In the (e)Mail from @KregelBooks: Zombie Church

From Kregel,

There are Zombies among us

Liars. Hypocrites. Men, women, and children who attend church because it’s what they are supposed to do. Just going through the motions. These are the undead–people who are disconnected from the Spirit of God–who are spreading a virus of passivity, or worse. No one is completely immune.

Zombies can live. But they will have to fight. Fight for their lives.

zombie churchIn this challenging, culturally relevant book, Tyler Edwards spotlights the very real but often ignored lackluster attitude of today’s believers. An attitude that can infect an entire church. Using examples from popular zombie movies, Edwards will help you recognize the symptoms and show what you can do to awaken the undead. Your mission is to take life to a dying world by demonstrating what it means to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 niv).

The bride of Christ isn’t dead. But she is terribly sick. Zombie Church offers the keys to survival.

Tyler Edwards graduated from Ozark Christian College in Missouri and is now the senior pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church. He speaks at various campus ministry events and has served overseas. This is his first book.

Expect a review soon…

Review of @KregelAcademic’s A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers

Daniel Wallace, the most well-versed textual critic of our modern age, has compiled and parsed the most popular words used in Michael Holmes’s third edition of the Apostolic Fathers (Baker, 2007). Wallace’s book, as it says from the very first, is designed to coincide with Holmes’s work. While it may be possible use it elsewhere, it is not recommended.

In surveying some of the online responses as well as private conversations, the one real concern some will have with this book is that it is unlike the Reader’s New Testament produced by various publishing companies. And they are absolutely correct; however, as indicative of the title, it is not meant to be. It is, rather than a reader’s version of a text, a reader’s version of a lexicon. To this end, it not only accomplishes its goal, but provides us with a remarkable path forward in reconsidering how lexicons should be drafted in the future.

This lexicon is not meant to give the full understanding and all of the possible uses of the word. Rather, this is a gloss, a traditional form of reading a book from another language. The gloss gives you but a few possible uses without delivering the complete meaning and historical use of the word. To this end, the editors selected the best critical lexicons, such as Bauer’s, Danker, Liddell and Scott, and Lightfoot.

I will use 1 Clement 1.1 as an example of the above two comments. Because of the nature of posting the review, I will transliterate the Greek, although I note the lexicon does not. In 1 Clement 1.1, periboētos is used. We are told it is used twice in the lexicon and twice in the Apostolic Fathers. Then, we are given the simple gloss: well known, far famed, celebrated. Thus, as we are reading the Apostolic Fathers and we stumble at that word, there is no need to retrieve one of the larger lexicons and digest all of the historical information necessary for more in-depth study. Rather, we now have an immeasurable too to allow us to, as the title of this book suggests, read. As Wallace points out in the Preface, this pattern is repeated for all words appearing 30 times or less in the Apostolic Fathers.

The set up, which some will take issue with, looks more like a vocabulary list. My one complaint here is that the words are in alphabetical order. (Or course, if they were not, I may complain about that instead, admittedly.) I would rather like to have the words in the order as they appear in the verse. This is really nothing more than a personal preference. As an experiment, I read through the Epistle of Diognetus, a personal favorite, with little to no issue. The format of the Lexicon did not trouble me in its reading and I found the time it took to read the short work shortened when compared to having to find the word in one of my larger lexicons. 

This book is not for the novice. You cannot simply pick up a lexicon and know Greek. This is for the student and those who once knew Greek. It is a noteworthy progress in bringing Greek tools to a wider public, however.


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Review of @KregelAcademic’s Sunday School that Really Excels: Real Life Examples of Churches with Healthy Sunday Schools

As a member of a growing and Sunday School class — not the leader, as the leader is someone else in the class although I sometimes lead the discussion — I was rather excited to see this book. As a member of the United Methodist Church and in the Wesleyan Tradition, I am firm believer in the power of small groups, including Sunday School, as a means of strengthening the (local) Church. I was not disappointed.

