A Vision for Mission

A vision for mission I’m grateful to EP Books for sending me a review copy of A Vision for Mission by Daniel Grimwade, Daniel Webber, and Jonathan Bayes.  It is essentially an introduction to Christian missions.  The authors begin and end with what the Bible says about missions: the Triune God is a missionary God and the church is called to be a missionary church.  I appreciate how this book sticks to the point of missions – how God saves sinners, how the church is to “go therefore” and made disciples of people from all nations by calling them to repentance and faith.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

“The church needs to recapture a biblical view of her role in the world.  Her primary task is the proclamation of the gospel.  This is what she should be known for at home and overseas.  In a materialistic age she must be constantly proclaiming… ‘For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Matthew 16:26).”

“Incredibly, God has chosen to use us as agents in this great [missionary] enterprise, but it is still his work and he must dictate its principles, priorities, and practices.”

“The normal way God brings people to faith in Christ is through hearing the good news of the gospel from someone who is already a believer.”

“We must not have double standards – preaching and teaching certain truths as important to us, but then supporting works and ministries which neglect or deny those truths in other places.”

“Many Muslim converts will risk their lives to follow Christ.  Will we risk ours to win them?”

“The work of mission should be church-based and church-focused at both ends.  A church should do the sending of missionaries and a planted church should be the result.”

Since the book is just 75 pages, it would be a good one for a high school group or church group to go through as an introductory text on missions.  I may use it with the elders and deacons at the church I serve.  It could also be on the “church planting book” list.  Whether you use it for personal study or in a group setting, I highly recommend A Vision for Mission if you’re looking for a clear, biblical, and easy-to-read book on Christian missions.

Note: A Vision for Mission was published by www.evangelicaltimes.org and www.emf-welwyn.org.

shane lems

sunnyside, wa

Revival

Fire from Heaven  The kind folks at EP books sent me a review copy of Paul Cook’s Fire From Heaven: Times of Extraordinary Revival.  To be honest, I have mixed feelings about revivals: some had to do with solid doctrine and true calls to faith and repentance.  Others had to do with emotional frenzy and unbiblical mysticism.  Cook’s Fire From Heaven isn’t really a book about the “ins” and “outs” or the “goods” and “bads” of revival.  Instead, it is a look at a series of revivals which took place in Britain from 1791-1840 among the Calvinistic Methodists and Baptists.  Before going on, I should point out how Cook defines revival:

“The characteristics of revival are no different from the characteristics of any normal working of the Holy Spirit except in terms of intensity and extent” (p. 117).

Cook begins in chapter one by discussing the period before 1791-1840 to give a historical background of his topic.  He later writes about some of the theological beliefs (prayer, God’s sovereignty, calling, etc.) of the preachers of this revival period.  Of course he also talks about those leading preachers of the day, such as William Bramwell, Hugh Bourne, Oliver Heywood, and others, along with the areas of Britain that benefited from their preaching.  If you’re interested in this topic, I do recommend this book. 

This book got me thinking in quite a few ways.  One of them is the necessity of churchly prayer.  I was convicted once again that prayer is more effective than programs, bands, committees, clubs, and societies when it comes to the spiritual health of a church.  I’ll end with this great quote from page 70.

“In our desperate situation today we need to cast ourselves upon God.  We are not as desperate as we ought to be.  Depressed, perhaps; but that is because we have been too self-assured, overconfident in ourselves and our schemes.  We do not cast ourselves upon God like our forefathers.  Despite our professions, our Reformed theology is too much in our heads and too little in our hearts.  The truth of the matter is that we are not Reformed enough.  Despite their doctrine, the mentality of the old Methodists was much more Reformed than ours.  They depended upon God more than we do, they looked to him more often, they prayed more diligently.  In the sort of situation that faces us today, they had but one answer: call upon God.  And this they did again and again.”

Makes me think of 1 Thessalonians 5.17.

shane lems

Worship: It’s Not About the Music!

Dan Lucarini, who used to be a ‘worship leader’ of a ‘contemporary praise team’ wrote of his journey out of the CCM circle in his book Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement.  I have that one coming in the mail; more on that later.

For now I want to point out his follow-up book, It’s Not About the Music (Darlington: EP Books, 2010).  In this book, Lucarini debunks the modern notion that the heart of worship is music.  He quotes a CCM musician to prove his point, who said CCM artists gravitate “toward a U2-esque sound built around a true worship song, giving the listener a deeper worship experience.”  I know quite a few Christians who would agree: the heart of worship is our singing to God, and the better we feel about it, the better the ‘experience.’  Lucarini disagrees (as do I!).

