Calgary Author Confronts ‘Christian Materialism’

Wesley Hynd is a church planter and pastor in Calgary. He holds an MDiv from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and according to his bio, “loves to think deeply and challenge the status quo.” He is involved there with a cross-cultural Christian organization serving new Canadians.

His book, Jesus Take All of Me: Learning to See God as Beautiful in Every Part of Life, is self-published an available to retailers through Ingram at full trade terms. The back cover blurb describes its aim:

What does it really mean to follow Jesus? Is it just a set of intellectual facts about the cross, forgiveness of sins, and an afterlife? Or is it something more than that? Why is it that the lives of Christians and those who are not Christians seem to look so similar at times in the Western world? If someone followed you around live-tweeting your daily decisions and values, who would they say that you follow? These are some of the questions Wes Hynd has been wrestling with for 15 years as he has sought to identify some of the ways in which Western culture has subtly influenced our Christian faith, including in our:

Time
Career
Family
Friendships
Money
and Emotions

Released date: December 1; 284 pages, paperback; 9781738717019; $21.99 US; 90-second book trailer on YouTube. Book website: jesustakeallofme.com.

This Year’s Best Book on Prayer

November 28, 2022 1 comment

I frequently share the book reviews I’ve done at Thinking Out Loud with readers here, and this one, although there’s no particularly Canadian connection, is no exception. This is a book I have already recommended many, many times…


I hear Jesus saying, “Pray with the heart of a lover and the discipline of a monk” – Praying Like Monks (p193)

If the Bible tells us anything about how to pray, it says that God much prefers the rough draft full of rants and typos to the polished, edited version. – Praying Like Monks (p21)

Two years ago, when I reviewed Tyler Staton‘s first book, Searching for Enough, I commented that a book about the apostle Thomas was fitting since it is a recurring theme in Tyler’s preaching. Given the available instances online of Tyler speaking in his own church — Oaks Church Brooklyn and later Bridgetown Church Portland — and as guest speaker in various venues, that was an accurate reflection of his go-to theme.

In hindsight however, this sophomore book project, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer (Zondervan, 2022) lands the plane on a topic that is more central to Tyler’s heart and by which his current ministry is more defined.

You could deduce this partly from the fact he’s done not one, but two teaching series on prayer in this calendar year alone; one series, Teach us to Pray in January; and a second “Vision” series which began in September. (Click here for Bridgetown’s teaching page.)

But you could also discern it from a look at Tyler’s life: Even before entering his early teens, prayer became a defining part of his spiritual journey, to the point of doing early morning prayer walks around his middle school to pray for the students in his year. Those prayers bore fruit. Today, he’s National Director of the United States chapter of the 24/7 Prayer Movement, an organization founded by Pete Greig.

Full disclosure: I am a somewhat rabid fan of Tyler’s teaching. It meets my current need for sermon content that is both informative, illuminating and pastoral. I would start to read a fresh chapter convinced I must have already read it the day before, because many of the illustrations had stuck with me; a sort of situation where you’ve read the book before seeing the movie, only the other way around.

I also deeply respect him not only for the breadth of sources and influences that shaped the book, but also for the personal anecdotes where the principles taught have been brought to life through interactions with people both in and outside the church, and on both coasts of the U.S. Honestly, I could write about prayer, but it wouldn’t emerge the same as someone like Tyler Staton who is practitioner of the things described; someone who lives the lifestyle taught.

For the cynics who say that there are already too many books about prayer in a crowded Christian publishing market, I would answer, “I agree, but you need to read this one.” I’m not overly emotionally, but several times I had to rub my eyes, if you know what I mean. At the same time, there are some more lighthearted references. In a podcast, I think Tyler referred to letting people breathe after particularly heavy moments.

Some churches end the sermon time with the pastor saying, “Today, for your homework, I want you to…” At Bridgetown, the language used is “practices” and each chapter of Praying Like Monks contains action steps you can take. The ten chapters lend themselves to small group study — I’d even say take twelve weeks — and it’s good if you can listen to a few sermons online so that you’ve got Tyler’s voice in your head as you’re reading.

