A Mission Field Nobody Wants to Engage
The presence of the unsaved thinking of themselves as Christians has been a reality forever. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus himself warns against putting stock in a false conversion saying, “not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says it, but the state of the modern church is often resistant to hearing and heeding the admonishment. As author Inserra relates, cultural Christianity has embedded itself deeply in the Church, its comforting lack of accountability enveloping people in a warm embrace of false belief.
Inserra structures is excellent book along the lines of a missionary guide for an unreached people group. The interaction that he shares at the beginning of the book with his seminary classmate sets a challenging tone. While Pastor Inserra looked at his brother’s assignment to Northern California as an incredible challenge (the land of proud unbelief), his brother turned the table to warn him against the assumptions that came with an assignment to the Bible Belt. This bracing moment is when he began to really examine the reality of faith amongst those who proclaimed a belief in Christ as a part of their everyday life. Examination proved that this belief was anecdotal in some cases, cultural in most of them and simply a part of being a citizen of the South for many. The chapters of the book that follow the analysis give the reader excellent study points for ways in which to approach each of these groups and more.
“Unsaved” is a quick read but not shallow. As someone involved in ministry, I can see a face to go along with each of the belief types that he describes. This personalization gives the reader the opportunity to think through the conversation that you want to have in the way that you want to approach that person. It didn’t begin the book with high hopes because I thought it was simply stating the obvious, but Inserra has performed a valuable service for Christ’s church, saying the hard things that need to be said in love.
Pastor Wilson turns the Church’s attention to the much quoted but less applied New Testament epistle of Titus and its core message. The Spirit inspired the author of that letter to not only leave his worker Titus on the Greek island of Crete to organize the Christians there, but gave the principles by which he was to do so as well. Using as his objective that the Church be the city on a hill that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount, Wilson leads the reader through the points of Paul’s letter and helps us to understand how his marching orders for Titus apply to the Church today.
For such a brief book the value is immense. Wilson expertly exegetes the equally brief letter and helps the reader to see the big idea in each of the passages. ‘Zealous’ is not a gnostic promise (Jabez et al.) of discovering some new hidden secret, but rather, it is an eminently practical look at the principles that Paul gave to Titus that address many of the shortcomings of the Church in our age. Three that are discussed in the book are the poor level of discipleship, the chasm of credibility (that is, the difference between what we say and what we do) and the effect that these have on how we apprehend the missional opportunity ahead of us.
Read ‘Zealous’ with your bible close by. It is likely you have read Titus multiple times (if you are picking up a books such as this) but much of that reading has been focused in the Eldership requirements. Wilson deftly leads the reader to see that Titus contains so much more practical application for the Church beyond those instructions. For example, Wilson stops us in a passage often seen as preamble, Paul’s greeting in 1:1-4 to point out the importance of preaching and the power of the gospel. The gospel is both the content and the power of preaching something that can be missing in today’s environment of therapeutic deism. A city on hill is not built on the pillars of making people feel better where it teeters and shifts with every new personal demand. It is founded on the unchanging glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The only disappointment I had with the book was that it was over so quickly. The more I think about it though, the length of the book is exactly right given the brevity of the profound instruction in its source. I have a new hunger to dig into Titus and preach it in the future. In the meantime, the study guide included at the back of the book is a bonus for church leaders seeking to present their people as salt and light in the world. Buy this, read this and read it again.
I Like Giving by Brad Formsma
The subtitle of the book is ‘Practical Ideas, Inspiring Stories’ and Formsma doesn’t disappoint on either count. I Like Giving is 210 pages of encouragement to engage generous giving as a lifestyle rather than viewing it through the lens of ten percent. The illustrative stories that compose the majority of the book do two things; they primarily give us inspirational stories retelling the giving experiences of the author and others but also provide insight into the long-term effects that giving can have as God works through the provision of others. It is the end-end result that we usually never get to see that is often the greatest benefit of a gift.
The book is a breezy read that will inspire you to take action, even it is just to pass the book on to someone else who might likewise be inspired. Formsma emphasizes that an important line needs to be crossed in our lives, transitioning from thought to action. It’s one thing to be inspired and have your heart warmed and yet another to be inspired, lace up your sneakers and go give. The biblical author James makes the same comment, saying “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?”
I’m grateful to WaterBrook Press who provided this book for review.
