Book Review Guidelines

October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Barzun, Jacques and Henry F. Gaff. The Modern Researcher. Toronto, Canada: Wadsworth. 1992. 409 pp. $44.00.

Introduction (1/2 page)

Begin with “baited” opening sentences to grab the reader’s attention. In other words, begin with something that would make a reader thumbing through a magazine want to read your critique. The introduction should be no longer than one-half of a typewritten page (12 point, times new roman, 1” margins, double space). The purpose of the introduction is to help the reader of the review better understand the book. You can accomplish this in several ways: (1) by demonstrating the author’s competency (or incompetency) to write a book of this nature, (2) by illustrating how the author’s background, academic training, and vocational achievements prepared (or failed to prepare) him/her for writing this book. Going into detail about husband, wife, children or schools attended is not necessary unless those facts help one interpret the book.

Summary (2 pages)

The summary section should not exceed two pages. Your purpose here is to summarize, proportionately, the contents and organization of the book. A good rule to follow is to try to make the first sentence of your summary as comprehensive and exhaustive as possible. In other words, summarize the book in one sentence. The remainder of your summary should be an elaboration of this “comprehensive sentence.”

Wise students will heed the warning of the two most common summarization mistakes. The first is when students summarize the first half of the book and then run out of space, slighting the latter half of the book. Do not make this mistake. Carefully organize your summary. Be sure you have a balanced summary, focusing on all major points of interest. The second mistake is bogging down in randomly selected minute details. Only two pages are allowed, therefore one must concentrate on the significant and unique and omit the less significant.

Critical Evaluation (2-3 pages)

This is by far the most important section of the book review (critique). A critical evaluation is not a summary of the book’s contents. It is, rather, an evaluation of how the author handled the contents. However, when reviewing a biography, your instructor may allow you to evaluate the life of the person in view.

Critical, you must realize, does not necessarily imply negative. Instead, critical refers to carefully weighing the claims and evidence of the argument (thesis). You must engage in the main points that relate to the authors argument. In other words, react to the book positively and negatively.

Good book review writers often ask a series of questions when critically evaluating a book. Examples of some questions are:

  1. What are the author’s purposes?
    1. Did he achieve them? Why or why not?
  2. What are the author’s claims?
    1. Is the book’s argument convincing? If so why, if not, why not? Cite examples from the text using parenthetical notation. For example, (23).
    2. Were the author’s claims supported with good evidence?
    3. What are the strength and weakness of claims?
    4. Focus on the most important evidence the author presents to support his or her thesis.
    5. Evaluate how he or she deals with counter evidence.
  3. What biases or presuppositions (theological, philosophical, denominational, etc.) are evident?
  4. What good is the book?
    1. Who ought to read it? (Please avoid the cliché, “every sincere Christian ought to read this book.”)
    2. You might discuss who would find this book useful and why. Compare the book to other books on the same topic. How is the field changed or challenged by this book? Is further work is needed to clear up doubtful points? Are there any gaps that need to be filled? What can the book and author teach us?

The “critical evaluation” section is not to exceed three, and should not be less than two pages. Therefore, the total length of your review should be no less than five pages and no more than seven (assuming proper font, margins, and spacing).

Before writing a critical book review, read some critical reviews in professional journals such as Missiology, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, or International Bulletin of Missionary Research. The use of subheadings is highly recommended in this section. For example, you could have secondary headings such as “Strengths” and “Weaknesses.”

Conclusion (1/2 page)

In a final paragraph or two, give your overall evaluation of the book. In light of its strengths and weaknesses, describe the usefulness of this book to you. Conclude with some words about the author and recognize the amount of work that went into the book.

The Intentional Church – Book Review

October 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

I. Presuppositions Concerning The Intentional Church

A. A Healthy Church Must Be Intentional About:

·      Making Disciples (unbelief to belief)
·      Training Disciples (belief to maturity)
·      Developing Leaders (maturity to leadership)

B. To Be Intentional About Taking People From Unbelief to Maturity Requires a Plan to do so

·      A Ministry Plan
·      A Pathway Plan

C. There Are at Least 7 Building Blocks For a Healthy, Growing Church.

·      A Biblical Theology & Polity
·      Spiritual Renewal Dynamics
·      Spiritual Discerning and Gifted Leadership
·      Spiritual & Ministry Oriented Laity
·      Adequate Facilities
·      Adequate Financial Resources
·      Effective Ministry Plan

