This is not necessarily the best introduction to the richness of Augustine’s thinking. However, it is an interesting look from a post-Christian perspective. For those of us embedded in a Christian theological context that appreciates Augustine, this is a different view on why Augustine is important.
About a month ago I told you about Bob Kellemen’s new book, Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ. It was a follow up to a book he published last year, Gospel-Centered Counseling. Along the same time that book was released, a volume of essays on the relationship of Scripture and counseling also came out. That was the second book that the Biblical Counseling Coalition published (this was the first). Now, they’ve recently published Biblical Counseling and The Church: God’s Care Through God’s People which is edited by Bob Kellemen and Kevin Carson.
If you look at the titles of the books, there is a nice progression. The first focused on defining counseling, specifically what biblical counseling is and isn’t. The second was essentially asking whether Scripture is generally sufficient for the counseling enterprise. Now, this volume is looking at the relationship of counseling to the local church. As such, it’s not necessarily a read straight thru sort of book. Rather, it is a useful reference for someone who is involved in the shepherding and care of their particular local church. Pastors would do well to have this on their shelf, but so would many small group leaders if they take their role seriously and also want to grow in their ability to shepherd well.
The first part of the book casts the vision for counseling within the local church. A key idea is that if your people are trained well in one-anothering and offering informal biblical counsel, your overall need for serious counseling is diminished (but will never go away because life). In the second part of the book the relationship of counseling and small group ministry is assessed. I found the chapter here on redemption groups particularly interesting since they have recently been implemented in our church by our pastoral resident (who came from Mars Hill and was in a group with the author of this chapter and the book Redemption, Mike Wilkerson). I suppose I could have asked Justin (the resident about the details), but reading this helped me understand the role these groups play in the local church and what their ultimate goal is.
The third part of the book has two chapters dealing with the relationship of biblical counseling, conflict resolution, and church discipline. While brief, this section I’m sure will prove helpful as a reference. The next part of the book is on actually equipping biblical counselors in the local church. An initial chapter casts vision and then the successive chapters offer advice and insight for implementing this kind of ministry in a large church, a midsize church, and then a “smaller” church. The chapters that follows this address implementing the ministry in a more predominantly multicultural church, with a final chapter on ethical concerns. The fifth part of the book is on the relationship of counseling and church outreach, which includes the academy and parachurch organizations.The final part of the book wraps up with a single chapter on biblical counseling in historical perspective and future prospects.
Overall, I think this is a helpful resource for primarily pastors and small group leaders to make use of. Doing counseling is unavoidable if you spend any time involved in discipleship or shepherding small to large groups of people. Because of that, we ought to be equipped to know how to do it well, and many best practices are outlined in the essays in this book. Especially when complimented by the other resources the Biblical Counseling Coalition has released, this book has the depth and accessibility to effectively shape whatever kind of counseling ministry is developing in your local church.
Bob Kellemen (general editor) & Kevin Carson (managing editor), Biblical Counseling and The Church: God’s Care Through God’s People. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, November 2015. 496 pp. Hardcover, $32.99.
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!
One of the books I would have read if I had stayed in the doctoral program at SBTS was A. G. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, and Methods (you can download a PDF here). As I’m moving forward toward still doing Ph.D work, I thought I should read all the books that were part of that opening seminar at SBTS. In this particular book, Sertillanges details the calling and virtues of an intellectual (chapters 1-2), how to organize life (chapter 3), and then the time (chapter 4), the field (chapter 5), the spirit (chapter 6), and the preparation for work (chapter 7). He closes with chapters on creative work (chapter 8) and the man as worker (chapter 9).
It was chapter 7 that really grabbed my attention. While each chapter has roman numeraled subdivisions, this chapter has three headings which have those subdivisions. They are reading, the management of memory, and notes. Keep in mind that all of this is considered “preparation” for work. I’m not sure what your expectations would be for Sertillanges’ thoughts on reading given the title of his book, but they definitely didn’t fit mine.