It’s hard for new voices to find an audience, but I really hope you’ll take my recommendation and consider this one.


As an example of Tyler Staton’s writing style, I offer this short excerpt which I ran at Christianity 201 a few weeks ago.

Link to: Publisher’s book information page

Zondervan, 272-page paperback, 9780310365358

 

The Government of Canada’s Solution for Bookstore Competitiveness

For several months there has been talk about the “Support for Booksellers” component of the Government of Canada’s Canada Book Fund. The idea was to create funding to help booksellers expand their online book sales this season and next season. The funding, announced November 9th totaled $12 million, and went to 177 small chains and independent stores and three large chains, representing a total of 467 brick-and-mortar stores. Chapters/Indigo with 178 locations received $3.5 million and a large Quebec-based chain, Librairie Renaud-Bray, received just under $1.9 million.

Christian stores, not so much. As in almost not at all. One business, Kennedy’s Parable Christian Bookstores, with locations in Red Deer, Saskatoon and Kelowna received — wait for it — a grand total of $1,000, the smallest amount available. No other Christian stores received anything. (For a link to the full list of stores click here.)

And that, my friends, is the Government of Canada’s solution to our inability to stay competitive against the giant behemoth that starts with the letter “A,” the one which has put thousands and thousands of stores out of business in North America.

Meanwhile in France, last month the government there imposed a minimum shipping charge of €3 (3 Euros or about $4.15 Canadian) for book shipments which applies to all vendors, including the behemoth’s France counterpart. It is expected this puts independent stores in that country on a more even footing.

On behalf of the 60-or-so Christian stores in Canada that got nothing, I think I prefer France’s solution much better.

Store Demographics: Filling the Gaps

With 378 followers (whatever that means) Facebook says this is the demographic breakdown of people who come to our page. It’s really not at all different from the store itself. Yes, I know someone will say this is more about Facebook and who uses it than it is about my store, but anecdotally, it lines up perfectly.

For those who come, we’re thankful. But we’d love to see greater activity in the age ranges that aren’t as well represented here. 

And as for the follower thing, it’s meaningless. If we had half that number of views for each post I’d be really happy. Plus we’re getting a lot of out-of-town followers who are more in a “friends and supporters” category, and aren’t likely to shop with us in any given six-month period. 

What we covet more than anything is young families. And also getting kids in that 10-15 range in the store to see — while they still can — the wealth of Christian resources which are produced at an age when they might be able to begin to appreciate their value.

Categories: Uncategorized

Nova Scotia Writer Wins Book Award

Jonathan Geoffrey Dean, author of  Salt & Light: The Complete Jesus has been awarded as the winner in the Christian Nonfiction category for the 2022 NYC Big Book Award

He is a New Testament scholar, researcher, award-winning author, political leader and thought leader. Salt & Light; The Complete Jesus is his reaction to Jesus. He is a partner in an investment advisory firm and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with his wife Lynn.

He won in the category of Christian Nonfiction. From the press release:

The competition is judged by experts from different aspects of the book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters. Selected award winners and distinguished favorites are based on overall excellence.

For the first time ever, after years of research using the complete body of early Christian literature and new and exciting discoveries by modern scholarship, the real Jesus emerges. Dean offers an eminently readable yet powerful portrait of the authentic Jesus full of astonishing facts for both believers and skeptics alike. So come along for an utterly fascinating journey and meet the historical Jesus, learn about his mission, and discover his teaching!

Salt & Light contains numerous colour pictures with captions, complete footnotes, and a bibliography for further study.

Publisher marketing:

What did Jesus do?
What did Jesus say?
Who was Jesus?

Salt & Light is the highly acclaimed and award-winning definitive statement concerning Jesus of Nazareth, history’s most compelling figure. The single most important book about the Historical Jesus in the last 30 years, more comprehensive than Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict and more powerful than C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.

However, even today, there is still general confusion surrounding Jesus:

Was (Is) Jesus God?
Did Jesus even exist?
Did he rise from the dead?
What are we to make of the miracles?
Is he Peter’s Jesus or Paul’s Christ? Or both?
Is there evidence for Jesus outside the Bible?
Should we still believe? If so, believe what?
What does all the evidence point to?

