How to Expand Your Small Groups Ministry: An Interview with the Author of Exponential Groups

Allen White, author of Exponential Groups, generously agreed to answer a few of our questions about his book in the below video! Watch and be inspired to take your small group ministry to the next level.

Interested in listening to a particular question? Here’s an overview of the interview:

  • About Allen White: 0:00-0:55
  1. Who is Exponential Groups’ audience and what is the book about? This question is addressed at 0:56.
  2. What has made you so passionate about expanding churches’ small groups? 1:30
  3. What do you think is the biggest factor hindering churches from successful group-making? 2:30
  4. What advice would you give to someone who would like to start a small group but doesn’t want to be considered its “leader”? 3:08
  5. What are ways that a church can be creative in its approach to creating groups? 3:41
  6. What’s the best piece advice you’ve received about small groups? 4:42
  7. What projects are you working on now or have planned for the future? 5:44

exponential-groupsAllen White coaches churches in launching exponential groups. In over 25 years of ministry, he has served on staff at two churches: New Life Christian Center, Turlock, CA (nondenominational) and Brookwood Church, Simpsonville, SC (Southern Baptist) as well as coaching over 1,500 churches across North America. Allen teaches workshops for various churches and organizations as well as workshops for Saddleback Church’s conferences and Willow Creek Canada, and is part of the Small Group Network out of Saddleback Church, which has chapters in all 50 states and many other countries. He holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Missions and a M.Div, in Christian Education from Evangel University, Springfield, MO.

For more information about Exponential Groups, visit our website.

9 Things You Need to Know about The Complete Jewish Study Bible

Rabbi Barry Rubin, the general editor of The Complete Jewish Study Bible, has so generously agreed to answer a few of our questions about this revolutionary Bible. However, before we get to those, here is small excerpt in Rabbi Rubin’s own words from the introduction of the CJSB:

jewish_bible_3You hold in your hands a book that will open your eyes to the Bible as never before. You may have heard something like this previously, so you might be wondering how I can make such a bold claim. The answer is that this study Bible contains information from Jewish sources to explain a thoroughly Jewish book—the Bible—written by Jews, about Jews, initially for Jews in the Jewish Land of Israel.

This study Bible contains the newly updated Complete Jewish Bible (CJB), the standard for all Bible texts that restore the original and essential “Jewishness” to God’s word. Why is that so important? After centuries of translations from Hebrew and Green into English and other languages, nuances and even accurate meanings are lost. In one critical example, the original Jewish form of the Messiah’s name—Yeshua—is used in this Bible instead of the Greek translation, Jesus. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong is saying “Jesus,” but it’s not how he was known to his family, friends, and first-century followers. To them, he was Yeshua, a Hebrew name meaning “salvation.” Since Hebrew names were often given to reflect something about the person, what better name could be given? Reading the Bible in this way increases understanding.

As you can see, Rabbi Rubin’s thoughtful approach to the CJSB warrants more prodding so that we can share with you even more exclusive details about The Complete Jewish Study Bible. Enjoy!

1. What do you hope the publication of The Complete Jewish Study Bible will accomplish?

Ever since I became a believer in 1973, I’ve wanted my people to know that the Messiah had come. Because of several reasons (that I describe in my book, You Bring the Bagels; I’ll Bring the Gospel: Sharing the Messiah with your Jewish Neighbor) the vast majority of Jewish people have been fairly turned off. But by reading The Complete Jewish Study Bible (CJSB), they will see Yeshua (Jesus) in his original Jewish world, not the Gentile world in which he is often seen.

Moreover, as Christians read the CJSB, they too will begin to understand that the movement called Christianity was actually a sect of first-century Judaism that morphed into a Gentile religion that disconnected itself from its roots. The CJSB helps re-attach them to the Jewish roots of their Christian faith.

My prayer is that this will cause something to happen that hasn’t happened since the first century: Jews and Gentiles following the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob together through the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world—Yeshua haMashiach.

2. How do you think the CJB version has been enriched by the additional study notes provided by so many highly esteemed contributors?

The contributions from these esteemed people add depth and richness to the reader’s understanding of Scripture. It’s not just that they are great scholars in their own right, but they have dug into the Jewish roots, background, and context of the word of God more than others. That, alone, enables the reader to understand Scripture the way God meant it to be understood.

3. What’s your favorite of the 12 themes highlighted in the CJSB?

This is difficult to answer since I chose all 12 themes. However, since for 2000 years there have been a lot of misapplications of Bible texts, specifically in the New Testament, which have led to anti-Semitism, our examples of “Anti-Jewish Scriptural Interpretations” serve to set the record straight. That will help Christians grow to love and appreciate the chosen people more and prayerfully reduce the growing anti-Semitism in today’s world.

4. For a reader new to the CJB and the CJSB, what topical article or theme would you recommend they start off reading?

Since the Bible is filled with references and examples of Jewish/biblical holidays and customs, that would be the place to start. Seeing how the Last Supper was really Yeshua’s Last Seder (Passover) enables a reader to get the full message of the gospel, since it connects so much to the book of Exodus.

5. How did you come up with the specific theme articles?

I thought about the themes that I deal with all the time in my congregation here in Maryland, in my speaking to churches around the country, and in the writing that I do to help Christians understand what Messianic Judaism is all about.

6. What do you think is added to a Christian’s experience of the Bible by including the Jewish names of people?

The names of people in the Bible had meaning in their original languages. Names weren’t given because they were “in” or “cute” as is often the case today. They were given to tell us something about God or the people themselves.

Although we didn’t use Hebrew letters to spell the names, we did use more accurate transliterations than most Bibles. All English Bibles use transliterations; ours are more accurate to the underlying Hebrew than any other English Bibles we know of. If a reader wants to dig a little, learning the meaning of these names is eye-opening. Our glossary offers many of these translations so it’s fairly easy to derive this blessing (and even learn some Hebrew).

7. How do you envision Christians using the Shabbat Scripture readings?

In my over forty years of ministry, I’ve noticed that more and more Christians are adopting Jewish practices for their own edification. It’s not just having an annual Passover seder dinner using our Messianic Passover Haggadah, or joining a Messianic Jewish congregation, many are actually using the traditional Jewish weekly readings in their own Bible reading programs. Thus, they are in sync with Jews all around the world who read prescribed portions of Scripture each week. Of course, we’ve added related readings from the New Testament not in traditional Jewish reading cycles. Doing that “completes” the readings by showing the fulfilled word of God in the Messiah and his followers.

8. How do you recommend that someone who is interested in participating in the Jewish holidays and customs after reading the CJSBshould begin to do so in a respectful manner?

The best way to start is by learning. We’ve published many books on these subjects, like God’s Appointed Times [Holy Days] and God’s Appointed Customs, plus individual books on the Sabbath, Passover, Hanukkah, etc., so that Christians can learn, not only about them, but can discover their importance in the New Testament, prophecy and personal blessing. My congregation is probably 75% non-Jewish and regularly I hear testimonials about how learning these things has been a great blessing to these Gentile believers.

