Monday, October 11, 2010

In Transforming Church in Rural America, Shannon O'Dell describes his journey from being the pastor of a vibrant, growing metropolitan church to pastoring in a city in Arkansas with a population of 88. He details the struggles of growing a small, traditional church that says it wants change, but resists it. O'Dell relates personal anecdotes and gives advice to those who wish to see growth in their local church.

When I first received this book, I was a little skeptical, because I've seen this type of book before: some guy was successful, and now he thinks his method will work in your church. I was pleasantly surprised, though, by several things in the book: 1) O'Dell is not as concerned with growing a big congregation as with growing his individual congregants (a line he uses several times in the book.) 2) While he admits to being an "emergent-type" guy, O'Dell portrays sound theology throughout the book. 3) O'Dell gives advice to those seeking change, but it's not specific (style of worship, type of dress, etc.); his advice is more general and principle-based (i.e. excellence in worship, leaders casting strong vision, etc.). The only red flag I saw is that O'Dell has been there less than a decade. On one side, that is amazing, because he has seen tremendous growth in just a few years; however, the book would have greater strength with time-tested evidence to prove that the principles in this book work for more than just temporary growth.

Like every book, there are some ideas with which you will not agree, some statements that will cause you to stop and think, and some genuinely great ideas. All in all, this is definitely a book I would recommend.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Treasure of God's Word: Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible

This is a beautifully-bound gift book, with a hard imitation leather cover and gold-trimmed pages that make it feel somewhat like a Bible. It's designed along the lines of a devotional book, as it contains a selection of Scripture passages from the KJV grouped according to topic (i.e. God's Compassion, God's Holiness, Our Hope, etc.) and interspersed with mini-articles on the 400-year history of the KJV.

As an English major who grew up on the KJV, I was curious to read this book. I was impressed with the quality of the book's presentation, but based on the description, I expected it to be filled with information regarding the history and influence of the KJV. Instead, it is filled with a plethora of topical passages from the KJV with only a scant 22 pages of information about its history and influence. While the mini-articles contain interesting facts the average person might not know (such as, the KJV contained the Apocrypha through the 1769 version), the articles felt too short and trite, like a brief overview instead of an anniversary tribute. The copyright page even says that two of the articles were adapted from! The KJV is certainly something worth celebrating, as its impact on the English language has been quite profound, but I think this book falls short of doing it justice.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Book Sneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.