Salt & Light does not shy away from addressing these and other tough questions. For the first time ever, after years of research using the complete body of early Christian literature and recent modern scholarship, including new and exciting discoveries in many areas such as early manuscripts, science, New Testament studies, archaeology, and history, the real Jesus emerges.

Dean offers an eminently readable yet powerful portrait of the authentic Jesus full of astonishing facts for both believers and sceptics alike. So come along for an utterly fascinating journey and meet the historical Jesus, learn about his mission, and discover his teaching!

Available from Ingram using ISBN 9781778250408; $36.99 US, 240-page paper.

Bestsellers in a Local Community

Most of you know that I take a few hours at least twice a year to compile a chart of bestsellers in my store. It appears on our store website, in our store newsletter, on Facebook, and is posted in two places in the store itself, one of which is the store window. The reason for the window is that I want people who peer in when the store is closed to still get an idea of a representative sample of our books, and in the event it resonates with them, they will come back.

I know a lot of you don’t bother doing this, and frankly, I hope it’s because your store keeps you busy doing other things that more relevant to your situation. But I’ve done it for 27 years now.

It’s not entirely scientific. Adjustments are made for bulk orders, and yet I still try to squeeze them in. And our #4 is a local pastor, though I have recommended the book to you a few months ago and hope you’ll consider it, as it’s available through Ingram. 

What’s performing well at your store? I’d love to see even a top ten, and include a few of them here.

Christian Book and Record Celebrates 50 Years

Edmonton’s Christian Book and Record celebrated 50 years of serving the Alberta city with an in-store celebration on Saturday, September 17th. The store is located in a strip mall, and customers lined up across the length of the mall waiting for the opening, entertained by radio hosts from 105.9 Shine FM. Guests also enjoyed an outdoor tent with coffee, doughnuts and popcorn, while the inside was adorned with a retro theme featuring record albums hanging from the ceiling.

There are pictures on their Facebook page, where they also wrote,

We were absolutely blown away by your support during our 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday. Staff who’ve been with us for 15, 20, and 30+ years had never seen such a turnout! We are truly blessed with the best customers and we cannot thank you enough for your overwhelming support and kindness.

To our valued customers, our hardworking staff, our esteemed alumni, our supportive Plaza 82 neighbours and partners at 105.9 ShineFM, our beloved families, and our faithful God, thank you for 50 years.

We’ve loved serving the Edmonton area for the last 50 years and carrying on Douwe & Joan Postma’s legacy. It truly has been God’s great faithfulness that has carried us through these 50 years.

The store is currently owned by Carolyn and Darcy Doorten and anniversary sale specials will continue through October.

A former staff member wrote:

My favourite part was seeing a lot of familiar (staff and faithful customer) smiling faces! It brought a tear to my eye to see Douwe and Joan’s legacy being carried on; what a testament to God’s faithfulness! Thank you for your Christian service and for being like family while I was away from mine during my university years

A customer wrote:

The atmosphere… It certainly felt like a party with all of the decor and swag and treats and draws… We are proud to have you in our community and are thankful to have a place that loves Jesus and shelves books that we can thumb through!!

Congratulations to all who have served there faithfully for 50 years on a job well done.

Book Probes our Need for Heroes and Celebrities

Other than a couple of references to Justin Bieber, and a few instances where the Canadian aspect of the Ravi Zacharias story is mentioned, there are not a lot of Canadian angles to this book, but I’m including my review from Thinking Out Loud here at Christian Book Shop Talk in case your store did well with A Church Called TOV or Jesus and John Wayne, and you have customers wanting to delve into the events of the past decade one more time.

Review: Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church by Katelyn Beaty (Brazos Press, 2022)

Katelyn Beaty is one of a number of writers who has been part of the Christianity Today (CT) orbit, as I was briefly, and generally speaking, I find that people who come out of that environment have a healthy and balanced perspective on issues facing the church, and are often granted access to information which provides for additional insights.