D. There Are at Least 10 Components of an Effective Ministry Plan:

  • A God-Honoring Purpose – Why do we exist?
  • A Faith Oriented Commitment – In what ways will we demonstrate a faith commitment? 
  • A God-Given Vision – What are we seeking to accomplish?
  • Well-Prioritized Values – What is important to us?
  • A Well-Defined Mission – How do we plan to accomplish our vision?
  • Biblically-Based Job Descriptions – Who is responsible for what in accomplishing our vision? 
  • A Strategically Designed Infrastructure – How will we structure our organization so as to accomplish our mission? 
  • A Culturally Oriented Strategy – How will we accomplish our mission? 
  • Well-Documented Goals – How will we know if we are accomplishing our vision and mission? 
  • A Time-Bound Schedule – What is a reasonable timeline of specific tasks that must take place in order to accomplish our goals?

 

II. Concerning Developing Leaders

A. Leading a church is ultimately about developing leaders, understanding that every Christian is called by God to be a leader.

·      Informal, Non-public Leader, Call & Character
·      Formal, Non-public Leader, Call, Character & Competencies
·      Formal, Public Leader, Call, Character, Competencies & Charisma

B. Developing spiritual leadership for a church is not accomplished by merely establishing a leadership training class, but rather by creating environments in which “called people” realize their God-given potential and maximize their impact with that potential.

·      A Missional Environment
·      A Spiritual Growth Environment
·      An Equipping Environment

C. The ideal way to raise up leaders is to begin with a clean slate (called non-believers) and working with them until they become mature and equipped followers of Christ.

 

III. Concerning Making & Training Disciples

A. A believer is not successful in training a disciple unless that disciple is to effective at both making and training disciples.

B. Our churches will not be highly effective at making and training disciples until we who are pastors become faithful in our commitments to both.

C. A church which becomes effective at training disciples will be effective at making disciples.

D. A church will not become highly effective at “training disciples who make disciples” without:

  • A church culture of disciple making.
  • A specific and effective plan for training people to make disciples.
  • Accountable structures to encourage believers to identify and build relationships with non-believing people.

E. Both making and training disciples becomes far more effective when engaged in life-on-life laboring in other’s lives

Missional Renaissance – Book Review

October 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Missional Renaissance – Book Review

McNeal’s first goal was to set forth the language and definition of the missional church. Those not familiar with the missional church movement will find in this book a clear, practical, Biblical, understandable statement of what it means to be “missional”. They will also find someone who understands their fear of change, anticipates their questions, and gives practical guidance for taking a step at a time. Those who are already well read in the subject will find not a lot of new concepts. McNeal builds on the work of people like Bosch, Guder, Newbigin, Hunsberger, Frost and Hirsch and others, but he does it with a style that is his own and that brings new clarity to what may be already familiar ideas. He recognizes that the “missional renaissance” has as much to do with ecclesiology as it does missiology, and he addresses both with integrity.

His second goal was to set forth a clear path and compass settings for the missional journey. This he does by outlining three missional shifts:

Missional Shift 1: From an Internal to an External Focus

• Shifting from a “member culture” to a “missionary culture.”

• Refocusing and reallocating resources (prayer, people, calendar/time, finances, facilities, and technology) for missional impact. This is really about stewardship, although he doesn’t use the word.

Missional Shift 2: From Program Development to People Development

• “Are people better off for being part of this church, or are they just tired-er and poorer?”

• Seeing the world as the shaping ground for spiritual formation, not the inside of the church.

• Moving from mass standardization of programs to mass customization of discipleship.

• “The missional church assumes that service to others is the first step, not some latter expression of spirituality.”

Missional Shift 3: From Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership

The leader must deal with…

• Paradigm issues (How the leader sees the world)

• Micro-skill development (Competencies the leader needs)

• Resource management (What the leader has to work with)

• Personal Growth (The leader as a person.)

His final goal was to establish a score card for measuring progress on the missional journey. His inclusion of suggested metrics to assess missional faithfulness and vitality is something that s missing in most other books on the missional church. Those metrics make a unique contribution to the literature. For years we have measured our faithfulness and vitality in terms of growth of attendance, budget, programs, What happens if we measure vitality in terms of the growth of people, service, prayer, outreach? McNeal would have us move from measuring how we are doing church to how we are blessing our communities.

Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church by Reggie McNeal

Business for the Glory of God, Profit, Highlights

August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

What is earning a profit?  Fundamentally it is selling a product for more than the cost of producing it. (41)

This shows that my work has added some value to the materials I used (41).

