Book Review: Becoming A Contagious Christian

Becoming A Contagious Christian. Bill Hybels & Mark Mittelberg. Zondervan, 1994.

BecomingAContagiousChristian

Drawing new people into membership has always been an imperative of a church organization. A movement has always been in place to increase the number of people pitching this membership in the community. Bill Hybels is one of the preachers that has become known for doing such things. With Mark Mittelberg, he offers a pattern to foster increased personal evangelism in the average believer in “Becoming a Contagious Christian”.

Hybels & Mittelberg begin by indicating that people matter to God. They then describe the rewards and costs of increased personal evangelism. The authors then describe the value of impacting the world. Hybels & Mittelberg continue by extolling the virtues of authenticity, compassion, and sacrifice. They indicate the value of relationships and provide guidance for building relationships with unbelievers, guiding the reader into ways to initiate and sustain spiritual conversations with them and deal with buying into the membership. Finally, the authors show a view of a church filled with people that are active in personal evangelism.

Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg present a well thought out and written plan, describing step-by-step a plan and conditions for personal evangelism. Their guidance is clear and well-written enough that anyone could pick up this book and follow the pattern and change their lives in the way that the authors indicate.

However as to be expected with an originator of the Seeker-Sensitive Movement, the book trades into worldly business views instead of in the ways of Scripture. In doing this, the book comes off much like a secular self-help book. This is to be expected as this movement seeks to change the Church to fit the world’s thoughts, ways, and attitudes, instead of conforming people to Christ. This is especially reinforced in a section where believers are discouraged from being protective about being influenced into worldly behaviors themselves.

Furthermore, the false gospel of the personal relationship with Christ that involves no view of the evil of man and requires nothing of the believer but an occasion of words pervades this book. And as with many matters involving church organizations and discipleship, the question of what entity that is being served comes into question. Often with church organizations, they serve themselves instead of Christ. An out-sized cancerous view of evangelism as the chief and only function of the body (1 Corinthians 12), as illustrated in the book, is often the product of a system that requires nothing more out of the life of a believer than to be utilized to service the organization’s goals. Believers in such a system are pushed towards the organizational goal of evangelism and away from their true Spiritual gifts.

Overall, this book is an interesting one in reiterating several basic facts, though with the bias of a worldly organization with worldly ends. This attitude poisons any good that the book might have for the average believer.   Instead of merely letting the Spirit speak through Scripture, this book spoils the reader after the tradition of men and the rudiments of the world (Colossians 2:8).  While it has some value, the caution is definitely out there to beware of these authors and their practices.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Archive.Org

Advertisements

Book Review: What In The World Is Going On?

What in the World Is Going On?: 10 Prophetic Clues You Cannot Afford to Ignore. David Jeremiah. Thomas Nelson, 2008.

WhatInTheWorldIsGoingOn

The world’s events are chaotic and uncertain.  The global trends that people are noticing also can be fearful.  From jarring headlines, distressing news shows, and dire predictions, it can be easy to wonder “What In The World Is Going On?”  David Jeremiah aims to answer this question through the study of ten points that he finds through looking at the news and Scripture to know the signs of what to come.

Jeremiah begins by describing the background of the creation of Israel.  He then continues by describing crude oil and the focus the world has upon the Middle East.  The author then moves to the connection that Ancient Rome has with the European Union.  Jeremiah describes the phenomena of Islamic terrorism next.  He then goes on to describe The Rapture, and how he views America in terms of prophecy.  The author then describes how he sees current events lining up with the anti-Christ, the war of Gog and Magog, the war of Armageddon, and the return of Jesus Christ to rule upon the earth.

David Jeremiah presents good research on each topic, as each chapter is fascinating and thought-provoking to read and most all of the topics are interesting and proper for the premise of the book.   As to be expected, Jeremiah does a wonderful job of interpreting the Scripture that he brings into play, when he does it.  What he presents is quite obviously well thought out.

However, Jeremiah places more of a focus on current events and the typical Republican political agenda than he does on Scripture at times, including twisting Scripture around to try to apply it to his scenarios.  The chapter on oil is pretty terrible as it’s been proven wholly irrelevant in 9 short years because oil production has been shifted to the Western Hemisphere from the Middle East.  This is shown in the fact that a number of oil-based economies are struggling now and looking to diversify away from oil. The chapter on the United States reflects the typical over-exalting of the nation as a “Christian Nation”, reflecting a “chosen nation” status.   The chapter on the Rapture is pure false teaching, reflecting Jeremiah’s belief in dispensationalist doctrine.

