Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Athanasius

Christian Biographies for Young Readers by Simonetta Carr present clear and concise introductions to John Calvin, Augustine, John Owen, and Athanasius. Written for children aged 7-12, these books are sturdy, hardback copies with thick pages. Additionally, they have a nice, large font which is especially helpful for young readers. Each book has a helpful timeline, maps, many realistic photos, and lovely illustrations which are sure to hold attention spans and capture imaginations. Ms. Carr is careful to give pronunciation helps and definitions for any larger words that may prove challenging.

One of the things that makes Christian Biographies for Young Readers unique is that Ms. Carr seeks to make Reformed, Christian doctrine accessible to children. She writes:
"From the start, my vision has been to introduce not a random choice of role models, but men and women who have helped to shape the church and our Reformed theology. In other words, the focus is on God's providence, His church, and His doctrine" (From Simonetta's Blog Post "Lady Jane").
She successfully accomplishes this, focusing on godly folks who study and proclaim the Truth of God's Word. Ms. Carr's books are thoroughly researched and generally accurate (a few minor corrections have been posted on her website). I love how she chronicles her researching and writing journey on her blog!

The goal of her newest addition, Athanasius, is to "...bring the Nicene Creed to life for children of all ages, raising relevant questions on the divinity of Christ and the importance of creeds and confessions" (From Simonetta's Blog Post "Latest News"). Ms. Carr does this splendidly. In the following video, you can learn why these things really matter (answer to this question begins at 3:01):

While Ms. Carr's book on Athanasius is thoroughly Biblical, one thing that I think would strengthen it is including some Scripture references and quotes throughout the text. However, I would not let that deter you from investing in these books; simply use it as an invitation to study God's Word with your children to learn the Truth! (Here is a copy of the Nicene Creed with Scripture proofs, if you need help getting started.)

Christian Biographies for Young Readers (in general) and Athanasius (specifically) are helpful resources for familiarizing children with important doctrinal concepts through some of the men that God has used in the history of the church. It is wonderful to see how Ms. Carr esteems God's sovereignty and seeks to lay foundations that will help young readers to not be "...children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes..." (Ephesians 4:14).

Ms. Carr continues to grow as she exercises her gift of writing. My children and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of these interesting biographies and look forward to reading many more, Lord-willing!

You can have an opportunity to read Athanasius too! Just fill out the form below for a chance to win. (The answer to the optional question can be found in the book sample on Westminster's site. ;)

Giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Jennifer D. who won and thanks to all who entered!

*Many thanks to Simonetta Carr and Reformation Heritage Books for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Author Interview: Equipping Counselors for Your Church

Today is the release day for Bob Kellemen's new book Equipping Counselors for Your Church! As a result, I am posting the video trailer for the book and sharing my author interview (including, but not limited to, questions about moving from knowledge to wisdom and building deep relationships). Enjoy!

Elizabeth: "In your video trailer for Equipping Counselors for Your Church, you say that the audience for this book is anyone committed to and passionate about one-another ministry. What do you hope that the average lay reader will take away from his/her reading of this book?"
Dr. Kellemen: "Thanks so much, Elizabeth for your thorough engagement with the book. The number one message I pray the average “lay” reader will take away: “Don’t take a back seat to anyone!” Based upon God’s Word, in particular in the book I highlight Romans 15:14 and Ephesians 4:11-16; God’s people are competent to counsel. The second message is: When Paul says Christians are competent to counsel, he specified four areas of competency that we all need equipping in: biblical content, Christlike character, counseling/relational skillfulness, and Christian community. So: the two messages are: You can do it! Here’s where you need to be equipped to do it!"
Elizabeth: "Your subtitle is “The 4E Ministry Training Strategy”. Can you summarize why it is helpful to have a formal, systematic process for casting a vision (envisioning), enlisting, equipping, and empowering a group of members for ministry of the Word?"