For starters, he says “The first rule is to read little” (146). Really? I’ve clearly been doing this wrong then. He goes on to say,
The mind is dulled, not fed, by inordinate reading, it is made gradually incapable of reflection and concentration, and therefore of production; it grows inwardly extroverted, if one can so express oneself, becomes the slave of its mental images, of the ebb and flow of ideas on which it has eagerly fastened its attention. This uncontrolled delight is an escape from self; it ousts the intelligence from its function and allows it merely to follow point for point the thoughts of others, to be carried along in the stream of words, developments, chapters, volumes. (147)
He adds some more thoughts (don’t read novels or newspapers, though he qualifies this more later) and then concludes the section saying, “Never read when you can reflect; read only, except in moments of recreation, what concerns the purpose you are pursuing; and read little, so as not to eat up your interior silence” (149).
The main idea in the next section is that intellectuals should “read only those books in which leading ideas are expressed at first hand” (150). He then distinguishes four types of reading in the following section. They are fundamental, accidental, stimulating or edifying, and recreative reading (152). Each of these has its place, and it is obviously important to know what kind of reading you’re doing with any given book. This subsection of the book has three more sections about how to interact with authors and finally on a life of reading.
While I could extract more insights from this section of Sertillanges’ book, I’d like to reflect instead on the block quote above. In my experience, what he says about inordinate reading has proven true. I think two insights follow, one for book reviewing, the other for seminary.
First, you should be careful if you’re planning to be a book reviewer or do a lot of self reading. It can very easily be something that takes a big chunk of your time when you could be doing other worthwhile things. Notice, I didn’t say reading wasn’t worthwhile. It’s just that we can easily fool ourselves into thinking that with reading more is always better. Reading widely and deeply is beneficial. Reading excessively is not necessarily so. If I’ve logged a thousand books on Goodreads but can’t think straight when it’s time to write that article or paper I am to be most pitied. Even more so if my plans for reading interfere with productivity elsewhere.
The danger with being a book reviewer is that you can end up snagging a lot of books to read that aren’t really going anywhere. If you look back at the four categories Sertillanges gives, reading for the sole purpose of a book review is somewhere between stimulating and recreative. It’s certainly not fundamental, but we can very easily shift into thinking it somehow is. The same can happen with personal reading simply because we enjoy the subject matter. However, we eventually may find ourselves trying to read every new thing that comes out and catches our eye. But that isn’t reading “little” as Sertillanges encourages and may involve a lot of wasted time on books that aren’t worth it.
Second, and definitely related, seminary forces a person to read “much.” But the books are wisely chosen by those who know much more than we do. For a season, it is not a bad idea since it is part of the preparatory program you’re enrolled in. As a lifestyle though, I’ve found it to be counter-productive in the four years since I graduated. I was generally reading over and above assigned class reading while at Dallas and I took a full load every semester. After graduating, I more or less continued the volume of reading, but directed to books I would review or simply wanted to read for interest sake. The problem was that I wasn’t necessarily required to do any of that reading, and none of it was being harnessed into any long term intellectual project. I may have read 500 books since I graduated from Dallas, but I only have several hundred reviews to show for it.
All of this is to say that there perils associated with reading too much. As we have sought to recover from the scandal of the evangelical mind in that last 20 or so years, we have prioritized and praised reading, and rightly so. However, for some of us, reading can be overdone and more is not always necessarily better. Take for instance Tim Challies Reading Challenge. While I personally read far over and above the obsessed level, I wouldn’t encourage you to do the same. I would encourage you to use the different categories to broaden your reading (and will most likely do so with mine as well), but I don’t know that you would personally benefit from aiming to read 100 plus books next year as a goal. I don’t know anyone within my current sphere of influence for whom that would be a good idea. While I want people to read more, especially if they are looking to grow as Christians, I tend to think close reading of a few solid books is much better than quick reading of several hundred. Even if you are D. A. Carson.
Thanks to Baker Books, I was able to get a copy of William Hendriksen’s More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of The Book of Revelation. Right now I’m looking at launching a Revelation Bible study in January for college and high school students. I’ve read a few shorter works on Revelation (Poythress and Gorman), as well as Morris’ commentary. I’m planning to use Beale, Mounce, Osborne, Keener, Wright, and Aune for the actual study. Given all that, I thought I’d take advantage of an opportunity to read a short commentary from a well respected and prolific commentator.
