Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way pronto: I edited these very different books last fall/winter (one while starting the new job), and they’re finally in my hands. Now, let’s see if I can get them into yours….
But first, a word: Long-time followers will recall that New Growth Press was a lifeline to me and my family during the “locust years” from January 2011 until this past February. In addition to enabling us to somehow hang onto our home during all that time, it gave me a proper schooling in “gospel-centered” products that would serve me well in my present position (just as, admittedly, a proper schooling in active learning and children’s curriculum from my former employer did as well). AND, it gave me the opportunity to re-create THIS, which I still insist you should go to your nearest Internet and snatch up right away — right after you buy this, mind you :)). They do good work, and I got to do good work for them (and still might, as I find breaks in the chaos). So consider well, and check out their catalogue regardless, if you haven’t already.
That said and again, these are two very different books. Even if you want them both, you’ll want them for very different reasons. So let’s dive in….
Timothy Z. Witmer. Mindscape: What to Think about Instead of Worrying. 188p., $17.99.
Even though it takes a different passage for its cue, Tim Witmer’s book is all about the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2), and of finding ways to pull out the “worry weeds” of our lives and find new ways of thinking. Thus, after the two introductory chapters addressing our thought life and the more general subject of worry respectively, Tim spends the rest of the book breaking down the content of Philippians 4:8 for us, area by area (being true, noble, right, etc.) and showing us how we can better and more consistently “think about these things” (also the title of the last chapter).
The tone of Mindscape is clear, conversational, and pastoral, even as it helps us to better understand each of Paul’s terms. There are plenty of life illustrations to help us identify with and apply what Tim’s explaining. I also appreciated its advice near the end: “If you’ve walked with the Lord for some time, find someone you can help with their mindscape. You’ll not only be amazed at what a difference this can make in the life of the person you help, but also in yours.” Renewing our minds isn’t just for us, after all.
To further help us apply these ideas, each chapter closes with two sections: “From Mindscape to Lifescape,” where readers get more hands-on ideas to make being true, noble, etc., a reality in their lives; and “Food for Thought” reflection questions that will carry the reader deeper into the ideas being presented here. Thus, this book not only works for individuals but could easily be used in a small-group setting.
If being “excellent” and “praiseworthy”—or even being able to think about it—has proven elusive, Mindscape can help you get there.
Our second book may have a more restricted scope, but it’s an important one. It’s a shame Deepak Reju needed to write it at all, but it’s incredibly relevant to the church today. Given the current state of our society today, it’s an admonition for churches and especially children’s ministries to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16) and to take the precautions needed to protect our children from predators inside the church, or those trying to get inside.
Deepak Reju. On Guard: Preventing at Responding to Child Abuse at Church. 212p., $19.99.
An “a-ha” moment also comes as Deepak points out that it’s the church’s trusting nature that makes them a perfect landing place for predators—a point that, sadly, has been amply illustrated in recent years. As he puts it even more expressively, “In general, Christians are less inclined to be skeptical about people because of our redemptive desires for them.” Thus, churches need to be additionally careful in who they allow to come in contact with children, lest we not only are too trusting but betray the trust that’s been placed in us by parents.
Deepak walks churches/children’s ministries through each of the areas where they need to be “on guard.” Section One of the book explains the problem itself, as well as the different types of predators and differing assumptions/stereotypes we need to get past in order to see the situation clearly. Section Two is the most hands-on section, as it deals with issues such as how to create and implement a child-protection policy, a useful check-in/checkout process, screening and training of volunteers, etc. Just implementing these ideas and having a plan, he points out, are enough to deter most predators, who are just looking for an easy “in.”
Deepak even addresses the issue of how to deal with recovering predators who now have a genuine relationship with Christ: “If the church does allow the offender to come to services, the leadership must ensure that proper precautions will be taken for the sake of the kids. Even if he is a believer, and even if the offense occurred before he became a Christian, the sexual offender should be permanently barred from children’s ministry. We don’t put alcoholics in bars after they are recovered.”
But again, no system is foolproof, and therefore the final section addresses the issue of how to address abuse that has occurred, including reporting, church accountability, and how to help victims find healing.
So: Equip and protect your mind, or equip and protect your church. Both of these books have their place.