9. Do you think there’s a risk of Christians misappropriating the Jewish customs/holidays if they celebrate them because they’re not Jewish?

The answer to this is “yes” and “no.” There are some Jews, both Messianic and non-Messianic, who don’t think non-Jews should enjoy these customs and holidays, because they were initially given to the Jews. Moreover, some Christians may misuse Jewish things because they misunderstand them. For example, I saw one fellow attach fringes on his jeans that fell to the floor. I’m sure he meant well but didn’t know how we Jews do it. There’s also a concern that this might water-down our people. Also, sometimes a Christian who gets into Messianic Judaism starts zealously telling us Jews how to do things “right,” which can be bothersome.

All that said, though, a humble believer who comes to his “older brother” and asks to learn is to be embraced, not turned away. We Jews were called to be a light to the Gentiles and to teach them the ways of God as revealed in the entire Bible. I think Messianic Jews can be in a great position to do this since our unique perspective may be the best one from which to share with Gentiles.

So, to answer your question, I will answer in a Jewish way: Yes and No!

The Complete Jewish Study BibleBarry A. Rubin, MA in Communications from Ohio University, is rabbi of Emmanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation in Clarksville, Maryland. Founded in 1915, it is the oldest extant Messianic congregation in the world. In 1988, he became director of The Lederer Foundation (now Messianic Jewish Publishers and Resources), a sixty-year-old organization formerly in the Orthodox Jewish section of Baltimore, now in Clarksville/Columbia of Howard County, Maryland. He serves on several boards and has been in the forefront of Messianic Judaism since the 1970s.

For more information about The Complete Jewish Study Bible, we have numerous blog posts to offer you. Feel free to visit this link to view a full list.

If you’re interested in purchasing, or would like to read the official description of the Bible, visit our website.

Exploring Psalm 19: A Q & A with T.A. Perry

Psalm 19: Hymn of Unification by T.A. PerryWith his characteristically engaging writing style that couples detailed exegesis with philosophical meditation, professor and author T.A. Perry interacts with the Psalms from a Jewish perspective in his newest book, Psalm 19: Hymn of Unification. Perry’s intensive and guided reading of Psalm 19 advances his thesis that Psalm 19 presents a vision of “universal unification” for the entire creation, one that is not restricted to Jews but that embraces all people and, indeed, all of nature. The dual method of analysis (literary and philosophical) Perry employs in Psalm 19: Hymn of Unification will challenge readers to understand, appreciate, and approach Psalm 19 in a larger philosophical setting rather than the traditional exegetical one.

Now, we’re excited to share with you this exclusive interview with Perry about Psalm 19.

1. Why Psalm 19? 150 Psalms in the Bible why this particular one?

I conceptualize my life the way the Bible does: the world is created as heaven and earth, a day is composed of night and day, I am a mixture of body and soul. These oppositional binaries occur at the highest level, since the Creator God at the very start is called Elohim and only later Yahweh. In daily living we reduce these pairs to unities: one world, day, person, God, but in living our lives and in our theologies they are typically treated as oppositional. Think, for example, of the chasm between matter or extended substance and consciousness, or body and soul, or God’s justice and his mercy. Monotheism argues for their unity, or, better, their unification as operated by humans and within God too. Psalm 19 gives a careful analysis of this process.

2. What place should Psalms play in the life of the believer?

For me Psalms is a practical manual on how to feel and express praise and thanksgiving. The first helps to see that even “bad” things are kindly intended. Gratitude in its practice enables us to appreciate that it too is a divine gift, one we should be thankful for. How’s that for rebound: being thankful for being thankful!

3. What was your favorite part of the book to work on?

As I exclaimed in one of my Hendrickson books, “I just love this Bible!” Whatever part I am working on today is my favorite one. How so? Because of its perpetual newness and direct relevance to living a meaningful life.

P.s. I am aware of responding to a slightly different question, namely “what was your favorite part of The Book to work on.” My excuse is that exegesis or commentary is an integral part of the Bible itself. Indeed, this is how the Bible comes alive, by making it mine. If it is not in my heart and mind and actions as on this book, where (on earth) is it?

4. You’ve spent significant time living and teaching in Israel, how has that impacted this particular book?

Martin Buber claimed that the particular contribution of Israel to the culture of humankind is unification. I subscribe to this view and still pin my hopes to its realization. Living in the Holy Land continues, in a very concrete and daily way, to activate and deepen this commitment.

5. The book opens suggesting Psalm 19 presents an existential dilemma between the world of nature and humans and closes proposing a particular epistemology for knowing God.  How does Psalm 19 solve this dilemma? How do you feel this is a corrective for the church today?

Unresolved dualisms are leading to our destruction. At the level of our careless and domineering destruction of the environment, for example, Bruno Latour proposes a reversal of even deeply embedded theological assumptions such as Mark 8, Matthew 16. Latour asks “What does it matter to save my soul if it should cost the loss of the world?” Is it all only about me? I add that such pursuits as epistemology and ontology have overextended their importance and that we should turn instead to ethics and a concern for the Other.

6. Next to this book what is your favorite book you’ve written?

One of my greatest teachers (Harold Fisch) liked to evoke the paradox of a “remembered future.”  Looking back over my 14 books, my memory projects that my most favorite book is my next one. In all likelihood, it will (again!) focus on a single psalm, this one #119, the longest and according to many the most boring of the psalms, the one that Dietrich Bonhoeffer nevertheless regarded as his “favorite Psalm and the climax of my theological life.”

7. What’s the best piece of wisdom you’ve learned over the years from reading or writing?

In backcountry Maine where I come from, some folks define a fool in two related ways: as one who makes the same mistake twice, and as one who never makes a mistake. With all the problems of the experiential path to wisdom (one’s first mistake can be costly!), I find it usually works for me; I learn best from experience. For me the path to wisdom is reading and writing. When complaining about his lack of many things that enhance human life, an ancient sage exclaimed: “If you have wisdom and understanding, what more can you want or need.”

A central focus of Psalm 19 is its analysis of human pursuits into three broad categories: pleasure, power, and wisdom. While all three are seen as having a legitimate place in a human life, the third is privileged. In fact, my second most favorite book written by me focuses on the central plot of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes), how King Solomon converted his life from the pursuit of power and pleasure to the humble task of understanding the secret of words.

Psalm 19: Hymn of Unification by T.A. Perry

T. A. Perry (PhD, Romance Philology and Comparative Literature, Yale University) has taught at the University of Connecticut, Ben Gurion University, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In recent years, he served as a faculty associate at Hartford Seminary and as the Corcoran Visiting Chair in Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College. Perry is the author of numerous books, including Wisdom in the Hebrew Bible: Exploring God’s Twilight Zone and Jonah’s Arguments with God: The Honeymoon Is Over.

