Monday, April 30, 2012

CHAZOWN

This is a review of Craig Groeschel's new work, Chazown. This book was provided to me at no cost by WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review. Chazown is the Hebrew word that is translated often as "vision". As in, "without vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18)." It doesn't mean the physical ability to see, but the heart's or mind's ability to see. And churches need vision to accomplish mission.

There are some basic prerequisites for this book. If you do not believe in God or the work of Jesus Christ as Traditional Christianity defines, then you don't need to read this. This book is not designed for pew-squatters who prefer to define church by which pew is theirs or if the preacher lets them out on time. It shouldn't be read by anyone who wants to just take the church for granted, believing that church exists for their benefit or what they can get out of it. This book is for believers who seriously feel called to do something with the life and gifts that God has given them.

Chazown, according to Groeschel, is discovered at the intersection of Core Values, Spiritual Gifts, and Personal Experiences. Each section dealing with these leads readers through the basic idea and reason why they are important. As followup, there are questions and exercises that assist in identifying these in a reader's life. Once identified, Groeschel stresses 5 "spokes" that support a personal Chazown.

I picked this book because of the three emphases in the subtitle: Vision, Passion, and Purpose. I believe all three of those are critical to leaders of the church. Groeschel has given practical, and relatively simple, ways to identify those in ones own life. Churches that desire to empower their members and equip them to guide the ministry of the church would do well to use this as a study. As such this book is best used as a companion guide to discovering the components that make up Vision, Passion, and Purpose. In fact, Groeschel asks readers to use outside resources from the internet (specifically from his own church's resource pages) to supplement some of the exercises that readers are working through.

I can see this being used in a church that wants to develop its leadership. I believe it would help extend existing ministries, or maybe expand a church's ministry into new areas. It is not filled with church-speak. It uses plain language and engaging stories to get the point across without feeling like it is dumbing down the message.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review: The Necessity of an Enemy

I received an advance reading copy of Ron Carpenter, Jr.'s book, The Necessity of an Enemy, from WaterBrook Multnomah. I found this book through the regular mailings that pastors receive from Pastor Resources Magazine.

What is an enemy and how do they apply in the Christian life? That is at the heart of this book. Enemies are not basic, minor annoyances of life. For Carpenter, enemies are the events/persons/choice we make that could potentially derail the journey of faith. Carpenter shares experiences from his own ministry of major events that could have ended his ministry, marriage, family unity, and even his life.

The title implies that the true enemies that we encounter in life are part of the process of developing Godly, Christ-like lives. If there is an enemy present, there is potential to grow. But giving into an enemy is very easy. Therefore we need to protect ourselves.

We definitely live in an age where dealing with "enemies" needs to be taught in the church. Economic crisis with resulting job losses, inadequate finances, and the increase in home loss. The increasing reporting of moral lapses and ethical missteps. The church needs to be able to counsel her members on how to face these events while still maintaining a vital faith life.

For me personally, the book didn't address the issue very clearly. It took some work to get the full picture of what Carpenter was getting across. I found myself distracted with the writing style and format. Short chapters didn't allow for a full development of the ideas. The flow between chapters seemed choppy and disjointed at times.

None of that takes away from his sincerity and personal testimony. His personal struggles give him a unique perspective that many pastors will not every have to deal with (at least, I hope I don't). I believe that for someone in the midst of a situation of dealing with enemies of that nature, this book may make more of a connection. He is personable in his writing. His style if down to earth and doesn't use language that is difficult to understand. This isn't a scholarly work. It is personal.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley

This ebook was provided by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

I have to say up front that this was a difficult book to read. Not because of content, but format. It did not work well on my Kindle.

The content was easy to read and did press on some deep emotional stumbling block that do stand in the way of developing the Christ following so many desire. I believe that this book is helpful in identifying or defining each of the "enemies" in a more helpful way. And each response or counterpoint is something that the church needs to see more of today.

I don't believe this will speak to non-churched individuals. It may speak to those marginally churched individuals who still have a spiritual hunger. It will also work with those in the church who are sincere in working toward true reconciliation.

I believe it is a helpful and thought-provoking book for the church.