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A Cluttered Mind
3 Stars Out Of 5
Timely, weighty, helpful for leaders
March 15, 2012
A Cluttered Mind
This book comes at a timely moment for me, as pastor of a church that is concerned about continuing a pattern of godly, biblical training for all ages. For the last 15 years, we've attempted (not without struggles, mind you) to create a more favorable multi-generational approach to Christian Education. We don't want our children to feel isolated. This is the problem that so often leads to teens abandoning the church once they've left home--they've never been made to feel like they belong there in the first place. We also want our parents to realize that what we offer at the church is not to be the frontline of discipleship for their children: they are!
Trained in the Fear of God might not be the easiest book to read, at least in the opening portion, as the authors lay out some of the historical background, but if you're willing to dig deep here, it lays a good foundation for where we need to go next. The practical sections will give the most help, but don't neglect the foundational building blocks of the theological reasons "why" we should be involved in family-equipping ministry. If you just jump to the "how to's" you'll simply be adding programs to your church--something you don't need to do.
I would recommend this book to leaders within churches, both vocational and lay leaders. I'm convinced the future demands that we take this approach. I recommend it for parents as well, but my initial thought is they may need encouragement to stick with the reading. It almost comes across as more of an academic, college-class-type of approach and most moms and dads aren't going to tackle something on that level, especially if they're feeling "desperate."
There are so many books to be read . . . some cover to cover and some browsed as a reference. I found this book difficult to get into initially but when I got over my need to read every word, I was able to appreciate the overview and thoughts presented.
I found the crux of the book to address the much needed topic of getting the family involved in the church community. There are many schools of thoughts on how to reach people and present the gospel to children and adults alike.The initial thought that I found interesting is how much our modern churches focus on separating each individual group. We have "children's ministry" and "Sunday school" and "men's breakfasts" and "ladies bible studies" and "vacation bible studies" and all of these are fantastic and serve their purpose. But how often do we focus on integrating the whole family as one group to teach, grow and involve?
There are so many things we know but don't do on a daily basis. In the home, it's having dinner together and asking each other questions about the day. This can be such an amazing time of fellowship and deep conversation and teaching and laughter. What is the church equivalent of "dinner at the table"? And how as a congregation are we encouraging such growth?
Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones combine thoughts and ideas from many resources and present clear, practical tips and ideas for the church to equip, encourage, and minister to the family.
"Trained in the Fear of God" is a book I cannot recommend.
The introduction held promise. I quickly grabbed my highlighter and pen and prepared to learn all I could about family ministry, about equipping parents to teach their children instead of relying on the church to do the job alone. The introduction made all kinds of promises, but the book fell far short of keeping most.
The first two chapters show readers what family looks like in the Old and New Testaments. The information is dry, nothing new, but scripturally accurate.
A chapter on the Trinity follows. This chapter is just bizarre. The title is "The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit." But the author tries to convince the reader that they function as the father, wife, and child. He presents his view of the role of each member of a human family, then inflicts it upon the Trinity.
Nowhere in Scripture is Jesus portrayed as a wife. He Is the Son of God. He shows God's children how to relate to God in a parent/child relationship. Further, the Holy Spirit is most definitely not a child. Throughout Christ's earthly ministry, the Spirit empowered, comforted, affirmed, strengthened, and directed. Thanks to Christ, He does the same for us now, also leading to repentance, convicting of sin, interceding for, and bringing Scripture to mind.
"Trained in the Fear of God" is full of this kind of thing. When authors have a point to make, they make their case by lifting obscure verses of Scripture out of biblical, historical, and cultural context and by blatantly ignoring passages that contradict their point of view. They do the same with history, presenting only those few people and events that support what they want to say while ignoring hugely significant people and events that show something different.
Other problems with this book:
Because each chapter was written by a different person, there is a lot of repeated information. Each author seemed to feel the need to go back over what the previous person and the person before that and the person before that had said. By eliminating such repetition, the size of the book could have been cut by halfâ€”or the authors might have had room to provide the information promised in the introduction.
The book is also quite negative. Instead of telling churches how to minister effectively, they tell what they believe everyone else is doing wrong: men, women, families, ministers, churches, culture, and society. The authors would have us believe it's all bad, it's all wrong. Particularly offensive was the chapter dedicated to "the problem" of African American women serving in predominantly African American churches. The author actually compared Christian women devoted to God and faithfully serving Him with all their might to King Ahab's wicked wife, Jezebel, who served Baal and tried to kill all of God's prophets. Regardless of the point the writer was trying to make, the comparison was grossly unfair and a clear misuse of Scripture.
Finally, the book doesn't give any new ideas. Anyone who has been involved in ministry for the past few years has already heard anything worthwhile the book had to say.
I believe the authors of Trained in the Fear of God had an idea with potential, but somewhere along the way they lost their focus of encouraging churches to empower families in a God-honoring, Kingdom-building way.
I do not recommend this book.
Kregel Publications sent a complimentary copy for my honest review.