Gardner C. Taylor and Samuel Proctor; We Have This Ministry: The Heart of the Pastor’s Vocation; Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1996. 152 pp. $14.00
In We Have This Ministry, Gardner C. Taylor and Samuel Proctor, two revered stalwarts of the African-American church, share the compressed wisdom of decades of effective pastoral ministry. Taylor served as Senior Pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, and Proctor served at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Each one has also served as seminary professor. The book contains thematic essays about several different aspects of the pastor’s task.
Each is clearly marked as to whether it is written by Taylor or Proctor. Taylor covers “The Pastor’s Commission,” and “The Pastor as Administrator.” Proctor covers “The Pastor as Teacher,” “The Pastor as Intercessor,” “The Pastor as Counselor,” “The Pastor and the Family in Crisis,” and “The Pastor and Diversity, Liberation, and Community.” Aimed primarily at those entering the pastoral ministry, Proctor states, “Our hope is that … these reflections will prove helpful to those now engaged in pastorates with many years of ministry stretching before them.” Written in an oral style, one can almost hear these two men reflecting out loud in these pages.
The authors make a valid distinction between preacher and pastor. However, it is curious that these two pulpit giants would not deal with preaching. No reason is stated for this omission. Perhaps the next project these two will undertake is some collaboration on preaching. The “cross-pollenization” of these two giants would prove both interesting and beneficial.
It never hurts for a seasoned veteran to review the truths presented in such a work. However, its primary benefit would be as a supplemental text or a seminary course dealing with pastoral ministry or “The Life and Work of a Pastor.”
Jacks, G. Robert; Getting the Word Across: Speech Communication for Pastors and Lay Leaders. Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s. 1995. 243pp. ISBN 0-8028-4152-x. $20.00
Robert Jacks, Associate Professor of Speech Communication in Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, has given attention to two vital but often neglected aspects of one’s pulpit ministry – the public reading of the Scriptures, and the optimal use of one’s voice. In so doing, he has provided a very readable, even entertaining work.
At first, it may seem that there is not much to be said about the public reading of the Scriptures. It may seem that one who is writing such a volume is attempting to make a case for more public reading of the Scriptures. Instead, Jacks provides helpful pointers for making one’s reading of the Scriptures in public worship more natural and effective. At various points along the way, the author offers humorous asides. Shaded boxes at convenient intervals serve to summarize in compelling fashion the point the author is trying to make.
In teaching preaching, I have often emphasized that the sermons I preach best, with the most passion and forceful delivery, are those sermons where the “text has grabbed me.” In similar fashion, Jacks argues that the best public reading of the Scripture is done when one has lived with the text enough to internalize its meaning and is thus able to project the thought of the passage with appropriate emphasis and clarity.
He encourages one to be present to his or her listeners and to use one’s voice and facial expressions in an appropriate manner. As one who has been lulled to sleep by a flat, passionless reading of the Scripture and turned off by an overly dramatic reading of the Scripture which only served to call attention to the reader, I appreciate Jacks’ emphases. Some of his chapter titles include: “There’s a God — and You’re Not It!”; “Your Face is Showing”; “Oral Interpretation of the Scripture”; and “Internalizing.”
While Jacks writes with a humorous style which does not take itself too seriously, the second half of the book can become somewhat tedious. It is there that he emphasizes proper diction and vocal techniques. Preachers, whose livelihood depends on the use of their voice, do well to heed Jacks’ instructions about proper breathing techniques and diction. After all, it is tragic when the voice of God which condescends to be heard through our human voices is hindered through poor vocal technique. This section is one that merits periodic review so that the preacher may be reminded of good vocal technique.
Jacks’ book gives important emphasis to an easily neglected aspect of public preaching and teaching. He gives helpful reminders in a humorous and pleasant style. I would like to sit in Professor Jacks’ class sometime. It would be an enjoyable experience!