Hendrinksen lays out several propositions about the book of Revelation in his introductory chapters:
- The book of Revelation consists of seven sections. They are parallel and each spans the entire new dispensation, form the first to the second coming of Christ. (28)
- The seven sections may be grouped into two major divisions. The first major division (chapters 1-11) consists of three sections. The second major division (chapters 12-22) consists of four sections. These two major divisions reveal a progress in depth or intensity of spiritual conflict. (30)
- The book is one. The principles of human conduct and divine moral government are progressively revealed; the lampstands give rise to the seals, the seals to the trumpets, etc. (41)
- The seven sections of the Apocalypse are arranged in an ascending, climactic order. There is progress in eschatological emphasis. The final judgment is first announced, then introduced, and finally described. Similarly, the new heaven and earth are described more fully in the final section than in those that precede it. (44)
- The fabric of the book consists of moving pictures. The details that pertain to the picture should be interpreted in harmony with its central thought. We should ask two questions. First, what is the entire picture? Second, what is its predominant idea? (48)
- The seals, trumpets, bowls of wrath, and similar symbols refer not to specific events, particular happenings, or details of history, but to principles – of human conduct and of divine moral government – that are operating throughout the history of the world, especially throughout the new dispensation. (51)
- The Apocalypse is rooted in contemporaneous events and circumstances. Its symbols should be interpreted in the light of conditions that prevailed when the book was written. (54)
- The Apocalypse is rooted in the sacred Scriptures. It should be interpreted in harmony with the teachings of the entire Bible. (58)
- The Apocalypse is rooted in the mind and revelation of God. God in Christ is the real Author, and this book contains the purpose of God concerning the history of the Church. (59)
These propositions are stated and defended in the first 6 chapters. Then, Hendriksen validates them further in his commentary proper, which runs for the next 8 chapters. After the first chapters that covers Revelation 1, each successive chapter deals with one of the seven sections that Hendriksen mentions above (2-3; 4-7; 8-11; 12-14; 15-16; 17-19; 20-22). I like his idea that they are parallel, but I’ll need to do a bit more study to be fully convinced. All in all, I’m glad I was able to get a hold of this and start my study early.
Zondervan sent along the next volume in the 5 Solas Series, David Vandrunen’s God’s Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life. This volume is about 100 pages shorted than Schreiner’s. At the same time, there isn’t much present controversy attached to Soli Deo Gloria as there is with Sola Fide. Perhaps some of that is due to it being the overlooked sola of the five. Regardless, readers would do well to explore it using Vandrunen’s work here as a guide.
His book has three sections. The first is a kind of historical survey of the Glory of God in Reformed Theology. The second provides a biblical theology of the Glory of God in Scripture starting with the cloud in Exodus and moving to the incarnation and ultimately the glorification of God’s people. The final part tackles some practical concerns. The first two, Prayer and Worship in an Age of Distraction and The Fear of The Lord in an Age of Narcissism are particularly relevant and may constitute the chief contribution of this book to your thinking. The final chapter moves into some of the two kingdoms theology that comes from Westminster West and of which Vandrunen has previously written on (here for instance). I’m not a fan, but it doesn’t detract from the overall value of Vandrunen’s contribution to this promising series.
Finally, thanks to Crossway’s eBook program, I was able to get The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry (you can read a sample here). Drawing on years of pastoral experience, author R. Kent Hughes and contributing editor Douglas Sean O’Donnell offer exactly what the subtitle of the book suggests. This fairly large (almost 600 pg) volume is divided into three parts. The first focuses on Christian gatherings with chapters on Sunday worship, annual services, weddings, and funerals. Each chapter is a balanced combination of theoretical foundations and actual practical advice and resources. So for instance, the chapter on weddings not only gives tips for how to structure a wedding service, readers are provided with 10 sample wedding homilies as well as a short guide on implementing pre-marital counseling.
