Book review: Brain Savvy Leaders

By Doug Hibbard

Leadership books are everywhere and have been for some time. They range from seriously deep to the farcical. It appears that everyone has a leadership theory, and so everyone has a book to write. The question for Charles Stone is whether or not “Brain Savvy Leaders” rises above the clutter of the market.

First, let us examine his basic premise. Stone, who blogs extensively about the connection between neuroscience and ministry, tells the reader that the way the brain works is critical to understanding leadership. His premise is that ministry leadership should consider not only how their minds work, but also the impact neuroscience has on their communication and their followers. I would note, positively, that Stone sticks with neuroscience as his term and not neurology — he is not a “neurologist,” which is a medical specialty.

Along this path, Stone presents that we, as Bible believers, need not fear the science of the brain. After all, if the brain is part of how we are created, then learning about the brain furthers our understanding of how God made us. As we grow in that understanding, we are more equipped to work together.

From there, he goes on to present a mixture of Scripture and science, showing how the brain works and how that affects us spiritually. One of the more valuable sections deals with stress hormones and their overall effect on performance. To summarize, stress does have physiological effects on the brain, which make it harder to make decisions. Even though we may feel like we make good decisions under stress, the truth is just the opposite. Cortisol is only your friend in crisis, and you need time to recover.

From a theological perspective, Stone’s analysis dovetails well with Scripture. He clearly recognizes the Bible as the top-line authority on what we do in ministry. This includes noting passages in the Psalms about rest and Proverbs about diligence, but tops out with the reminder that our purpose is to seek the kingdom of God.
The concluding chapter provides a plan to implement Stone’s ideas. This practical addition moves the work of “Brain Savvy Leaders” from a theoretical exercise to a practical work. While this is not the first book I would hand to someone developing their leadership skills, it’s definitely a great “next-step” learning book.

Doug Hibbard is pastor of East End Baptist Church, Hensley.


Logos 6 Baptist Silver Package review

Up front, let me state that I love books. Real books, that is, the kind that have pages and covers and are a major pain in the back to move. There are few things I enjoy more than sitting down and cracking into a new book to see the treasures inside. Except, perhaps, cracking open an old book and doing the same.

The challenge for sermon and Bible study preparation, though, is finding what I need in all of those books. After all, there is only so much space on my desk to stack books, and when you add the time it takes to find the one reference needed in each book, it is no wonder that preparation is a daunting task. Enter Bible software programs, like Logos Bible Software.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 17, index

Book review by
Doug Hibbard 

Strangely enough, today I am reviewing an index. Fortress Press, the publisher of the complete Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works in English, has published a volume that indexes all of the 16 volumes of the original. This reflects the growing American interest in the life and writings of Bonhoeffer. The 17th volume contains a dozen documents not previously printed in English, as well as the index material.

First, the additional documents are primarily letters. These are translated from the German with footnotes about the context of the letters. These notes explain the material and writing style as well as develop the background of the recipients of the letters. While interesting in developing more background on Bonhoeffer, one document is neither by him nor to him, and it is the most useful of the collection for the modern Baptist pastor inspired by Bonhoeffer’s story. It is a letter that shows Bonhoeffer was not alone in his struggle within the Church for righteousness in the face of the wickedness in the government.

Second, the index volume provides a chronology of Bonhoeffer’s life. This focuses on his adult years and provides the historical context of events as well. It provides a summary of events that frame the writings indexed in this volume.

Third, the index is massive. Every document referenced in the overall Works series is listed along with which volume contains it. All of the scriptural references, individual names and subjects covered are listed, along with the print volume and page number they appear on. This is a great help to someone seeking all uses, for example, of the Lord’s Prayer in Bonhoeffer’s works.

The index volume is a great help to those who have purchased even some of the Bonhoeffer Works series and can guide the reader to knowing what to buy. Is it appropriate? As Bonhoeffer continues to be discussed in evangelical and Baptist circles, it will only help us to know what he said and wrote in his own words, rather than relying on secondhand sources.

Doug Hibbard is pastor of First Baptist Church in Almyra. He reviews books for the ABN.


New 'Left Behind' movie stirs end-times discussion

NASHVILLE (BP) – Despite negative reviews by some secular and Christian film critics, the end-times thriller "Left Behind" starring Nicolas Cage grossed nearly $7 million at the box office during its opening weekend and helped place renewed focus on the doctrine of Christ's second coming.

"It's a good film, one that doesn't preach, but does remind moviegoers that there is a time when life will end on earth, one way or another," Christian film critic Phil Boatwright told Baptist Press in written comments. "And, it subtly asks us if we are preparing for it."

"Left Behind," released Oct. 3, finished sixth in weekend earnings behind "Gone Girl" and "Annabelle," but ahead of "Bang Bang" and "The Good Lie" -- all in their opening weekends as well. While "Left Behind" was shown in just 1,825 theaters, each of the five films that finished ahead of it in gross earnings was shown in at least 3,000 theaters, according to the website Box Office Mojo. 

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Rebuilding the Family Altar

Book Review by
Doug Hibbard 

Preachers writing books. Oh my! Actually, Clint Ritchie’s book “Rebuilding the Family Altar” is not the sermon rehash that many pastor-written/pastor-published books are. Instead, Ritchie presents a theoretical framework for family devotionals and then presents 52 sample ideas. Ritchie is former pastor of First Baptist Church, Hampton.

This results in a book with a split personality. On the one hand, the first 60 pages are a friendly reminder of why we need to use home as the base for discipling our children. On the other hand, the last 60 are simple devotionals for family discussion. I’m not sure listing these as an appendix is the right label, but it’s not my book.

In the first 60 pages, Ritchie presents a biblical case for family discipleship, rather than leaving it up to the church. This section is primarily his opinion, as evidenced by the few footnotes scattered throughout. I do commend him for using footnotes, though – that’s a definite plus. It’s also worth noting that the few footnotes are mainly for non-Bible sources – he cites biblical text in-line throughout. (There’s some inconsistencies here in method – some chapters cite in-line while some footnote for biblical text.)

Theologically, I would have liked to see a development of why we still use the term “altar” in the Christian world. Ritchie glosses over the use of altars as places of sacrifice and names them as places people connected with God. This is true, but it was meeting with God through sacrifice. In this, an explanation on how Jesus fulfilled that sacrifice would have been a benefit. 

The second 60 pages are, as stated above, like a second book. These are sample devotionals for family use. As samples, they are fine and work well (as do others, such as the “Whit’s End Mealtime Devotions” series). I especially endorse the idea of getting the biblical text from the actual Bible, rather than reading off a preprinted sheet. This helps reinforce the value of reading from the Bible itself.

I would have liked a few more discussion questions embedded in the devotionals or perhaps a survey of suggested topics to cover. However, this volume is intended as a starting point, rather than an encyclopedic view of the issue of family discipleship.

I gladly recommend “Rebuilding the Family Altar” to Christian families looking to kick-start their family worship times.

Doug Hibbard is pastor of First Baptist Church in Almyra.