Deliverance in the Psalms: Messages of Hope for Today
Hans K. LaRondelle, First Impressions, 776 Bluff View, Berrien Springs, Michigan, 1983, 210 pages, $12.50 ($8.50, paper). Reviewed by Lawrence T. Geraty, professor of archeology and history of antiquity, Andrews University.
The primary purpose of this insightful book is to focus on the meaning and value of the Psalms for believers in the twentieth century, while at the same time recognizing the importance of the Psalter in the life and worship of ancient Israel. It takes its cue from "Messiah Jesus, who 'lived' in the Psalms." And its thesis is "what counts for the Messiah counts in principle also for the Messianic community." Furthermore, says LaRondelle, "the Psalms are the most powerful source of hope and courage for the Church of God when she is about to enter her final conflict with the powers of darkness."
The book begins with four introductory chapters on the following subjects: the religious significance of the Psalms ("in this book of prayers covenant people found their stairway to heaven"); the origin and classification of the Psalms according to their literary genre and their function in the sanctuary liturgy; the poetic style (the artistic paralleling of lines with corresponding thoughts), and its meaning ("in the final analysis, each psalm must be considered in the light of the New Testament"); and the theological structures of the Psalms (such as the contrast between the righteous and wicked, salvation in Israel's sanctuary, Creation, a philosophy of history, and Messianic promise).
The heart of the book is devoted to the detailed study of eighteen separate psalms, selected primarily "because of their messages of divine assurance of the ultimate triumph of justice on the earth and the establishment of the peaceful kingdom of God." Most of them, such as Psalms 1, 15, 19, 24, 46, and 103, are favorites, but some less familiar ones are helpfully expounded, such as Psalms 7, 12, and 73.
The Psalms have long been a blessing to those who have been familiar with them and used them. In recent years, however, they seem to have been neglected in the Christian church. Here is a good book for leading one's congregation back into and through the vibrant testimonies of God's children of long ago who experienced the same sorrows and joys as His saints of today.
Adventures in Church Growth
Roger L Dudley and Des Cummings, Jr., Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1983, 155 pages, $8.95, paper. Reviewed by Russell Holt, executive editor, MINISTRY.
Since late 1979 the Andrews University Institute of Church Ministry, under the directorship of the authors of this volume, has been studying the dynamics of church growth in the North American Seventh-day Adventist Church. Why do certain Adventist congregations grow, while others decline? What kinds of people join the church? Who leaves, and why?
This book is an attempt to provide the tools that will enable pastors, other denominational leaders, and church members to find the answers to these and additional questions as they apply to their own local situation. The authors see the book as a study manual that the church may use in organizing itself for growth and service.
Adventures in Church Growth relies heavily on research techniques, scientific sampling, and computer analysis. Yet the authors are the first to admit that statistics and research can never substitute for the work of the Spirit. Without His power working in the church, they declare, real growth can never take place. Neither, however, does the Spirit sanction ignorance. The greater the knowledge, the greater the opportunity for the Spirit to bless and bring about growth.
Neither does church growth, in this book, mean baptizing anybody one can find and then moving on to new conquests. It involves confronting lost humans with the claims of Christ, leading them to a decision, nurturing their spiritual growth, assimilating them into responsible membership in the body, and inspiring them to share their faith with others.
The article "Whom Are We Winning?" beginning on page 6 of this issue of MINISTRY, will give the reader a sample of what he can expect in Adventures in Church Growth. The article is adapted from the work that is presented in the book.
Cummings and Dudley have provided church leaders with a valuable overview of some of the most crucial concepts of church growth, as well as introducing the factors most directly affecting Adventist growth. Besides exposing the reader to general trends and issues, the book helps him see how he can apply these to his own setting. This is a book that pastors and all church leaders will want to read and utilize.