How God Makes Men
When that moment of crisis arrives and men must make a decision that directs the course of the rest of their lives, will they make that decision on raw emotion or on deep-rooted principles? Men of God are shaped by Him in a variety of ways. Some, or all, of the principles that God uses may apply to you as Patrick Morley writes in How God Makes Men.
As you read the familiar biblical stories of the way in which God has shaped men through history you are sure to see yourself in at least one or two scenarios. Take Job, for example. Casual Bible readers will recognize the story of suffering but might fail to glean the purpose in that suffering. Morley takes men deeper into God’s purpose in Job to show that while it might appear that he suffered for no good reason, there existed a higher purpose to it. Might there be similar purpose in your life.
All of the men that Morley highlights are familiar and their stories well known. He isn’t providing biographical sketches, rather, he is directing our attention to the ways in which God worked in their lives. In doing so, he opens your eyes to the possibility that God might be working in much the same way in yours.
I’m grateful to Multnomah Books who provided this copy for review.
The Real Win by Colt McCoy and Matt Carter
McCoy and Carter save the most important idea for the very last chapter of their book “The Real Win”. In a chapter entitled ‘What You Leave Behind’ the two men’s men finally answer the why question that men will want addressed when called to live as fully devoted followers of Christ. Men will sacrifice and die on a hill far away from home when they have something to believe in and value, but today’s church often fails to give them that reason. When the reader finally turns to the last few pages of the text he reads about the importance of thinking about the end, about the legacy that a man will leave with those he has led and influenced.
“The Real Win” is a call to Christian men to rethink their manhood in light of the word of God. The priorities of God for men of faith differ significantly from the messages that are received from the culture. Winning, for example, is often defined in the world in terms of money, power, authority and accumulation. The Bible, on the other hand, speaks of success in terms of obedience, servanthood and trusting in the providence of an unseen God. Men who follow the biblical proscription will stand out in the world, different as they are.
The authors have balanced the book well, giving the reader an insight into both their successes and failures as men. Rather than showing themselves as supermen who have lived perfectly in the face of the world’s challenges, both Quarterback and Pastor reflect upon the less glorious moments of their lives and what they learned from those experiences. Every page will not resonate with every man and there are some questionable standards espoused. Pastor Carter, as an example, says that he will not hire anyone into a ministry position unless they have wept openly upon reading the Scriptures. This position doesn’t take into account any God-given differences in personality, expression or reception and makes the reader suspect that might be similar legalism buried in the rest of his writing.
The book is a valuable contribution to the efforts to men to live their faith. Reading and talking about their faith is one thing, putting hands and feet and commitment to their stated beliefs is the greater challenge. We pray that men will heed the call.
I’m grateful to Multnomah Books who provided this copy for review.
Insourcing by Randy Pope
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all men.” John 1:4
Discipleship in recent Christian practice has taken an intellectual bent, focused as it is largely on communicating head-knowledge. This is valuable but rarely results in transformation when not paired with an equal measure of heart-knowledge. When the two disciplines are aligned the exercise becomes the pouring of one life into another. In a secular context, the apprenticeship enables an experienced craftsman to share the process and philosophy of one’s craft with another, coaching and guiding the apprentice to attain to the same level of arts. Jesus modeled the same thing throughout His ministry, pouring His life into a group of men who would one day lead His Church.
Pastor Randy Pope has given us a volume of encouragement entitled INsourcing. Less a manual than it is a memoir, INsourcing details the philosophy underlying the practice of Perimeter Church called Life On Life Missional Discipleship. Pope and his leadership team designed and implemented a way of living the Christian life together that engages both the head and heart to produce disciples prepared to engage the Mission of Christ’s Church.
Pastor Pope doesn’t advocate for his program as though it is the only model to be emulated. Rather, he encourages the reader to examine their own context and to develop a methodical process which fits them best. Emphasizing the tortoise-like pace of true discipleship, Pope’s most valuable contribution is the permission it gives the leader reading the book to take the long view in gaining a vision for what could be.
Readers looking for a plan or a new model should look elsewhere. Leaders seeking an apprenticeship will find INsourcing valuable as God places a vision for their particular context before them. While the vignettes of the small groups are a bit idealized, they provide a powerful parallel to the abstract ideas presented through the surrounding chapters. Closing the book you will be convinced that LOLMD will produce something that no program can do, real disciples of Jesus Christ.
I’m grateful to Zondervan who provided this copy for review.