Profit is thus an indication that I have made something useful for others, and in that way it can show that I am doing good for others in the goods and services that I sell (41).

In addition, profit can indicate that I have used resources more efficiently than others, because when my costs are lower, my profit is higher (41).

Therefore profit is an indication that I am making good and efficient use of the earth’s resources, thus obeying God’s origingal “creation mandate” to “subdue” the earth…(42)

…the one (servant) who made no profit is rebuked for not at least putting the mina in the bank to earn interest (Luke 19:23) (42)

…good stewardship, in God’s eyes, includes expanding and multiplying whatever resources or stewardship God has entrusted to you (43).

Seeking profit, therefore, or seeking to multiply our resources, is seen as fundamentally good (43).

Some people will object that earning a profit is “exploiting” other people.  Why should I charge you $2 for a loaf of bread it it only cost me $1 to produce? One reason is that you are paying not only for my raw materials but also for my work as an “entrepreneur” – my time in baking the bread, my baking skill that I learned at the cost of more of my time, my skill in finding and organizing the materials and equipment to bake bread, and (significantly) for the risks I take…(43)

…it is right to give them some profit as a reward for taking those risks that benefit all the rest of us (44).

Of course, there can be wrongful profit.  For example, if there is a great disparity in power of knowledge between you and me and I take advantage of that and cheat you, I would not be obeying Jesus’ command, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12) (44)

Or if I am in charge of a monopoly on a necessary good and if I then charge an exorbitant price that depletes people’s wealth, of course that kind of profit is excessive and wrong (44).

If profit is made in a system of voluntary exchange not distorted by monopoly power or dishonesty or greatly unequal knowledge, then when I earn a profit I also help you (44).

Wayne Grudem. Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003)

Business for the Glory of God, Commercial Transactions, Highlights

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

“If you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another” (Lev. 25:14) (35)

This implies that it is possible and in fact is expected that people should buy and sell without wronging one another – that is, that both buyer and seller can do right in the transaction (see also Gen. 41:57; Lev. 19:35-36; Deut. 25:13-16; Prov. 11:26; 31:16; Jer. 32:25, 42-44).(35)

In fact, buying and selling are necessary  for anything beyond subsistence level living…(35)

…through the mechanism of buying and selling, we can all obtain a much higher standard of living, and thereby fulfill God’s purpose that we enjoy the resources of the earth with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5; 6:17) (36)

…commercial transactions are in themselves good because through them we do good to other people.  This is because of the amazing truth that, in most cases, voluntary commercial transactions benefit both parties. (36)

Thus by giving us the ability to buy and sell, God has given us a wonderful mechanism through which we can do good for each other (36).

Buying and selling are activities unique to human beings out of all the creatures that God made. (37)

We can imitate God’s attributes each time we buy and sell, if we practice honesty, faithfulness to our commitments, fairness, and freedom of choice. (37)

Moreover, commercial transactions provide many opportunities for personal interaction, as when I realize that I am buying not just from a store but from a person, to whom I should show kindness and God’s grace. (37)

Because of the interpersonal nature of commercial transactions, business activity has significant stabilizing influence on a society. (37)

…it is to their (the farmer and the mechanic) mutual advantage to get along with each other, and their animosity is restrained. (37)

This is an evidence of God’s common grace, because in the mechanism of buying and selling God has provided the human race with wonderful encouragement to love our neighbor by pursuing actions that advance not only our own welfare but also the welfare of others  – even as we pursue our own. (37,38)

In buying and selling we also manifest interdependence and thus reflect the interdependence and interpersonal love among the members of the Trininty. (38)

However, commercial transactions provide many temptations to sin. (38)

…our hearts can be filled with greed… our hearts can be overcome with selfishness, an inordinate desire for wealth, and setting our hearts only on material gain. (38)

Because of sin, we can also engage in dishonesty and in selling shoddy materials whose defects are covered with glossy paint.  Where there is excessive concentration of power or a huge imbalance in knowledge, there will often be oppression of those who lack power or knowledge… (38, 39)

Sadly, even some who call themselves Christians are dishonest in their business dealings. (39)

Such actions should not be swept under the rug, but should be subject to the process of personal confrontation and church discipline that Jesus outlines in Matthew 18:15-20. (39)

But the distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil. (39)

Wayne Grudem. Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003)

Business for the Glory of God, Employment, Highlights

August 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hiring people to do work is fundamentally good and provides many opportunities for glorifying God, but also many temptations to sin (31)

In contrast to Marxist theory, the Bible does not view it as evil for one person to hire another person and gain profit from that person’s work (31).

