Pastors' Library

Church Is a Team Sport: A Championship Strategy for Doing Ministry Together

Jim Putman, Baker Books, 2008, ISBN 9780801013027, 256 pages, $17.99, softcover.

"Daunting" would be a good description of the challenge ex-wrestler, ex-wrestling coach, and newly ex-youth minister Jim Putman faced as he accepted the task of establishing a church in Post Falls, Idaho (population about 20,000). Starting with four families, eight years later he is senior pastor of a church of 8,000, in a county of 150,000 souls.

How did this come about? Jim credits the Triune God, and after that, the concepts of small groups and relational discipleship. He believes the pattern God showed him can be reproduced anywhere, in any size church.

"Jesus knew that you cannot disciple in mass numbers. Yes, He spoke to the crowds, but He took His disciples aside and taught them in a relational way. Discipleship is a process that can only be accomplished through relationship," he writes. And, yes, this means that "every sheep is tended"-including checking on every absentee.

The program is succeeding at enlisting every new "recruit" into a continual growth program-beginning as "sharers," and moving up as they mature in Christ to the "connect" level, then the "ministry" level, and finally the "disciple" level.

"Sharers" either have not yet accepted Christ or, having done this, have not connected with a community in Christ. In the "connect" phase, believers move into discipleship training in small groups. As they grow and become committed to the mission of Christ they enter the "ministry" phase, in which they become other-centered, and are readying to minister to others. In the final "disciple" stage, they become leaders who can guide others through the process.

Putman-who disbelieves strongly in the concept of church as a show, with the pastor as chief entertainer-is convinced that the church in America can grow as it should, by practicing discipleship as Jesus did.

Ted Kyle

Target: Church Leaders
Type: Church Growth
Take: Highly Recommended


Starting a House Church (a New Model for Living Out Our Faith)

Larry Kreider & Floyd McClung, Regal Publications, 2007, ISBN 0830743650, 188 pages, $12.99, softcover.

House churches show an amazing potential for the growth in the Body of Christ. That is the thesis of Larry Kreider and Floyd McClung, two Christian leaders who have extensive experience in establishing cell churches.

In many countries today-China, for example-the only way Christians can meet and freely fellowship outside the heavily-regulated recognized churches is in house churches. House churches for these oppressed believers did not start as a movement, but arose out of necessity to meet with like-minded fellow believers. Cell churches have also shown phenomenal growth in countries that have unrestricted religious freedom.

The authors list several reasons for the rise of house churches: lack of biblical preaching in established churches, inability to relate to the program of denominational churches, and a sense of alienation in large megachurches. Kreider and McClung use this analogy of current churches: community churches are like a community store, megachurches are like Wal-Mart Super-stores, and house-churches are like a shopping mall with many stores. Community churches offer only one style of ministry, megachurches try to orchestrate one program tied to the philosophy of the church, but house-churches allow "shoppers" to pick and choose that which meets their spiritual and emotional needs.

The writers do not see house-churches as the enemy of the established church. Rather, they envision house-churches as rescue stations for those who have dropped out of the established church. Both established churches and house churches meet a need.

Kreider and McClung's book shows how to establish a house church, how to equip and train leaders, how to meet the needs of children, and how to relate to and work with established churches.

Pitfalls, however, loom large in house churches just as they do in established churches. Pride, disunity, lack of leadership, and heresy can destroy a house church.

Glen H. Jones

Target: ‑Those Interested in House Churches
Type: Church Organization
Take: Highly Recommended


Culture-Proof Your Kids (Building Character in Your Children)

Jeannie St. John Taylor, Living Ink Books, 2007, ISBN 9780899571164, 333 pages, $14.99, softcover.

Using the analogy of constructing a house, Taylor lays out a blueprint for training and protecting one's children.

The foundation of the "house" speaks of God's eternal values: love, beliefs, and convictions. Commandments (Old and New) provide a matrix for leading children into godly choices. Memorizing Scripture along with one's children reinforces the importance of making wise choices based on eternal truths. Framing the house compares to recognizing and developing the strengths and talents of each child. This aspect also helps parents deal with character defects (selfishness, hot temper, quarrels, and jealousy).

Parents also need to insulate as much as possible against their child's choosing evil companions, in their developing mutual respect, and in their developing reasonable goals and expectations. The flooring analogy helps children deal with finances, pets, empathy, and perseverance. The analogy of rooms suggests training in kindness, hard work, humility, and church attendance.

Houses also need occasional repairs, which means parents must deal with fear, rebellion, vengeance, boasting, and bullying. If one's house is to be secure, parents must provide for locks and alarms. Parents must be on guard against the deleterious effects of movies, television, pornography, illicit sex, and video games.

Taylor's final advice is to be persistent; never give up. Discipline-positive and negative-is never-ending. Parents must be prepared to work again and again on the challenges that need attention. Rewards are everlasting.

Glen H. Jones

Target: Parents
Type: Parenting
Take: Highly Recommended

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