Book Reviews: Making Disciples in the 21st Century

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Christian Education Leadership: Making Disciples in the 21st Century Church by Bernard M. Spooner, general editor (CreateSpace Independent Publishing)


Bernie Spooner, longtime leader of the Sunday School/Discipleship Department with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and now associate dean of the Gary Cook Graduate School of Leadership at Dallas Baptist University, served as general editor of this exhaustive resource on Christian education and discipleship, drawing from the wisdom of 22 contributing writers.

Beginning with the theological foundation for education in the church, the book addresses each age group—preschool, children, youth and adults. It further breaks down the adult category to deal with particular issues related to specific groups, such as college students, young adults, senior adults and so forth.

The book continues with affinity training by dealing with missional education, as well as educating and discipling the disabled.

The book includes curriculum plans and ideas for each group in a way that speaks to current issues such as postmodernism and today’s young-adult culture. Emerging practices such as mentoring, service learning, family-based ministry and strategic thinking are covered, as well.

Christian Education Leadership is designed to show church leaders how to provide spiritual formation for all age groups and people with special needs, and this book does exactly that. I highly recommend it for Christian leaders and educators.

Skip Holman, minister of discipleship

Northeast Baptist Church

San Antonio


Go and Do by Jay Milbrandt (Tyndale House Publishers)


Jay Milbrandt opens Go and Do with a dare for the reader—experience a personal revolution and do something about what you see in the world. The author writes with a deep conviction and firsthand experience.

While in law school, he attended a seminar where he heard from lawyers who were going into dangerous places in the world to rescue children from brothels and to release captives from illegal detention and slaves from brick factories. Milbrandt quotes Gary Haugen, president and chief executive officer of International Justice Mission, who states 27 million children are held in slavery, 40 percent of girls under age 14 are victims of rape and 60 percent to 80 percent of prisoners in developing countries never have been convicted of a crime.

The author tells how Matthew 25:35-40 shaped his convictions about “the least of these.” He also has a unique look at Jesus’ tests in the desert. He sees this to be about God wanting to change us and to be a part of his mission to our fallen world.

The author shares his heart for the Mae La Refugee Camps, on the Thai/Burma Border, and the Karen people. There he met Faa, a Thai girl who greatly affected his life and ministry.

Go and Do is an interesting book about how one’s life can be affected by missions. It presents a challenge to any reader to be aware of God’s love and God’s desire for us to join him in doing his will. You will be drawn to “go and do” all you can where God leads.

Leo Smith, retired executive director

Texas Baptist Men



In Pursuit of Great & Godly Leadership: Tapping the Wisdom of the World for the Kingdom of God by Mike Bonem (Jossey-Bass)


Veteran Baptist church staff member Mike Bonem offers In Pursuit of Great & Godly Leadership as part of the Leadership Network series, which addresses a myriad of issues encountered by religious leaders, whether lay or clergy. The Harvard MBA graduate aptly applies his secular business executive experience to best practices in the church while cautioning that not all business principles apply to Christian organizations.

Bonem provides solid content liberally illustrated with religious stories.  He considers such topics as barriers to excellence, egos, planning, getting the right people in the right paid and volunteer positions, coaching, gathering data, effective measurement, structure, culture and change.  At appropriate junctures, the author asks reflective questions. He concludes with a chapter affirming the necessity of the leader’s personal spiritual health and discipline.

While much of the information in In Pursuit of Great & Godly Leadership can be found elsewhere, the examples, appendices, bibliography and detailed index set the book apart. Bulleted “Practical Tips for Managing People” and “Practical Ideas for Measurement” offer quick references in the midst of daily leadership and make Bonem’s book one that can be used over time.

Kathy Robinson Hillman, 2nd vice president

Baptist General Convention of Texas



Worship Through the Ages: How the Great Awakenings Shape Evangelical Worship by Elmer L. Towns & Vernon M. Whaley (Broadman & Holman Academic)


In recent years, numerous books have been written about changing music styles in church music, especially in evangelical congregations. These have led to an almost equal numbers of books on worship practices among evangelical denominations.

While most of the worship studies in the past few years have dealt with liturgical patterns of worship, the church music publications primarily have been hymnological treatises. Realizing both of these aspects equally are important, the authors of Worship Through the Ages have treated both subjects of music and worship thoroughly and fairly.

In utilizing the stories of various “Great Awakenings” in history as their basic research (including some that other writers have not treated before as important religious happenings), Towns and Whaley conclude each has contributed significantly to present evangelical music performance and worship practices. This is a welcomed study for church musicians, pastors and others interested in this wide-ranging subject.

Ed Spann, retired dean

College of Fine Arts

Dallas Baptist University


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