Tag Archives: Review

Great Resource: Creating Community by Andy Stanley & Bill Willits

creating-communityI recently read through Creating Community by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits, and I must say that it is the most helpful and insightful book on small group ministry that I have ever read. The book describes the small group ministry of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, asks ministers to answer probing questions about their ministries, and all in all is a great “how to” book for small group ministries. Since I’m a Discipleship Minister, and the primary person in charge of small groups at 24church, I need to read books like this often.

Andy Stanley is one of the best strategists and most insightful thinkers in the church arena today. Highlights to NPCC’s strategy include:

1) A closed-group system rather than an open-group system. (The individual small groups covenant together for 1.5 – 2 years and new members do not join.) This helps prevent an ADD mentality within the group and allows close relationships and deeper spiritual growth to occur. At the same time (just in case you were wondering) the group still seeks to reach outsiders / non-Christians, but not through inviting them to their small group.

2) A good strategy for forming new small groups. NPCC has a group forming strategy known as GroupLink. GroupLink is an event that happens quarterly at NPCC and allows people interested in small groups to meet other interested people and join a group. However, members don’t sign the group covenant until they have tried out the group for 6 weeks. This is NPCC’s “try before you buy” policy; it helps to eliminate bad group situations and alleviate stress in people thinking about joining a new group.

3) A childcare policy. NPCC will reimburse anyone who needs help paying for childcare while their group meets. This is a great idea because even though childcare is expensive, it is still millions of dollars cheaper than building Sunday School space in a building that will remain empty and unused for most of the week. (Small groups just make more sense to me than Sunday School in a new church situation.)

4) A multiplication plan. Each group covenants together to help start a new group by the time their group ends in 18-24 months. Since teaching and leadership tasks are shared by everyone in each group, leaders who could eventually start a new group naturally emerge as they help lead their current group.

These aren’t all the details, but they are some of the highlights of the NPCC strategy. I’m pretty encouraged after reading Creating Community, and I’m in the midst of reformulating and rethinking 24church’s small group strategy.

A Quick Review of Sex God by Rob Bell

sex-godI recently finished the audiobook version of Sex God by Rob Bell, and to be honest I tried to read it with especially discerning ears (not eyes in this case) while still trying to give Bell a fair listen. I’m weary of Rob Bell for a few reasons that I’ll list:

1) He has had a known open-theist, Greg Boyd, preach at his church.
2) He has acknowledged Brian McLaren as an influence.
3) Mark Driscoll has cited several disturbing facts about Bell’s theology.

None the less, I feel it’s important to stay somewhat abreast of current issues and popular teachers such as Bell because, like it or not, they are influencing many people.

I want to say that there are many parts of Sex God that are really well stated, and honestly the book contains some important Biblical teachings that many Christians could benefit from hearing. However, I cannot recommend this book because I believe it is flawed in some rather dangerous ways. Here are a few concerns I have:

1) In chapter 1, Bell defines heaven and hell rather peculiarly. He says heaven is “not a fixed, unchanging, geographical location somewhere other than this world. Heaven is the realm where things are as God intends them to be…(heaven) can be anywhere, anytime, with anybody (minute 16).”  And hell he defines as “a realm where things are not as God wants them to be, where things aren’t according to God’s will, where people aren’t treated as fully human (minute 17).”  While I have questions about both these definitions (and questions about relating these specific definitions of heaven and hell to the meaning of Jesus words in Matt 5:27-30), I’m most concerned that “hell” in Bell’s definition nowhere mentions God’s punishment of evildoers. While I’ll grant that “hell” in the English language has a wide semantic range, and that Bell’s definition fits perfectly within that semantic range, it is downright misleading to simply define “hell” in a Biblical since as anything less than a place of God’s punishment that is justly deserved. In fact we all deserve punishment in hell, but thankfully God has redeemed all who will call on His name. I find Bell’s definition of heaven and hell convenient for his subject matter, but an obvious oversimplification. In fact, in my observation, Bell often oversimplifies theological teachings when he preaches.

2) In chapter 5, Bell says that because God chose to love humans, people who can break His heart by their actions and disobedience, that God took a risk. According to Bell, God risks by loving. This sounds poetic and great, and yes we can grieve God with our actions, but it is a misunderstanding of the Bible to see God as a risk-taker. God knows beginning from end. He knows the elect from the foundation of the world (Eph 1), He has already planned the defeat and punishment of Satan, and throughout the Bible prophecies always come true because God is pulling the strings. People do make real choices, but these choices in no way infringe upon the sovereignty and rule of the King of the Universe. Bell sounds more and more like an open-theist (heresy) the more I hear him speak. And while I’ll grant that issues of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are confusing, it is a lie to attest that God doesn’t know all things. A God who knows all things cannot by definition take a risk. (John Elderidge proposes this same sort of “God the risk-taker” idea in Wild at Heart, and he is mistaken as well).