In the second part of the book, the focus shifts to the various parts of a public worship service. Here, readers are given chapters on public prayer, Christian creeds, hymns and songs, baptism, and communion. Once again, and especially in the latter two, readers have strong theological foundations coupled with nuts and bolts advice for leading well. This continues into the final part of the book on ministerial duties. Two in particular are highlighted: pastoral counseling and hospital visitations. An appendix returns to weddings and offers sample wedding services from various church contexts.
There is certainly much to glean and use in this book. Large sections of it could be profitably read for theological development. However most of it is more obviously reference type material that would be consulted as needed. I wish I had a book like this when I was preparing to officiate a wedding for the first time. I had somewhat of a blank slate to work with and think I put together a fairly good wedding homily that I can re-use and adapt as needed. But, I would have put together an even better one had I had the chapter in here with all the wisdom for not only the wedding service itself, but the pre-marital counseling leading up to the marriage. I will most definitely come back and consult this before officiating or counseling again.
As a new Thanksgiving (more or less) tradition, Ali and I went to see the most recent and last installment of The Hunger Games. We were both thankful we had a good meal beforehand and that we don’t live in Panem. I haven’t read the books but Ali said Mockingjay Part 1 was the best book to movie adaptation she has seen and that this one was even better than the book. If you want to argue that, I guess you’ll have to figure out how to take that up with her. Also, I realize that only the first movies is “The Hunger Games” and that the second was “Catching Fire.” But, much like Game of Thrones, the title of the first book gets imposed on the series (which is maybe more intentional in this case).
I’ve written about The Hunger Games before, but that was three years ago and in reference to the first installment. Having seen them all now, here some random thoughts.
First, I tend to really hate the middle of each movie. Even knowing how the whole series ended before watching the first movie, I really didn’t like the intensity of the “fight for life” segment that takes up the main part of each movie. The “arena” where this fight takes place shifts in each movie, coming ever closer and closer to the heart of The Capitol. In each case though, Katniss always seems to be up against a severe and brutal assault engineered by The Capitol. Since you’re identifying with her, you feel the brutality of it, and I just don’t enjoy that as a form of entertainment. However…
Second, while we’re on the subject of identification, D. L. Mayfield makes a fascinating point in her article on the movie at Christ and Pop Culture:
Instead of Katniss, the person I think Suzanne Collins meant for us to truly identify with is Effie Trinket–the preposterous, good-hearted, naive accomplice and benefactor of the Capitol. We love her because she is silly and distracted but ultimately not responsible for the evils of her country. At the end of this film she kisses Katniss and wipes away a tear or two from her flickering blue eyelashes. Life will go on for her, we understand, in a somewhat normal way. Removed from the real violence and cost, Effie never fully understands her participation nor the consequences of the politics of oppression that dictated Panem. She herself had been a consumer of this story of Katniss, the Mockingjay, since the beginning. She sheds a tear and then moves on, a result of living and growing up within the capitol, a result of being on the dominant side of history. If Effie has been permanently affected by the violence and horror of both the Hunger Games and the subsequent casualties of war, we don’t get to see it. And in a way, we hope she doesn’t.
We want life to go on as normal. We want to escape the realities of the world we live in. So we blink back our own few tears, get out of our seats, and leave the theater. We try, just like Effie, to forget all that we have seen and know, because that is the easier way to live.
I think this is right on, at least in terms of The Hunger Games as cultural critique. The majority of people who reads the books or see the movies are not Katnisses. They are not oppressed and in need of some salvation from the horrors of everyday life (at least at the cultural level). They are instead, like Effie: part of the dominant culture and generally not affected by the plight of those less fortunate. We may collide with it here and there, but that’s about it. That is probably part of why I don’t enjoy the fight for life as a form of entertainment. There’s a sense in which is shouldn’t be entertaining because it can too easily map onto real life struggles of people in our current world, not necessarily some future dystopia. For more on that point, you should read the rest of the article.
