Monday, September 20, 2021

The Church as a Culture of Care

The Church as a Culture of Care: Finding Hope in Biblical Community, T. Dale Johnson Jr. (New Growth Press, 2021)

Johnson is an experienced biblical counsellor, and he has written this book for church leaders and elders, seeking to re-establish the church as the central place of soul care. He challenges the perception that secular psychology has outdated the church, but rather proposes than God has equipped people for every function of the care of souls, placing Jesus at the centre of restoration. He states that “this book is intended to be an admission of our failure and an exhortation to arise and reclaim the church as a culture of care” (p. 4).

He starts by expounding that God made the church to care for people, and then outlines a biblical vision for the church to be a culture of care: because God first cared for us, it is for his glory and for our good.
“Every aspect of the work of the such intended to care for souls. Preaching, shepherding, one-anothering, church discipline, missionary proclamation, personal obedience - all are intended to awaken or strengthen the soul to live faithfully and peacefully in a war-torn and sin-cursed world.” (p17)
The third chapter (when the church doesn’t care) was one of the strongest, and one those in church leadership would do well to ponder. Johnson outlines how we have embraced secular psychology, abdicated discipleship, and we hesitate to obey and apply God’s word. He explores the costs that this has had, the one that struck me was our changed view of the church - with an aversion to church discipline, the specialisation of the pastorate, and the lack of discipleship. Another point rang true for me, based on my current study experience - eclecticism is now valued, rather than a over-arching systematic approach:
“What is in vogue at the moment is a smattering of methodologies used at the discretion of the therapist from an ever expanding toolbox” (p. 50).
The following four chapters continue to expand his biblical vision of the church as the centre of soul care:
  • Christ as the head of the church - we must submit to him and glorify him 
  • Christ as our good shepherd - because the rule and authority of Jesus is always “tethered to love and gentleness”. There is a detailed look at what it means for Christ to be our shepherd, and how we are to listen to him and depend on him in response. 
  • The care of under-shepherds - what it means for pastors and elders to minister and care, and to equip the saints for works of ministry. 
  • Equipping the saints - because pastors forget that God has called the whole church to care for each other. 
The final chapter (counselling in the local church) was also very good, with Johnson making the distinction between preventative and intensive soul care. Preventative care should be a normal part of the one-anothering life of the church:
“every believer is to be engaged in the care of souls within the body of Christ, and as such they will provide “counsel” or wisdom for living during the course of their normal conversations. Every member of the body is called to minister the Word to one another” (p. 145).
Intensive care is that which requires immediate attention through formal counselling or intensive discipleship. Formal counselling ministry is not intended to subvert or deter normal care within the body of Christ, rather: 
“it is the overflow of healthy biblical discipling and caring relationships that creates a demand for a more formal counselling ministry” (p. 149).
This is a helpful offering to assist church leaders consider why biblical soul care and counselling is an essential part of the the role of the church. I felt it was more wordy that it needed to be, and yet still didn’t get specifically practical, in terms of how a church or a pastor might go about making change. Some of the discussion questions might help people to get to that place on their own, but I imagine others might be left feeling, “I agree, but what do I actually do now?”

Having said that, he has laid excellent groundwork for churches to think through their own culture of care, what they may be missing, and the reasons for that. Numerous people would benefit if these principles were put in place in more churches.

An ecopy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Windsor Knot

The Windsor Knot, S. J. Bennett 

This lovely fictional book suggests that the Queen solves mysteries. A young Russian musician has been found dead after performing at Windsor Castle. While the head of British Intelligence thinks the Russians are up to something major, and the staff of the royal household are now suspects of a long term plot, the Queen knows it was nothing of the sort. Through her young, new assistant private secretary, Rozie Oshodi, she quietly starts her own investigation. Rozie discovers doors quietly open wherever she goes, as various people long to say what they know and to help Her Majesty. It’s written in a lovely, somewhat whimsical tone, with the Queen’s contemplations often involving “oneself” or “when one has to do something.”
“Of all her residences, if she had to pick a favourite, it would be this one. Not Buckingham Palace, which was like living in a gilded office block on a roundabout. Not Balmoral or Sandringham, though they were in her blood. Windsor was, quite simply, home. It was the seat of her happiest days of childhood… It was where one still came at weekends to recover from the endless formality in town.”
It’s set in April 2016, when the preparations are well under way for her 90th birthday, and the Duke of Edinburgh is still by her side.

I have enjoyed various other fictional books set about the Queen over the years, such as Mrs Queen Takes the Train and The Uncommon Reader (written by another Bennett!)

I’m pleased to see she has more books in the planning, I’ll be looking out for them.