For more information about Psalm 19 or to purchase, visit our website. To read more interviews with our authors, check out our Author Interview Series page.

How to Evangelize — An Interview with R. Larry Moyer

R. Larry Moyer 101 Tips for EvangelismHendrickson recently published 101 Tips for Evangelism: Practical Ways to Enhance Your Witness by R. Larry Moyer.

Dr. Moyer, founder of the well-known evangelization organization EvanTell, offers some of the practical wisdom he’s gleaned in over four decades of evangelism. His 101 brief, easy-to-read tips address dealing with difficult people, balancing grace with truth, asking God for more opportunities, the importance of listening, and much more. In fact, we are thrilled to share with you the introduction of the book:

There’s nothing on earth I’d rather do than evangelize. God, in His gracious kindness, has allowed me to present the gospel to hundreds of thousands over the last forty-plus years.

As I have done so, under God’s guidance, I’ve learned tips through Scripture and experience. I can sincerely say that God has used them to make me a more effective evangelist. Along the way, I’ve often thought, “Wow! I wish I would’ve learned that sooner.” But God knows what He is doing and in His own time, He has enabled me to learn and grow.

I hope as I share these tips with you your love for unbelievers is enhanced and your desire to reach them increases. If that happens, this book will be worth all the time and effort. Most of all, thank you for cultivating a heart for the people who need to hear the greatest message of all: Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead.

Dr. Moyer has been kind enough to give us some snippets of these tips in the following interview!

1. What inspired your desire to help others evangelize?

The simple principle of multiplication. Take the number 10 and add the number 2 to it 10 times. Now take the number 10 and multiple it by 2 10 times. The number is vastly different. I believe that training others to evangelize is a way to impact the world for Christ.

2. Which tip do you think holds particular weight in the matter of evangelization and why?

I would say number 1! “Evangelism always starts with obedience.” God directs a moving object. He will help us overcome any struggle we have in evangelism as long as we’re willing to give Him our obedience.

3. What would you say to someone who is feeling really discouraged in regards to their attempts to evangelize?

I’d emphasize several things. First, God is on their team, not on their back. He’s a God of grace. He doesn’t lambast us for any struggle or difficulty we’re having in evangelism or any discouragement we’re facing. He’s just there to help. Secondly, with that in mind, we need to concentrate on Hebrews 4:16 and come boldly to Him in prayer, recognizing that He has the grace to help us in time of need, whatever need that might be in evangelism. A third thing that I would emphasize is the need for experience. The more you evangelize, the more there might be discouraging moments, but there are also very exciting ones. Those exciting ones make the discouraging moments fade in importance.

4. How can fear be a healthy part of the evangelism process?

It teaches us to depend on Him. When we are afraid and depend on Him, He gives us the boldness to overcome the fear, instead of the fear overcoming the boldness. God has more than food and finances, the two things that we often ask Him for. He has a generous supply of boldness. We recognize as with every area of the Christian life that we cannot do it in our own strength. We can only do it through His.

5. For a new Christian who wants to evangelize, how soon is too soon?

When it comes to sharing Christ one-to-one, no time is too soon. In fact, when I lead people to Christ, I encourage them to tell at least two people that they trusted Christ that day. It helps them start doing immediately what they should do the rest of their lives—tell others!

6. If you are evangelizing to someone of a different religion, how important is it for you to be familiar with their beliefs?

You don’t have to know what they believe; you have to know what you believe. Always remember that God sent them across your path for you to talk to them, not for them to talk to you. Besides, most people in a particular religion are not there because of what that religion believes. They are there because someone gave them a sense of belonging.

7. For some, evangelizing is a long and complicated process. What would you say to those who have been praying for the conversion of someone near and dear to them for years?

Keep praying and never stop. I know of people who have come to Christ because someone had prayed for them for over 30 years. As you pray, ask God to send someone in addition to you to speak to them. Often God uses many people to lead one person to Christ.

8. If you feel comfortable sharing, what is an evangelism experience that didn’t go the way you planned, and what did you learn from it?

I had an appointment to talk to a man about Christ who I felt was ripe and ready for the gospel. I couldn’t have been more excited. Not only did I find out that he was not ready to trust Christ, but the longer we talked, I felt that he was further from Christ than when I met him. That’s always hard for me because nobody is promised tomorrow. At the same time, I always have to remind myself of what I tell others: “God holds me responsibility for contact, not conversion.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 reminds us that the issue is faithfulness, not fruitfulness.

R. Larry Moyer 101 Tips for EvangelismDr. R. Larry Moyer, founder and CEO of EvanTell, is a frequent speaker in evangelistic outreaches, training seminars, churches, and classrooms across the world. He has earned degrees from Cairn University (BS), Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM), and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (DMin). In 2001, Cairn University also awarded him the honorary doctor of sacred theology degree. He is an evangelistic speaker for EvanTell’s Evangelism events, designed to equip believers in evangelism and to reach non-Christians. He has published 12 books. He is a regular guest lecturer in evangelism at Word of Life Bible Institutes in New York and Florida and visiting professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Moyer and his wife reside in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. They have one grown son who is married.

For more information about 101 Tips for Evangelism and to order online, visit our website.

8 Questions with Rodney Macready about Retiring Retirement

8-questions-with-rodney-macreadyHendrickson is pleased to share with you an exclusive interview that we conducted with Rodney Macready, the author of Retiring Retirement. Rodney’s aim in this book is to achieve a paradigm shift—to get us thinking that retirement does not need to mean the end of productivity completely. He challenges us to evaluate our current concept of “retirement” by exploring in detail what the Bible says about it.

1. What inspired you to write about the subject of retirement? What have you seen in your own Australian culture that made you want to speak out? How should the church have a different mind-set? What is the “paradigm shift” you discuss?

Some years ago, I read an article that questioned whether it’s acceptable for Christians to receive “passive” income from investments. It struck me that this was part of my culture that I’d simply adopted without investigation. Whether or not I agreed with the article, I’d never sought to discover a Biblical approach to that particular subject. I’d simply agreed with my culture’s perspective. As I pondered that, my mind turned to the subject of retirement. I don’t remember the exact link anymore – my guess is that I leaped from investments to superannuation [pension for retired people] to retirement. Whatever the link, I realized that retirement was another cultural concept that I’d never scrutinised from a Biblical perspective. And as I began to investigate that subject further, I discovered a distinct lack of material to help me with that process. I found several books encouraging me to use my retirement opportunities for God’s glory. But I found nothing that asked the prior question: namely, is retirement itself a Biblical concept and is it consistent with Biblical values?

There is much in my Australian culture that encourages me to enjoy my retirement years in a fairly self-centred way. Basically, my culture gives me a licence to indulge myself. For me, that attitude opposes the gospel. By both His example and His teaching, Jesus encourages His followers to adopt the attitude of serving others rather than serving self. This is the antithesis of my culture’s approach to retirement. Yet, I’ve seen my culture’s approach infiltrate the way many Christians seem to approach their retirement years. Indeed, I find that my culture’s approach has great appeal to my own self-centred nature. Thus, even if the concept of retirement is consistent with Biblical values, the direction my culture takes this is not. I believe this needs to be challenged.