Celebrities for Jesus is very much (almost) equal parts

  • history lesson
  • analysis
  • memoir

As a (recent) history lesson, because of my involvement over the years with this blog and its attendant attention to Christian news stories, there was a sense in which Katelyn and I had much of the same information. As soon as she stated something, my brain would signal ‘Yes, but you really need to mention ___________,’ only to find her doing so in the very next sentence.

My wife reminded me that not everyone has the same knowledge. While it’s true that some of the stories she covers in this book were part of Jesus and John Wayne by Kristen Kobes Du Mez and A Church Called TOV by Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer (which we reviewed here and here respectively) there was coverage of situations and people that were beyond the scope of both books, and at least one name that caught me off guard given the context.

Generally speaking, the context was American, which left me wondering as to the preponderance of superstar pastors in other places. (We do hear occasional stories from South America and Africa; but these were not mentioned.) Is the case of Christian celebrity somewhat unique to the United States?

This brings us to the next part, analysis. This is where I felt the book shines the brightest, especially when the author compared the present state of Christianity to its Biblical ideals.

We do fall short in various ways. Our willingness to confer celebrity shows a flaw in our character, long before the man or woman in question has a misstep. Our stories are looking for heroes.

In each chapter, I never questioned Beaty’s qualifications to offer us some of her perspective. My only wish is that she had explored some of these things further and deeper, which would have resulted in a welcomed longer book.

Finally, there was memoir. On page 158, speaking about the high rates of deconstruction and “faith detox” among her peers, “I sometimes wonder why I am still a Christian.”

That could be said about so many that work or have worked at CT or similar environments such as Religion News Service or Relevant, and get to see the spectacular crashes of individuals and ministry organizations close-up.

And yet, she celebrates that something “about that early faith… that could blossom into an orientation that could withstand doubt, the loss of dreams and cultural pressures.” Absent the more progressive identification of an author such as the late Rachel Held Evans, she still shares that honest vulnerability as she’s wrestled with all she has seen and heard.

Celebrities for Jesus covers its topic well. I even wonder if this needs to be required reading for those younger leaders whose desire to do something great might materialize more about building their kingdom instead of God’s kingdom?

It might have helped a few people not trip up.


Celebrities for Jesus is published by Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for which its author is also employed. A review copy was made available through publisher representative Graf-Martin Communications who provide publicity, marketing and brand development for clients from their base in Elmira, Ontario, Canada.

Toronto’s “Media Nuns” Staying Put

When Religion News Service (RNS) carried an article one week ago about the Daughters of St. Paul, and their bookstores, which operate as Pauline Books and Media, there were a couple of references to Toronto, and after reading the article, some might have had the impression that the Toronto store was going to be closing.

The article, ‘Media nuns’ say goodbye to sweet home Chicago after more than 40 years stated that,

After six years of prayer and outside consultation, and a shove from the COVID-19 pandemic, the order has decided to reconfigure its presence across the United States and Toronto, according to Sister Tracey Matthia Dugas, director of Pauline mission advancement. That means closing four locations in the U.S., including the Chicago book center and the convent above it.

So in addition to Chicago, was the Toronto location at 3022 Dufferin Avenue also closing?

I reached out to them for clarity and Sister Margaret Moran replied,

We have no intention of closing our presence in Toronto. Our Book Centre is very busy and we are serving many people here.

That’s better news.

Generally, Roman Catholic bookstores in the Toronto metropolitan area have fared much better than their Evangelical counterparts across the wider GTA. Stores like Joseph’s Inspirational in northeast Scarborough, and Broughton’s along the 401 corridor in North York while undoubtedly feeling the pandemic pain we all have, continue to serve their constituency.  All three stores have a strong online presence and ship across Canada.

Only one east-end GTA store, Cherub’s Cupboard, has cut back to a ‘mobile’ presence as well as a more severe cutback in hours, along with a move of its base from Oshawa to Courtice.

Cherub’s Cupboard now operates from a mobile location, currently in the parking lot of the Roman Catholic Church in Courtice, Ontario.

Further into the RNS article, there was this clarification,

The Daughters of St. Paul have about 120 sisters across 13 locations in the United States and Toronto. In total, about 1,900 sisters, affectionately known as the “Media Nuns,” serve in more than 50 countries around the world.

The other closings are in Texas, South Carolina and Hawaii.

