Book Reviews

Posted: 11/30/07

Book Reviews

Higher Ground: A Call for Christian Civility by Russell Dilday (Smyth & Helwys)

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship. Unfortunately, most Christians are ill prepared to handle conflict in a Christ-like manner.

Russell Dilday provides an insightful option to how conflict can be addressed. He uses his personal experience in the Southern Baptist Convention controversy of the 1980s to call Christians to higher ground during times of conflict.

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The conflict and methods of conflict that occurred in the convention easily could have names changed and possible tactics changed, but the results and motives would remain the same as the conflicts that occur within local congregations. This book is a somber reminder that by taking the name of Christ as our own, we are called to a different standard.

Conflict cannot be avoided in life. This reality is faced, but the ways in which Christians engage in conflict will determine both the outcome of the conflict and the witness of Christ. It is against this standard that we are called neither to win the war at all costs nor to ask whether “the end justify the means”; instead, we are called to seek a resolution for our conflict based upon biblical standards and Christ’s example.

This great book is a must read that will challenge any reader in the standard of conflict that has been perpetuated in most Baptist churches. The reality is that we must take the words of Dilday and not only seek to comprehend them but seek to go to the “higher ground” ourselves through the application of the principles in this book.

Jeremy Johnston, pastor

Preston Highlands Baptist Church, Dallas

The Baptist River: Essays on Many Tributaries of a Diverse Tradition, edited by Glenn Jonas (Mercer University Press)

Glenn Jonas gives us a Baptist history book looking through the lens of the denominations growing out of early Baptist teachings. Different authors have sketched the history of their people and the core theological values guiding them—past, present and future.

Jonas begins his book of essays with the observation, “I would contend that over four centuries of Baptist history, the essential quality that identifies Baptists is diversity through dissent. … Baptists have always been a contentious, restless group of Christians.”

For those of us who sometimes despair at our inability to get along, Jonas believes contentiousness and dissent are core values from which we will not easily move away. With this formulation, I would wonder if we will always be a reflexive and reactionary people instead of pioneers and innovators.

The essays are well written and readable. They are informative without be-ing tedious. For those who wonder about the “other Baptists out there,” this book is a good place to begin.

Michael Chancellor, pastor

Crescent Heights Baptist Church, Abilene

Directionally Challenged: How to Find and Follow God’s Course for Your Life by Travis Collins (New Hope Publishers)

Travis Collins’ Directionally Challenged offers a compass of guidance mapped to finding and following God’s direction on the Christian journey. He shares stories from his life and ministry that illustrate broad principles related to finding and following God’s course.

The Richmond, Va., pastor and former missionary acknowledges finding God’s will perplexes young and mature Christians alike. Using the acrostic C-O-M-P-A-S-S, Collins explores seven “directional indicators” to help find “your calling.” He illustrates Constancy, Observation by others, Motive, Peculiar passions, Aptitudes, Seasoning and Sensible decision-making with Scripture and anecdotes.

Throughout the book, Collins manages to engage the reader with illustrations that evoke emotions ranging from lavish laughter and trembling tears to nods of affirmation.

Whether a seasoned veteran or a rookie Christian, the football official’s quick read provides a practical playbook for those like me who find themselves directionally challenged and need reassurance from time to time in how to find and follow God’s course for your life.

Kathy Robinson Hillman, former president

Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas, Waco

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