2. Why do you think “retirement” is not a biblical concept? Can you give us some biblical examples to support this?

Work is one of God’s good gifts to humanity. The Biblical presumption from Genesis 1 onwards is that God expects us to exercise this gift in completing the tasks He’s given us. Thus, it seems to me that the burden of proof lies with those who wish to claim that there are good reasons to justify not working. [Please note: “working” is broader than simply “having a job” or “being employed”.] I fail to find any such reasons within the Bible. It seems to me that God expects us to keep exercising this good gift throughout our lives.

The problem with providing Biblical examples in relation to this topic is that the topic itself is a modern invention. The concept of retirement didn’t exist in Biblical times and thus we should not be surprised when the Bible fails to address it directly. There are a couple of examples of people continuing in their work beyond what we would consider normal retirement age – Moses and Joshua. Most of the kings continued in office until their death. But these Biblical examples are very selective in that they relate to those in leadership. We’re not given such details about the ordinary Israelite. Most of them eked out their existence as subsistence farmers and, if they stopped working, they’d also stop eating. Further, most of them died well before reaching what we identify as retirement age.

3. Since you don’t think retirement is a biblical concept, what do you think people should do who want or need to transition out of their normal work life?

I’d suggest that most Westerners would read certain assumptions into the description “normal work life”. For example, we tend to think that “work life” begins after a period of education (for many, this is becoming increasingly lengthy) and concludes upon reaching retirement age. We tend to compartmenalise “work life” as what happens “at work” and think of that separately from what we do in other areas of our lives. Do people living in the majority world share those assumptions? For many of them, their “normal work life” begins far earlier and stops only with their death and extends to a far greater portion of their lives. Further, do those assumptions devalue a significant amount of work that’s done within our own culture but which we don’t normally include in the “employment” situation (for example, those involved in “home duties”)?

But to come back to the question itself, if people “want” to transition out of their “normal work life”, I’d suggest they seriously think through their theology of work. Do they wish to forsake God’s gift of work?  Why do they want to do that?  Are they simply following their cultural conditioning?  Is the underlying desire basically self-centred?  Or do they truly believe this is what God wants for them?  Is this a decision that will glorify God and continue to achieve His purposes within His world?

For those who “need” to transition out of their “normal work life”, I’d suggest they seriously think through the reasons why they need to do that. There are good reasons why some people have to stop some forms of employment. But then I’d encourage them to ask themselves: “Just because I have to stop this job, does that mean I have to stop working altogether?” One particular form of employment may now be closed to them, but usually that doesn’t mean that all forms of using their God-given abilities to work for the benefit of others are closed to them. The final chapter indicates some options that may be considered – but that’s only a starting-point.

I should hasten to add that there are some people who can’t work or can only work with very limited capacity. People can find themselves in that situation at any age – but it does happen more often to people in their more senior years. That is a separate issue from the concept of retirement.

4. In your book, you provide an eye-opening history of this concept of retirement, which surprisingly is quite modern. Tell us a bit about this.

The concept of retirement is usually credited to the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck around 1880. He set the retirement age at 65. Since few people reached that age in Germany at that time, he anticipated the cost to the state would be insignificant. Australia and America introduced similar policies early in the 20th century. Yet it wasn’t until the 1950s that retirement became “popular” in Western cultures. By that time, life expectancy had increased. People were more affluent. Leisure industries mushroomed. Entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to begin “retirement” industries. There were a range of factors that resulted in retirement losing its stigma and becoming both an accepted and expected part of the economy in which I was raised. It became a “normal” part of life in the West – something to be greatly anticipated and for which careful planning should be made (especially in the financial area).

5. Why do you think the idea of “work” is something we look forward to finishing at a certain age? Do we have the wrong view of “work”? If so, how can we change our attitude toward it?

The simple (and generalized) answer is that people look forward to finishing work at their “retirement age” (or before) because they’re culturally conditioned to do so. The more complex answer is that this cultural conditioning builds on various sinful attitudes towards work – especially the attitude that sees work as an obstacle that hinders me from being free to do what I really want to do (usually some form of leisure). Many people have lost the concept that work is one of God’s gifts to humanity. As with all of God’s gifts, work is to be received and enjoyed with thankfulness to God.

Work was one of God’s purposes for humanity within the Garden – that is, before humanity sinned. Certainly, humanity’s choice to ignore God’s instructions and to declare our independence from God in Genesis has negatively impacted our attitude to work in all sorts of ways – including a tendency to resent work and to find work a burden. Yet, that doesn’t change the essential goodness of God’s gift.

As with all areas of our lives where our cultural conditioning is opposed to God’s purposes, we begin to have our attitudes changed by having our minds renewed by God’s word. That begins with recognising and affirming that work is indeed one of God’s good gifts to us.

6. You say you believe the work will remain “part of the new creation.” What do you mean by that?

Again, work is one of God’s good gifts to us. It’s part of God’s purposes for humanity before human rebellion entered our world. It’s part of how humanity reflects the fact that we’re made in God’s image. And so, when God renews creation to His original purposes, why would we think that He would take this good gift from us? Work is not a negative thing. Any negative attitudes we currently have towards it flow from the human declaration of autonomy in Genesis 3 – and those negative attitudes won’t be part of the new creation.

Now, we do need to admit that the Bible does not provide many details about the new creation. It may be that God replaces work with a better gift. Jesus’ comments about the resurrection (Mark 12:18-27) suggest this will be the case in relation to human marriage. But there is no comparable statement in relation to work. And there are hints that work will still be part of our role within eternity (for example, the parable of the talents, Matthew 25:19-23).

7. What about the concept of rest? When do we “get a break”? Is it so wrong to want to enjoy our “golden years”?

I deal with the concept of rest at some length in the book. It’s a complex subject and it’s not really possible for me to reproduce that argument in a few short sentences. So, with that warning, I’ll list a few brief “teasers”.

  • First, there is a rich Biblical concept of rest that is broader than simply “stopping work”.
  • Second, we are finite creatures and part of our finiteness is that we need rest.
  • Third, rest is not the equivalent of leisure.
  • Fourth, we need to work at the idea of learning to rest in our work.
  • Fifth, God does want us to enjoy life under His rule – both our work and our rest.
  • Sixth, I think we need to be careful about the phrase “golden years” – it implies that the concepts associated with these years are more valuable (and reinforces the idea that work is less desirable).
  • Seventh, the question we should ask ourselves of these “golden years” is this: Do I have a God-given mandate to use them in a self-indulgent manner?

8. How should people under the age of fifty view retirement age? What about those over fifty who are seriously considering retiring?