Overall, this book is an interesting book on several topics that would be of interest to most readers. However, it strays away from a purely Biblical focus in a number of the chapters in favor of commentary on current events, pure speculation, and twisting Scripture to meet his ends. While this works for entertainment, akin to a novel, the warning definitely needs to be sounded on taking much of this book as serious doctrine.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

Book Review: Growing True Disciples

Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ. George Barna. WaterBrook Press, 2001.

Growing True Disciples

I’ve said much in the course of both of my blogs about the state of Christian discipleship. Church organizations have chased after increasing attendance, giving, programs, and property over chasing after the will of the Lord has laid out through Scripture. George Barna shows the fruit of this process throughout “Growing True Disciples.”

Barna begins by casting a vision for discipleship that is outside the typical church vision – a vision of committed followers of Christ as opposed to simply “members”. He then goes on to explain some of the definitions and framework of discipleship, defining some Scriptural justifications for those things. The author then presents an overview of the current (2001) state of the church. Barna then provides an analysis of how things have gotten to their current state. He then presents a goal of discipleship. The author then presents some findings from studying churches that he deemed were doing good work in discipleship. Finally, Barna presents some models that he distilled out of some of the data for discipleship in churches.

In reading the book, the author presents a fairly decent framework of discipleship. As well, the author is very thorough about presenting the things the churches are doing that he feels is effective, and why they are effective. He presents a lot to think about regarding the topic of discipleship and gives a start on the best ways to accomplish those things.

However, Barna misses the seminal problem that caused all of these things. As I’ve noted in previous reviews of books about discipleship, the issue of what you are discipling them into gets completely missed in the book. Most churches, including many of the ones he’s studied and lauded are about discipling people into the church organization (i.e. the world) as opposed to discipling people into Christ. Goals often stem from what your life is centered upon. Or as Scripture says, we should not expect good fruit out of bad trees (Matthew 7:15-20). This fact is shown time and again as Barna advocates for business processes instead of Scriptural remedies. His avocation of covenant agreements is especially disturbing, in terms of the controls that he would place upon the average believer from men.

Overall, while this book has much value, that value is sullied by not recognizing the core issue of the problem that has plagued those who have been called out from Christ from the beginning. When man gets his hands into things and changes them for his own benefit and his own desires to control others, the entire nature of the tree is changed. Hence the fruit is changed. In my opinion, this book has value for the study presented, which in the last 16 years has without a doubt gotten worse according to my own research. But beyond that, it doesn’t offer much fruit in the way of leading towards a Scriptural model of discipleship.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

Stick A Fork In It . . .

When one speaks of discouragements, they can always point to what they see going on in the world. Perhaps for most that care about the objective standard of Scripture, you can even step into the churches and easily find examples of things where people are astray and need to repent.

Much of my own blogging efforts and those of many others have documented how the churches have perverted the typical objective worship of Jesus in favor of the man-made churches, perverted marriage from something that glorifies God into something that glorifies women, and numerous other things. Naturally with the nature of man, a blind eye gets put to these things because it derives some kind of wicked benefit in the minds of the people to accept sinful things – people are just reminded to “not judge” or “not be prideful” for their own sin they know they have. Then it happens long enough that it becomes tradition, and people don’t even begin to see it who claim Christ. In this day and age, accepting the world into the church is as natural as breathing.

Take a couple of more cases I’m aware of:

  • A leader of a Christian group who has an open homosexual relationship.
  • A wife that’s been getting one of her children a sex-change operation, keeping it secret from her husband.

My circle, as most people’s isn’t that big. But it’s amazing how many blantantly egregious things I’m aware of that are allowed to stand in this day and age, to be seen as acceptable to Christian standards. Paul reminds us of this with a case before the Corinthians:

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Cor 5:1-2)

and the prescription:

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

How many people have been in contact with this and know this and simply don’t care? It’s not so much these things happening that I wanted to address, but the state of the churches in accepting them. Accepting behavior quickly becomes normalizing behavior into tradition, and we have witnessed much of that in our own lifetimes with many things, most notably divorce and remarriage.