While I disagree with some of the theological statements found here, I believe the authors of the essays are very much right on track. They express a hope for the rest of us, that we do not have to be the cookie-cutter dynamic small group leader with massive plans of church growth. No, instead, what you get is a sense that cookie-cutter programs, beyond the basic, does not work. Why? Because there is no church exactly like the other. And we are introduced by various essayists to more than a few of these different churches. From rural to city, from old to new, the churches and Sunday School classes spoken of in this book are easily recognizable as our own.

There is little doubt this book is written to those in the Southern Baptist Convention, with a focus on how the SBC views Holy Writ and only tapping SBC writers. But, for United Methodists and other mainline Christians, we should not be afraid to learn from those with a passion that should be ours as well. What I’ve learned is that what it takes to grow your Sunday School is to pay attention. Pay attention to your cultural situation. Several authors mention towns in extreme rural areas, such as northern Louisiana or someplace in Kansas. Imagine how they would have reacted to New York or Los Angeles style set-up and lessons. Pay attention is to design the Sunday School not with what the naysayers — and even some of the most positive people can be naysayers — have in mind, but what the local church needs. Finally, pay attention to engage your members, and not just with internal discussions, but with external events.

This book is a wonderful volume filled with success stories, with no two the same. The success is not measured in explosive church growth, but how well the Sunday School contributes to that growth. The final essay, written by the editor (Steve R. Parr), attempts to bring about all of the keys to success into a formulaic, over-arching, plan centered on what may otherwise be considered the ideal organizational growth map. There is nothing earth-shattering, but that — the ability to be earth-shattering without an earth-shattering plan — is a powerful statement.

The only question you have to answer is, Does Sunday School matter? I believe it does. The essayists believe it does. And if you do — or if you don’t — then you’ll need to read this book.

Some…thoughts from @ThomRainer on Sunday School @kregelacademic

You can also get this book from Kregel, here.

This is not a review, mind you, just some thoughts on Rainer’s interview with Steve R. Parr, author of the book. It is okay to take things away… You know, if you dislike one statement it doesn’t mean you have to throw away the book.

First, the statement I found to be a bit obnoxious.

“I have found that the less conservative-leaning denominations value Sunday school less because they value the Bible less.” (33)

Nevermind the fact Sunday School was started as a school for children in the factories (1780′s) and not to actually teach “the Bible.” Nevermind the fact that conservative is a subjective word. Nevermind the fact that for 1700 years, there was no Sunday School or that Communions and denominations “more conservative” that the SBC regularly devalue Sunday school. Nah, we just to take a swipe at those who do not value Sunday School… assuming that they somehow devalue “the Bible.” We can suggest, perhaps, Rainer and those who practice bibliolatry are really the liberals here seeing as their high view of “the Bible” is not part of Christian Tradition until recently.

But, if I were to take this statement and throw away the book, I’d miss some of the insight suggested by both Parr and Rainer on pages 30-31. Here, these speak about the “dismantl(ing) of the Sunday school in order to move small groups in the churches…” (Parr, 30). Rainer takes this line and issues some well qualified statements that to devalue one above the other is to hurt both. Sunday school works when it is respected for what it is. The same thing with small groups.

From the start, we have to recognize this book is written by a conservative Southern Baptist for other conservatives. Their value on “the Word of God” as well as Rainer’s swipe against “less conservative leaning denominations” may be off putting, but in reading further, I have found that the problems faced by each other in looking at the Sunday school movement.

We should ask ourselves first “why Sunday school?” There are some really good answers to that.

If you take every book whole you are going to choke. If you dismiss every book whole because you don’t like some of the statements found therein, you will starve.

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Review: @KregelAcademic’s Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul

Kierspel, Lars. Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul. Kregel Publications, 2012.

Color me impressed — and I am not usually impressed with theological cartography. I guess it’s because of the older charting of eschatology and other facets of (should-be-by-now) long forgotten theological pretensions. And to reach for perfect honesty in this moment, I have purposely avoided Kregel‘s other charting books because some implied (by me) simplistic notions of what these books would look like on the inside. However, I must admit that after spending some quality time with this particular book, again I say I am impressed. The author, Lars Kierspel, is the former department chair at Trinity College but now teaches at Shiloh University in Iowa.