My aim in the book is to produce a paradigm shift in the reader’s thinking. In our Western culture, it’s easy to idolise retirement and to treat it as the goal of life – at least, life in the present age.  But that’s a seriously sub-standard goal for a Christian.  God gives us lifelong goals to pursue – including the goal of using our God-given abilities to serve others.  Such service involves work – both paid and unpaid.  Because of government pensions, superannuation schemes [a related issue is to consider whether this a form of “storing up treasure on earth”] and the like, it may be that some people no longer need paid work once they reach “retirement age”.  Does that mean that God releases them from the privilege of serving others?  I think not.  And when we truly understand what a privilege that is and how it fits with the overall values of God’s kingdom, why would we want such a release anyway?

Retiring Retirement by Rodney MacreadyRaised in a Christian home and an active church, Rodney Macready has pastored several Australian churches. He has also taught in theological colleges in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania and dabbled in short-term missions in the Philippines and Indonesia. He now expands his ministry through writing.

Learn more about Retiring Retirement by visiting our website.

For more Q & As with our other authors, check out this page.

Q & A with the Grandson of Meredith G. Kline

q-and-a-with-jonathan-klineWe are very excited to share with you this interview we did with Jonathan Kline, the grandson of Meredith G. Kline! Jonathan talks about his grandfather’s posthumously published book Genesis: A New Commentary, which was written just after the late scholar finished his magnum opus, Kingdom Prologue, and distills his mature views on the book of Genesis and, indeed, on Scripture as a whole.

1. In the introduction you write that this commentary feels like you are sitting down with him in his home with the radio buzzing in the background and you’re just having a conversation with him. Is there a specific memory that this book reminds you of?

In the early 2000s, when I was in seminary, I asked my grandfather if he could give me an overview of his ideas about covenant theology. On a couple of afternoons, we sat down at his house (which was in the woods, with a beautiful view of a lake), and he gave me a condensed, personalized version of the material he taught in his well-known seminary course on covenant theology. The ideas we discussed on those occasions are ones he develops in detail in his book Kingdom Prologue. He discusses many of them in what I think is a more accessible form in Genesis: A New Commentary, which is one of the appealing features of this book.

2. Your grandfather’s great strength as a teacher and writer was his ability to pull together all the details and provide a beautiful picture of the organic whole of Scripture. How does this book continue in that stream?

Since this book is a verse-by-verse commentary on Genesis, it obviously contains a lot of details. Throughout, however, my grandfather always emphasizes not only the importance of the narrative details in their own contexts but also their role in the story of redemption (which is often one of foreshadowing later developments). For example, he notes that Lot’s departure to Sodom “now left Abraham to be the exclusive recipient of the covenant promises and sole paternal source of the covenant family, a role in which he was a prototype of the Messiah, the second Adam” (p. 58). Later, my grandfather observes in connection with Isaac’s blessing on Jacob that the “full realization of all these blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant would be attained only through the messianic descendant of Jacob, the true Israel, in the antitypical kingdom of the new kingdom” (p. 97). I came across these examples simply by opening to two pages in the book at random, which reflects the fact that this kind of “zooming out” to see the big picture is a common feature in this book.

3. Who, in your opinion, is this book is for?

Any Christian could benefit from reading this book, since, as I just mentioned, it helps readers understand the details of the book of Genesis and also provides a christological and canonical (i.e., “whole Bible”) framework for interpreting these details. The book will probably appeal particularly to folks who have an interest in covenant theology, especially as formulated in the Reformed tradition. Any pastor who wishes to preach from the Old Testament can also benefit from reading this book, since it shows how one can find Christ-centered, biblical-theological messages in the Old Testament. Finally, anyone who has ever tried to read my grandfather’s magnum opus, Kingdom Prologue (which by all admissions is not easy reading), should find that Genesis: A New Commentary provides a quicker and more accessible path through the material found in Kingdom Prologue.

4. For first-time readers of your grandfather’s work, what can they expect? For long-time readers, how does this work fit with other works that he has done?

My grandfather is well known for packing a lot of information into a small compass. For example, here is how he introduces the flood narrative found in Gen 6–9: “The narrative of re-creation through deluge reflects in many respects the literary form of the original creation account. It has seven sections, distinguished by differing themes, that overlap chronologically. The opening triad deals with de-creation and the entrance of the ark-kingdom into the judgment; the center section, with the judgment crisis; and the closing triad, with the re-emergence of the ark-kingdom in re-creation” (p. 33). There’s a lot here! Anyone who is acquainted with my grandfather’s other writings will be familiar with the typological hermeneutic found here, his emphasis on literary structures as a key to meaning, his special use of the phrase “judgment crisis,” and his penchant for hyphenating words (like “ark-kingdom”) in order to pack a whole constellation of connotations into one expression. For first-time readers, the presence of these elements may take getting used to, but it’s well worth the time spent doing so; after a little while of reading these kinds of passages from the commentary, you start to see the big picture come together.

5. Many are aware of his commentary on Genesis in the New Bible Commentary in 1970. How is this work significantly different?

My grandfather wrote Genesis: A New Commentary in the mid-1990s, that is, a quarter of a century after he wrote the Genesis notes for the New Bible Commentary and, significantly, after he had worked out his mature views on biblical theology. In his famous seminary course on Old Testament hermeneutics, he used the book of Genesis as a launching-off point for discussing the entirety of redemptive history and for exposing his students to his often paradigm-changing perspectives on the beauty and coherence of the biblical story. Kingdom Prologue grew out of that course, and after my grandfather spent the 1980s hammering out the ideas found in that book, he wrote Genesis: A New Commentary. This commentary distills much of the important material in Kingdom Prologue and also contains much more discussion than that book does of the latter two-thirds of the book of Genesis.

6. What was something you learned in the process of editing this work?

When he comments on the story of the Tower of Babel found in Gen 11:1–9, my grandfather observes that this episode “is not an account of the first differentation of speech after the flood, but of a special local instance of such, effected supernaturally” (p. 48). As evidence for this, he cites Gen 10:5, 20, and 31, which refer to people groups listed according to “their clans and languages.” In other words, Gen 10 refers to various groups that spoke their own languages, and then we come to Gen 11, which speaks of God confusing the language of some people in the land of Shinar. The common interpretation of Gen 11 is that it is an etiology (origin story) about the beginnings of human language. But Gen 10 makes it clear that before the time period described in this story there were all sorts of groups that spoke different languages. What this means is that when Gen 11 says that the whole “earth” (Hebrew eretz) spoke one language, the word “earth” cannot refer to everyone on the planet, or even everyone in the known ancient world; rather, the word must mean something like the whole “land” (of Shinar), another perfectly normal and abundantly attested meaning of this Hebrew word. This example shows that taking the biblical text seriously and paying attention to its many details and the interrelationships of its parts sometimes prompts us to rethink traditional or unreflective interpretations. Examples like this are a hallmark of my grandfather’s work and one of the things that makes reading his writings so fun and exciting.