One then asks how people can see this stuff as “normal”, and can quickly arrive upon the Personal Jesus as the answer, with the reminder of Romans 1 backing it:

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; … Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:28, 32)

The whole passage is notable, but this is the part I wanted to focus upon. It’s one thing when those of the world do these kinds of things listed in the complete passage with a clear conscience, but another when people who proclaim Christ are exposed to Scripture through reading and church attendance, and still partake in these things (both doing and giving acceptance) with clear consciences before Him.

But in the Personal Jesus, fear towards the Lord isn’t supposed to be a thing. He accepts all of these things. But the objective Jesus has a different story:

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:17-18)

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

For those that only not sin, but blaspheme His Name in their sin with calloused hearts of flint, what else shall the Lord do with them if they will not repent? There is always hope for that, but alas the sin seems to be piling higher and higher. May the Lord have mercy on us all in His due course!

Book Review: No More Christian Nice Guy

No More Christian Nice Guy: When Being Nice–Instead of Good–Hurts Men, Women and Children. Paul Coughlin. Bethany House Publishers, 2007.

Much as been written at the old blog about the general effects that both society and Churchianity have held upon men. The goals of traditional marriage and the instilling of traditional gender roles have been incredibly successful, leading to men who have not only given assent to female supremacy, but have bought into the whole concept whole sale by molding themselves into the docile follower, further demeaning themselves in the process. This “going too far” is what Paul Coughlin attempts to address in “No More Christian Nice Guy”.

Coughlin begins by describing the “Christian Nice Guy” (CNG), the typical “gentle, meek and mild” man who fears to live life, and sees his own life as worthless. The author goes on to assign a passive-aggressiveness to this man. Coughlin then describes the natural Jesus to extend from this, a meek and mild submissive Jesus and then contrasts that with an “unchained”, Jesus who was a “law-breaker”. He then describes the messages of the church given in order to reinforce submission and servitude in men towards women. The author then uses his own childhood abuse experience to relay the idea that children are taught to “live small”.

Coughlin then relates the CNG to marriage, describing how his passivity model is molded onto the expectations of men by the typical incorrect message of “sacrifice”. He goes on to explain the false piety connected to sexual expression, and how men are led to denying expression of intimacy that is natural to them. Coughlin then describes the neo-feminist view of masculinity, indicating that taking abuse has somehow been identified as Christian to men. He then moves on to describe the CNG at work. Coughlin then reiterates his points in an attempt to describe the journey from a “Nice guy” to a “Good guy”, provides advice in “facing one’s fears” and practical advice for going forward.

In reading through this book, I found myself frustrated in a number of respects. Coughlin brings up a few good points, such as the feminization of the Church, demonization of male sexuality, and the control of men in the church by women using shame and other tactics. Still, Coughlin retains a timid reserve in both stating them clearly and bringing them to their natural conclusion, betraying a nice guy behind the paper tiger he portrays, and leaving many topics with a non-definitive end. Others are shipwrecked either by contradiction or by plunging into other lies. For instance, the female Personal Jesus replaced with another Personal Jesus fashioned in the image of Tyler Durden. Still others are digressions into places that make no sense, like his diatribe on “family-owned Christian businesses”.

Furthermore, the lightness of Scriptural application and Coughlin’s reading of his Personal Jesus into it (p42), proclaiming Jesus a law-breaker (p47) is quite disturbing. Furthermore, Coughlin’s disorganized and scattershot way of writing (this is why I didn’t remember anything about the book – it took five pages of notes just to capture what he wrote about) services none of his points as much of what he has to say is cut off by himself to move onto other topics.

Overall, while this book had much promise, the goal it had became clear as soon as I read Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s forward. While Coughlin sniffed near a number of truisms regarding the real nature of traditional marriage and gender roles, much was squandered in the attempt to not “rock the boat”. It was quite clear that Coughlin’s “good guy” shares a number of commonalities with the “nice guy”, and to that end the goal was not to emancipate God-given manhood but to reel back the domestication of the male service animal, or for Coughlin to work out his personal issues with his mother’s abuse.

As I’ve seen personally, and as many of the other reviews of the book suggest, there are far better options for these topics than this book.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

Nevertheless . . .

In thinking on my experiences and the opportunity to share more as I prep the quote posts for The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands, I thought of some of what it’s been like to write this blog, and just live life. The truth is, in life we are weak if we want to admit it or not. The thing most won’t do is actually admit it. I’m going to, now – of course, you can get a sneak peek at what I still have available to post.

