Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Review of “Why Men Hate Going to Church”

It is Sunday morning Jane has the children dressed and ready to go.  She also is ready to head out for morning worship, but where is John? He decided to take the day and go fishing, why? This is the premise of the most recent book that I have read, “Why Men Hate Going to Church” by David Murrow.  I will admit that when I first got this book I was hoping to find something that I could actually tear apart, and write a strong critique of a book that I didn’t really feel was worth reading.  Oh boy was I ever wrong!  Although I may not agree with all that the author writes about, this book was certainly worth reading.

            On this particular book there is a variety of reviews.   Some people rate it an average book because the author was able to string two sentences together, mind you if that was all a book had I would give it a 1.  Others rise up and praise this book as the newest and best thing to hit men.  I’m probably somewhere in the middle.  So let me tell you why.

            Having been raised in the Church I have noticed that a lot of what David Murrow talks about is true.  There are so many ministries in many local bodies of Christ, but who runs those ministries? Quite frankly, it is the women.  Now I want it known that I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but I do have to ask, “Where are the men?”  This is probably a better understanding of this book then some have given it credit.

            As I said, when I first saw this book listed as a book I could review I immediately looked at a group of reviews, and the formulated my opinion of the book off of that.   Now here I am a week later, and I was at Church watching some of the behaviors of the men in the congregation.  Some have said this book doesn’t present the gospel, which is true, but again that was not the purpose of this book.  The purpose of this book was to find out why Christian men aren’t being the fishers of men that God called them to be. 

            David takes the time to address what he calls a vicious circle that has been impacting the Church since the pre-Victorian era.  By and large Churches will start with a decent percentage of men as well as women, and then slowly the men begin to drift away.  What happens is a Church begins meeting, and then building a building, but then the work left to do is leading a ministry like Children’s Church, or Sunday school, or Bible Study.  As these ministries begin to get established in the Church the women begin to rise up and volunteer to lead this ministry or to lead that ministry.  As more and more women rise to the leadership positions the priorities change as women are more emotional based (again not a bad thing) then men are, and so more and more women are attracted to get their spiritual high, and men are left wondering what has happened.  This is part of the cycle that Mr. Murrow speaks about in this book.

            Now David is not beating up any of these ministries.  His focus is instead on how men and women interact differently, and therefore these ministries which have their purpose lose their priority and men are shut off, and begin to leave the ministry work to the women, only exacerbating the situation that had lead to them being shut off.  In fact David spends the last eleven chapters speaking about how Churches can reengage their men.

            From a personal stand point, this book has made me begin to watch and observe.  Right now our Church is the middle of a building campaign, and so there is a lot for the men to be involved with and participants in at this time.  In fact just last week the men were asked to help get some of the wall trimming placed around the gym/sanctuary floor.  This was a great opportunity for some of us to rise up and help our body of believers.  However, will the men stay engaged?

            Over the past year at least the men’s ministry of our Church has taken off in a way which I couldn’t believe.  As I said earlier, I was raised in Church since the age of 8 and this is the first Men’s ministry that I’ve seen so strong in the Church.  In fact I often brag about how our Men’s Ministry is closer knit, than I’ve witnessed through my wife, than the Women’s Ministry of the Church.  This book has made me ask, “Will it last?”  In this book I think David Murrow does a great job showing how men relate shoulder to shoulder.  I think this book is a tool that every Pastor, Elder Board, Servant Leader, and layman would benefit from.  I think this book is a book that every wife will benefit from as she sees how dragging her husband to church will not make him the spiritual leader that she needs.

            Now that I have offered praise of this book, there is a least one thought that did still bugs me about it; I think some of the comments that David makes are just plain wrong.  I am a man who enjoys dressing up for Church on Sunday morning.  Very seldom will I attend church in anything less than slacks, a nice dress shirt, and a tie.  I find it frustrating that David Murrow seems to imply that the only men truly satisfied with Church are the more feminine.  I was an athlete in high school, and in fact I’m still very competitive, almost to a fault.  I think this concept that a man cannot be both an athlete and an academic is disrespectful and untrue. 