There are 111 charts exploring all sorts of issues with Paul’s theology, letters, and life. The book is divided into two sections. The first section includes four categories of charts — Paul’s Background and Context; Paul’s Life and Ministry; Paul’s Letters; and Paul’s Theological Concepts. Included in the letters is the entirety of the Pauline corpus — Paul, Deutero-Paul, and Pseudo-Paul. Granted, these are modern break-ups based on historical criticism, and rightly so, given that “Paul” is identified as each author, we should not use Marcion’s scissors when discussing the corpus in a theological context. As a give to those who do enjoy historical criticism, several of the charts include issues such as the New Perspectives and a nice list of charts digging into language of Paul. For the intertextual critics among us, charts 43–52 are especially insightful, if not extremely important in exploring a literary critical model of these letters.

The second section of the book, the Chart Comments, gives the author’s view and commentary on each of the charts in the first section. Here, the author takes to the ground to describe what he sees in the chart and even to recommend how to use it. Again, I turn to what first drew me to this book in particular — the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP; Chart 111). Kierspel calls attention to needed understanding of the plurality of the paradigm shifting school (251). He summarizes without polemic the basic arguments of the NPP while equally summarizing the basic argument against the NPP, ending with a mediating position. This is a welcomed allowance for those of us who do hold to some form of the NPP. Unfortunately, no such mediating position is given on the authorship of the letters generally considered to be non-authentic (see charts 72–3 and comments on said charts, 235).

One of my favorite charts (and subsequent commentary) is chart 77 (141–4). In this chart, Kierspel gives Key Texts and Their Interpretations. They include Romans 1.17, Galatians 2.16, Colossians 2.18, and 2 Timothy 3.16. Along with each verse citation he gives several possible interpretations. For instance, at 2 Timothy 1.18, he gives two very succinct choices – either Onesiphorus is dead or he’s not and either way, Paul either prays for him or expresses a wish for him. In the commentary section (237), he provides suggestions for scholars who hold some of the divergent opinions he has listed. Weiser, for instance, in looking at 2 Timothy 2.18.

Over all, I am greatly impressed with the quality scholarship devoted to the charts as well as to the commentary section. This is a fantastic resource for the study of the Pauline corpus and highly recommended.



@KregelAcademic Review: The Singing Grammarian Songs and Visual Presentations for Learning New Testament Greek Grammar



H. Daniel Zacharias has sung his way into my head. I’ve listend to these songs now for several weeks, with the intention to test them. As I have now done so — much to the chagrin of those who accompany me in the car — I can write a more accurate review.

Zacharias writes in the accompanying documentation,

Words were often chosen to create rhyme and rhythm to facilitate memorization, rather than chosen to precisely describe the finer points of grammar, so rely on the textbook for those specifics.

Very true. While not a complete text book, Zacharias has introduced a well qualified memorization tool highlight the most important rules (and exceptions to those rules) for the Greek student.

Anyone who has learned a second language — or even English (i before e and other rhymes) — understand the value of mnemonic cues to aid in remembering just what it is we need to know in order to read, write, and speak the given language. This is just what Zacharias aims to do. He has produced eighteen short songs that, like the mind worms of Ceti Alpha V, weaves their way into your subconscious and tricks you into learning where you were hindered before.

The tunes are familiar — childhood nursery rhymes already stuck in your mental synthesizer. Zacharias has taken then, them, and transformed them with some mildly eclectic interpretations and produced songs on declensions, articles, participles and verbs. Rightly so, they do not all sound the same. So, when you are singing them, you have already catalogued the right tune to the right rule. Oddly enough, as you start to then read Greek, or write it, the tune itself pops into your head so that Paul is now writing one of his epistles in a hard-rock version of Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Zacharias has taken established rules to learning Greek and set them to popular tunes in order for the novice to better pick up the rules of the language. They are short, simple, songs explaining rules, exceptions, and filled with audible references to plant deep into the student’s mind the way to read and write New Testament Greek.

In the Mail: @KregelAcademic’s Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul

Thanks to Laura B. at Kregel for this. You can see the Kregel product page here.

I opened it up and wow…. This is going to be a very useful book!