7. Is Hendrickson publishing anything else by your grandfather in the future?

In the fall of 2017, Hendrickson will be publishing a book called Essential Writings of Meredith G. Kline, a collection of sixteen of his most seminal articles that were written over a period of about forty years. I will be providing an introduction for that book, my father (Meredith M. Kline) will write a biographical sketch of his dad, and respected Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman (who studied with my grandfather) will write a foreword. The book is organized according to large rubrics like “creation,” “covenant, law, and the state,” and “resurrection and the consummation.” The book aims to give readers a sense of both the breadth and the depth of my grandfather’s work and provides an entrée into some of his most interesting ideas. In addition, the articles that will be included in this book were chosen because they showcase the combination of academic and pastoral sensitivies that lay at the heart of all of my grandfather’s work.

Genesis: A New Commentary by Meredith G. Kline

Jonathan G. Kline (PhD, Harvard University) is an Associate Editor at Hendrickson Publishers and the author of Allusive Soundplay in the Hebrew Bible and co-author of Biblical Aramaic: A Reader & Handbook.

Meredith G. Kline (1922-2007) was a professor of Old Testament for fifty-five years, teaching at four seminaries: Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary California. He was also an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

For more information about Genesis: A New Commentary, visit our website.

What is Virtue and What Does It Have to Do with Me? — Q&A with Kevin Brown

q-and-a-with-kevin-brownHendrickson has the exciting opportunity to interview Kevin Brown, the author of Designed for Good.

Designed for Good is a study of classical virtue ethics from a Christian perspective. This book shows Christians that their faith contains resources to help them recover the idea of virtue in the face of our modern moral bewilderment.

1. What first interested you in the philosophy of virtue?

Virtue, in its most general sense, takes an “agency-based” approach to morality. In other words, it does not focus so much on the right action, but rather, the emphasis is on being the right kind of person.

The world is filled with complex moral and ethical dilemmas—and our (over)emphasis on determining the right answer to a given dilemma does little, sometimes, to sort out that complexity. This has made me wonder: Are we asking the right question? Perhaps a better way of thinking about a thorny ethical scenario is not “What should I do?” but “Who should I be?” This latter question is taken up in the virtue tradition.

2. What inspired you to write a book concerning virtue and ethics from a Christian perspective?

I have taught ethics for several years. The various texts I have utilized all attempt to answer a basic question: Why should I be ethical? Answers tend to appeal to some pragmatic, desirable outcome. For example, why should a business manager be ethical? Well, according to an array of different authors, they should be ethical because such behavior tends to produce desirable business outcomes. A similar argument is made on a personal level. That is, when a person is good they are said to profit in a variety of ways. One can begin to see a formula emerge. Virtuous behavior = good consequences.

I see two problems with this that should be of concern to the person of faith. First, while virtuous behavior might produce good consequences—so does vice. A considerable body of recent research suggests that narcissism, overconfidence, ruthlessness, egocentrism, and a lack of sympathy (among others) tend to correlate with success. Second, even if virtuous behaviors did indeed lead to success—and were thus adopted by the masses—that does not necessarily make us virtuous. At best, this would reflect what I refer to as shadow virtue (behaviors we mimic because they produce better consequences).

These common answers fall short of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Virtue is better understood as a disposition; character traits that are deeply woven into the fabric of human agency (not actions that are mimicked). We should not simply seek virtue and “the good” as a means to an end; it is an end in itself. A virtuous life is our best life. Moreover, I think the person of faith has a much better narrative to offer when it comes to defending our motivation for virtuous activity. In other words, we have a uniquely rich and compelling story to tell. This is the narrative I wanted to spell out in Designed for Good.

3. How can we encounter the “good life” that Jesus calls us to through virtue?

Not long ago I had the pleasure of watching a Chris Thile concert. For those unfamiliar with Thile, many consider the former Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers member to be the best mandolin player in the world. For two hours, my wife and I were mesmerized as we watched and listened as Thile unleashed an assemblage of notes and chords all banded together to produce a musical experience unlike anything I have ever encountered.

“The music was in him,” my wife commented after the concert, “and it came out through the mandolin.”

Thile has been honing his musical talent well before he was even potty-trained. He has committed himself to a disciplined regiment of mandolin playing for years and years, hours upon hours; it is as if the instrument were an appendage to his body. But there is something in him as well. As my wife commented, there was a well of musical genius inside of him that flowed out in his performance.

In many ways, I think this is a fitting metaphor for Christian virtue. We are called to practices, disciplines, and habits of virtue; training ourselves to discern good from evil (Hebrews 5:14). Moreover, we are told in Ephesians that we were created for good works as a way of life (Ephesians 2:10). But while habits are deeply associated with being a disciple, it is the work of the spirit—the spirit in us—that will flow out into our everyday lives. So, while what we do will influence who we are, who we are (spirit-filled disciples) will influence what we do (virtuous practice).

4. What do you think helps people make the transition from ethics into virtue?

The terms “ethics” and “virtue” are often used interchangeably—and the relationship between them is easily muddled. In the book I distinguish between “ethics” as a cognitive exercise necessary to determine what is right and wrong and “virtue” as a capacity and a desire for right action. So you might say that field of ethics is about discerning the right choice to make, and virtue is about becoming the right kind of person; the person I was meant to become.

Much can be said here, but I think it is very important to recognize that we are all becoming something. There is no neutral ground in moral development. One of the key quotes from Designed for Good comes from C.S. Lewis, who argues that every time you make a choice, you are turning a part of yourself into something a little different from what it was before. He says, “Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”

Given this, the question is: Who, or what, are we becoming? Moreover, if we were indeed designed by a deliberate designer, are we being shaped into what we were designed to be? Are we fulfilling our intended purpose? Are we participating in our created form?

As soon as we seriously consider these questions, we find ourselves reflecting on virtue. In other words, this is no intellectual exercise. These questions are actually of great practical importance since they ultimately consider what it means to live a good, fulfilling, meaningful, fruitful existence; or in Scriptural terms, deliberating about what it means to “take hold of the life that really is life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

5. What was the turning point in your life when you realized “I am not good”?

Most of us have examples in our lives that point to the fact that we are not inherently good. For me, my late high-school and early college years were constituted by “trying really hard” as it related to being an upright and moral person. In other words, I thought being a good person was about commitment, certitude, resolve, and grit. This all amounted to a kind of personal, self-manufactured transformation. Of course, self-manufactured transformations aren’t, ultimately, very transformative.

This period of my life led me to realize that not only was I insufficient, in myself, for deep-rooted moral change—I did not even have the constitution for it. I was not wired properly. I was not undertaking something difficult; more accurately, I was attempting the impossible. I needed to be re-wired.