A reader comment on the RNS article also noted,

In English-speaking North America, stores that will remain in operation are in Alexandria, Virginia; Dedham, Massachusetts; Culver City, CA; Manhattan, New York; Menlo Park, California; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; St. Louis, Missouri; and Toronto, Ontario.

 

Newfoundland Author, Tyndale Professor Killed in Motorcycle Accident

A Tyndale University Associate Professor of Christian Ministries with a recently published book from Whitaker House was killed on Saturday while enjoying his sabbatical in Newfoundland. Dr. Bradley Truman Noel was, according to reports killed when his motorcycle collided with a moose in South Brook, NFLD while he was riding with friends. He leaves his wife Melinda.

Tyndale made a formal announcement a few hours ago:

An abundance of tributes are being expressed online by current and former students and colleagues. Dr. Noel was more than a scholarly professor, he was a mentor and leader. Gifted at creating safe spaces, Dr. Noel was known for his ability to help students express differing opinions and theological viewpoints respectfully, while challenging them to expand their understanding.

In addition to his teaching, Bradley Noel had released two academic books on Pentecostalism through Wipf & Stock in 2010 and 2015, before releasing a general title, Tinder, Tattoos, and Tequila: Navigating the Gray Areas of Faith through Whitaker House in April of this year.

His biography with the publisher states,

A native of Newfoundland, Canada, Bradley Truman Noel was ordained by the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador (PAONL) in 2000. He has served as a youth pastor and has taught Bible and theology at the college and university level for more than twenty years.

Since 2008, he has taught at Tyndale University, a Christian school in Toronto, where he serves as chair of the Christian Ministries Department. Brad previously taught at Acadia University, Vanguard College, and Master’s College and Seminary, where he created a variety of live and online courses.

He earned his Doctor of Ministry from Acadia University and his Doctor of Theology from the University of South Africa.

His book blurb summarized the book’s goals:

“The church has been plagued by two extremes when it comes to living a Christian lifestyle,” says author Bradley Truman Noel. “On one side, we have the serious folks adorned with a really impressive frown, who remind us of all the do’s and don’ts. On the other end of the spectrum are folks who play fast and loose with the rules. They typically don’t spend too much time thinking about holiness, or wondering if their actions align with biblical teaching.” Both sides, Bradley says, miss the power of God’s grace in our lives.

With the news of his passing, Tyndale’s press release quoted a student:

It was clear he cared more about loving you as an individual than just fulfilling his duties as a teacher. He had a special heart.

Another Tyndale student posted on Facebook:

Dr. Noel was a great professor and taught with great passion. Always encouraging enriching conversation and deeper studies in the scriptures.

 


Photos: upper: Whitaker House; lower, Tyndale University and Seminary

Chase Paymentech Won’t Honour Authorized $28 Debit Transaction

September 8, 2022 1 comment

I originally wrote this for a different blog, but as it concerns our Christian bookstore, I thought I’d share it here as well.

Although the original purpose of this blog was a space for me to vent the various injustices I felt I suffered as a consumer, we’re also small business owners ourselves, and as such we’re at the mercy of bigger businesses, in this case a mega-corporation.

As such we process sales, taking debit, VISA and MasterCard transactions on a daily basis process through a company whose legal name is, I believe, Chase Paymentech Debit Solutions.

Back in June, when our employee rang off for the night, she noticed something was wrong. One of the transactions, just under $28, even though it was clearly authorized, did not appear in the final tally of sales. It just vanished. And the next day, our bank deposit was short that same amount. But we didn’t know all this right away.

We noticed the error on July 7th as part of our monthly sales reconciliation, and notified our point-of-sale provider, Chase Paymentech, a division of Chase bank. A seemingly helpful guy who gave his name as David said that the sale had gone through on the customer’s end — the authorization number was provided by that customer’s bank — but the problem was on their end, and they would track it down and fix it within a month.

But we never heard back, and more than a month had passed. Sending them an email is difficult because you have to use an encrypted network, and our password was in a computer that seized a few days previous.

