Henderson, David. Culture Shift: Communicating God’s Truth to Our Changing World. Grand Rapids: Baker, 254 pp. ISBN 0-8010-9059-8.
There is little or no disagreement with the old Bob Dylan tune, “The times they are a changin’.” New book releases and conferences strive to prepare church leaders for ministry in changing times. David Henderson, Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, IN makes the case for relevant communication in his new book Culture Shift. (An excerpt of this book appears in the March-April 1999 issue of Preaching).
Henderson illustrates the difficulty many Christians have in communicating their experience with those who are unfamiliar with Christian jargon. A person with a very real experience of Jesus Christ may have great enthusiasm for sharing her faith with her co-workers and friends, but may be unable to share meaningfully due to the lack of an adequate vocabulary. The task of the communicator is not to “make the Bible relevant” but to demonstrate its relevance by knowing the culture and jargon of those to whom we speak well enough to communicate the gospel to them in their terms. Effective communication of the unchanging gospel in changing times requires an equal sensitivity for the audience and to the truth of the Biblical text.
In attempting to give broad generalizations about the unchurched people we are trying to reach, Henderson characterizes them as consumerist, self-absorbed, and spectators. He demonstrates keen insight into what makes unchurched people tick. He not only demonstrates an understanding of who unchurched people are, he show insight into how they think as well. The main categories he cites are: beyond God, beyond right and wrong, and beyond meaning and purpose.
Henderson uses the word secular to describe a soc-iety that has left God out of its thought processes. I believe pagan is probably a better word to describe our culture as people are struggling to express some sort of spirituality apart from either God, Jesus Christ or the church. The removal of God from our world-view has also served to foster a total sense of moral relativism. A removal of belief in God also causes people to see themselves without meaning or purpose.
Henderson is well-suited to write a book such as this. He was an atheist until being led to faith in Christ while in college. He was on a success track at a major corporation until surrendering to God’s call to ministry. Though not a homiletical “how-to,” the principles he presents have particular validity for preaching. He exudes a passion for presenting Jesus Christ to a relativistic, confused, and drifting generation. Application of the principles presented here will make one a more effective communicator of the gospel.
Barrier, Roger. Listening to the Voice of God: How Your Ministry Can Be Transformed. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 169 pp., ISBN 1-55661-972-3.
At first glance, Roger Barrier’s book Listening to the Voice of God doesn’t appear to have much to do with preaching. That is unless you understand preaching as “Listening to God and telling your people what you’ve heard.” (My definition, not the author’s) What one hears from God must be consistent with Scripture and rhetorically crafted so as to gain an effective hearing. Barrier is Pastor of the Casas Adobes Baptist Church in Tucson, AZ. This work is number 4 in the series The Pastor’s Soul, produced by Leadership journal.
Listening to God and hearing from God sound like wonderful concepts until one recognizes the price that is involved. Moses’ followers were petrified at the thought of hearing from God and implored him to be the one to listen and then to tell them what he heard. For Hosea, listening to God meant the shame of marrying a prostitute. For a preacher authentically to hear from God and speak forth what he has heard, is a daunting task. It means learning to answer the question, “Is this idea or impression really from God, or is it merely what I want to happen, or could it even be a false seed planted by Satan himself?”
Listening to God means keeping the channels of communication open. It means not allowing sin to cloud our vision or become ‘static in the air waves’ that blocks communication. Pastors become particularly susceptible to bearing grudges over the hurts and slights suffered in ministry. Those things can become major stumbling blocks, desensitizing us from hearing God’s voice.
Listening to God involves paying a price. God’s voice is not easily discerned by those who treat Him with cavalier indifference. Sensitivity to God’s voice comes through cultivating the spiritual disciplines and nurturning an intimate walk with God. Sensitivity to God’s voice also grows through consistent obedience. It also means being led into opportunities for ministry and into direct confrontation with the Evil One.
Barrier offers many checklists and principles which will enhance the preacher’s walk with God and thus make for a more sensitive messenger. This is not a “how-to” preaching book, but the preacher who learns how to listen to the voice of God will preach with greater authenticity and power.
Hendricks, Howard. Color Outside the Lines: A Revolutionary Approach to Creative Leadership. Nashville: Word. 1998, 254 pp. ISBN 0-8499-1569-4.
Howard Hendricks is a towering figure in the evangelical world. As Distinguished Professor and Chairman of the Center for Christian Leadership at Dallas Seminary, he is a popular conference speaker and teacher. He also serves as a board member for the Promise Keepers and the Navigators. His teaching is always fresh, on target, and motivational. In Color Outside the Lines he makes the case for creative leadership for the church on the brink of a new century. This is one of many books I have read recently which are not specifically about homiletics but will make for effective preaching nonetheless.
Hendricks defines creativity as “the ability to envision and embrace a new future.” He argues that everyone has within them creative powers that can be nurtured, indeed must be nurtured if the church is to have a relevant ministry in a changing culture. The message we are called to proclaim never changes but that message will need to be packaged in fresh and creative ways if it is to be intelligible in today’s world, Indeed Hendricks mentions an ad campaign in which one cereal manufacturer says, “We couldn’t improve upon the product so we improved the packaging.” That is the task of a creative leader in today’s world.
It is absurd to ask whether or not creativity is biblical. From the very beginning pages of Scripture, God is seen as Creator. Should not those in whom His Spirit dwells be characterized, among other things, by their creativity? Hendricks shows how creativity is an integral part of every effective human endeavor.
Hendricks approaches creativity from an organizational perspective as well as from an individual perspective. That is, not only must the leader of a church or organization display creativity, the organization itself can develop patterns either of “same-old, same-old” or it can develop creativity. There are several signs that one can discern to determine whether or not one’s organization is creative.
Hendricks offers few direct suggestions that relate directly to the preaching task. However, preachers should read this book. Through knowing which questions to ask and which techniques to experiment with, one may find that the preaching is “Coloring Outside the Lines” and perhaps gain a hearing where it had never been heard before. A strength of the book is its inclusion of exercises in every chapter so that creativity may be learned and developed.

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