Friday, November 20, 2015

Forget the club. Be the Church

Another call to live the gospel, the whole gospel, to truly pick up our cross and follow, not just to pick and choose the convenient parts .  That's the message from Gregg Matte's  recent book, Unstoppable Gospel : Living Out the World-Changing Vision of Jesus's First Followers ( Baker Books, 2015).
Somehow over the years the Church  has morphed from a way of life to a building that people visit one or more times a month, and more if there is a wedding or a funeral.  That's not what Jesus had in mind; Matte calls the Christian community to return to its roots, to remember the Great Commission and the Great Commandment
You'll find nuggets such as "…we seem to be drifting to building relevant communities short on biblical truth." That's a club, not a church" (page 60)
Or this, found on page 68: "The goal of the church is not to make earth a nicer waiting room at the door to hell. The church exists to route us to heaven by way of Jesus."
Matte talks about the Great Commission,  he talks about spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting. He mentions money, and he talks about following Jesus. Not necessarily in the way you may have heard about while you were growing up in church, but the way the fist disciples had to learn to follow. 
Lots of personal examples make for an enjoyable read .
Gotta say this: The publisher gave me a copy of the book in exchange for a review (not required to post anything except the disclaimer).

I rank it 5/5. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

comments on "Urban Legends of the New Testament"

I recently received a copy of a book by David A. Croteau, Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 common Misconceptions (B & H Academic, 2015) He covers some of the common ones that we’ve heard about for years, like did Paul really say money is evil or the love of money is evil? (No, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.) and were there really 3 wise men or were they kings, or sorcerers? And some others that a little more obscure.
Croteau deals with each of the legends in just a few pages, offering a look at the legend (The Legendary Teaching), then an introduction to his a rebuttal, followed by a consideration of applicable passages. Many chapters close with an application for the reader to use in his own faith journey. Most if not all of the chapters include a brief annotated bibliography.
Many of the legends are ones that I’ve heard before, (and tried to debunk) myself, but there were a few that really made me stop and think. Not sure I agree with 100% of Croteau’s logic, but at least he pointed me back to scripture. And as Douglas Moo pointed out in his endorsement. “Perhaps just as importantly, he encourages all of us to be more careful and attentive readers of Scripture.”
Hopefully this is a book which will challenge more people to go to the source when it comes to their scriptural knowledge, but it is not, from my perspective, a book which is likely to be read and then passed on to a whole group of friends  with a “You gotta read this book…” type of endorsement.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Great Book on Birthing Churches

Wow. Simply Wow. No other words to describe this book. Assumption after assumption shattered. And with each shattered assumption came a new idea. I’m talking about J.D. Payne’s book Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches from New Believers (IVP, 2015). 
Drawing from his own research and experience, scripture (especially some of Paul’s letters), as well as the experience of career missionaries, and the writings of some of the respected names in the field of Missiology, Payne has put together a brief guide for ‘Birthing” new churches.
Many people who consider planting churches want to take 30 or 40 people from a thriving church, get a building a few blocks away, call a pastor, have some events, and eventually kick off the new church, pretty much a copy of the ‘Mother Church”.  Payne’s model for birthing churches is different in that the growth and the leadership of the new church come from within. The original team develops relationships, models appropriate Christian behaviors and disciples the future church leaders. At all stages the new believers are involved and encouraged to take part in the decision making process. A ‘phase out’ plan is in place from day 1, since this process does not allow for a team to arrive onsite and deliberately set out to clone a church that may work in another culture and context. The relationship is built, and there may be ongoing conversations, discipleship and mentoring, but the goal is to offer enough theology and doctrine to help new believers establish new churches. Paul didn’t stay on as the Pastor of the church at Philippi, nor at Colossae, nor at Ephesus. Corinth and Crete also benefited from his teaching, but it is a reasonable guess that none of these churches were exactly like the Jerusalem church.
Payne also plays the devil’s advocate by asking the questions that many people are bound to have, and then offers a logical response.  He makes it clear in the intro that this book does not contain all the answers, but he does suggest several resources that are available for the person interested in taking their Christian walk one step further.
Of particular interest to me is that the processes explained here should work just as well in the USA (United States of America) as in the USA (Union of South Africa).  I may just have to work through this book with some of the members of our Church Board.
And I bought this book, so don’t have to include the FTC disclaimer. 
Great Book! Get yours today.  Kingdom growth depends on God, but he uses people like you and me to help.