But my wife persisted and on August 31st we got a notice from them saying they had shut the whole investigation down a week later, on July 14th, and never told us. Their note basically had the attitude, ‘tough luck,’ and because ‘we’re bigger than you,’ we can declare this as ‘not our problem.’ They used different words, of course.

They really were saying that as far as they were concerned, the sale didn’t exist, but then they added in an ‘oh, by the way’ sort of manner, “the sale was MasterCard not VISA.” In other words, we can find no record of this sale, but it was MasterCard.

Furthermore, it wasn’t either. I have the transaction receipt. It was a debit transaction. It says so right on it. And they had received a scan of that.

Did they investigate it at all?

At this point they’ve worn us out.

In our type of work, $28 is a large amount. It makes a difference. More to the point, I realized I don’t want to live in a world where people get away with this sort of thing. And short-term, I definitely don’t want them as my point-of-sale provider anymore.

But on their end, $28 wouldn’t have bankrupted them.

Third Title in Skye Jethani’s “Serious” Series

Christian Book Shop Talk readers: I occasionally include reviews here which appeared on my other blog, even if there is no specific Canadian element. This is such a review.

Book Review: What if Jesus Was Serious About the Church?: A Visual Guide to Becoming the Community Jesus Intended (Moody Publishers, 2022)

Two years ago I was able to review the first book in what we now know has become a series, What if Jesus Was Serious? At the time, I mentioned that the use of “napkin doodles” therein was foreshadowed in one of Skye Jethani’s older books, With. I was unable to get a review copy of the follow-up, What if Jesus Was Serious About Prayer? but when the subject-at-hand for the third book was the modern church, I knew I wanted in, and despite the publisher’s great reluctance to grant review copies, was able to request one.

The reason I wanted to own this one in my personal collection is because this is a theme on which Skye is most outspoken when talking to Phil Vischer or interviewing guests weekly on The Holy Post Podcast. As a former pastor himself, and a former writer for over a decade with Christianity Today, Skye is able to articulate the challenges faced by the capital “C” Church worldwide, the small “c” church locally, and those whose vocational employment is church-related.

The podcast for which he is quite well known fails (in my view) in one respect, in that it is far too American-oriented. If you’re reading this review in the UK, or Australia, or Canada, and you’ve sensed that as well, you’ll be happy to know that the book casts a wider perspective beyond the U.S. I promise you’ll only roll your eyes once or twice.

So for those who need to play catch-up, as with the first two books, this one consists of short — never more than four page — chapters, each of which commences with a little drawing which might be a chart, or a diagram, or a cartoon, or a meme. It’s hard to describe them. Hence the reference to “napkin doodles.” The thing you would draw on a napkin (or blank paper place-mat) in a coffee shop when trying to explain an idea. (Again, the book With is must-reading to see how the concept evolved.)

This one has 51 such chapters, grouped in five sections; The Family Reunion, The Family Meal, The Family Gathering, The Family Business, and The Family Servants.

I immediately shared the second part with my wife. I find that I can never read enough about the Eucharist, Last Supper, or Communion Service, and our need to keep its centrality in the modern worship service. It and the third part, about the manner in which we worship are the longest two groupings in the book and include subjects that are important to the author.

Skye Jethani is so forthright and authoritative on these subjects, and I feel he is a voice that everyone in Evangelicalism needs to be hearing.

Because I tend to gush about the books I review — I choose them and don’t get books sent automatically — I do have a couple of criticisms. One is that for those who obsess over page counts, the 232 pages in this one include about 45 which are essentially blank. That’s a product of the way the book is formatted, and in balance, one needs to also consider this digest-sized paperback uses color process throughout.

The other thing was the ending. For me, there wasn’t one. The 51st article ended abruptly, which I expected given the concision that Skye employs throughout. But then I turned the page looking for a conclusion; something that would tie everything altogether, and there wasn’t one. No closing statement. Perhaps, as with the podcast for which he is known, there is a bonus chapter only available to Patreon supporters.

Those complaints aside, I encourage you to consider this. It’s fairly quick reading, and if you or someone in your family is employed in ministry, it contains a number of great conversation starters. If you simply care about where modern Evangelicalism is headed, it contains even more topics to provoke discussion.