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Book Reviews – July/August 2013

It is Finished: Finding Lasting Victory Over Sin
By David Wilkerson
Chosen Books, 2013, 192 pages, $13.99

Do you want an “ironclad pledge” that has “the power to release in all believers the overcoming strength to be more than conquerors in these last days? According to David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and the Switchblade, and Teen Challenge Founder, one truth that can accomplish this is the understanding of the New Covenant which Wilkerson details in his book, It is Finished: Finding Lasting Victory Over Sin.

Wilkerson, who died March 27, 2011, said in It is Finished, “I believe it is vitally important for the Church of Jesus Christ to comprehend the New Covenant as we face the coming perilous times. The Bible tells us that in the last days Satan is going to pour out his wrath on the earth because he knows his time is short.”

In his characteristically direct style, Wilkerson acknowledges ditches on both sides of New Covenant teaching. He shares that, “Covenant Theology” (a.k.a. a license to sin), stemming from the marvelously freeing nature of the New Covenant which some fear could lead to permissive, compromising lifestyles . . . ministers only to man’s greed or to God’s pledge to baptize people with financial bonuses.”

In the first chapter under the subheading, “Unclaimed Promises,” Wilkerson clearly exhorts God’s people to partake in God’s “incredible New Covenant” promises which have been “unsought or ignored by Christians today.” He offers Hebrews 8:8 as a key to this oversight, which, “Describes a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah”. “Many Christian groups have mistaken this passage to mean that God’s Covenant refers only to natural Jews and not spiritual Jews who make up Christ’s body.” Not so, says Wilkerson. The New Covenant belongs “to ALL believing Jews and Gentiles and is for us today.”

It is Finished is comprised in eleven chapters sharing specific scriptures and testimonies detailing how New Covenant believers can not only get free from sin, but also stay free.

Evelyn Hoopes Streett
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Kingdom Quest
By Tom Johnston
Churchsmart Resources, 2007, 125 pages, $13.50

The Organic Reformation
By Tom Johnston and Mike Perkinson
PraxisMedia, 2009, 128 pages, $12

When I was working at Indiana Yearly Meeting (IYM), the Evangelism and Outreach Committee traditionally would select a book of the General Superintendent’s suggestion to give out to all of their pastors. Over the course of the year, the pastors met in area groups to discuss the book with each other and the Superintendent. In 2011, this book was Tom Johnston & Mike Chong Perkinson’s The Kingdom Quest: Preparing to Church Plant in the Post-Christian West.

As Ministerial Advocate for IYM I had the privilege to travel in both Indiana and Ohio (sorry Michiganders) and meet with pastors each month to discuss this book chapter by chapter. I found the book both powerful and relevant and was thrilled to learn that Mike would be the speaker at IYM’s annual Pastor’s Short Course that summer. Again his message was compelling. There was so much energy coming out of those sessions that a retired pastors group formed around the idea of reading Mike and Tom’s follow-up book, The Organic Reformation: A New Hope for the Church in the West. What was so compelling?

The primary focus of Kingdom Quest is on church-planting, but as Doug Shoemaker pointed out in the note that came with the book, “Every pastor will find the principles in this book valuable. In reality, many of us are seeking to re-invent our churches, or re-plant them, to be effective in a rapidly changing culture.” The book identifies four common pitfalls for church planters — pitfalls worth considering in any new church organization. They include trying to:

1) recreate the previous experience in a new setting; 2) do the exact opposite of what was done elsewhere; 3) develop the “dream church”; and 4) developing the “cool church.” As the book explains, “The danger here is that you are standing at the wave of the moving of God’s Spirit, and instead of riding that wave and seeing the unique places God wants to take you and your new church community, you may very well kill the thing dead by getting all religious.”

Another important lesson I took from the book is that, “What will be reproduced is what you are living out, not necessarily what you are verbally teaching.” This leads into Mike’s comments at the Pastor’s Short Course. “[W]e have . . . nullified the call to discipleship by substituting a call to belief and attendance,” he warned. “In the West, Christianity has become a belief system, not a way of life. Easily compartmentalized, such religion is a Band-Aid for the soul, but cannot cure the spiritual cancer inside each one of us . . . we have left the full proclamation of the Gospel for the simple preaching of its tenets.”

Mike called us away from propositional statements about God to living in ways that express God at work in our lives. “The Church in the West tends to place its emphasis on personal blessing instead of being a blessing for others, the community, and the world,” Mike and Tom write in The Organic Reformation. “The underlying thought seems to be one that believes that if we can control our world and control our God through right practices and behaviors, then we will be blessed and have a comfortable existence.”

But, they continue, “Nothing could be further from the truth — Belief is not faith, as faith requires action and always involves risk.” Instead of trying to bring as many people through our door and assuring ourselves that they agree with our beliefs, the goal Mike and Tom articulate is one of building relationships, community and discipleship. It’s a model they take from the life of Jesus. It’s one that they argue can have powerful impact on us as individuals, on our churches and on the world. “Individuals and church communities . . . motivated by God’s heart [can] become catalytic change agents in the Kingdom economy, birthing new moves of God.”

This is a call that I want to answer, and a wave I want to follow. I hope you will join me.

Matt Hisrich
Richmond, Indiana

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