            Every person who professes faith in Jesus Christ should engage in regular time of worship both corporately as well as personally.  I think every believer should have regular times where they dig into the WORD of God, and learn and grow from the author and finisher of our faith Jesus Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit.  I also believe that just because the Church has been feminized is no excuse for a man to not attend.  He is called to be the spiritual leader of his family, not the Church, and even if there are problems, a man still needs to be regularly engaged in the Scriptures.  All this being said I still give this book 4 out of 5.  I believe every believer, male and female, can benefit from this book.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Booksneeze as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Tool of Offense and Defense “The Deity of Christ” A Book Review

In 1 Peter the Apostle Peter gives us all a very important command; “but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts.  Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15, Holman Christian Standard Bible, HCSB)” Unfortunately for the Church today fewer and fewer people are willing to stand up for the hope that is in them as born-again believers.  Over the past several years we have seen many well founded denominations chose to move away from the doctrines from which they were founded, and chose to blaze for themselves a new path of “tolerance and love” while turning away from the only source of true love, Jesus Christ.

            Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ are often challenged by those who do not to defend the faith.  Many do not have the knowledge, experience, or tools to do this.  This is where “Theology in Community” comes into play.  This is a series of books that began with “Suffering and the Goodness of God” in 2008, then “The Glory of God” in 2010.  This year they released their third addition “The Deity of Christ” which is what this review will be on today.

            “The Deity of Christ” is edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson with contributions from 7 others.  In this book they address 10 common topics of challenge to the deity of Christ; as it is viewed today, in the Old Testament, Synoptic Gospels, John’s Gospel, Church History, World Religions, Missions, and others.  Having come from a background as a Pastor’s son, I did not spend too much time on the Biblical aspects of Christ’s Deity because that is something I feel like I am well grounded in.  However, some of the other chapters were very informative.

            I have had this book now for probably three months, which is longer than the publisher likes normally without a review, but this book was so in depth that I could not just read it once.  This is a book I had to read and mull over numerous times.  I believe every follower of Christ should invest in a book like this and use it for the tool that it is.  Although this tool is very in depth, and written by scholars, there is no doubt that these men took time to make this a book every believer could read.  For a volume that only has 255 pages actually in the chapters, the amount of information contained in this book is remarkable.

            Chapter 7, which is “The Deity of Christ in Church History” by Dr. Gerald Bray was one of the chapters I spent a lot of time in.  I am not as knowledgeable as others on the founding fathers, so reading this chapter was actually of great interest and great value to me.  One point I found interesting was the fact that many so-called scholars instead of looking at the facts presented from the actual Word of God dismiss them as evidence because the Gospels show Christ as 100% God and 100% Man.  Another excellent point made by Dr. Bray was the fact that although there are some miracles in each of the Gospel accounts, that is not the full focus of any of the Gospels, showing that so convinced were the authors of Christ’s deity that they did not feel the need to build up any of the miracles to a point of sole focus.

            Although Pastor Appreciation Month is over, this is a book I would recommend as a gift to any pastor, or any other serious student of the WORD of God.  With all the technical writing, and the re-reads I still rate this book a 5 out of 5.  There is no doubt that we are in a time where we will have to continue to defend our faith in Jesus Christ and the Trinity, and this tool of offense or defense is worth having.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Commitment Regardless of Circumstances

This past Sunday our pastor, Scot Wall, preached on Judges 13:1 – 14:2 and entitled his sermon “Being Committed Could Get You Committed.”  I at first thought that it was an interesting title for this particular passage as this passage focus on the announcement of the Angel of the LORD to Samson’s parents, and Samson’s birth.  However, as he got to verse 2 of Judges 14 I could see how it actually fit together. 

            For those of you who are not overly familiar with this passage I’m simply going to summarize most the passage, and then quote Judges 14:1-2.  In Chapter 13 the Angel of the LORD comes to Samson’s mother, who has been barren to let her know that she was going to give birth to Samson.  Her instructions where very strict because Samson was suppose to be a participant of the Nazirite vow found in Number 6 from his birth to his death, which meant there were certain things his mother also had to avoid as well; touching anything that was unclean, eating or drinking anything related to grapes, and so forth.  For the complete Vow of the Nazirites please read Numbers 6 as this is not the focus of this particular blog post.

            Samson’s parents were told that he would deliver them from the oppression of the Philistines.  However, upon becoming of age, we will look at Judges 14:1-2 and see what happened, “Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines.  So he came back and told his father and mother, I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore, get her for me as a wife. (New American Standard Bible, NASB)” As our pastor mentioned, this was probably a blow to his parents who had expected Samson to deliver the children of Israel from the oppression of the Philistines, not to find pleasure amongst this wicked culture.  If ever you desire to read the account of Samson you can read about him in the book of Judges Chapters 13-16.  Again Samson is not the focus on this blog either.