Dr. Kellemen: "Process is a great word. I would add one more: relational, so that we highlight a relational process. People are tired of programs (so am I!). I’m not offering a program, but a relational process that each unique church can utilize in a congregation-specific manner. With that background, back to your question. God has “wired” my brain to think “comprehensively.” The “4Es” provide a comprehensive relational process churches can use to move from launch to leadership to leaving a legacy. In my consulting, all the time I see churches doing one or two of the “Es,” and then struggling to figure out why the ministry is filled with false starts. The “4Es” offer a “four lap ministry training strategy” so we get off the starting block, run the race effectively, and finish the race for God’s glory."
Elizabeth: "You write: “We need to develop the type of ongoing ministry structure that enables them, through God’s empowering, to employ their gifts for God’s glory” (pg. 163). How can leaders strike a balance between developing a ministry structure while avoiding becoming program driven?"

Dr. Kellemen: "That’s a great question that I addressed somewhat in my response to question two. In the book I discuss our tendency to go to extremes: either all spontaneous or all structured. Instead, I encourage “organizing the organism”--we are a living, breathing family, and all families require freedom within boundaries--relational structure. In the book, I illustrate how Jesus in Matthew 10 provide an entire chapter of “instructions” on how to “do” the ministry--and no one was ever more relational than Christ. I also illustrate the structure we find within the early church in Acts 2--and no church was more relational than the church in Acts. I also illustrate the beautiful “balance” of spontaneity and structure in the Black Church under enslavement--and their one-another ministry was incredibly relational. We need to be both/and: organism and organization, spontaneity and structured. The book develops this concept throughout."

Elizabeth: "How do you help your trainees move from knowledge of “Christ’s Changeless Truth” (Biblical Content) to wisdom (applied knowledge)?"

Dr. Kellemen: "Pray! Throughout Equipping Counselors for Your Church I highlight the principle that you become a counseling ministry by giving and receiving biblical counseling. You learn to be a biblical counselor by receiving biblical counseling. A major weakness that I’ve seen as I’ve consulted with biblical counseling churches is that we tend to be all lecture/head knowledge, but little “lab” and heart-to-heart ministry. The “lab” component of training means not only that you learn “skills” of counseling, but that as a training group we open up to one another to receive care, comfort, and loving confrontation. We apply truth to our lives and thus learn how to help others to apply God’s truth to their daily lives and relationships."

Elizabeth: "Can you give an example of how you equip counselors to relate truth to life?"

Dr. Kellemen: "I give several examples in the book from my own life, including the very first training group I ever led (long, long ago...). After the “lecture” component, we took a few minute break and then shifted our chairs in a circle. I was totally comfortable as the leader in the lecturer role. But then in the lab role, where I couldn’t depend upon my notes and keep things “under control,” I had an image go through my mind. I saw myself as a ten-year-old boy in my Dad’s oversized suit with my feet unable to touch the floor. I had a choice to make: attempt to ignore that image, or be honest with myself and the group. I choose honesty. For the next 90 minutes, we all choose honesty. We all shared how we were terrified at the thought of counseling others. As we shared our stories, we explored God’s story together and applied His truth to our fears. We learn to counsel others by opening up to give and receive counsel from each other--the very first night of our training."

Elizabeth: "We live in an age where people tend to be a lot more individualistic and busy. How do you encourage people to build deep relationships where one-another Biblical fellowship, ministry, and equipping become the norm rather than shallow “chit-chat”? How do you teach trainees to draw others out in a gracious way?"

Dr. Kellemen: "First, you have to model it. In my response to an earlier question, I noted how I modeled openness about my fears and openness to receive counsel from those I was training. That changes everything--it frees everyone up to open up. Second, you have to invite, not insist. That is, you can’t force an individual or group to “go deep.” You invite depth of relationship by building trust, by caring carefully and graciously, speaking the truth in love. What I’ve found in all three churches I’ve pastored and in my fifteen years of training in a seminary setting is that people are longing for such life-changing groups. People don’t want their training to end--not because they are afraid to step out and step up to minister, but because they have made such amazing connections with one another. Time after time I hear, “Our biblical counseling equipping group has become the most intense and intimate small group I have ever participated in.”

Elizabeth: "How does Equipping Counselors for Your Church compare with the other books that you have written? How do your other books complement this new release?"

