Preaching with Variety: How to Re-create the Dynamics of Biblical Dynamics
Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Kregel Academic & Professional, 2007, ISBN 9780825420191, 238 pages, $15.99, softcover.
Congregations need variety in preaching. Preachers also need variety in their preaching. Jeffrey Arthurs, dean of the chapel at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, proposes that preachers examine six literary genres contained in Scripture for guidelines to creatively relating the Word of God: narrative, psalms, parables, proverbs, epistles, and apocalyptic literature.
Narrative is one of the oldest types of literature. It is effective because almost everyone loves a good story. The Bible has scores of captivating stories: Cain and Able, Ruth, David and Bathsheba, Gideon, the Good Samaritan, and many more. Arthurs shows that stories are not simply to entertain, though they may do that. Narration should show how God deals with those who obey or disobey Him.
Psalms recount the blessing of worshiping and serving God. They recount the plaintive cry of those who are in trouble or who have wandered away from the Lord. Psalms are condensed emotion and, as such, are usually brief. Many psalms evoke strong images for the reader to identify with.
Parables share some of the characteristics of narrative. They usually tell a story. Parables can be distinguished from simple narrative by the comparisons they make. Parables usually allow the hearer to understand a deeper spiritual truth, as Jesus' many stories in the Gospels illustrate.
Apocalyptic-apo/kalupto/, to uncover-literature offers another rich variety for biblical preaching. The two biblical books for apocalyptic preaching are Daniel and Revelation. Both deal in symbols and visions. Both speak of future events. Both give hope and consolation to the believer.
Arthurs advises preachers to avoid variety simply for its own sake. He reminds readers that a sermon must convey God's Word to the hearers or it isn't a sermon.
Glen H. Jones
Take: Highly Recommended
Middle East Meltdown: Oil, Israel, and the Religion Behind the Crisis
John Ankerberg and Dillon Burroughs, Harvest House Publications, 2007, ISBN 9780736921190, 207 pages, $11.99, softcover.
Popular Christian apologist John Ankerberg and his associate, Burroughs, have invited us to take a close look at the Middle East and how it appears to relate to biblical prophecy. The authors state that much of today's international violence is shaped by oil (who controls it?), Israel (who should control this ancient land?), and religion (why is radical Islam fomenting so much strife?).
The world's economy calls for more and more energy to satisfy the needs of a growing population. A significant percentage of the world's supply of oil is in Muslim countries. More and more of these countries see oil as leverage to advance their religion. In addition, Islamic countries resent Western countries that look favorably on the state of Israel. A significant percentage of Muslims look on Israel as an interloper living on land that belongs to Palestinians.
Another ingredient exacerbates the tension between Israel and the Islamic countries surrounding her: the City of Jerusalem. This is the most sacred city for Jews and the third most holy site in Islam, containing the Temple Mount and the Islamic Dome of the Rock.
Ankerberg and Burroughs also examine the way various foreign powers with influence in the region (primarily Russia and the United States) have shaped the current situation through economics and active involvement (as in the case of the Iraq war).
These factors-oil, Israel, and Islam-may give a clue to coming prophetic events. The authors believe in the premillenial return of Christ for His Church (the Rapture), after which the antichrist will control the world, and make (and break) a peace treaty with Israel. Ankerberg and Burroughs interpret the situation in the Middle East as a possible precursor to the coming end. Still, rather than resigning to the inevitability of the future, they include seven practical ways to make a positive difference in the current situation in the Middle East.
On the whole, this is a thoughtful and well-intentioned examination of the current issues in the Middle East and how they affect us all.
Glen Jones with Justin Lonas
Type: Prophecy/Current Events
Take: Highly Recommended
Protecting Your Teen from Disturbing Behavior: Helping Your Teen Overcome Today's Issues
Lee Vukich and Steve Vandergriff, Living Ink Books, 2007, ISBN 9780899570853, 130 pages, $12.99, softcover.
Every generation has teens who exhibit disturbing and dangerous behavior, and it seems that today's teens face poisonous attractions that far outstrip those of previous generations. The authors discuss several of these behaviors and how to guard one's children from their deleterious effects.
Vukich and Vandergriff begin by describing the characteristics of a teenager: physically, emotionally, socially, and mentally. They assert that most teens are idealist, argumentative, and self-centered; they need adult assistance in decision-making and spiritual matters.
If teens are to live meaningful lives, the authors suggest, they must possess and practice spiritual convictions. Parents must guide their teens in making correct choices by modeling positive behavior, setting boundaries for their children's actions, and holding them accountable to staying within these boundaries.
The writers discuss several dangerous behaviors to which teens are exposed: unhealthy behaviors suggested in teen magazines, chemical sniffing, drugs in schools, identity theft, and mimicking stunts seen on TV. They point out that teens also need guidance in controlling their emotions (especially anger), and avoiding morally abhorrent actions.
In the final chapter the authors also give teens several suggestions for a consistent devotional life.
Target: Parents of Teenagers
Type: Parenting/Youth Ministry
11 Innovations in the Local Church, How Today's Leaders Can Learn, Discern and Move into the Future
Elmer Towns, Ed Stetzer & Warren Bird, Regal Books, 2007, ISBN: 9780830743780, 286 pages, $14.99, softcover.
The Body of Christ is finding new ways to reach people. The traditional church setting is only one of many routes employed these days to bring people into the Kingdom. The authors of this book examined some new approaches and are sharing what they learned.
These authors hold that ministries must be aware of the culture to reach people who are tuned into it. They queried some of the leaders using these innovations to learn how and why they work. Selecting eleven cutting edge models, they detail-in a chapter for each-what makes them distinct.
Some of these the reader may have experience with, such as "house churches" and "multi-site churches." Some of these new ways might seem irregular. But, the authors remind us, the church itself was once a fringe movement.
Reading about these new churches fosters some reservations. The authors do not endorse or decry anything they have covered. In fact, in the closing chapter, Ed Stetzer explains that the central values of the church matter more than innovations. He warns that new context demands vigilance against biblical compromise, and then warns as well about the folly of holding onto tradition for its own sake.
This book takes an honest look at what is happening. Reading about these approaches with an open mind and a prayerful heart may beget an idea, a perspective, or an insight that changes a ministry. Who knows where God will lead?
Target: Ministers/Church Planters
Type: Church Culture Report