Braswell, George; Islam: Its Prophet, Peoples, Politics, and Power. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 338 pp. ISBN 0-8054-1169-0
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the greatest rival to the Christian faith in the late 1990’s is the rapid growth of Islam. Unfortunately, negative perceptions and false impressions abound regarding those who practic the Islamic faith. An intelligent, relevant ministry in our day and time will have an awareness of Islam. With the growth of Islam, particularly in the African-American community, preachers must understand some of the reasons for this growth.
George Braswell is well-qualified to educate the Christian church about the Islamic faith having served on the Faculty of Islamic Theology at the University of Teheran, Iran. He is Currently Professor of Missions and World Religions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. His extensive study and experience in Islam are readily apparent in this volume.
Braswell demonstrates a firm grasp of his subject matter but there are places where the organization of the book could be strengthened. In chapter one, he asks twenty general questions that a Christian may ask about Islam. Some of these have to do with the nature of Islam’s historic relations with Judaism and Christianity, Muslim beliefs about Jesus, the spread of Islam, the lingering effects of the Crusades, the significance of jihad, and issues of theocracy, and governance according to Islamic law. These twenty questions provide ample fodder for a discussion of Islam. Braswell poses these questions and then traces several other themes before returning to them in his final chapter.
Strange names and unfamiliar places make it difficult for American Christians to grasp the history of Islam. Braswell traces the history of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad and the rapid spread of his religious message following his death.
Islam provided a specific and orderly lifestyle of prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage in the context of the mosque and under the guidance of religious and political authorities. A Muslim was taught to walk the straight path of Allah and thereby attain heaven and avoid hell.
Muhammad’s message was popular, spreading rapidly throughout the Arabian Peninsula, across Northern Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia under a succession of Caliphates.
Braswell gives a comprehensive view of the piety and religious practices of devout Muslims and provides several helpful graphics showing prayer rituals, Koranic references to Jesus, and Islamic names for their deity — Allah. He helps to explain the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam, a distinction which is still difficult for non-Muslims to understand. Beyond the practices of a pious Muslim, the author points out the ways in which these religious practices are manifest in Islamic cultures. For example, an Arab, in order to save face will give wrong directions in order to spare the embarrasment that comes from having to admit one doesn’t know the right directions.
In a very helpful reference section, Braswell gives a country by country analysis of the state of Islam in each of the predominantly Muslim countries as well as some overview of their government and their friendliness to non-Muslim interests. He delineates the difference between the Nation of Islam of Louis Farrakhan and the Traditional Islam of Arabia. In concluding, he returns to the twenty questions set forth in his introduction with an accessible, capsule-form answer.
One who preaches in this day and time does well to have an understanding of one of the world’s fastest growing religions. Mosques are now appearing in places that would have seemed very unlikely a generation ago. The command to preach the gospel to every creature includes the more than one billion Muslims around the globe. Braswell mentions that he has been involved in Christian-Muslim dialogue. The book would be strengthened by a discussion of ministries that have been effective in evangelizing Muslims. (Though they have admittedly been few, there have been some.) Still, Braswell gives a very accessible introduction to the world of Islam.
Erickson, Lloyd. The Embrace of God: Seeing Beyond Imperfect Parents to Glimpse a Nurturing Heavenly Father. Minneapolis: Bethany House. 224 pp. ISBN 1-55561-810-7. $13.99.