Dr. Kellemen: "That’s a great question! I think of Equipping Counselors for Your Church as my “opus.” It is the result of three decades of equipping. Soul Physicians provides the theological foundation for understanding people, problems, and God’s soul-u-tuons. Spiritual Friends is the relational training manual used in labs to equip people to develop 22 biblical counseling “competencies.” God’s Healing for Life’s Losses applies this model to areas of suffering and loss. Beyond the Suffering and Sacred Friendships illustrates how to provide one-another biblical care through the lives of African American heroes of the faith and women heroes of the faith. Equipping Counselors brings it all together by showing leaders how to equip God’s people to care like Christ."
Elizabeth: "Appendix C10.2 (pg. 238) is a LEAD Sample Objectives and Lesson Outline. Do you have more of this type of Bible study material available for leaders who do not wish to write their own curriculum from scratch?"

Dr. Kellemen: "Yes and no. On the one hand, I don’t want to just give people a fish; I want to teach them to fish. The purpose of giving that one sample was to teach people to fish by showing them what a lesson plan might look like. On the other hand, I consider Soul Physicians and Spiritual Friends to be training manuals. Soul Physicians has two built in application guides at the end of each chapter. Spiritual Friends is a small group lab training manual. This is why many churches and schools use these two books as their primary manuals for equipping lay people for one-another ministry."
Elizabeth: "You wrote about applying Peacmaker’s 4G’s to conflict resolution as the leaders move toward change. What are some ways that people can encourage their leaders as they seek to equip others to do the work of ministry?"

Dr. Kellemen: "Interesting way to look at it. Often I focus on helping leaders to encourage and help their people as they go through the change process. You are asking, if I understand correctly, how people can encourage their leaders during the change process. Leader do need encouragement during times of change! No matter how hard you try as a leader, people will question your motives and your methods. So, stand by your leader. Be an “Aaron” holding up his/her arms. Realize the leader is human, too--with hurts and faults, struggles and sins. Speak words of encouragement into his life and about his ministry. Listen. Care."

Elizabeth: "How would you encourage the reader whose heart resonates with this type of formal approach but whose leaders have a different ministry mindset?"

Dr. Kellemen: "That happens more often than we might think. I address that in the book. You have to start with a humble sharing of your vision. You want to identify any areas where there might be overlap of vision (not assuming that if we are not 100% in agreement, that we are 100% in opposition). Be supportive. Ask for permission to develop a small test/beta/pilot group. My experience has been that these groups become such pockets of growth and excellence, that most leaders end up asking, “How did you do that? How could we incorporate more of that into the wider church ministry?”

Elizabeth: "Dr. Kellemen, Thanks so much for your willingness to answer my questions and for taking the time to write such a thorough and helpful book on the subject of training others to do the work of ministry and minister the Word!!"

To learn more about Equipping Counselors for Your Church or any of Dr. Kellemen's other books, you can visit his site. You'll find video trailers, sample chapters, and many other free resources that are sure to be a blessing. You'll also find discounted book bundles, if you are interested in purchasing multiple titles simultaneously. ;)

If you have any questions for Dr. Kellemen, please feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: Equipping Counselors for Your Church

Equipping Counselors For Your Church
As someone with a heart for ministering to other people, I was excited to see Bob Kellemen’s upcoming release Equipping Counselors for Your Church. In his video trailer for the book, Dr. Kellemen states that “the audience for this book is anyone committed to and passionate about one-another ministry”. Throughout this book, he uses the word “counseling” to encompass ministering the Word to one another and disciple-making, resulting in a relevant and helpful book for us all.

Dr. Kellemen’s goal is to “equip equippers so that the church is saturated with Biblical counseling”. He has created a simple, helpful framework to help leaders intentionally train and empower members to minister the Word to one another. He walks his readers through a Biblical study of God’s mission for the Church; connecting people; helping them grow in Biblical content, Christlike character, counseling competency, and Christian community; and relational organization to bring greater glory to God.

Because Dr. Kellemen has been a pastor of three very different churches (ranging from 100-3,000 members), he doesn’t have a strict one-size-fits-all approach to equipping. He establishes some basic principles that would be applicable to any size church and helps leaders walk through how to prayerfully design a structure that will best help the “unique congregation use its distinctive gift-mix to fulfill our special calling in our specific community” (pg. 41), to bring greater glory to God.