Now, to be clear, I think a virtuous life consists of a suite of choices, habits, and practices that are aimed toward the good, the right, and the true. But, as I make clear in the book, I am insufficient to pick myself up by my own moral bootstraps. I fully believe that being a follower of Jesus is about living a whole life—what God does for us. That is, I may be insufficient to transform myself, but God is more than sufficient. By committing my life to him, I can be re-wired—enabled to do what I was created to do. As I often say, this is the great irony of the Christian faith: It is when we empty ourselves that we become whole.

Designed for Good by Kevin Brown

Kevin Brown is an associate professor of business at Asbury University and also serves as the lead editor of the Christian Business Academy Review. His formal education spans the areas of theology, philosophy, and economics—and his writing seeks to explore the interplay between these fields. He resides with his wife and children in Wilmore, Kentucky.

For more information about this book, visit our website.

Q & A with the Author of Putting Art (Back) in Its Place

Putting Art (Back) in Its Place by John SkillenHendrickson had the pleasure of interviewing John Skillen about his new book Putting Art (Back) in Its Place.

In Putting Art (Back) in its Place, Skillen offers readers a compelling call to foster a vibrant culture of the arts by restoring and cultivating active and respectful relationships among artists, patrons, scholars, communities and the art they create. The book equips laity and clergy to think historically about the vibrant role the visual arts have playedand could again playin the life of the church and its mission. Skillen also directs the Studio for Art, Faith & History at Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and oversees several programs in Europe administered through Gordon’s Global Education Office.

1. What first prompted your interest in the idea of art in situ?

Particularly while working with a group of artists in Florence in 1993, I was struck by the enormous number of “famous masterpieces of Renaissance art” found not in museums—although the Uffizi Gallery sure has its share—but in the places where these works of art were commissioned for a particular community’s purposes. Statues representing the patron saints of each of the trade guilds installed in niches all around Orsanmichele, the chapel used by the guilds collectively; famous Last Suppers in the dining halls of monasteries, which only the monks would have seen; Ghirlandaio’s altarpiece painting of the Adoration of the Shepherds just sitting there, unprotected, in a side chapel of a functioning parish church; and so on and on. Initially I wasn’t so much interested in the “idea” of art in situ as I was simply bowled over by the fact of artworks once doing their work as physical objects in a real, everyday life situation, rather than being abstracted from everyday life in museums and galleries.

2. What are some your ideas of tangible steps that could be taken to try and return artwork to its original location?

If by “returning artwork to its original location” you mean taking artworks out of museums and re-locating then in the places they were originally made for, well, that just ‘ain’t gonna happen’! Museums that have legally purchased or been given those artworks aren’t going to give them up, and many of the original locations aren’t there anymore, nor can such artworks be sufficiently protected even if they were restored to their place of origin.

But if you mean the process of recovering the value of artworks made for a “real” location, then I confess that this will not be an easy, or straight-line, process. I think the place we have to start is by helping groups (by which I mean gatherings of people who see themselves as a ‘community’ with a shared purpose and identity):

  • to take conscious notice of where they do their work
  • to define that work clearly
  • to consider the various purposes that artworks once unashamedly bore (often as the three-fold job of instructing, remembering, and inspiring)
  • to consider what purposes, beyond serving as pleasing objects of aesthetic looking, art could perform for that community
  • and to accept their responsibility to the artist for making art—making worth his or her time, labor, and training.

At the same time, we need to encourage artists to be willing to rub shoulders with those communities, and to give up the considerable autonomy that they enjoy and expect in making whatever they want to in the privacy of their own studio.

3. Do you have a favorite piece of artwork in situ that you’ve come back to again and again or that has a lot of meaning for you?

You bet! But I guess I have to speak of favorites, not of a single artwork. I’ll name four that I have visited dozens of times, whose beauty and sophistication I am nowhere near to ‘plumbing’ (and which figure prominently in my book): Piero della Francesco’s fresco cycle in the Franciscan church in Arezzo that narrates and explores the fascinating “legend of the Cross”; the cycle of scenes from the life of St. Peter frescoed by Masaccio and Masolino in a family chapel in the Carmelite monastery in Florence; the scripture-based scenes frescoed by Fra Angelico and his team on the walls of the individual cells in the monastery San Marco in Florence; and the depiction of the End Times and the Last Judgment frescoed by Luca Signorelli (who completed work begun by Fra Angelico) over every square inch of the San Brizio Chapel in the cathedral in Orvieto—which I’ve had the good fortune of visiting, worshiping in, and attending concerts in hundreds of times over the last 18 years.

4. Your story of having a performance of the Nativity in Orvieto prompts the question: Do you think there are ways to participate in in situ art in the United States? If so, how? Do you think it’s possible to have programs similar to that of the Nativity in the U.S. for secular art without some religiously bonding element present?

The Nativity play you mentioned operates in a long and rich tradition in Europe (especially in England, interestingly) of performing long sequences of scriptural episodes in places around town. These play-cycles took on their rich resonance for the community precisely because they were performed repeatedly over many generations and in ways that invested places in town with the overtones of the scriptural stories themselves.  In a certain sense, society in our own country is simply too mobile, with weakened civic and neighborhood identity, and without any text that is recognized by the whole community as grounding of their mutual identity, to foster the conditions that made such theater, and other art in situ, real and relevant to people’s actual experience.  But we should take every opportunity to cultivate those conditions afresh.  Wherever there is an event that binds together a community, offers a place of shared sensibility and emotion, and sustains a common memory that can be passed down through generations, such events can serve as starting points for artistic reenactment and for formalized remembrance and celebration.

5. How does secular art fit into your idea of art in situ? Is there a way that secular art can be interacted with as conscientiously as religious art in its original location?

Recognizing that “secular” and “religious” are slippery terms, I don’t consider them as the defining feature of what allows “community” art or fosters “the social practices of art” (to cite the subtitle of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s recent book). Any profound event, narrative, value or belief that serves to bind together individuals into a collective can serve as the source point of “art in situ.”  A work of memorial art that remembers a beloved founding figure, or narrates a story of generosity and perseverance, or honors the courageous first responders in New York City on 9/11 can be (it seems to me) “interacted with as conscientiously” by people of Christian faith as they would with explicitly “religious” art.

6. How do you reconcile the possibility of decomposition of an artwork in situ when it would have been preserved for much longer in a museum?

I enjoy exploring this paradox with my students. Yes, on the one hand, an artwork that is loved and used and incorporated into the life of a community is likely to be “used up,” worn out over time.  In the epoch described in my book, artworks were made to last, and yet altarpieces did get damaged from candle smoke and wear and tear; frescoes on the walls of the portico around a monastery cloister were scuffed and faded and damaged by the elements, and so forth.  On the other hand, the very efforts to preserve valuable objects by taking them out of circulation and protecting them from damage in climate-controlled museums in some sense strips them of their power.  I guess I’ve come to the somewhat-pained position of thinking that it’s better to allow loved artworks to decompose from use, and then for the community to have to replace them with new works.  (As I narrate in my book in chapter 4, this is exactly what happened in Siena, where a deeply loved old altarpiece of the Madonna in the cathedral was replaced with a new one by the artist Duccio.)  Perhaps some sort of analogy is the beloved stuffed animal that has to be patched together, resewn, and finally loses its stuffing: better that than sitting untouched on the shelf in a plastic bag so that it lasts longer.

