Death and the Caring Community: Ministering to the Terminally Ill
Larry Richards and Paul Johnson, Multnomah Press, Portland, Oregon, 1980, 210 pages, $9.95. Reviewed by Lawrence R. Yeagly, chaplain, Burkson, Texas.
Death and the Caring Community is a refreshing change from the plethora of books that describe personal encounters with life-threatening illness and death. It responds to the cries of clergy and laymen for practical information that is useful in the training of care-givers.
Richards champions the truth that the church is a family of caring people—not an institution. Based upon that premise, he provides a "course in caring" that can easily serve as a foundation for a comprehensive training program for the church. He frowns on the formation of new programs and agencies to care for persons with life-threatening illness. He sees the caring community as people who spontaneously respond in a loving and supportive manner to those who hurt. That response, he believes, will occur effectively when the Christian understands the dynamics of grief.
The author describes the fears, feelings, and reactions of the dying person. While Richards leans heavily upon the "stages" of grief reported by Kubler-Ross he avoids the problematic stance of some authors who adhere rigidly to the stages approach. He quotes Michael A. Simpson, who says there are three, fifteen, ninety-two, and five hundred stages. Richards is quick to point out that understanding common responses to loss increases the sensitivity and the responsiveness of the care-giver.
The farsightedness of the author sees beyond the patient to the family, the community, and the medical professions. Richards mentions the pressures on the medical staff and the care-giving family members. His treatment of this topic could have been deeper in light of the fact that aloofness is common when staff support is inadequate.
Principles of developing a trust relation ship, accepting the patient where he is, and not taking advantage of the ill by preaching to him are well stated. Helpful tips on how to be a friend by giving full attention, listening sensitively, touching, and praying will be helpful to the reader. It is unfortunate that Paul Johnson's physician-patient verbatims seem to come on too fast and too strong. There are times when his apparent need to talk or help causes him to inhibit the patient's expression of pain and growth.
The strong spiritual emphasis in Richards' material is well balanced by his concept that the use of Scripture and prayer needs to be preceded by, and an outgrowth of, the sharing of the patient's pain.
This volume may not be challenging to the person who is familiar with the technical literature on death and dying, but it promises to be a very worthwhile tool for the clergy person who has little background in this area.
Preaching as Communication: An Interpersonal Perspective
Myron R. Chartier, Abingdon, 1981, 128 Images, $4.95, paper. Reviewed by.C. Raymond Holmes, Pastor, Grand Haven, Michigan.
In this volume from the Abingdon Preacher's Library, Dr. Chartier discusses preaching in relation to modern communication theory. He has divided his subject into the following units: Preaching as Communication, Self-disclosure in Preaching; Listening and Preaching; Clarity in Preaching; Nonverbal Communication in Preaching; and Self-esteem.
The incarnation of God in Christ is the ingredient that gives the book its theological flavor. Just as Christ "authentically revealed the good news of God through human flesh" (p. 43), so also the modern preacher must be genuinely and authentically human if his listener is to experience the gospel's power. From this perspective the whole purpose of preaching is to help people experience the reality of the gospel, not simply to transmit information from one mind to another. In order for the communication to be authentic, the preacher must be a witness to the reality of which he speaks. Much more is going on in preaching than simply one person speaking to many, yet it is highly personal as a form of self-expression.
Once you get past some of the convoluted language of the first chapter, the rest of the book is filled with the kind of material you can get your teeth into. Much of it you will want to digest carefully, although some may be unacceptable to your theological or homiletical palate.
By way of sampling chew on these obstacles to preaching communication: people pay attention only to what they find stimulating; listeners are influenced more by the voice, gestures, and dress of the preacher than by the truth of his message; people are influenced more by emotional elements than by logical content; if a preacher's personal integrity is under question, listeners will not remain open to what he says; personal prejudices and deep-seated convictions impair comprehension and understanding; people tend to believe what they hear on radio and see on TV, so the preacher is always in competition with Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller, and George Vandeman. Dr. Chartier suggests that these discoveries from communication research ought to have some influence on how preachers put their sermons together and serve them up from their pulpits.
Conflict Ministry In the Church
Lorry L. McSwain and William C. Tread' well, Jr., Broadman Press, 1981, 202 pages, $6.95, paper. Reviewed by Rex D. Edwards, director of MINISTRY field services.
This is a book to be read on those "dark" Mondays when you feel like changing churches or leaving the pastoral ministry. The authors, both pastors, have written this guide to help you analyze the conflicts, disagreements, and tensions that arise in all churches.
They emphasize that while the church of Jesus Christ has the potential of being a caring, forgiving, peaceful expression of the presence of God in its midst, yet it is a human community that has all the characteristics of other human groups. These "earthen vessels" live in the daily realities of misunderstandings, interpersonal struggles, organizational blowups, and community controversies.
The pastor will find in these pages not only an understanding of how conflict works but a useful guide to the myriad ways in which churches can minister more effectively to persons in conflict. The book has a note of optimism because the authors contend that the results of healthy conflict are positive, productive, and potentially joyful.
One rule the reader must follow— "Never resign on Monday!"
Man and Woman In Christ
Stephen B. Clark, Servant Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1980, 753pages, $15.95. Reviewed by Jerry Gladson, associate professor of religion, Southern Missionary College.
Writing from a Christian perspective, Stephen Clark has produced a massive review of the entire question of women's rights in the Christian community. After carefully examining the Biblical, biological, social, and familial data, Clark concludes that God intended men and women to fulfill distinctive and complementary roles in society. The scope of this work makes it a must for all bibliographies dealing with women's rights.