Lastly, I couldn’t help but think of Katniss as a kind of counterpoint to The Dark Knight’s joker. Think about it from the perspective of The Capitol residents. Here, I’ll put in analogical form:
Katniss : Capitol residents :: Joker : Gotham residents
To the Capitol residents, Katniss is an agent of chaos, eventually upending their way of life and disrupting the status quo. We view this a good thing in The Hunger Games and a bad thing in The Dark Knight. Because we are viewing things from Katniss’ point of view, her actions are a little more understandable (and sometimes predictable) than the Joker. However, she has a consistent pattern of playing by her own rules and asserting her own will to power in the pursuit of liberating the oppressed. I tend to wonder if Nietzsche would be comfortable calling her an Überfrau. For her perpetual assaults on the status quo, she might very well earn that title. She is certainly doing so on her own terms, an important existential prerequisite. She also celebrates life in all its forms, but is not afraid to kill if it suits her. All lives matter, but dictators must die.
For the past couple of years, I’ve frequently offered an “Ask Anything Friday” class period for my students. I think it started toward the end of the 2013-2014 school year and then became a regular feature in 14-15. This year, I actually came up with a system for making it more efficient, instead of it being purely off the cuff.
For the juniors and seniors, it is pretty much every Friday. Earlier in the week they submit a question through this form:
Then, I pull up the questions in class in a spreadsheet. I copy over the questions so they can be displayed in class without names attached. This gives students the option to ask questions without feeling dumb, since I’m the only one who will know who asked which question. It also allows for sensitive questions to be asked without people knowing the identity of the asker.
My goal has been to provide a forum for high school students to feel comfortable asking pretty much anything about the Bible, theology, ethics, or occasionally, my personal life. Because they now submit questions ahead of time, I have the option to prepare answers, but I generally prefer to shoot from the hip, so I don’t actually look at the questions until they show up on Friday. I would rather go off what I can answer off the top of my head, and if the question does prompt further research, I’d rather admit limited knowledge and then model the research process. Sometimes, I’ll go through that process in class to demonstrate how to effectively find answers to the questions the students have instead of just handing out the answers. Other times, I’ll do the research on my own and come back the following Friday with a follow up.
After having done this for a while now, I thought it might be beneficial to open this up to blog readers. If you’d like to submit questions that get answered in a blog post, you can submit them through the form above, or bookmark this link. Instead of listing a period (since you don’t go to my school), but “Blog” in the period so I can effectively sort it in the spreadsheet. I can’t guarantee I’ll answer every single question, but I can sure try!
Following up from my Tuesday’s post, sometimes it’s a good idea to give seminary a try before fully committing to take classes. Thanks to Dallas Seminary, you can take a full-blown class for free. Specifically, you can take The Gospel of John with Dr. Mark Bailey (the seminary president and Bible exposition prof). The course is delivered by e-mail once a week for 8 weeks. Each week includes a video lecture, reflection questions, and resource suggestions for further and deeper study.
While this is a great option, it’s not the only option to try out seminary. Even while I was at Dallas, I profited from listening to lectures on iTunesU from Westminster and Reformed Theological Seminaries. The latter, RTS, has really developed their online modules since then (this was 6-7 years ago) and now you are basically getting everything you would get by taking a class. Well, that is except, homework, grades, and class interaction. I’m sure you’re fine without the first two, but I know many people thrive on the last one. For many, that might be a big part of why they go to class in the first place. If that’s you, online classes as a trial won’t give you the real feel for a class, or be a long term solution. But, if you listen online lectures and don’t wish you were there to be able to interact, that probably means you might not really enjoy class even if you could be there.
All of this to say, check out the class from Dallas. If you’re thinking about seminary, it’s a good way to try out a real class. Even if you’re not, but you’d like to know the Bible better, this is a great example of how you can go about doing that without relocating and/or spending money to further your education.
Back in the spring, I claimed I was re-booting my Genesis series. At this point, clearly that was wishful thinking. I did however review John Walton’s latest on the subject, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, as well as a multi-view book, Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? After reading the latter book, I was curious about Gordon Wenham’s thoughts in more detail. I’ve since added his Genesis commentaries (vol 2.) to my Logos library, but before that I read his Didsbury lectures, Rethinking Genesis 1-11: Gateway to the Bible.