When I first received the galleys for this book and saw the subtitle, I thought, “Oh, no. Another chapter in the victimization of America.” As I read the book, though, my heart was encouraged by the portrait Erickson paints of our loving Heavenly Father. Dr. Lloyd M. Erickson is the Director of the Counseling and Testing Center at Andrews University. It is from that rich experience of dealing with “scars” left from imperfect parents that he is able to point beyond those flaws to the model of the Ideal Parent — God, the Father. While the subtitle may also lead one to believe that this book is not for those whose upbringing is relatively non-dysfunctional, it does provide a portrait of God which is beneficial to all. The author states:
… this [book] is not a critique of human parenting. We readily acknowledge that we are all imperfect parents. Rather than inducing guilt, I hope to encourage greater understanding of the beauty of God’s character and to promote spiritual growth, (p. 27)
Erickson points out that it is from our parents that our earliest conceptions of God are formed. With this in mind, he runs the full gamut of parental failings — parents who are physically absent, emotionally absent, overly strict, abusive, too permissive, and so on. As a corrective to the distortion these past memories may bring to one’s image of God, Erickson deals point-by-point, chapter-by-chapter to paint a more accurate picture of our Heavenly Father. In one chapter, he speaks about the father who is physically present but emotionally absent. Erickson reminds us that our Heavenly Father is never too busy for us.
As some fathers may find it difficult to display emotion or genuine affection, our Heavenly Father hugs us in different ways. Erickson develops this premise by illustrating what one might call the serendipities of grace which allow us to see God’s love demonstrated. One example might be that encouraging phone call or note from a friend who didn’t know we were having a problem but had us “on her heart.” The language of God giving hugs may seem overly sentimental to some, but my heart was warmed as I reflected over “God’s hugs” in my own life. In similar fashion, Erickson speaks about a Father who loves us as we are but loves us too much to allow us not to change, one who loves us enough to give us our freedom and one who loves enough to discipline.
Erickson is painting a contrast between earthly parents and the loving Heavenly Father. This book is not just for those who may be angry, bitter, and scarred by imperfect parenting techniques. It is of benefit to those who may suffer from imperfect parenting, those who strive to be more godly parents, and those who want to be reminded afresh of their Heavenly Father’s love. Preachers who struggle to find fresh words and images to express God’s love will find this to be a helpful volume.
Trembley, Lo-Ann and David. Emmaus Eyes: Worship with the Mentally Challenged. The Lakes, Nevada: Eden Publishing. 96pp.
In Emmaus Eyes, Lo-Ann and David Trembley provide a helpful resource for those who would attempt to minister to the mentally challenged. The Trembleys are the founding co-pastors of Broken Walls Fellowship, a non-traditional church in inner-city Milwaukee. Their flair for the non-traditional is evident in the fresh and innovative approaches to worship advocated in this book. Their church is a pioneer in racial reconciliation in that the congregation is comprised of roughly equal numbers of Anglos, Hispanics, and African-Americans. Along the way, whether part of their original vision or not, the church has ministered effectively to a significant number of mentally challenged people.
The Trembleys contend that most traditional worship is seriously flawed – its inaccessibility to large numbers of people serves to exclude them from the kingdom. A remedy to this situation is to “PEP” up the worship service. The Trembleys’ three pronged emphasis to this problem is to make worship Personal, Emotional, and Physical. Since it is difficult for mentally challenged people to grasp abstract concepts, worship that is personal provides specific experiences of abstract concepts.
The Gospel deals with emotions. The full implications of the Gospel ought to arouse a full range of emo-tions in the worshipper. To emotionalize worship allows the free expression of such emotions. To make worship more physical is to realize that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It seems to this reviewer that most congregations, whether blessed with mentally challenged individuals or not, could stand to be PEPped up.
For the most part, the suggestions the Trembleys offer are helpful. Nearly half the book is comprised of worship suggestions and liturgies which have been tried and found effective. Surely, the church ought never to construct artificial barriers which exclude those with challenges from worship. One might expect a review in Preaching magazine to take exception to the assertion that there are times when a small group discussion or some other similar exercise should be substituted for the traditional sermon. The question ought not to be what can be substituted for it but rather, how can the sermon be made to relate to those who have difficulty with abstract concepts. The suggestions offered about the benefits of a more narrative style of preaching are well-taken at this point. All-in-all, Emmaus Eyes is a helpful resource for those whose burden is to minister to the mentally challenged.

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