7. What would you recommend to those who can’t access the prestigious Italian and European art, but long to experience art like it in person?

A good question. Two approaches can work together. First, visit museums with collections of premodern European art originally made for particular places and purposes, but having done some reading (such as my book!) that helps one imagine how the artwork would have worked in its original physical and liturgical context. (A problem, of course, is that much of the art of the premodern period can’t make it to museums because it wasn’t on walls, it was the wall, frescoed permanently into the plaster, or carved in bas relief on panels that are part of the wall itself; not decoration on doors, but the very panels that comprise the doors.) Then, take every opportunity to visit places in your neck of the woods where, whatever their artistic quality, artworks remain installed in place: perhaps the murals painted around the courtroom in the county courthouse or in the old bank, and the like.

Second, see if you live in reach of any of the growing number of cities (such as Philadelphia) that have initiated explicit campaigns to commission and install artworks in civic settings. Visit and support new works of art commissioned for particular sites. Most importantly, get in gear and start commissioning in situ artworks in and for the places that your own community has control over. The Studio for Art, Faith & History, which I direct, offers study tours with particular themes—as reasonably-priced as possible—that are chock full of excursions to places in Tuscany and Umbria rich with in situ art from medieval and Renaissance Italy. Visit the Studio for Art, Faith & History’s website for more information.

8. What can we expect from you next?

Well, less of more books and more of active engagement in helping churches, schools, and civic entities figure out how their own life together can be enriched by thematically and artistically sophisticated artworks installed in the places where the “work of the people” is done. In other words, I will measure the real success of my book by how much it inspires real-life communities to “put art back in its place” and inspires students who read it for a class to translate premodern conditions of in situ art into the “postmodern” conditions of our own time.

Putting Art (Back) in Its Place by John Skillen

While most Christians today view art from a distance and Christian discussions of art focus primarily on artists as lonely dreamers, this has not always been the case. In Putting Art (Back) in its Place, Dr. John Skillen, an expert in medieval and Renaissance art and literature, calls for the church to come together as one body to reclaim that rich heritage where art touched the entire believing community.

For more information about Putting Art (Back) in its Place, feel free to visit our website.


Video Interview with Marcus Doe

Catching Ricebirds by Marcus DoeThis remarkable autobiography is a journey from terror, violence, and despair into freedom, peace, and joy. Catching Ricebirds: A Story of Letting Vengeance Go is Marcus Doe’s true story as a Liberian refugee who lost his family and fled his country, and ultimately learns to forgive and find peace again.


In this gripping autobiography, a refugee recounts his journey from fear, violence, and despair into freedom, peace, and forgiveness. Marcus Doe was born in Liberia, West Africa, in 1979. Affectionately nicknamed “Jungle Boy” by his family, he reveled in his childhood life and was hardly aware of the dangerous political climate swirling around him. But by mid-July 1990, a violent civil war erupted and Liberia was thrown into a time of fear, starvation, and death. Separated from his family, Marcus embarked on a remarkable journey to escape the war-ravaged country he loves and the wounds that he carried in his memory. But God’s light reached him in this darkness. Where he had been filled with hatred, Marcus slowly learned to forgive. Now his mission is to bring the hope and the peace of Christ to others.

Marcus’s life unfolds in four movements: first as a young boy living in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, during a period of growing unrest; second as a refugee fleeing from rebel forces that would kill him and his family without a second thought; third as a wanderer in foreign countries – Ghana, the United States – unable to return to his childhood home; and finally as an adult, coming to grips with the loss he experienced and longing to see his own healing extend to others still haunted by Liberia’s suffering.

To read more about Marcus’s story and get more information on this powerful and eye-opening book, check out this blog post.

“If God Knows What I Need, Why Should I Pray?” and Other Questions with Kent Crockett

Hendrickson Publishers interviewed Kent Crockett about his newly released book If God Knows What I Need, Why Should I Pray?

1. What’s the first step somebody should take if they want to improve their prayer life? 

God tells us that He is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). So the first thing we must do is get rid of all pride and self-sufficiency, and humbly come to Him with a sincere heart. This places us in a position where we can connect our heart to God’s heart.

2. Can you describe your own process of coming to learn how and why to pray?

Years ago when I was a new Christian, I didn’t pray very often because I didn’t understand why I needed to pray. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, it won’t be long before you quit doing it. I figured that since God knew everything, it was a waste of time telling Him what He already knew.

But as I studied the Scriptures, it became clear to me that there are four distinct purposes of prayer, which I explain in the book. Once I understood these reasons to pray, it motivated me to talk with God about everything.

3. Can you talk briefly about the four purposes of prayer?

The first reason is to dialogue and fellowship with God. He could have said, “There’s no such thing as prayer. You have to go your entire life without talking to Me.” But the Lord wants to communicate with us, so He gave us the privilege of talking with Him.

The second reason to pray is for us to participate in God’s will being done on earth. The Lord could have done everything for us by Himself, but instead He instituted prayer so we can be co-laborers with Him.

The third reason is to show God how desperately we want something. When we examine various instances in the Bible, we find that answers came to those who were the most desperate.

The fourth reason for prayer is to release our burdens to God. Problems can weigh us down and the way we release them is by placing them in God’s hands through prayer.

4. What did you learn while writing this book?

I’ve learned that praying, or our failure to pray, makes a difference in how things turn out for us. Many good things will not happen in our lives, and in others’ lives, unless we pray. Otherwise, praying wouldn’t serve any purpose.

5. Of all the prayers in the Bible, which is the one that most people overlook, and which is the one you pray the most?

I believe we often overlook Jesus’ command, “Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). It goes against our nature to pray for those who abuse us, but since Jesus is the one who answers our prayers, He must have told us to do this for a good reason. Praying for your enemies releases the Holy Spirit to convict them of their abusive behavior.

The prayer that I probably pray the most is the prayer of thanksgiving. Jesus healed ten lepers but only one took the time to thank Him. Jesus wanted to know where the other nine were, which means He wants to be thanked. There are hundreds of things to be thankful for every day but we must look for them. As I go throughout the day, I’m continually thanking God for different things. Being thankful also helps me keep a positive attitude.

6. What works can we expect from you in the future?

I’m writing a book of 365 daily devotions. Most of the changes in my life have come from hearing a truthful statement that grabbed my heart. This book will be different from other devotional books because each daily devotional is based on an insight that changed my life.

If God Knows What I Need Kent CrockettKent Crockett’s book, If God Knows What I Need, Why should I Pray? is available for purchase on Hendrickson’s store website.