Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart by Kenneth C. Haugk (Stephen Ministries)
Ken Haugk takes the title from Proverbs 25:20. He bases the book’s contents on his experiences as a pastor and clinical psychologist, along with lessons learned when his wife, Joan, fought a battle with cancer that claimed her life. He also draws on insights gleaned from Stephen Ministries, the nonprofit caregiving ministry he launched nearly 40 years ago.
Haugk provides a solid biblical foundation for his understanding of suffering. Instead of ignoring suffering, denying pain or seeking to “cheer up” the grieving, Christians are most like Jesus when they help bear the burdens of people who are hurting. When a person who is hurting trusts someone else enough to allow them entrance into a personal space of unguarded emotion, the caregiver should recognize he or she is a “guest in a holy place,” he asserts. Guests should mind their manners.
Haugk provides helpful advice about what to say and what not to say. Don’t tell people in pain how they should or should not feel, and steer clear of clichés and pious platitudes. Haugk emphasizes the importance of listening and the value of presence. Rather than giving pep talks to people in pain, caregivers should acknowledge the reality and depth of the pain. Caregivers should realize they neither can nor should “fix” things. Instead, the caregiver simply should provide the person who is hurting a loving and empathetic Christian companion for the journey toward the healing God alone provides.
Ministers, deacons and Christian caregivers of all kinds would benefit from reading and heeding this book.
Ken Camp, managing editor
How to Talk to a Skeptic by Donald J. Johnson (Bethany House Publishers)
It’s certainly not breaking news to most Christians that skeptics of Christianity are numerous and vocal in society today. 1 Peter 3:15 teaches the disciple of Jesus to be ready to give hopeful answers to people’s questions. In the disillusioned and derisive climate of the 21st century, how can a follower of Christ confidently engage in conversation with skeptics while having an attitude of gentleness and respect?
Johnson encourages Christians to focus on having fruitful conversations rather than adding to the contentious noise all around us, while leading unbelievers to evaluate their own worldviews. Look at the bigger picture, take the initiative and ask questions about the skeptic’s worldview while not getting bogged down in one or two issues, Johnson suggests. Share data, find agreement and start your explanations from there, making a positive case for Christianity, he advises. A biblically informed perspective is developed through cumulative evidence rather than assembled on a single bullet point.
Christians seeking a helpful, practical apologetics and evangelism resource should add this volume to their reading list. God is opening the doors for opportunities to share hope to skeptical people without Jesus Christ. Are you ready?
Greg Bowman, student pastor
First Baptist Church