Monday, October 3, 2011

Books for September 2011

A Weed in the ChurchA Weed in the Church by Scott T. Brown<

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I found this book to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, I agree with both the underlying premises and the hoped-for end result of this book, and appreciate that the author used ample Scripture references to demonstrate them. I’d love to know that more pastors and others in the church were aware of the problems of highly-programmatic youth ministry and children’s ministry, and were willing to pursue greater biblical faithfulness in exercise of care for the younger generations in the church.

On the other hand, I found the tone and spirit of this book very off-putting. The author is quite aggressive in his attack of conventional youth and children’s ministries, and condescension is frequently employed with force. Most of the book is spent complaining of “what is wrong with conventional family ministry” and erecting elaborate portrayals of the horrifying— or at least disappointing— inevitable ends of these. Only at the very end does the author offer a constructive approach to how to “do” family ministry in a more biblically-faithful way.

The reason this is so disappointing is that the author is clearly able to articulate sound biblical ideas about family ministry, and how a church ought to execute it more faithfully. But the ethos with which he approaches his articulation means that few will read to the end who aren’t already convinced of his perspectives (at least to some degree).

If the author means to convert others en masse to a new, more biblical view of family ministry, his approach has sunk his attempts for the most part. If, on the other hand, he simply intends a ranting polemic that will “preach to the choir” and do little to make positive change, I wonder why he bothers.

The book has some very good content, if you can sift through the tone and attacking posture to get to it.

The Pastor: A MemoirThe Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene H. Peterson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As expected, this book was excellent. Peterson’s honesty about his own humble path to becoming the pastor he was and is, in his simple description of how it came to pass, makes it seem that God could guide any pastor along a similar path. And in fact, that’s the point: our work and vocation as pastors is not all that different from one another, and Peterson’s portrayal of the life he has lived, and the lessons he has learned, as a pastor is not meant to be self-aggrandizing, but affirming of others whom God has granted the calling of “pastor”.

What makes this book so needed, as well, is that it (semi-unintentionally) debunks the common myths about what it means to be a pastor. Not a rock star, nor just one of the guys; not a CEO-styled visionary nor a psychologist. Rather, one who simply lives among others as the one who administers Word, Sacrament, prayer, and companionship, all the while giving dignity to all of those other vocations and more. Peterson casts a vision for pastoral ministry that is as old as the Scriptures themselves, yet in the face of so many misconceptions about the vocation of the pastor it is also fresh. And breathtaking.

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