I recently received my first book for review from NavPress
It was not until I received my copy of Acts 29 that I realized the witty play on the title. There is no 29th chapter in the Book of Acts. Hence, the subtitle of the book: The Mission Continues. I also did not realize that this was a work-book style publication and was pleased to find that a topic often dealt with, at least in some circles, in a relatively academic and non-practical fashion was presented in a hands on manner.
The book is well organized, attractive and easy to use. It is set up as a small group study but one could in theory use it for individual study as well. It is divided into an introduction that outlines the structure of the book which is a familiar biblical agricultural metaphor, followed by four “Stages” (cultivating, sowing, harvesting and multiplying) and several appendices for expansion and reference. Each of these stages is divided up into sessions which clearly list the objectives of that section and the “road map” of how to proceed through the session. It is a resource that even a novice educator could use to facilitate a study, however that might not be wise based on the content and potential conflicts the text might have with a church’s teachings.
For many Lutherans (as well as some of the other more stoic denominations) this book might be quite uncomfortable. It is far more aggressive than, gee I might maybe think about inviting my neighbor to attend Advent soup suppers this December. While there are places I feel may step over a line I would personally make, such as having participants make a list of non Christians to share with the group and striking off their names once they’ve been converted, a practice that actually makes my skin crawl, there are still quite a few very helpful ways of speaking about one’s faith. If one can discern which are valuable practices, this can be of great help. There is strong emphasis on developing a solid relationship with a person before thinking about sharing your faith and an encouragement to, so to speak, see what a person’s life questions and perspective are before telling them that Jesus is the answer. Some of the analogies for talking about faith which are depicted in the appendices, such as “The Bridge to Life”, I have heard used faithfully by Lutheran pastors. There is even a section on reflecting faithfully upon television and movies, a skill that I think all Christians could use some work.
There are, certainly, places that reveal a more decision-based theology and different views of atonement than I would wish to teach in my congregation. Therefore, as with any resource, I would recommend that anyone wishing to use it read through it thoroughly before the first session to see what might need to be addressed and altered for your own context and denomination. Differences in a resource such as this may actually provide an opportunity to correct misunderstandings of a church’s teachings, however it might require skillful editing and careful preparation to use this in a group that does not embrace decision-based salvation.