Paul’s letters have fascinated and challenged most every reader of the Bible. As a result, many general introductions and specific studies on Paul are available, but none are like Charts on the Life and Letters of Paul, which provides over 100 charts to explore the apostle’s background, life and ministry, letters, and theology. The charts visually offer clarity on:

  1. Basic insights (e.g., “Autobiographical Information”)
  2. Comparisons (e.g., “Parallels between Acts and Paul’s Letters”)
  3. Advanced tools for further study (e.g., “Key Words in Romans”)
  4. Analysis (e.g., “The ‘New Perspective’ on Paul”)
  5. Research (e.g., “Key Texts and Their Interpretations”)

Comments on the charts and discussions of significant theories-with leads for further exploration-are offered together with an extensive bibliography that includes references to past and current Pauline scholarship.Interested Bible readers as well as students of Paul’s life, letters, and theology will find plenty of material to deepen their understanding. Teachers will find the charts to be a valuable teaching resource. This book is an excellent supplement to any general introduction or specific study on Paul.

In the (e)Mail – @KregelAcademic: The Singing Grammarian Songs and Visual Presentations for Learning New Testament Greek Grammar

There are scores of first-year Greek grammar textbooks available for Bible college and seminary courses in biblical Greek. Far less plentiful, however, are tools that help students learn and retain the subject matter, regardless of the textbook they use. People learn in many different ways, and a multimedia approach has been underutilized in the teaching of biblical Greek. There is no better way to assist today’s New Testament Greek grammar student than The Singing Grammarian. Designed for use on video display devices or computers, this fun learning program covers the major areas of introductory Greek and the major paradigms taught to introductory students. The title of each song explains its content: The Greek Alphabet song, First Declension song, Second Declension song, Third Declension song, Definite Article song, Present Active Indicative song, Present Middle/Passive song, Future Active and Middle song, Secondary Endings (Imperfect) song, Aorist Active and Middle song, Liquid Verbs song, Passive System song, (Plu)Perfect song, Imperative song, Subjunctive song, Infinitives song, and Participles song. These videos in Mov format can be played on many devices. On a Mac or PC, simply use Apple’s free QuickTime player for viewing. For those who want to view the videos on an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, add the videos to your iTunes library and then sync them to your device. Many Android-enabled phones as well Blackberry phones are able to play these files too; just add them to your phone. If your phone is unable to view the files, use a video converter to create a suitable format and screen size for your device. For ease in downloading your purchase, use a high-speed broadband connection and a download manager.

Order here.

Review of “Defending the Faith: Apologetics in Women’s Ministry” @KregelAcademic

I have to be honest and admit that I came to Mary Jo Sharp’s Defending the Faith: Apologetics in Women’s Ministry predisposed to disagree with it. For good or for ill, I have some foundational and philosophical disagreements with the assumption that there must be separate ministries for men and women other than for certain delicate gender-specific issues. I have found no place in the New Testament that implies that men and women should be discipled differently or that they have different needs when it comes to spiritual formation or studying the Bible.

In addition, my personality is such that I have never found any of the traditional activities associated with women’s ministry remotely interesting (although I’m not criticizing women who do) and I am deeply offended when publishers assume that all they need to do is slap some flowers on the front of a Bible to make it more appealing to female buyers.

(And in the interest of full-disclosure, I was traumatized several years ago by a women’s ministry meeting at my church where they made us get up and “do the Locomotion” in order to force us to talk to perfect strangers. I walked out and never went back.

I have also always had the nagging feeling that offering women a ministry of their own allows some churches to claim that they have provided them a venue for service and fellowship without really allowing them to be involved in the larger life of the church. In business circles, this is what used to be called “the pink ghetto.”

For all these reasons, I do not, as a rule, join exclusively female Christian groups.

The purpose of this seemingly useless background information is to demonstrate the fact that Sharp had a lot of work to do in order to gain my trust. Her book, after all, was written with a very specific goal: to convince churches to include apologetics training in their women’s ministries.

After reading it, however, my biggest frustration is that it should be read by everyone, but probably won’t be because it’s targeted specifically at women.

Defending the Faith is a well-written, extremely persuasive argument for apologetics. Regardless of whether the reader is trying to convince their pastor to integrate apologetics into women’s ministry, men’s ministry, or the weekly handbell choir rehearsal, this book argues eloquently for the importance of Christians knowing their stuff—and being able to articulate it well.

