The Ambassador Of Rich Relationships

Once upon a time there was a pastor with dark good looks, a fine mind, and a voice that made people think God himself was speaking from heaven, or at least from a very tall mountain.

When the pastor began his ministry, he specialized in preaching splendid sermons in well-modulated tones and developing rich relationships with and among members of his flock. The flock prospered and so did the pastor.

His fame spread, and many people wanted to know how he did what he did. He was invited to conferences, conventions, and celebrations. Editors invited him to write books and articles. Media specialists asked him to bring his baritone to tape cassettes. He accepted.

His star continued to rise, and he received a call to a more glamorous parish. He accepted.

The combination of dark good looks, fine mind, and vibrant voice continued to push him ahead in this new setting. He was asked to serve on prestigious boards and keynote important meetings. He flew everywhere to tell others the story of relational theology and the importance of building strong relationships in the ministry. “People change through relationships, not through dogmatic diatribe,” he said dogmatically. And he continued to speak with boundless enthusiasm to crowds around the country and even in other countries.

Meanwhile, back at the local church, members of his staff were lonely. They rarely saw him. They did their best to run the church, but they missed their leader. Oh, he still preached on Sundays. He always flew in from wherever he happened to be on a Saturday night so he could “pastor his flock” as he often said.

The man most hurt by it all was the staff member who had been hired with the promise of rich relationships and team ministry. “If I see him for five minutes alone every three months, I’m lucky,” he said to a friend. “And I’m one of his closest associates.”

But of course, he didn’t say this to the pastor’s face because the ambulatory ambassador of relationships was not there.

The moral: Don’t succeed in relational theology or the only relationships you have will be on the road.


A Change Of Days

I heard on CBS a few days ago that your magazine had come out for abolishing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day—and for replacing these two observances with a Marriage and Family Day and a Singles Day (“Celebrate Singleness—Marriage May Be Second Best,” May 7). This makes good sense to me—and I hope you will lead in a strong effort to bring this about. I know it will take a great deal of time and effort, but your magazine is just the right force to lead in this campaign.

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Emmanuel Baptist Church

Santa Clara, Calif.

Your editorial is certainly not the answer to the changing and growing divorce rate, even among Christians. I would like to make some suggestions that might be helpful. A wedding does not mean a marriage. It is the beginning of growing together, not the finished product.… We need more pre-marriage training. The short visit with the pastor just prior to marriage is not enough.… Most jobs require in-service training. Can we build this into the educational system of the church? Marriage growth seminars, retreats, weekend groups with an emphasis on the growth and health of marriage, rather than pathology.



Presbyterian Counseling Service

Seattle, Wash.

Fingertip Insight

I say “hooray” for Judith L. Brown for her article “The Mother Who Was a Coward” (May 7). She has more nerve and godly insight in the tips of her little fingers (which either penned or typed the manuscript) than most evangelical preachers have in their ecclesiastical backbones. Undoubtedly the “by faith only” element in Christendom will be shocked. But better they be shocked here while there is yet time than to be shocked on that great day when we will all stand before the Great Lion of Judah. May God awaken not only mothers but all of us to the great task which he has given to all those who truly love him.


Belfast Church of the Nazarene

Belfast, Maine

Evangelicals On Inerrancy

The article by Carl Henry (Footnotes, “Signs of Evangelical Disunity,” April 9) displays, as usual, many fine perceptions of contemporary phenomena, but also, as usual, mistakes change for deterioration and diversity for dilution.… Dr. Henry’s blast … particularly at the American Baptist Seminary of the West is typical pot-shotting from the woods at an unknown target. The seminary remains a solid evangelical institution seeking to be responsive to the will of God.… We at the seminary feel encouraged by recent developments at our school.



American Baptist Seminary of the West

Berkeley, Calif.

I must correct the error in Carl F. H. Henry’s column in your May 7 issue. He cites my book Confessions of a Conservative Evangelical as evidence for his statement: “More and more books and articles support scriptural errancy.” I do not in that book nor have I elsewhere advocated “scriptural errancy.” The issue of errors in scientific and historical matters is an anachronism created by some “inerrancy” theorists.… To judge the Bible by contemporary standards of science and history is to deny its human authorship and divert attention from its saving purpose, which spans time and culture.