There’s all the other pressures going on that I’ve talked about and not talked about. Keeping myself afloat enough financially that I don’t completely sink and drown. The realization that if I didn’t get help along the way that I would. Not knowing what to do to make things better in this regard.

Then there’s career choices. One thing I realized when I was regularly employed at a “career” was that it was so unfulfilling. I could do it well, in fact much better than most, but I didn’t find the rewards coming back from it. Not so much actually getting paid like it, but knowing I was making a difference somewhere. The thing is, when I lost that job, I found a serious walk with Christ and had the time to actually ground myself in the faith by the Spirit. So there’s always a positive by anything. You could say I was called out of that to Christ.

But as I looked for more solid work in that line, I got discouraged by not finding anything, not hearing anything. Not even finding a niche for myself offering things online and elsewhere. It’s hard to not find a good solid place in the world where you’re appreciated and are fulfilled in the course of what you do.

Now in that trek, I’ve gotten the chance to facilitate several Bible studies, and even write some. In looking for solid career work, I’ve found that thought, and preaching, and praying for people, and…you get it… much more preferable than doing what I used to do. I get excited at the chance of doing it.

But as I got more knowledgeable about Scripture, and able to evaluate the things around me, the excitement waned. Could I participate in Churchianity, and put aside my own personal faith and convictions and service the blue-pill illusion behind such things? I found that harder and harder, as I learned more about the backroom politics and things behind how churches are run. As I learn the stories of how many faithful preachers are dismissed simply because the corrupt masses want their ears scratched by the Personal Jesus (2 Timothy 4:2-4) instead of want to hear someone share a solid walk in discipleship to Christ through the Scriptures, I get more discouraged. Of course, that discouragement extended to the blog – when I started I had the hope of finding people that loved…truth. But now…

Then there’s the matter of my mother. I had to take time away from doing the things I was doing that fulfilled me. Namely the blog, namely being around people I could find mutual support and encouragement from as opposed to the discouragement I was finding. Taking care of her until she finally passed. Then having a complete and large houseful of things to get rid of. I got away from doing the things that filled me, because I wasn’t sure I could commit to anything beyond a particular day. Then I lost steady Internet access to be able to read widely enough and keep the blog wide open and active. Again, a discouragement.

Of course, a good in that space has been the opportunity to learn about myself, and the effects of how I was raised. I was the normal kid in a house with a special needs kid that got all the attention until she passed and left a torn-up marriage in its wake between my mom and dad. So I basically raised myself. Given all the problems that whole situation created and how messed up those things have made me, and seeing signs of better in others, I get discouraged. But thankfully I didn’t receive all the traditional brainwashing of gender roles I’m about to blog about when I get these quotes copied.

Then there’s the time it takes sometimes with things of the blog not coming as quickly as I would like, which outside of the other discouragement is why the edit queue backed up so much. With the book review, I’ve been copying for the last week when I can. Then reading that stuff gets discouraging – that a vast majority of people actually believe in it and are Gribbles. Then there’s not so much enlightening out there that I read in blog-land to respond to that doesn’t stretch me and isn’t a retread of anything that hasn’t been posted twenty-million times by everybody.

Then there’s other stuff like reading through “No More Christian Nice Guy” by Paul Coughlin, being frustrated by it, and then completely forgetting everything about the book so I couldn’t even do a review and then going back through it. Then there’s the Arterburn notes (“Every Man’s Battle”, “Every Young Woman’s Battle”, “Every Heart Restored”) and the Dobson notes (“What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women”) that got lost, along with the draft of a book I co-authored under my real name (thankfully that happened AFTER it got published). I still have three of the books, but it involves going back through and reconstructing notes so I can finish out the posts I have started on those books. Of course, there’s the book idea that gets pushed on the back burner for other things and finishing out these two books I want to do (the mentioned one, and “I Am A Church Member”) before I start on that fully. Not to mention, all the other edit queue posts and things I haven’t even started on that I would like to post out of the 2+ pages I have typewritten here.

Then, as I see people put on their pretty perfect everything is fine faces, I get discouraged. I know people have problems themselves and are lying, but how does everyone else have all the answers for their lives, doing what they need to be doing, and are blessed and filled by it all? Communal shame is indeed a powerful motivator, but indeed a powerful tool in the hands of Satan and those that would work for his purposes. It’s so easy to ask the question “What’s wrong with me?” before the Lord in watching such things and be completely discouraged, like I’m not measuring up before Him and in some way am faking. In fact, once upon a time I asked several in one of my more melancholy moments, which I wrote down and kept:

Why is my best not good enough?
Why do I work so hard, get so tired, and get so little in return?
Why can’t I have validation that I am on a good path?
Can others see me as good?
Can I ever be good enough for others?
Can I ever find refreshment in life?
Can things ever work out?

