages of The Life Giving Church, Ted Haggard, pastor of the 7,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., reveals honest stories about his journey to survive and thrive in ministry. Much like reading Haggard's personal journal, The Life Giving Church challenges today's Christian leaders to rest, keep their word, think more highly of others than themselves and care for others. Strong leadership combined with consistency, humility and honesty builds healthy churches, Haggard writes.

Haggard defines a "life-giving church" as one that teaches people to receive the life of God through Christ. While most churches clutch that truth in theory, the book's examples reveal practical ways of application. In this revised version of a previous collection, Haggard has added chapters about children and youth ministries.

Historical lessons and biblical references shape his practical suggestions. By connecting the local church with the city and global churches, large dreams can come true, he says. Haggard stresses the importance of small groups, structured leadership and program-based goals. He writes that all ministry areas can play life-changing roles--from the music department to missions to children's ministry.

Gleaning from the insights Haggard offers, pastors can empower their congregations to become life-giving.


A 'New Season' of Worship
New Season
By Israel Houghton and New Breed Hosanna Music
Reviewed by Twanna Powell

Worship leader Israel Houghton brings a fresh and exciting sound to praise and worship music that embraces the diversity in the body of Christ with his debut album, New Season. Accompanied by his worship ensemble New Breed, Houghton delivers a live musical collection that combines gospel, rock, reggae and salsa to create a mix of praise and worship music that multicultural audiences will enjoy.

New Season opens up with a soulful praise anthem, "Who Is Like the Lord?" which sounds similar to Fred Hammond's work. The release continues with such joyful tracks as the Darrell Evans-penned "Trading My Sorrows" and the danceable reggae cut, "My Life Belongs to You."

Houghton and New Breed also add some Spanish flair into the mix on the Latin-flavored praise track "Suddenly" and "I Lift Up My Hands," which includes Spanish lyrics sung by Cindy Cruse-Ratcliff. The album also has incredible worship ballads such as "Come Holy Spirit Medley" and "You've Won My Affection," featuring worship leader Keith Staten.

Though each cut is exceptional, the standout is undoubtedly the title track. A prophetic psalmist, Houghton exhorts the crowd to sing: "It's a new season. It's a new day/ Fresh anointing is coming my way/ It's a season of power and prosperity/ It's a new season coming to me."

Reflecting much of the diversity in the body of Christ, New Season places Houghton and New Breed among the pacesetters in praise and worship.

No Greater Love
PDI Music
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg

Rounding out the eighth release in PDI Music's Come & Worship series, No Greater Love includes 12 new songs. Recorded in part in the United Kingdom with musicians from the British worship band Phatfish, and in the United States with musicians from GLAD and PDI, the album offers fresh church-friendly songs with a tamed modern worship sound. The various talents used create a diverse and unique project.

Produced by Steve Cook, the album is loaded with vertical lyrics and catchphrases that reflect on one's relationship with God. While several cuts, including "Your Mercy and Kindness," have a singsongy, predictable feel, songs such as "Greater Love" make this album well worth the purchase. Standouts include the slow, chorus-filled "Your Holy Majesty" and delicate, piano-laden "Your Hand Upon Me."

Whether looking for new songs for personal worship times or congregational singing, No Greater Love is a great find.


CD-ROM Tracks Donations for Taxes

By Income Dynamics, $29.99
(866) 424-4000 or
Reviewed by Adrienne S. Gaines

A software resource from Omaha, Neb.-based Income Dynamics allows churches to track noncash charitable donations, enabling congregants to deduct the value of those contributions from their incomes taxes. ItsDeductible is endorsed by Crown Financial Ministries, a Christian financial stewardship ministry that has partnered with author and radio-show host Larry Burkett, and promises to save users at least $100 in taxes.

By listing the IRS fair market value for items such as clothing, household appliances, linen, books and sporting goods, ItsDeductible allows givers to deduct the amount the same items would be worth if donated to a thrift store. Items are ranked by current condition and whether they have brand names.

For example, a brand name pair of earrings would be worth $28 in good condition, $14 in fair condition and $5 in poor condition. A VCR's worth would range from $50 in good condition to $20 in poor condition.

The software has received favorable comments from The Wall Street Journal and Smart Computing. Income Dynamics estimates that people who donate at least one bag of goods to charity each year can benefit from the software.

Easy-to-use, the CD-ROM not only tracks noncash donations, but also monetary gifts, mileage incurred while driving on behalf of a charity and out-of-pocket expenses incurred for charitable organizations.

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