It is not necessarily “exploiting” the employee.  Rather, Jesus said, “the laborer deserves his wages” (Lk 10:7), and by this statement he implicitly approved of the idea of paying wages to employees (31).

…the hiring of one person by another is also necessary for a greater production of goods (32).

Many products can only be produced by a group of people working together… because the tasks are too large and too complicated for one person alone (32).

Paying another person for his or her labor is an activity that is uniquely human (32).

Employer/employee relationships provide many opportunities for glorifying God (32).

On both sides of the transaction, we can imitate God, and he will take pleasure in us when he sees us showing honesty, fairness, trustworthiness, kindness, wisdom and skill, and keeping our word regarding how much we promised to pay or what work we agreed to do (32).

The employer/employee relationship also gives opportunity to demonstrate proper exercise of authority and proper responses to authority, in imitation of the authority that has eternally existed between the Father and Son in the Trinity (32).

As in every good business transaction, both parties end up better off then they were before (33).

Therefore if you hire me to work in your business, you are doing good for me and you are providing both of us with many opportunities to glorify God (33).

The employer/employee relationship enables people to create services for others that were not there before (33).

However employer/employee relationships carry many temptations to sin (34).

An employer can exercise his authority with harshness and oppression and unfairness (34).  He might withhold pay arbitrarily and unreasonably (contrary to Lev. 19:13) or might underpay his workers, keeping wages so low that workers have no opportunity to improve their standard of living (contrary to Deut. 24:14). He might also become puffed-up with pride (34).

Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts (James 5:4).

Employees also have temptations to sin through carelessness in work (see Prov. 18:9), laziness, jealousy, bitterness, rebelliousness, dishonesty, or theft (see Titus 2:9-10).

Wayne Grudem. Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003)

Business for the Glory of God, Productivity, Highlights

August 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Producing goods and services is fundamentally good and provides many opportunities for glorifying God, but also many temptations to sin (25)

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28) (25)

“subdue” implies that Adam and Eve should make the resources of the earth useful for their own benefit, and this implies that God intended them to develop the earth…(25)

Manufactured products give us an opportunity to praise God for anything we look at in the world around us (26).

“Then praise God for giving us such a great earth! And praise him for giving us the knowledge and skill to be able to make that water system!” They would have hearts sensitive to God’s desire that he be honored in all things (26).

God did not have to create us with a need for material things or a need for the services of other people (think of angels, who apparently do not have such needs), but in his wisdom he chose to do so.  It may be that God created us with such needs because he knew that in the process of productive work we would have many opportunities to glorify him (27).

When we work to produce (for example) pairs of shoes from the earth’s resources, God sees us imitating his attributes of wisdom, knowledge, skill, strength, creativity, appreciation of beauty, sovereignty, planning for the future, and the use of language to communicate (27).

In addition, when we produce pairs of shoes to be used by others, we demonstrate love for others, wisdom in understanding their needs, and interdependence and interpersonal cooperation (which are reflections of God’s Trinitarian existence) (27).

…God made us with a desire to be productive, to make or do something useful for other people (28).

…desires to be more productive represent God-given desires to accomplish and achieve and solve problems (28).

They represent God-given desires to exercise dominion over the earth and exercise faithful stewardship so that we and others may enjoy the resources of the earth that God made for our use and for our enjoyment (28).

God’s command to “subdue” the earth implies doing productive work to make the resources of the earth useful for themselves and others (28).

…the Bible does not view positively the idea of retiring early and not working at anything again (29).

Although work since the Fall has aspects of pain and futility (Gen. 3:17-19), it is still not morally neutral but fundamentally good and pleasing to God (29).

After God imposed the curse that was required by his justice, the story of the Bible is one of God working progressively to overcome the curse, and increasing the world’s productivity is something we should do as one aspect of that task (29).

There is a temptation for our hearts to be turned from God so that we focus on material things for their own sake (29).

There are also temptations to pride, and to turning our hearts away from love for our neighbor and toward selfishness, greed, and hard-heartedness (29).

There are temptations to produce goods that bring monetary reward but that are harmful and destructive and evil (such as pornography and addictive drugs) (29).

Wayne Grudem. Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003)

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