One Blood | Book Review


The most heated conversations I’ve witnessed on Facebook had to do with race. Whether the topic was Confederate statues or Black Lives Matter, the conversations typically began politely enough but almost inevitably degenerated into the online equivalent of a shouting match. Many words appeared in ALL CAPS. These conversations both surprised and disappointed me.

Unfortunately, most of these conversations were between Christians. American society is divided, and American churches all too often reflect rather than correct those divisions. That saddens me immensely. We can do better. For the sake of the gospel, we must.

One Blood, according to its subtitle, contains John M. Perkins’ “parting words to the Church on race.” I’m not sure that’s right, however. While race is the context of the book, its text is reconciliation. Perkins writes: “Biblical reconciliation is the removal of tension between parties and the restoration of loving relationship” (emphasis added). Given America’s tortured history of race relationships, how can Christians lead the way in reconciliation? That’s the question the book examines.

Perkins is the founder and president emeritus of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation and cofounder of the Christian Community Development Association. Born in 1930 to black sharecroppers and raised in New Hebron, Mississippi, Perkins knew sorrow from an early age. His mother died of pellagra when he was an infant. (Pellagra is a vitamin deficiency that causes its victims to starve.) His father abandoned him at a young age. His brother, a World War II veteran, was murdered by a deputy marshal. When he was 17, his family urged him to migrate to Southern California in the hope he wouldn’t suffer his brother’s fate.

It was in California, at the age of 27, that Perkins became a Christian. In 1960, he and his wife and children returned to Mendenhall, Mississippi, to start Voice of Calvary Bible Institute, a ministry focused on personal evangelism and biblical literacy. Alongside this ministry, however, he and his wife, Vera Mae, began to minister to the material needs of members of their community. And he began to advocate for civil rights and public school desegregation. In 1970, he led a boycott of white-owned businesses that landed him in jail, where he was beaten by police.

In the following decades, Perkins increasingly became a black evangelical voice for civil rights, at a time when many white evangelicals were suspicious of the Civil Rights Movement. He advocated justice, of course, as well as help for the economically disadvantaged, but above all, he continued to urge reconciliation.

One Blood outlines the biblical case for reconciliation, as well as the kinds of practices that make it possible. More than any other, this single paragraph encapsulates the message of the book:

The Church must speak out with one voice against bigotry and racism. We have been too quiet. The time is now. A platform has been placed in front of us and we must speak with clarity and truth. We’ve made a mess of things, but there is a path forward. It will require us to hold fast to [God’s] vision for one Church and the biblical truth of one race. We need to lament our broken past and be willing to make some personal confessions about our own part in that mess. Then we’ll have to be willing to forgive and move forward toward true repentance. We must be committed to the right until the battle for reconciliation is won. And we must never forget that our power is not in guns, weapons, or armies. Our power is on our knees before God.

Perkins leaves no doubt that reconciliation is a gospel issue. “For too long, many in the Church have argued that unity in the body of Christ across ethnic and class lines is a separate issue from the gospel. There has been the suggestion that we can be reconciled to God without being reconciled to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Scripture doesn’t bear that out.”

At the outset, I mentioned my surprise and disappointment with conversations about race I have witnessed on Facebook. One Blood was surprising, too. Given what Perkins has seen, heard, and been subjected to in his 87 years of life, the lovingkindness of his message is stunning. It doesn’t detract from the hard truths he mentions about our nation’s — and the Church’s — failings with regard to race. Nor does it lessen the responsibility to make things right. But it does engender hope.

Book Reviewed
John M. Perkins with Karen Waddles, One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2018).

P.S. I wrote this review for InfluenceMagazine.com. It appears here by permission.

P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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Leadership Lessons of the Apostle Paul | Influence Podcast


In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I talk to Ryan Lokkesmoe about leadership lessons we can learn from the New Testament church. Lokkesmoe is lead pastor of Real Hope Community Church in Houston, Texas. He has a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Denver, and he is author, most recently, of Paul and His Team, published in 2017 by Moody.

Here’s my review of his book:

Ryan Lokkesmoe is the lead pastor of Real Hope Community Church in Houston, and has a Ph.D. in New Testament studies. In Paul and His Team:What the Early Church Can Teach Us About Leadership and Influence, he brings his pastoral and academic experiences into fruitful dialogue about what the apostle Paul teaches concerning influencing others for the sake of the gospel.

“Many leadership books address the mechanics of leadership and primarily focus on what and how questions,” Lokkesmoe writes. “This book will be more concerned with who and why questions. Who are we as influencers, and why do we lead the way we do?”

Among the leadership traits of Paul and his team that stand out most are these: (1) “Their singular focus was Christ.” (2) “They treated others as equals.” (3) “They were agents of reconciliation.”

Paul and His Team is a good reminder that “our leadership within the church should always have that distinctive tone and posture when compared to any other leadership context.”

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Pentecostals, Race, Justice and Reconciliation | Influence Podcast


In episode 123 of the Influence Podcast, I interview Pastor Walter Harvey about “Pentecostals, Race, Justice and Reconciliation.”

Harvey is pastor of Parklawn Assembly of God in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as well as vice president of the National Black Fellowship of the Assemblies of God. He also has the lead article in the January-February 2018 issue of Influence magazine, titled, “A Place Called Sherman Park: Eight ministry lessons that can help bring renewal to communities in chaos.”

 

Confess Your Sins | Book Review


John Stott’s Confess Your Sins is a little gem of a book. Originally published in 1964, it has been reissued by Eerdmans. As far as I can tell, the only change to the original is that Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, come from the NIV (2011).

All Christians agree on three truths, which Stott names at the outset of the book: “the fact and guilt of sin, the possibility of forgiveness, and the need for confession” (emphasis in original). These three truths come together in 1 John 1:8–9:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

“So,” as Stott puts it, “the forgiveness of sins by God is made conditional upon the confession of sins by man.”

The crucial question that his book addresses — the question that divides Protestants from Catholics — is to whom we must confess. Over the course of five chapters, Stott argues that “confession must be made to the person against whom we have sinned and from whom we need and desire to receive forgiveness” (emphasis in original). Drawing on Scripture, Stott identifies three types of confession: “secret confession” to God, “private confession” to a person whom we have offended, and “public confession” when we have sinned against “a group of people, a community, or the whole local congregation.”

Stott further argues that “auricular confession,” i.e., the confession of sins to a priest, “is a practice to be deplored.” That’s a strong term, but Stott’s argument is both theological and practical in nature. “Confession is never to a third party,” he writes, “both because he has not been offended, and because he is not in a position to forgive the sin.”

Throughout the book, Stott makes his primary appeal to Scripture in support of his argument. However, he also appeals to church history, especially the history and theology of the Church of England. These appeals to church history — which include an appendix of several official Anglican statements on confession — may limit the appeal of the book to some readers.

On the other hand, given that 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, these appeals to the writings of English Reformers remind us of the evangelical character of the Church of England. That church produced George Whitefield and John Wesley, two evangelists whose ministries shaped — and continue to shape — evangelical Christianity throughout the world today, including global Pentecostalism. Perhaps we should learn from those who have gone before us in the faith, rather than eschewing history as irrelevant to contemporary concerns.

Stott concludes this book with twin appeals to take both confession and forgiveness of sin more seriously. “Christianity is a religion of forgiveness,” he writes. “God is willing to forgive sinners through Christ. We must forgive one another.” Our obligation to do so flows from the gospel itself. As Scripture says, “[forgive] each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

 

Book Reviewed:
John Stott, Confess Your Sins: The Way of Reconciliation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017; orig. 1964).

P.S. This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.

P.P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review.