            In his sermon Pastor Scot started off using some sport analogies.  He was a football player in college, and has coached from the age group of 4-5 yr olds on up to high school.  He spoke about how often times when you look at pro football; it is hard to see the sport as a team sport because everyone wants to be the individual who is the best on the team.  He made the point that if you are playing right tackle, which isn’t a highly known position, you need to be the best right tackle there is.  It was this that initially grabbed my attention, and then he made at least seven application points which got my attention as well.

            So here we are finally looking at the actual focus of this blog, one of the application points that my pastor gave in that sermon and the one that caught my attention the most.  If you are not my friend on Facebook, then you have been missing a very major event that is going on in my life at this point.  As of this last week I was removed from the Nursing program at my community college which I had worked so hard to get into.  I was removed due to missing one too many clinicals due to some personal things that have been going on in my life.  This has been a huge blow to my family and I as we have sacrificed so much for me to get as far as I have, and in fact get into this program.

            When we first moved back to Texas I was working for a company that actually paid me a pretty decent salary.  The biggest issue with the job was the fact that I was gone from 7:00am and often would not get home until 10 or 11 at night.  Add to this that in order to maintain this job I was also working at least one Saturday a month, if not more.  This kept me away from my family, which was not a good thing in any way.  I left this job believing that the LORD had a better plan for me, and so I entered college and began pursuing the prerequisite classes to get into the Associate Degree of Nursing program at Lone Star College Tomball. 

            Many good hearted people, and I am mainly talking about believers, love the passage Romans 8:28.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)” In fact I had a person in the Nursing program as well as fellow officers from Phi Theta Kappa quote this verse to me over this past week.  Our pastor used this verse today, but instead of focusing on the first part of the verse, about God working everything for good, he focused on the ending.  “…those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

            In my most recent post I let you all see a glimpse of what I’ve been going through as of late.  This has lead me to examine myself as the Apostle Paul admonishes in II Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you unless indeed you fail the test. (NASB)” As I examine myself I do believe that indeed I’m a born again child of Jesus Christ.  Since I am a child of God this life is not therefore about me, my desires, or my wants, but instead this life is suppose to be about me bringing glory to my LORD who loved me while I was an enemy (Romans 5:8). 

            Pastor Scot made this application in his sermon, “Commitment is fulfilling the role I have been assigned.” In a lot of ways this application points leads to one of the old age questions of all believers, “What is God’s will for my life?”  In order to answer this point one must examine the roles that they have been assigned.  Currently the roles I have are as follow.  1) I am a child of God.  2) I’m a husband.  3) I’m a father. 4) I’m a student at College.  5) I am an employee for Lone Star College. And 6) I am an employee for Lifeway Christian Stores. 

            Each of these roles is a part of who I am.  As I look at these roles I have to ask myself, am I fulfilling the role I was assigned.  I know that in some of these things I’m growing in day to day, especially in the area of being a husband and a father.  However, I also have to be willing to critique myself, and so am I bringing glory to God in these roles He has placed me in?  Often times I look at these questions and wonder if I can answer them, since I’m so close to the situation.  Then there are times when I know I can answer these questions, and I know the answer is too often, No! I’m not bringing glory to God. 

            So am I writing all of this to beat myself or to have you beat yourself up over the answer?  The answer to that is No! as well. Although, I also do not think that we should not ask these questions of ourselves.  These questions are very important, and need an answer.   Each and every one of us has at least one role that the LORD has assigned to use.  Ephesians 2:8-10 is a section of verses that I share often, and am going to share again.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (NASB)”

            I have been asking myself a lot over the past week or two what is God’s reason for first letting me into the Nursing program, and then allowing me to be removed? I shared this with my mother this week, but I also told her there is this other part of me that knows that I don’t have to know what God’s plan is because He is God, and can do what He wills.  My responsibility is to trust Him and believe in Him without knowing everything He is going to do in my life or the life of my family.

            Circumstances may be very good in your life, or there may be some of you who read this who are in circumstances that you also do not understand.  The title I gave to this blog is “Commitment Regardless of Circumstances”.  I want to tell you not that it is not our responsibility to know what all God is going to use in our lives, or how He is going to use it.  It is simply our responsibility to take up the roles we have been assigned in order to bring Him glory.  Today do not focus on the first part of Romans 8:28 about God working everything out to good, but instead I encourage you all, and myself as well, to focus on the end of that remarkable verse “…to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God has a purpose with where you are, bring glory to Him today.