“We live in an … age where music performance is the focal point and given the lion’s share of time, energy, and praise at most worship services and religious gatherings.  No wonder that we fight over it, given the over-sized importance we have assigned to it.  But what if we’re missing the point entirely?  What if music is not the main thing about worship?”

“If there is one thing you learn from this book, let it be that biblical praise is all about the words, not the music.  Praise must be centered first around fitting and honorable words.”

Lucarini also notes how the centrality of music has pushed other parts of worship to the side.  He recounts how the worship leaders swap places, bands shuffle music, and sound guys tweak the settings while the pastor leads in prayer.  This should repulse us: while the pastor is praying to the living God for spiritual growth, lost souls, and other such serious things, people are dinking around in the background.

Another lamentable aspect about modern church music is that it has to do with the cult of youth.  Rather than respect the elderly (5th commandment) and rather than minister to the whole flock, the worship leader and/or pastor puts the attention on the music of the youth.  The youth-centric culture of America is driving much worship music; Lucarini makes a good point here.  How many of America’s favorite Christian artists don’t look youthful and hip – highlights, makeup, tattoos, and all the rest?

I’ll blog on other parts of this book later.  It’s not written in technical language by a theologian; it is more of a book written by a concerned layperson who has first-hand knowledge of the disasters that ‘modern worship music’ has brought to the church.  Some of Lucarini’s insights have convinced me even more that all this craze of worship leaders, bands, CCLI, concerts, albums, videos – pretty much the whole CCM scene – is an American perversion of Christian worship.  If you think that statement is over the top, consider one of Steven Camp’s 107 Theses written in 1997 (#41):

“Now it [contemporary Christian music] yodels of a Christ-less, watered down, pabulum-based, positive alternative, aura-fluff, cream of wheat, mush-kind-of-syrupy, God-as-my-girlfriend kind of thing.”

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Two Good Reads

A few weeks back I finished this historical biography on Anne Bradstreet (1612-1642) by Faith Cook: Anne Bradstreet Pilgrim and Poet (Carlisle: EP Books, 2010).  This is a great introduction to an amazing Puritan woman’s life, times, and writings.  Anne came to America with some of the first Puritan refugees in the 1630s and faced the tough shores of the American East coast.  Her life was filled with death – many of her children, siblings, and friends died at young ages.  Her poems often reflected this unavoidable reality along with the truth of life after death:

All men must die and so must I
This cannot be revoked
For Adam’s sake this word God spake
When he so high provoked
Yet live I shall, this life’s but small
In place of highest bliss
Where I shall have all I can crave
No life is like to this.

I enjoyed this book; I’ve not read many books about this time period in America’s Puritan history, so it was fascinating.  I recommend it for anyone who enjoys historical biography along with excellent poems of Christian piety.  Faith Cook is a superb author and biographer.  This book will not disappoint.  It would be a good one for a women’s book club at your church.

Another EP book I want to recommend is Every Word Counts by Tom Barnes (Carlisle: EP Books, 2010).  This new book was written in response to the ongoing discussions and debates about the nature of Scripture, including inerrancy, authority, and infallibility.  He starts by very briefly mentioning the Beale/Enns debate, along with other authors like A. T. B. McGowan, John Webster, and Timothy Ward, just to name a few.

This book is helpful because Barnes simply goes through scripture highlighting what it says about itself.  When we talk about if, how, and why scripture is inerrant/infallible, we have to do so in scripture’s own terms.  Of course, this is a key truth to the whole debate.  Barnes talks about Jesus’ use of the OT, the “true” aspect of scripture, inspiration, how scripture is a treasure, and how the church should respond to scripture.  It was pretty straight forward and clear.  In fact, I think it is much more helpful than Beale’s The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008) because it is easier to read, more level-headed, less polemic, and didn’t overstate premises as much as Erosion.

In summary, Every Word Counts is a great book to read and study if you want a good scriptural summary on the Bible.  I’ll hand this one out to Christians who do have questions about scripture – it will answer quite a few of those questions and give the reader an appreciation for and love of the Bible along the way.

Note: Thanks to EP books for sending me these review copies.

shane lems

sunnyside wa