You may not have heard of the Didsbury Lecture series, but I’m guessing you’ve heard of N. T. Wright and his book Surprised By Hope? He hashed out some of the ideas in that by giving the Didsbury Lectures in 2005 (under the same title as the book). In 2013, Gordon Wenham gave the lectures on Genesis 1-11 and Cascade Books published them (and others). All of this to say, this might be a slim volume, but it is already a more expansive treatment of the early chapters than Wenham could offer in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? and it was helpful for him to point readers this way.
You could probably read this book on a nice Saturday afternoon (or whenever your regular reading time is). It is five chapters and the main text is under 75 pages. The first chapters is focused exclusively on Genesis 1. Wenham interacts some with John Walton’s view and gives a defense of his own “proto-history” view on the opening chapter of Genesis. Chapter 2 reads Genesis 2-4 closely. Chiasms emerge like you’ve never believe. Chapter 3 then turns to the flood and Genesis 6-9. Again, chiasms everywhere and this time Babylonian parallels for good measure. The final full chapter looks at Genesis 5-11. You’ll notice Genesis 5 was skipped earlier, and 6-9 have already been covered. Here though Wenham talks about the infamous Genesis 6:1-4 section and how it parallels Eve’s fall in chapter 3 (look at the verbs leading up to the transgression). He also wisely sees the sons of God as spirit beings, a point Mike Heiser has defended extensively in his recent book. From here, Wenham looks at the Babel incident in more detail, and oh, I meant to mention he has already talked about how significant the genealogies are. The final chapter is an epilogue and gets into wider issues of biblical theology and modern science (very briefly).
Wenham has extensive experience as an Old Testament commentator and careful exegete. In this book he brings that to bear on the early chapters of Genesis and does so in a highly readable way (probably because these were lectures). If you’re at all interested in understanding the early chapters of Genesis better, you ought to pick up this slim volume. You won’t necessarily agree with everything he argues (unless you’re a sycophant), but his analysis should stretch your thinking on how to best understanding the gateway to the Bible.
Buy it: Amazon
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to Cascade Books for the review copy!
Shortly before I started this series, Kevin DeYoung posted 7 questions you should ask yourself before you pick a seminary:
- What do I want to do with a seminary degree?
- Is the seminary fully committed to the authority of the Bible at every level of the institution?
- Have you thought about the tradition you want to be a part of?
- What is the community like?
- Who will be teaching you?
- What courses will you be required to take?
- What are their graduates like?
I think these are very useful questions, but the first question deserves more time and attention than the latter six. They all deserve some thought, and as part of this on-going series, I think I’ll take a stab at answering each in turn. However, I’m going to group them like this:
- Should I go to seminary? (1 above)
- Where should I go to seminary? (2, 4, 7)
- What should I learn in seminary? (3, 5, 6)
You could make the case that the latter two questions really could even be combined. But, for space, I think it’s worth separating where you should go (focusing on type of school and overall logistics) from what you should learn (considerations of tradition, class, and profs). Before getting to that, let’s consider why you might want to go in the first place.
Having worked with college students for a few years now, I’ve started to see what I call “The Word of Life Effect.” Word of Life is a small Bible Institute with a main campus in Schroon Lake, New York, and an extension campus in Hudson, Florida (basically redneck north Tampa). I went to the Florida campus for what was my freshman year of college. It was there that my affections for pursuing God through studying the Bible was awakened. I also was affirmed in the gift of teaching by one of the professors there who suggested that I consider pursuing seminary. I had never thought of that, or teaching before, although at this point I had been teaching private music lessons for several years.
Now, the awakening of the affections and the beginning to take your own faith seriously is what I call “The Word of Life Effect” mainly because it happened to so many people I went to school with. The effect is that in taking your faith seriously, you immediately sense that you should be in full-time ministry. Often, you want to go big or go home, and so if you’re at Word of Life, you’ll strongly consider wanting to be a missionary to some Third World country. If you’re here and say went to Passion or something similar and that ended up being the spark that set ablaze the kindling in your soul, the same effect can happen.
Because this often happens around college age and when major life decisions are still in flux, it can easily be misinterpreted. By starting to take your faith seriously and realizing that you are called to a life on mission, you can abandon other career aspirations thinking a life on mission requires working in a church or some para-church ministry. At Word of Life, it was often presented, if not directly vocalized, that the greatest thing you could do as a Christian was go be a missionary somewhere. The natural conclusion was that you if you were going to take your faith seriously, you’d better start thinking about where you were going to go.
