Book Review : Awakening; How America Can Turn From Economic and Moral Destruction to Greatness

awakeningI would dare say that little argument can be found over the notion that the United States has lost/is gaining ground as a leader among other nations. Signs pointing to this reality are clear and increasing. It seems every day that another block is removed from the conservative foundation that this great nation was built upon. It has been argued that Rome fell, not because of an outside military threat, but fell because of inward corruption. Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, in his new book, “Awakening; How America Can Turn From Economic and Moral Destruction Back to Greatness”, seems to agree as he writes, “Similarly in America, the most lethal threat to freedom today comes not from a foreign military opponent. It comes from within.” The faces of this internal corrosion include, but are not limited to tax-payer funded abortion, bi-partisan conflict in Congress, weakened foreign policy, economic slowdown bordering on depression, an overstretched and burdened military, exponential growth in the national debt, government sanctioned persecution of the Christian faith as seen in IRS harassment, assaults on the institution of marriage, rises in pornography, gambling, human trafficking, and many other moral issues.

Reed sets the stage for a comeback with a sobering picture of what a prosperous and conservative America looks like. He begins by describing what is a called spiritual cycles. This refers to the course that a country runs from prosperity to want. He uses the nation of Israel as an example. The Bible gives us an up close picture of a nation that went from good to bad to good. Spiritual cycles, as Reed writes, move through a series of six stages, “Faith leading to obedience to God’s laws, obedience creating abundance, abundance leading to pride, pride leading to apostasy, apostasy leading to defeat and judgment, and repentance leading back to faith.” Reed shows how America was on the front side of this cycle as a nation built upon Judeo-Christian values. He also shows how America prospered under the leadership of President Ronal Reagan. This is section entitled “In Motion”, or what America looked like before the wheels starting coming off the cart.

In the second section, entitled “Off Course”, Reed demonstrates how America, now under the leadership of a President Barrack Obama, who is the polar opposite of Ronald Reagan, is languishing in the fourth and fifth part of the spiritual cycle. Reed cites matters such as a disregard for sanctity of the US Constitution, his spoken support of same-sex marriage, failure to act decisively in foreign policy matters, and increasing the dependency of the poor on government services as the signs of a dangerous drifting from conservative roots. In Section Three, “Awakening”, Reed gives the steps that we can take to bring America back to greatness. His steps are: The Reenergizing of Lincoln’s Party, A Bold Pro-Family Plan, and A Call to Christian Citizenship.

Reed has written a great book. I really enjoyed Reed’s background on the forming of America as a conservative nation. This is very helpful. I also liked how Reed set the presidencies of Reagan and Obama alongside each other using the words and press reports from each presidency. The book becomes a summary of the failures of the current administration. I have no problem with this, but I am sure Democrats will take issue here. All in all, Awakening is a well-researched, passionately written clarion call to return to the moorings that made America great.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Worthy Publishers 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.”

Worth Repeating : James Dennison

“The scene is one of the most breathtaking in all of Scripture. An itinerant Galilean carpenter stands surrounded by twelve very ordinary men. At the moment, the leaders of nations are plotting to destroy him as a dangerous heretic. He stands in an area which illustrates the conflict and power of religions more than any other place in the world – Caesarea-Philippi, north of Galilee.

At least fourteen temples to Baal lay scattered about the area, reminders of Canaanite paganism. Nearby is a deep cavern where the Greeks said their god, Pan, was born. The entire region is symbolic of Greek mythology. Adjacent stands the great temple of white marble built to the deity of Caesar by Herod the Great, emblematic of Roman emperor worship. And the Jews believed that their sacred Jordan River originated from beneath this very mountain. Behind Jesus stands a gigantic rock formation, with a cave which is deeper than we are able to measure to this day. It was called the “gates of Hades,” and was widely believed to be the doorway to the underworld.

It was and is an intimidating place. I’ve stood at this spot, and I remember it well. But here Jesus uttered words which astounded his followers: ‘On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18). Hades would not attack the church – this small band of men would attack Hades. And neither Hades, the pagan religions, nor the power of the Roman and Jewish rulers would prevail. Jesus’ church would assault the very gates of hell with the gospel – and win. The church was Jesus’ strategy for reaching a lost world.

And this strategy worked, amid some of the greatest ecotones in history. As Jewish and Gentile cultures clashed, the gospel thrived (Acts 10-11). As East met West, the church grew and prospered (Acts 16). When the gospel came to Rome itself, it took root and flowered (Acts 28). As the Roman Empire crumbled and fell, the church mushroomed in power. The strategy worked.

Across the centuries of ecotonic clashes, the church has remained Jesus’ answer to world evangelization. In a millennium of Dark Ages the gospel spread, and the church grew. In the midst of Enlightenment attacks it experienced Great Awakenings. The Industrial Age saw the greatest missionary expansion to point in history.

And our century, with two world wars and the greatest rate of change in human history, has witnessed unprecedented growth in Christian missions. According to church growth expert George Otis Jr, about 70 percent of all progress toward evangelizing the world has taken place since 1900. Seventy percent of that growth has occurred since World War II.

Now, in another ecotonic time, the church is still Jesus’ strategy for world evangelization. Change is nothing new. Only Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He still intends to reach the world through his church.”

James Dennison, from Missiology; An Introduction to the Foundations, History, and Strategies of World Missions. 1998

Book Review : Persecuted – The Global Assault on Christians

persecutedWestern Christians enjoy many freedoms when it comes to their freedom. They are free to assemble in the houses of worship unhindered and free from the threat of physical harm. Christian radio, television, and publications stand beside mainstream secular media and is enjoying success and influence. Christians outwardly wear visible symbols of their faith in their clothing and jewelry without fear of reprisal. They are able to carry a Bible anywhere and engage people with the message of Jesus Christ. However, Christians around the world do not enjoy such freedom and luxury. In their new book, “Persecuted; The Global Assault of Christianity”, authors Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea bring to bear on the minds of the reader what the Pew Research Center, Newsweek, and other research authorities have found to be true through extensive research. In their words, “Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today.” They show us that the persecutions Christians around the world face are not the western picture of persecution. Western Christians feel persecuted if they cannot pray in school, display their Bible in the office, or are rejected when they present the gospel to a lost person. Again, in the author’s words, “what we mean by persecution in this book is that there are Christians in the countries of focus who are tortured, raped, imprisoned, or killed for their faith.”

“Persecuted” takes a sobering look at the conditions that Christians are living in around the world. They acknowledge that all religions experience types of suffering (natural disasters, disease, famine, etc.). When it comes to persecution, their focus is “solely on the suffering inflicted on people at least in part because they are Christians  – suffering they would not have had to endure if they were not believers in Jesus.” Before the authors share stories and examples of worldwide persecution, they give the causes of such persecution. They write, “Most persecution of Christians springs from one of three causes. First is the hunger for total political control, exhibited by the Communist and post-Communist regimes. The second is the desire by some to preserve Hindu or Buddhist privilege, as is evident in South Asia. The third is radical Islam’s urge for religious dominance, which at present is generating expanding global crisis. The chosen layout of the book is most helpful and interesting. Forms and types of persecution are specific to countries and individual customs. Basically the five primary subsets of the world’s population are highlighted.

The first subset, seen in chapter two: Caesar and God, highlights countries such as China, Vietnam, and North Korea. Christianity is a threat here due to the absolute rule of government leaders. The second subset, seen in chapter three: Post-Community Countries, highlights such countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus. The freedom of Christianity is a threat here due to the practices of rule consistent with communism. The third subset, seen in chapter four: South Asia’s Christian Outcastes, highlights countries such as India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The evangelical nature of Christianity is a threat to the intense belief of Hindus and Buddhists that the people and land are ties to a specific faith. The fourth subset, seen in chapters five through eight: The Muslim World, highlight countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, and Indonesia. Christianity is at odds with the fastest-growing religion in the world today: Islam. The fifth subset, seen in chapter nine: Cruel and Usual Abuse, highlight such countries as Burma, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. In these regions that have a heavy militarized government, Christianity’s desire for an independent church is directly opposed to the wishes of self-serving governments.

“Persecuted” gives dozens and dozens of cases of persecution. There are too many to list them all. Here is a summary of the types of persecution that Christians are enduring simply because they are Christians: torture, rape, false imprisonment, seizure of personal property, homes burned, oppressing registration requirements, church raids, harassment, separate laws for Christians, no benefit of legal systems, church bombings, anti-conversion laws, and public execution. At the conclusion of the book, the authors offer a Call to Action: a list of activities everyone can be involved in to support the persecuted church worldwide. Such activities as prayer, reporting, legal action, and financial support to organizations working to stamp out persecution are offered. “Persecuted” is a marvelous work. It is informative, humbling, well-researched, and convicting. I believe it is a must read for all Christians. By doing so, the reader will be reminded of how blessed the Western Christian church is and how genuine sacrifice and surrender to the will of Christ is being lived out through the persecuted church. Too good to miss.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers 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.”


Recommended Reading

People read for different reasons. Some read for pleasure and to relieve stress. Some read for information. Still others read with a desire to learn something that can change their lives. I am of the latter. If I read a book and gain insight on becoming a better husband, father, pastor, or witness then I consider my time in that book was not wasted.

If you have a passion and desire to know what and how the unchurched person thinks, I would like to recommend a book to you. That book is: The Unchurched Next Door by Thom Rainer. (By now you have figured out that I enjoy Rainer’s work). The book is centered around research conducted with 306 unchurched people in all 50 states and Canada, across all ethnic groups, all social backgrounds, all educational levels and ages. Simply put, the research team spent hundreds of hours listening to the unchurched. Researchers asked questions about their belief in key areas such as the existence of heaven/hell, who God and Jesus are to them, the reliability of the Bible, their prayer life, and possible church attendance.

The research was compiled and the responses were groups into one of five faith stages. This rating became known as the Rainer Scale. It looks like this:

U5 – Highly resistant to the gospel, antagonistic attitude
U4 – Resistant to the gospel, but not an antagonistic attitude
U3 – No apparent receptivity, neutral, perhaps open to discussion
U2 – Receptive to the gospel and to the church
U1 – Highly receptive to the gospel, “the Philipian jailer”


This book, in my opinion, does a fantastic job of dealing with three key areas that I feel the church today struggles to understand. First, a thorough description is given as to what the unchurched look like at every faith level. Second, recommendations are given on how to interact with the unchurched at every faith stage. Third, suggestions on how to move an unchurched person down the scale toward increased receptivity. This book has led me to change the way I personally look the unchurched. They are not all alike. Information is power. If you have a heart for those not yet connected to God’s church, you will be encouraged by this book.



Surprising Insights : Part #6

Chapter 6 is a straight forward and a no-nonsense chapter. A good reminder. This chapter deals with the issue of doctrine and the importance of it in the mind of the unchurched. A false assumption is put to rest by the research conducted in the writing of this book. The false assumption is that you have to water down and compromise on sound biblical truth in order to reach an unchurched person. The point I found most interesting was the unchurched were looking for absolutes. The doctrine of the church provided absolutes in a culture where very few exist. The unchurched also looked to the church to actually believe and live out the doctrine they say is important. As a church, we must keep a focus on the importance of living before the world what we say with our mouths to be important. The unchurched are counting on it.

Surprising Insights : Part #5

Once the individual comes to the church, what will cause them to stay? Chapter 5 answers this question. Rainer lists six issues that were key for keeping members and increasing the return of guests.

1. Doctrine Clarified

2. High Expectations

3. An “Entry Point” Class

4. Small Groups and Sunday School

5. Clarity of Purpose

6. Ministry Involvement

Surprising Insights : Part #3

Chapter 3 handles an issue that I have always felt to be the most important to an individual connecting to the church. I am glad to see the research supports it. I read recently where it was stated that a person who is new (or returning) to the church needed to establish at least seven meaningful relationships. These relationships help to connect them to the body of Christ. Rainer gives us five conclusions as  it relates to relationships.

1. Relationships are very important.

2. Rarely do relationships alone explain the best way to reach the unchurched.

3. God sometimes works to reach the unchurched without using any relationships.

4. Family relationships are the msot important.

5. The wife is the most important relationships in reaching the unchuched.

Surprising Insights : Part #2

Chapter 2 of this book speaks to the impact that the pastor and his preaching had in the formerly unchurched becoming connected to the church. I am not going to spend a great deal of time here for the fear of sounding braggish. That being said, the pastor has a vital role in reaching the unchurched. Through the research of 353 formerly unchurched people, when asked, “Did the pastor and his preaching play a part in your coming to the church?” 97% answered “yes”. This chapter gives 8 factors that relate to the influence the pastor had on the unchurched. I’ll list the top 4.

1. Preaching That Teaches

2. Preaching That Applies To My life

3. Authenticity of the Pastor

4. Pastor’s Convictions

Surprising Insights – Part #1

Today, I am beginning my review of Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them by Thom Rainer.

This book is a research project. If you enjoy research, you will enjoy this book. Surprising Insights is about the formerly unchurched and their journey to becoming active in the local church. The goal then is to study what moved them to the church and develop strategies to reach the millions who were previously like them. The working definintion of formerly unchurched, according to Rainer is, one who has not been in church except sporadically, for at least ten years, but has recently become active in a church.

America is becoming an increasingly unchurched country as each generation passes. Chapter one gives the telling statistics. Only 41% of Americans attend church services on a typical weekend. In America, at the printing of this book (2001), it takes 85 church members to reach one person for Jesus Christ. I have a feeling that number is higher in 2009.

The bulk of this chapter covers nine myths the formerly unchurched destroyed about reaching the unchurched population. I have to admit, I have been guilty of believing at least one of these myths. I list them here for you to consider.

1. Most unchurched think and act like Anglo, middle-class suburbanites with no church background.

2. The unchurched are turned off by by denominational names in the church name.

3. The unchurched never attend church.

4. The unchurched cannot be reached by direct personal evangelism.

5. The Pastor must be a dynamic and charismatic leader for the church to reach the unchurched.

6. We must be careful in our teaching and preaching so that we do not communicate deep and complex biblical truths that will confuse the unchurched.

7. The Sunday School and other small groups are ineffective in attracting the unchurched.

8. The most important evangelistic relationships take place in the marketplace.

9. The unchurched are only concerned about their own needs.


Book Review – Simple Life

simplelifeI am embarking on something new to me. I am going to write my first book review. Understand, this is not a critique. Who am I to critique another author when I have not authored. One of my favorite authors is Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources. He writes with such passion about the church, the unchurched, and the pursuit of Christ that his books, to me, are addicting. He even has a way of making books based on research and numbers challenge you in your Christian walk, especially if you are a leader.

Dr. Rainer’s latest book, “Simple Life” makes use of  the teachings of his bestseller “Simple Church”. In his new book, he guides the reader to pursue balance betwee four critical area of life: God, time, relationships, and money.  If this book is anywhere near as good as “Simple Church”, it will be well worth the time spent in reading.

The book has 305 pages, containing sixteen chapters which are housed in four main sections. My intent is read each section an then come back here and review that section. I will then give an overall review at the end. In the event there is a particular chapter that is beneficial to the reader here, I will review that chapter alone. At times, there will be other posts scattered in between the book reviews. If you are a reader of this blog, help me with accountability. I am looking forward to this read and even more to shring my thoughts with you.