Although the content of the two books is significantly different, I can unashamedly put Defending the Faith on my bookshelf beside J.P. Moreland’s Loving God with All Your Mind as two books that will convince most any Christian of the importance of apologetics.

As someone not predisposed toward tea parties and scrapbooking, I was immediately disarmed by Sharp’s admission that she, herself, didn’t understand the value of women’s ministry until she started teaching apologetics. Her confession regarding the southern belle atmosphere of many women’s groups made me like her right from the start.

One of Sharp’s first arguments for integrating apologetics into ministry is that a women (or a man for that matter) who doesn’t have a solid basis for her belief will live just like the non-believer down the street. A person’s actions, says Sharp, flow from what she really believes deep down in her bones. And a faith based only on that warm, fuzzy feeling a person gets from worship isn’t powerful enough to kick-start an inside-out transformation.

Next, Sharp makes the startlingly obvious observation that in no other area of study is it acceptable to assume that a person will know everything they’ll ever need by the time they’re a teenager. Millions of Christians, however, believe just that. The list of excuses that people offer for being satisfied with a shallow faith is sadly familiar, but Sharp’s response provides no wiggle room:

Please understand that we create a shallow view of the Christian faith if we do not deal with difficult passages and tough questions. Look at the dilemma presented by the author of Hebrews who wants to teach in greater depth on the difficult concept of Jesus as the High Priest, but he cannot because the people have become dull of hearing…If ladies in your church are using the idea of a “simple child-like faith” as a reason not to learn hard Christian concepts, you need to help them see that childish thinking is not to be confused with the heart that trusts God with childlike faith.

Defending The Faith is, at its core, a very practical book. It’s designed to give women who want to convince their church to incorporate apologetics into their women’s ministry specific strategies for approaching the pastor, finding quality material, and integrating it into the existing ministry structure. The author even goes into detail on how to create an apologetics curriculum from scratch.

But my favorite part of the book is Sharp’s responses to the most common objections she hears to apologetics itself. “Apologists just want to win arguments,” says one woman. “We should just give people the gospel,” says another. The author’s response is at once spiritual and practical:

The gospel of Jesus entails knowledge of certain propositions that another person may or may not believe. When we proclaim the gospel, we assume the historical reality of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, the existence of God, the problem of a sinful human nature. Finally, we assume the reliability and authority of the Bible. If people have never been exposed to some of these ideas, these principles may sound foreign or confusing to them. When our message seems hard for our listeners to understand, instead of just walking away from the conversation and telling ourselves that they just were not ready to receive the gospel, we can help them with questions they may have on these issues.

One thing Sharp does not spend much time on are the reasons why women avoid apologetics. She acknowledges the problem to be sure, but unlike Toni Allen in Come Let Us Reason Together (another great book), Sharp doesn’t dive too deeply into why so many women seem to have an aversion to it. For my part, this is not a criticism. While Allen did us a great service in identifying the problem—that women, as a group, rely more heavily on their emotional experiences as proof of God—the last thing I want to read is another book talking about women’s deficiencies. Sharp wisely avoids the giant black hole of “what’s wrong with women” and concentrates instead on why apologetics is important and what we can do to convince people of it.

My criticisms of Defending the Faith are minor compared to its value to the church. First, the fact that it is specifically targeted at women will no doubt significantly reduce the number of people who could be reading it and benefiting from it. Nothing in the arguments the author makes is unique to the way women think, but focusing exclusively on women’s ministry almost assures that most men won’t read it.

Are men’s ministries actually more focused on apologetics than women’s? I suspect not. This book has the potential for impacting countless men’s ministries, but unless the pastor stands up and tells his entire congregation to read it, they probably won’t.

So maybe it’s not such a minor point after all.

My second criticism is more about marketing than content. Couldn’t they have come up with a better title than Defending the Faith? So much of this book is truly inspirational; so much of it makes the reader want to go out and change the way people approach their faith and live their lives. Couldn’t they have come up with something more representative of what’s inside? How about Women into Warriors: How Apologetics can Xenafy Your Women’s Ministry? Now there’s a book a man would read!