What was missing – and I should note, may have changed since I was there – was reinforcing the idea that many people can and should take “secular” jobs and let that be where they are on mission. In one sense, the Word of Life emphasis was right, you should pursue a life of mission. However, that might very well entail being a doctor, dentist, engineer, accountant, or some other career. What’s more, if you choose one of those career paths, you could still do it overseas somewhere, and might have a better chance of getting into the country.
With all this in mind, answering the question of whether or not you should go to seminary comes after settling what kind of mission you’re on. You may have a really strong desire to serve others and share Christ, but might have a passion to work in some other non ministry related field as well. I’d pursue that first. In my case, although I had a full ride scholarship to study recording engineering, I wasn’t particularly sold on that as a career path. When seminary was suggested and I felt affirmed that I could be a good Bible teacher, I decided that was what I wanted to pursue.
That, I think, might be a good indicator of whether you should go to seminary. If you have the gift of teaching, seminary will help you develop that as well as give you credentials to do that on a wider scale. If you don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t go, but it should give you pause before your pursuit. The basic seminary degree (M.Div) seems very much designed to facilitate growth as a teacher of the Bible. If that’s not really you, then you’re potentially going to school for a degree that doesn’t fit your giftings. There are other degree options, and that’s something to think through when we talk about what you should learn in seminary. For now, if you definitely want to pursue training for ministry and most likely want to do ministry as a full-time job, then you should go to seminary. Since they are many other hypothetical positions you could have, I’ll leave it to comments to talk through the other options.
I don’t tend to put a lot of stock in book blurbs. However, when it’s a book on discipleship and wide-range of pastors from a wide-range of backgrounds endorse it, I think that’s worth something. While there is certainly not a shortage of books on discipleship, some have more to offer than others. What makes Robby Gallaty’s Rediscovering Discipleship interesting to me is his focus on understanding how Jesus approached discipleship.
The first part of the book is devoted to this topic and draws heavily on Jewish studies to illuminate the first century context. I had brief Rob Bell flashbacks while reading, but found the insights to be solid. The first chapter gives a general overview of how rabbis discipled others. Chapter 2 nudges readers to “think like a Hebrew” and sketches out the contours of a Hebrew worldview. Chapter 3 deepens this by focusing on how visual the teaching of Jesus was. Chapter 4 gives background on the sociological dimensions of Jesus’ choosing of his disciples (and how it was counter-cultural). The remaining three chapters in this part of the book turn to explaining how discipleship fell on hard times in the local church. Particularly interesting and helpful here is Gallaty’s explanation of discipleship post-Reformation and then Wesley’s role in systematizing it.
The second part of the book unpacks Gallaty’s method of disciple-making and ends with helpful answers to frequently asked questions. It essentially comes to discipleship groups of 3-6 people that have the MARCS of a healthy group:
None of this is particularly revolutionary. Given that, if you’ve read widely on this topic, I don’t think you’ll glean any insights that are radically new. You might in the early part of the book, which I found particularly insightful. The strength of Gallaty’s book is not necessarily a new method, but perhaps a new framework (the Jewish first century background) to illuminate that method, and a narrative that explains why discipleship has fallen away in recent times and why it’s difficult in our current culture. The title then is apt as Gallaty is helping readers rediscover something that isn’t new. Rather, it’s something that is very hit or miss in the local churches in our culture.
In that light, I think Gallaty’s book is most helpful to people who have attempted to disciple others and not found much success. His book can help explain why and give the insight needed to press on faithfully. It is also encouraging and empowering for people who haven’t been involved in discipleship. Gallaty takes the command to make disciples seriously, but this isn’t the kind of book that will make people who haven’t discipled feel guilty. Instead, he guides readers by giving them the tools they would need to successfully start discipling others. I would say that everyone is capable of discipling someone else, or even multiple someone else’s. With a brief guide like this, you’ll have what you need to get started.
Robby Gallaty, Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, October 2015. 240 pp. Paperback, $15.99.
Buy it: Amazon
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!