Although Dr. Kellemen’s principles are basic, he is not so vague as to be unhelpful. He includes a lot of useful forms, evaluations, application questions etc. that make this almost like a workbook that leaders can utilize to set up a ministry structure. Equipping Counselors for Your Church is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide that will likely bless a lot of people.

While Dr. Kellemen’s book is primarily geared towards those who are leaders within the church, there are some things that make this helpful for those who are passionate about one-another ministry. Equipping Counselors for Your Church helps the reader establish a Biblical vision for God’s Church and personal ministry. There are a number of useful lists within this book including Scripture passages and doctrine/theology to study; qualifications and proficiencies to pursue, character traits to cultivate; and commonly used materials for Biblical counseling. One of my favorite features is the excellent evaluation/application questions throughout the text and at the end of each chapter.

Ultimately, Dr. Kellemen helps all types of readers to understand that:
“People with changed lives know Christ, grow in Christ, and become Christ-like disciple-makers. Changed lives occur as we apply Christ’s changeless truth to help suffering people know that it’s normal to hurt (sustaining) and possible to hope (healing), and as we help sinning people to know that it’s horrible to sin but wonderful to be forgiven (reconciling), and supernatural to mature (guiding)” (pg. 65).
Equipping Counselors for Your Church is about growing in Christ-likeness, intentionally loving like He loved, and encouraging others to do the same for God's glory. May this book help many leaders to share a Biblical vision and enlist, equip, and empower their congregations to do the work of one-another ministry. May it also help them to build a team of people who are uniquely gifted and have a special passion for Biblical counseling to serve the body of Christ more formally. May it help all of us as we grow in Christ-likeness, becoming full of goodness, complete in knowledge, and competent to instruct one another (Romans 15:14).

Dr. Kellemen has graciously offered to respond to and interact with any questions and/or comments that you all might have about his book. Although Dr. Kellemen has already been interviewed by his publisher, he kindly took the time to answer some interview questions of mine. I plan to share those with you all tomorrow. ;)

*Many thanks to Dr. Kellemen and P & R Books for their willingness to send me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review: Nobody's Child

Click to see a larger image of Nobody's Child by Austin Boyd

Publisher's Synopsis:
"For Laura Ann McGehee, her body represents the one remaining financial resource that can save the family farm. For Sophia McQuistion, Laura Ann’s unusual sacrifice fulfills her own dream of having a child. Weaving together bioethics and faith in a heart-rending tale of love lost and loves found, Nobody’s Child dramatizes the ethical question we can no longer ignore in medicine: Just because we can do something … should we?"
My Take:

Nobody's Child asks a good question but is wrongly called a Christian bioethics novel. Although "God" is made mention of numerous times throughout the novel, "Jesus" is mentioned only once (on page 199 of 328) and that in a rushed prayer, "Why this, Jesus? Please save Sophia. And baby James" (pg. 199). While there were many opportunities to proclaim the truth and hope of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Boyd drops the ball repeatedly.

The book is filled with phrases that reflect a poor understanding of Scripture and doctrine. For example, sin is blamed on circumstances (Paragraph 1, pg. 49); doing "home church" is suggested (pg. 73); and hard times, death, and disappointments, are chalked up to "part of living" (pg. 254). Boyd never mentions that these things are consequences of the Fall nor does he communicate the hope that one day, God will restore all things because of what Jesus has done.

Furthermore, the main character, Laura Ann, struggles with shame and condemnation for selling her eggs. Many folks tell her that she was courageous. In the end, she sees the good that comes in spite of her choices, but she is never confronted with the hope of the Gospel. Regardless of the choices that we make, we can be right in God's eyes and walk in newness of life. The decisions that we make don't save us, only trusting in Jesus will save us. He lived the life that we should have lived and died the death that we should have died in order that we might be made right before God.

Nobody's Child was a disappointing read. I wouldn't recommend this title.

*Zondervan provided me with this book free of charge, for the purpose of review.