All of this is just simply proof that I’m a broken person that is bankrupt of myself and needs healing and meaning spoken into my life. It’s proof that a true life walked in faith of Christ’s sacrifice isn’t an easy thing, nor a bed of roses (truth be told my life went to crap not soon after I came out of the water). It’s proof that feeling doesn’t matter in the light of the holy truth:

  • I may not feel loved by others, nevertheless Christ loves me.
  • I may not feel financially provided, nevertheless Christ has seen my way and will continue to do so.
  • I may not feel fulfilled by what I do every day, nevertheless by grace Christ will find me a place.
  • I may not feel part of a family, nevertheless Christ will put me in one.
  • I may not feel part of a church family is not apostate, nevertheless Christ will find one for me.
  • I may not feel refreshed by life, nevertheless Christ will refresh me with life eternal.
  • I may not feel like I have a good place of ministry, nevertheless Christ will give me one by His grace.
  • I may not feel like I’m doing enough for God’s Kingdom, nevertheless in Christ’s grace it will be sufficient.
  • I may not feel like I got life by the tail like others, nevertheless Christ’s grace will be sufficient.
  • I may not feel like I have any value to offer, nevertheless Christ will make me valuable.
  • I may not feel whole or healthy, nevertheless Christ will heal me.
  • I may not feel comfortable about all the evil things going on in the world, nevertheless Christ will deal with it all and in time I won’t have to.
  • I may not feel comfortable waiting on Christ, nevertheless He will be my ever present help in all of this trouble.

I may feel like everything is wrong and nothing is right, but all is right in Christ and He will make it right in those that are in His truth…at the right time. Lord, come quickly!

Book Review: The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands

The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands. Dr. Laura Schlessinger. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2004.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has gotten much attention over her radio show through the years. Naturally this has led into a number of books. The most curious title for the old blog as mentioned in the past has been “The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands”, which makes it a natural title for review and discussion. This book, presented with excerpts solicited from her radio show, aims to deal with problems she notices in wives with respect to traditional marriage.

Schlessinger begins by noting the resentment, disrespect, and disdain that husbands voice about their wives, noting that “a good man is hard to find, not keep”. She then notes a general insensitivity to a husband’s needs and feelings, while the wife has a hypersensitivity to any reaction or action from her husband. The author then addresses the issue of time in a woman’s life, repeating the typical mantra from traditionalists that a woman can’t have it all. Schlessinger then mentions the issue of nagging, nitpicking and criticizing, that men actually have feelings, men have different communication styles and directives, and that men need respect, sex, and guy time.

While Schlessinger brings up a number of important issues, she inevitably champions traditional (feminist) marriage, as the typical female sub-humanoid view of men is reinforced throughout the book. Amazingly enough, she is rather forthright about the models and aims of traditional marriage and traditional gender roles – that the husband is to worship the wife by bringing his oblations (“protect and provide”) to please her and the wife is to joyfully receive these things and rule over him (“receive and rule”). That she has a religious bent, calling out women for violating Commandment X (Exodus 20:17) regarding a traditional husband’s provision (p166), yet fails to see that traditional marriage at its core violates Commandments I and II (Exodus 20:3-6) by leading men to repeat the sin of Adam (Genesis 3:17) indicates her core morality in this book.

She reinforces this model throughout the book as she addresses the problems that she’s noticed from the callers of her radio show. As any Gribble does, she shows an astonishing proficiency at dealing with the “conspiracies” of traditional marriage, yet fails to call out the rather obvious white elephant sitting right in her midst indicating that what she is seeing represents features of traditional marriage rather than aberrations. Much of her advice towards wives in this book can simply be distilled into this: “Present yourself as the benevolent goddess he craves to worship and all will be well.”

I found the book fascinating in plumbing the depths of deception and how far it can go, lifting 44 passages for possible further discussion. While an incredibly useful resource in documenting the phenomena of typical female-led, male-submissive traditional marriage for those who have eyes to see, it functions as a terrible resource for those who actually want their marriages to give glory to God in all things.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon