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5 Stars Out Of 5
Biblical, Gospel-Centered and Practical
June 1, 2011
Practicing Affirmation is written by Sam Crabtree Executive Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. C.J. Mahaney in the endorsements says one should read this book if they are going to speak any words to anyone at any point during the day. In my experience there is a tendency in Christianity to use our words contrary to how the New Testament teaches. Practicing Affirmation calls for a balance in correction one another and in affirming the Christ in a person.
Someone who knew I was reading "Practicing Affirmation" asked me recently what affirmation was. Affirmation is a type of encouragement. Affirmation is not man-centered in that it seeks to praise a person for their accomplishments. Affirmation is thoroughly God-centered because it seeks to commend the evidences of God's grace in a person's life.
Here are some reason why I think you should get a copy of Practicing Affirmation for yourself, your spouse, your family, your friends and all you care about. First, this is a book that is thoroughly biblical. This book doesn't just come to the Bible for answers- it allows the text of Scripture and solid explanation of the Scriptures to bring the answers. Second, this book is practical without compromising the Bible. Many books are practical but not biblical. If you are looking for a book that is self-help in orientation this is not your book. This book is thoroughly grounded in the Scriptures, explains the Gospel and seeks to glorify God. Thirdly, this book will help you balance your use of correction and affirmation. The author spends considerable time answering questions and objections regarding affirmation. In doing so, he helps the reader to think through the issue of affirmation and to be balanced in correction and affirmation.
Finally, practicing affirmation is a deeply convicting and encouraging book. It will convict one's use of the tongue. If you struggle with finding balance in affirming and correcting, or even if you feel you don't have a problem in these areas, I recommend you pick up Practicing Affirmation. In Practicing Affirmation you will learn how to use your tongue and your words in a way that glorifies God and brings spiritual refreshment to others lives.
I am deeply thankful that the Lord has allowed Pastor Sam Crabtree to write this book in order to teach the Church the importance of commending the Christlikeness in others. In other words, the Lord sent this book at the right time in my life to help me be balanced in my correcting and affirming of others. This is a book you should get for your Pastor, your spouse, your family, your friends and your co-workers. Pick up this book, and learn how to affirm the work of Christ in others.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers 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."
Christians live their lives in tension: they worship God, who alone is worthy of praise, and yet minister with people, who do surprisingly commendable things. Often the tension increases: how do we affirm and praise those who are not God? Sam Crabtree's excellent book, Practicing Affirmation, seeks to answer and resolve that tension.
Though just a mere 167 pages (including appendices), Crabtree accomplishes much. In chapter one, entitled "God-Centered Affirmation of Those Who Are Not God," he outlines the essential truth that we must commend what is commendable in those who are not God because any good thing that is accomplished comes ultimately from God. Because humans are made in the image of God, there is always something to be commended.
Chapter 2, entitled "Key to Refreshing Relationships: The Simplicity," sets forth the reason one should affirm others. Crabtree gives several practical reasons why we must affirm one another. The most important, perhaps, is the need to refresh the souls of others. Here, the author gives the basic contours of his thought.
Chapter 3, entitled "Toward Greater Refreshment: The Complexity," goes much deeper, than the previous chapter and seeks to answer the how of affirmation. Here, one could say that the author seeks to outline both the theory and practice of affirmation by giving characteristics of good affirmation.
Chapter 4, entitled "Important Assumptions," strikes me as oddly placed here in the book. This chapter likely should have been placed as an introduction (since it the shortest chapter in the book) since it can be skipped. There are some good points of theology here, but the chapter does little to contribute to the book. Rather, it just breaks up the thought-flow.
Chapter 5, entitled "Mistakes I Have Made," was perhaps the most helpful chapter in the book for this reviewer. While I doubt many would question both the benefit and need of affirmation, many would likely struggle on how to do affirmation well. Here, Crabtree outlines what not to do. Despite what many people might think, affirming others is not based just on practical sense. It can be done poorly and to the detriments of others. This chapter will likely be incredibly helpful to pastors and those in leadership positions.
Chapter 6, entitled "Question and Answers," seeks to answer questions that might have come up that were not answered by the author. At this point within the book, this reviewer must confess, things started getting a bit redundant. In many ways, Crabtree labors tirelessly throughout the book to make sure the reader affirms others well. This chapter is an exercise in fine-tuning, to be sure.
Chapter 7, entitled "Sightings of Jesus," outlines what Christlike character looks like. This chapter is helpful in identifying ways that readers might see Christ in others. Many times, Crabtree introduced new aspects of Christ character that are seldom mentioned. Overall, this was a short, yet important chapter.
Chapter 8, entitled "Mixing Correction With Affirmation," felt like it was covered earlier in the book. While again, this chapter was an exercise in fine-tuning, it was really too short to be of too much use. Again, Crabtree covered his topic so well in previous chapters, that some of the later ones felt almost unncessary.
Chapter 9, entitled "100 Affirmation Ideas for Those Who Feel Stuck," is a great chapter with immense practicality. As the chapter title suggests, it has 100 ideas of affirmation--each creative and useful. Many readers will likely consult this chapter again and again for ideas on how to affirm others.
In conclusion, Practicing Affirmation challenges the reader to look beyond themselves to the needs of others. However, it does more than that: it urges the reader to look beyond themselves and even beyond others to the God who endowed each of us with gifts and abilities that reflect His glory. At least for me, this was a profoundly paradigm shifting book. Anyone who finds themselves in a relationship (whether friendship, work, or romantic) needs to read this book. I am sure that this is a book pastors will be turning to for years on end--I know I will be.
*Thanks to Crossway for providing me a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review*
Sam Crabtree, Executive Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis has just written an excellent book entitled Practicing Affirmation about the necessity of affirmation in the life of every person. He begins the book by focusing on that real affirmation starts when we honor God, for he is the one who has given us 'commendable qualities' we praise others and are praised for (18). The good character that grows as a person matures in their faith is part of continuing effect of saving grace wrought by God through his Son. Secondly, praise and affirmation for the good things people do and say is to by passed onto God (24). It can be very easy to fall into the trap of hearing very good affirmation and as a result being filled with pride and vainglory. Crabtree is careful not to withold praise and affirmation of unbelievers alike, for this 'calls attention to the undeserved grace that God has bestowed upon them in the form of faint echoes of Jesus...' (32).
As Crabtree notes in the second chapter, 'Blessing others is the calling of every Christian' (41). Through many biblical examples, Crabtree draws out the simple fact that refreshing others in affirmation causes ourselves to be affirmed as well. Although easy at first in close relationship, affirmation should not dwindle as time passes but remain a constant activity of every life. Yet, as we can all attest, it is many times much easier to offer a word of complaint or correction to our spouses, children, and co-workers. One clarification that I thought was helpful was Crabtree's insistence that real refreshment from affirmation is to be theirs and 'is to be real refreshment' (49). At this point, I could remember the times I bought my wife something or did something for her with the intent of brinding refreshing to her and in turn it was only what I thought she liked, not what she really enjoyed. Crabtree goes onto tell of a time when his 11 year old daughter shut her parent out for a time. Instead of seeking to figure out the problem and fix the thing, Crabtree slowly through the careful use of affirming words helped bring their daughter back to communication (56-58). The beauty of this story is that even when distress and conflict arises, affirmation calls others back to relationship rather than driving than away to despair.
Chapter 3 was particularly helpful for me in understanding the principles of why we should affirm others. Crabtree bears witness to the fact that affirmation 'lifts morale,' 'energizes people,' 'earns us the right standing from which to make suggestions,' and is a good use of time (72-76). If affirming others for their good character and deeds is part of our every day life, then those around us will also be refreshed to be a refreshment to others. I have noticed in my own life that being refreshed is a constant reminder of good things God is calling me to tackle. Sam's point regarding the relationship between affirmation and our making suggestions is a powerful point indeed from the standpoint of church and family relationships. Suggestions made in the context of home of berating and criticism often lead to distantce in relationships and the breakdown of families. Yet, affirmation can cause us to gain a hearing, not to break someone down, but to call them to live out a Christ-like manner in a even greater way.
Lastly, the chapter on Mistakes I Have Made is full of principles that relate affirmation to our growth as Christians. If we think that affirmation is for specific occasions and moments, Sam warns us that "Affirming others is not optional" (91). If we are able to bring together eloquent words about the majestic creation, how much more should we marvel at God's good work through his people in the building up of their character. Crabtree goes on in this chapter to make a helpful distinction between encouragement and affirmation. Affirmation "looks backward, confirming something that has already happened, already been observed. It commends a reality, not merely a hope," "Encouragement, like cheerleading, often aims for something that has not yet been done" (100). This is not to say that encouragement isn't good, but affirmation is more about the confirming good moral deeds done through the work of the Spirit that display God's work. Encouragement can easily fall into the praise of a future goal that does/does not have any relationship to the growth of character.
Overall, Crabtree's book is a an excellent picture of the purpose, goal, and beauty that comes from affirmation. Pastors, teachers, leaders, seminarians, and especially those who are married (with or without kids) would greatly benefit from a reading of Sam's book.
Thanks to Crossway for providing a copy of this book to review
I can usually tell how good a book is going to be by how much I highlight in the first few pages. If you flip through my copy of this book I am sure you will see more in yellow than in not. I almost used all of a highlighter while reading this book. Maybe it is because I am currently seeking to grow in the area of pastoral care, but this book really spoke to me. Through reading this book I was reminded of so much that I already know but was not practicing. I also had my eyes opened to some new areas of why we need to affirm other people. I have already started to put many of these concepts into practice this week. I am excited to see how God can use the truths taught in this book to continue to mold and shape me.