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Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy of Religion

Fuller Theological Seminary

Pasadena, Calif.

Rogers’s correspondence is simply additional confirmation of the departure at Fuller.… His circumlocation hardly obscures the fact that he does not think we should look for valid truth in scientific and historical matters of the Bible.

If Seminary of the West has indeed become a solid evangelical institution a great many American Baptists, not least among them the numerous conservative faculty members who made their exodus from Covina, will be grateful to God.


Arlington, Va.

A Vote For The Visual

The Refiners Fire in the May 7 issue was a very pleasant and welcome surprise (“Would Augustine Have Enjoyed Picasso?”). I’ll take a chance and venture to say that Marchak spoke for many in the Christian artist community. He spoke loud and clear for me anyhow. As for Marchak’s concept of photographing the sunset, cropping the horizon, and framing and displaying the piece, I say, “Do it!” Color is one of the mysterious qualities of God’s creation that mesmerizes me with awe.

I would also like to thank David Singer for breathing new life through his creative direction to the covers and “innards.” Moore, Okla.


For A Regular Feature

Congratulations on your April 23 issue emphasizing children’s books. For years I have searched libraries, book reviews, and other sources and have made my own book lists for our children. Three books that should not be missed are Sounder and Mills of God, both by William Armstrong, and Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry.

My motivation for searching out reading material for my children was my training as a teacher and my own love for books. But I am concerned that a source be available for Christian families to help them be aware of good children’s books. Could you include children’s book reviews as a regular feature in your book reviews?


Monroeville, Pa.

I enjoyed the article “Narnia: Fantasy, But …” However, I was quite disappointed in the ending. It seems a tremendous shortcoming of the writer to put down Lewis by saying that he is not among the great writers. The term “Great Writer” can have various meanings, numerous facets, and leads to generalizations. I find it hard to believe that Lewis said this of William Morris without making some justification for it. Lewis has brought so much to the world of Christian thought and in this particular instance he must be considered great.

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Chicago, Ill.

Why in your otherwise excellent focus on children’s books was no mention made of what many consider to be the most beautiful, enchanting book for children (and the childlike of all ages) ever written, At the Back of the North Wind, nor of its wise Christian author, George MacDonald.… Also, it is too bad that no note was taken of Christian writer Charles Kingsley’s utterly charming children’s classic, The Water Babies. One other disappointing—and surprising—omission: that most helpful little book on books for children, Honey for a Child’s Heart, by a fine evangelical writer of today, Gladys Hunt.

But congratulations anyway for bringing to the attention of your readers a subject that I fear is too often neglected by Christian parents and other educators. Yet a diet of the best (in form and content) books not only engenders a healthy, lifelong appetite for reading but in itself creates and nurtures a sensitivity to beauty—physical, moral, and spiritual. Fairfax, Va.


From The Author

The review by James Tinney of my book Black Religion and American Evangelicalism in the May 7 issue alleges that I refuse “to acknowledge any contiguous expressions of African religion.” On the contrary, I contend, citing George Rawick, that religious institutions among the slaves were not “specifically African” after the first generation, but that “African religious behavior was not totally effaced, as is clear from an examination of Negro music, dance, and folk practices” (p. 83).… Tinney claims that the book “exonerates white ‘missionaries’ who capitulated to the ‘obedient slave’ model in preaching.” Did he not read (on p. 76): “The missionaries frankly tried to substitute for the fear of corporal punishment, or the love of reward, a Christian conscience of duty as an incentive to promote docility, honesty, and fidelity among the slaves”?… I further assert: “Many missionaries did, wittingly or unwittingly, lend their moral support to the slave system by preaching a ‘safe’ gospel. To this extent they were also captives of the evil forces of racism, self-interest, and fear that undergirded slavery” (p. 163). Far from viewing the slaves as “moral indigents,” as the review asserts, I clearly state that blacks were not put off by a sham piety that erected a double standard, one set of rules for the slave and another for the master (p. 92).… Far from “ridiculing even official accounts by black Methodist organizations,” as the review contends, I relied heavily upon them with great respect and gratefulness.


Assistant Professor

AfroAmerican Studies

Syracuse University

Syracuse, N. Y.

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