The Making of Evangelicalism by Randall Balmer (Baylor University Press)
Many see evangelical Christianity as anchored to unchanging truth, but author Randall Balmer points to four significant changes in American evangelical thought that shaped the movement as it exists today. Balmer, professor of American religious history at Columbia University’s Barnard College and visiting professor at Yale Divinity School, highlights these key transitions—from the Calvinism of the First Great Awakening to the Arminian-influenced revivalism of the Second Great Awakening; from postmillennial optimism to premillennial pessimism; from progressive social activism to a retreat into a subculture; and from distrust of worldly power to the rise of the Religious Right.
Balmer writes with the insight of one who knows evangelicalism from the inside out. He points with favor to ways evangelicals moved from the cocoon of a separationist subculture in the first half of the 20th century toward cultural engagement in the latter half. At the same time, he laments the way evangelicals essentially lost their prophetic voice by capitulating to right-wing political brokers in recent decades. But he concludes with the hope that American evangelical Christianity will reclaim its birthright as a movement that honors the teachings of the Hebrew prophets who railed against injustice and the Savior who called his followers to care for those who are most vulnerable.
Ken Camp, managing editor
Inside Out Families: Living the Faith Together by Diana Garland (Baylor University Press)
If you’re satisfied with measuring faith by the “old” offering envelope scale, stay away from Inside Out Families. If, on the other hand, you want practical advice on living the Christian faith, continue reading.
University presses typically publish volumes geared to academics, and Diana Garland, dean of Baylor University’s School of Social Work, bases Inside Out Families on sound research. However, her readable book personalizes 16 families, weaves in biblical examples and draws conclusions that make sense.
In 136 pages, Garland accomplishes her goal to “… help families together to pour themselves out in service and in so doing, find new life together in Christ.” She tells fascinating stories that show family ministry helping children and youth develop a “‘sticky faith’ that keeps them ‘stuck’ to the church and to God” throughout their lives.
Garland demonstrates that, regardless of age, size, ethnicity or economic status, families serving together strengthen their faith and commitment to each other. Then using steps, lists, diagrams and examples, she explains the development of inside-out congregations. All the while, she reminds the reader: “God does not call us to be awesome. God calls us to be willing” as individual Christians and as families.
Kathy Robinson Hillman, former president
Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas, Waco
When You Don’t Know What To Pray by Linda Evans Shepherd (Revel)
Out of her own prayer pilgrimage, Linda Evans Shepherd shares how she learned to talk with God. Shepherd shares her personal struggles to understand why God allowed her daughter to live through a terrible accident yet never to have a real life. She writes: “God does not come with a steering wheel. We can’t control him. What we can do is love him, enjoy him, fear him, walk with him, believe him, trust him, ask of him, wait on him.” She fleshes out a prayer guide based on these truths.
In a very readable way, Shepherd fleshes out how to talk to God by sharing real examples of interactions with others who have struggled as well. She shares statements by prayer giants, and in each chapter provides a prayer suggestion on the subject, as well as an example of praying Scripture.
The author is transparent as she writes and exposes her own struggles and victories she experienced. You will be blessed as you see how real God wants to be to us through his invitation to pray and the promises that can be experienced by all.
It’s a good read for a person who wants to have a richer prayer life.
Leo Smith, executive director
Texas Baptist Men, Dallas