It's Your Funeral, William L. Coleman, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60187, 1979, 150 pages, paper, $3.95.
Funerals could be made less stressful, confusing, and costly, the author maintains, if people would only admit the possibility of death and make some simple choices in advance. Instead, most avoid the subject and leave their families to reach difficult decisions under extremely emotional circumstances. Even ministers, although they have more contact with funerals and death than the average person, are only marginally better informed about what is involved in dying, and only slightly better equipped to prepare themselves and others to handle the practical considerations that must be dealt with when a death occurs. Myths and misinformation abound regarding funeral practices and requirements. This is what Coleman wants to remedy with his book.
Here the reader will likely learn more than he knew (and maybe more than he wants to know) about funerals, cremation, organ donation, caskets, headstones, autopsies, embalming, and the like. Cole man does a fine job of treating the subject with the necessary taste and compassion while at the same time utilizing a common-sense approach that tries to assure the reader it isn't ghoulish, but beneficial, to preplan certain details of one's own funeral. The alternative, he points out, is to place on your family, at a time when they are least able to handle it, the burden of trying to guess what you would want done.
The author includes chapters examining the Christian view of the body and Biblical examples of burial. These are helpful, although Seventh-day Adventists will find the author's view of the nature of man somewhat flawed. Coleman doesn't try to use these chapters, however, to convince readers of any particular position in regard to funeral practices. His purpose, throughout the book, is to dispel misconceptions and to encourage prior planning.
Morticians receive a mixed review. Coleman argues persuasively that, like any businessman, the mortician performs a valuable service and should not be begrudged a reasonable profit. He cites examples of altruism and compassion to destroy the stereotype of the hardhearted funeral director who "traffics" in the misfortunes of others. (So do doctors, lawyers, and even ministers!) But neither is all just as it should be in the funeral business, according to the author. Professional associations are often protective and secretive; some morticians are less than candid when the bereaved ask questions; and a lack of competition tends to keep costs artificially high.
Although not written specifically for ministers, It's Your Funeral will help any pastor be of greater service and support when a family in his congregation is bereaved. It is also ideal for seminars on funeral planning. —Russell Holt
Guidebook for Pastors, W. A. Criswell, Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee 37203, 1980, 383 pages, $9.95, hard cover.
It has been many years, to my knowledge, since the appearance of a book on the work of the pastor to match this volume by Criswell. Its 21 chapters cover every aspect imaginable, and some that few would have thought of. Also, it is based on the experience of a man who ranks today as one of the world's most successful pastors, having, since 1944, served what has become the largest church of the Southern Baptist Convention, the First Baptist church of Dallas.
The first few chapters dealing with the work of the pastor in the pulpit, in his study, and his sermon preparation are worth the price of the book, even if there were nothing more. But there is much, much more—church organization, financing, construction of new buildings, the varied ministries of the church, et cetera.
Criswell excells in his discussion of the pastor as an evangelist. It is apparent that he has his priorities in order.
An outstanding chapter discusses the pastor as counselor and shepherd. Additional chapters give practical suggestions on the wedding service, the funeral service, the communion, and baptismal services. The closing chapters confront problems the pastor must face, tips on his personal life, dos and don'ts for a successful ministry, and finally the reward of a work well done.
There is not a pastor but what will benefit immeasurably from his practical guide to his high calling. —Orley Berg
Philippians, Ralph P. Martin, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1980, 176 pages, paper, $5.95.
Martin's book, part of the revised New Century Bible Commentary series, completes the plan of replacing the single volume covering four of Paul's Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) with individual volumes on each (Colossians and Philemon are still combined). Philippians is the first of the revised series to be issued in paperback form, thus making this standard commentary available at a more modest cost.
Martin, professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, has drawn on existing scholarship in this exposition of Paul's letter to Philippi, and makes use of recent studies. In the introductory section he gives special attention to two central concerns: the nature of the sectarian teaching Paul warns against in chapter 3, and the meaning of the great Christological passage in chapter 2. The commentary itself is based on the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and attempts to provide a balanced, up-to-date appraisal of the text both in its scholarship and its application of the text to contemporary Christian life. —Russell Holt