3). In chapter 6, Bell proposes the idea that the husband and wife are to be mutually submissive towards one another. While there is some truth to this statement, it is not a good representation of the Bible’s teaching about husbands and wives. Mutual submission does appear in statements like 1 Cor 7:4, and the Bible does teach that both husband and wife equally give and work in the marriage relationship; however, the wife is to submit to the husband in a way that the husband does not submit to the wife. It is not as if the Bible is chauvinistic toward women, but clearly the husband has a leadership role within the marriage that is his alone (Eph 5:22-24 – Christ is not mutually submissive to us is He?). I fear that Bell has slightly misunderstood the Biblical teaching about the roles of men and women, and this is dangerous to Christian marriages. I’m also pretty sure that he misunderstands the Greek usage of verbs when he discusses this topic.

I’m sure there are other issues that could be discussed in regards to Sex God, and like I said above, “there are some good points in the book,” but I have deep concerns about Bell’s underlying theology. I believe that some of his fundamental thoughts about God are flawed. Most notably, I am concerned about his open-theistic tendencies. The last thing Christians need is a weak and heretical view of the sovereignty of God.

Addendum (added later on):

I want to be really careful not to intentionally offend anyone with this review. I believe Rob Bell is doing a lot of good and has an unbelievable heart for people. At the end of the day though, I just have to call theology the way I see it. In fact Bell invites this sort of discussion in the beginning of Velvet Elvis. I’m simply trying to call attention to some problems I have with the theology he seems to be portraying. I hope this is received in a winsome way. I don’t hate the man, and I don’t want to have closed-ears, believing that I know it all. I’m appreciative for a lot of what Bell has done, but I still worry about what I perceive to be some dangerous trends within his theology.

Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

808s-and-heartbreakI just bought a house — which is another reason there have been no blog updates because buying a house is crazy — so money is scarce these days.  However, I did manage to snag the latest Kanye West joint.  I’m a big Kanye fan (not the man, the music) so this was a must buy.  I knew going in that 808s & Heartbreak was going to be quite a departure from Kanye’s previous work, and it is.  iTunes labels the cd as R&B rather than hip hop for example.  After quite a few listens I’ve got to say this is a pretty good cd, but fails in comparison to Kanye’s other albums.

One the big themes of the album seems to be Kanye’s attempt to deal the with death of his mom; he focuses more time thematically on relationships with people and less time on living the “Big Life” of money and posessions.  All in all my favs on the album are:  Welcome to Heartbreak, Amazing, Love Lockdown, Heartless, and See You in My Nightmare.  The overall sound can get a little repetitive due to the use of the autotune effect on West’s voice in every single track.  I appreciate the attempt to go a different direction creatively, and the attempt to use art as an outlet for dealing with sorrow, but I think overall Kanye slacked a little bit in the creativity department.

If you’re a big Kanye West fan, I say this is worth the buy, but otherwise I’d iTunes the few tracks that stick out.

Rating:  3.5 cups of coffee

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In a Hip Hop Mood

rebelI’ve been addicted to hip hop lately. It’s a natural phenomenon (like the universal love of the movie Dumb and Dumber by all men everywhere) that simply effects my consciousness. It never fails, as time passes I inevitably fall back in love with hip hop. The current listening includes: Talib Kweli, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Common, and last but certainly not least: Lecrae. If you haven’t picked up Rebel, Lecrae’s latest joint, then you are seriously missing out. Lecrae continues to produce inspiring hip hop that pleases both lyrically and musically. My current routine entails listening to Lecrae on the way to church to get ready to worship and sing to God. Much love to the following tracks: Rebel Intro, Don’t Waste Your Life, Go Hard, & Change. Admittedly, I’m more into the East Coast sound these days, but Lecrae’s album is so good that it bucks that trend in my listening habits.

 

Rebel earns 4 & 1/2 black cups of coffee!

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Charlie Hall – The Bright Sadness

charlie-hall-the-bright-sadnessCharlie Hall’s music is a security blanket. There are an enumerable amount of personal thoughts, recollections, good times, and God-thoughts attached to his music in my life. There are specific times in my life when God enlivened a Biblical truth in part due to a Charlie Hall lyric. As a former worship leader he influenced my leading style probably more than any other person. His words inspire, his style is always a little different from the norm, and as I’ve heard Louie Giglio say, “He’s a worship leader’s worship leader.” Charlie Hall, from what little I know of him, is an awesome guy. He has cool facial hair and he drinks his coffee black (I know because he came into Starbucks one time when I was working, ordered black coffee, and I got to talk to him for just a second).

The Bright Sadness, Charlie’s newest effort, does not disappoint. The lyrics are honest and Scripture-saturated.  Musically you have to listen a few times to really dig the feel, but it will grow on you like kudzu if you let it.

I unabashedly give this record 5 out of 5 cups of black coffee!

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