13.9.10

Blog Tour: "Turning Controversy into Church Ministry" by W.P. Campbell


W.P. Campbell. Turning Controversy Into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality. Zondervan, 2010. 240pgs. 

Another blog tour sponsored by http://engagingchurchblog.com/.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this. 

I have to say that when the option to sign up to review this book arrived I was intrigued.  Read that title a couple of times; doesn't it sound interesting? As a pastor how could I not want to turn controversy into church ministry? So, I signed up with two hopes: that this book would offer helpful insight into the issue of homosexuality and into some more general applications for dealing with controversies in the broader sense.  Were my hopes met, or dashed against the rocks? Read on to find out!

Campbell has divided this book into three parts.  In part one he invites the reader to analyze the current position and situation of his own church with three chapters focusing on three questions: Where do you stand in terms of grace, truth, and passion? Where do you stand in terms of dealing with sin and connecting with pain? Where do you stand in terms of scripture and who you follow? In part two he spends six chapters examining the controversy surrounding homosexuality. He moves through issues of science, psychology, and compassion/care.  Finally, in part three, Campbell offers a blueprint of how a church could incorporate ministry for sexual brokenness into their congregational activities.  This involves six 'spheres' drawn from the story of Nehemiah: Motivation (prayer), Vision (leadership), Healing (family values), Growth (mentors and counselors), Support (small groups), and Celebration (outreach).  His overarching thesis is that Christ desires to minister to those who struggle with sexual brokenness and that He can do so through our churches, despite the controversy and difficulties which surround these issues. 

Sadly, I almost did not make it past the first chapter of this book.  To be blunt, there seem to be several statistical errors and exaggerations designed to intensify the need for this book.  (Click the link to read my more detailed analysis)  I found this especially disappointing in a book which has a short section entitled "The Misuse of Statistics Today."  Still, I pressed forward.  After chapter one there are not too many other statistics at all, even if those I came across were also suspect. Not only that, but the rest of this book is worth reading, so I am glad I read on. 
Edit: Campbell has himself left some very helpful comments about my post about statistical errors.  They appear at the end of this post. He has included much more detailed explanations of his sources and very appropriate, and true, comments about my own words (that I need to be careful my own comments do not become alarmist, that these points are tangential, and so on).  Please make sure to read those comments as well as my own post.  

Errors aside, this book was a balanced and interesting approach to ministering in the midst of sexual brokenness.  The second section of the book explored the various facets of the controversy in an in-depth and accessible fashion.  Campbell ends each of these chapters with a lengthier story and some of them were quite moving.  In the third section Campbell offers a good overview of a possible ministry model for a church, with some standard, but helpful, thoughts on such issues as leadership, prayer, and small groups.  He is absolutely right in that any church seeking to minister to sexual brokenness needs to incorporate that ministry into the life of the church.  The whole Nehemiah thing felt like a cheap add on, as if he needed a biblical story to tack onto his model, but considering the state of Christian literature I can forgive that. 

Overall, this was an interesting book.  I learned a lot about the homosexuality and the controversy surrounding it, had a chance to do some worthwhile reflections on my own attitudes, and was challenged in how I deal with controversial and difficult issues which require the love of Christ.  In terms of my two initial hopes, my first was well met. My second was met but I had to get there myself.  In other words, Campbell doesn't actually offer general thoughts on dealing with controversial issues, but his book contains such insights if the reader abstracts them from the work.  

??? stars, conditionally recommended.  Content wise, discounting the stat stuff, I would give this book a 3.5. But, I can't quite get over the statistical issues and I am not sure how that should affect this rating. Other than that, this book is helpful for those interested in the subject, and especially for this involved in church ministry.  

15 comments:

Andrew said...

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for such a thorough review. I'm going to read your second post on the stats, now.

I wonder what other reviewers will say on this blog tour about the stats, etc.? We'll find out...

Best,
Andrew

William said...

Andrew:

This is WP Campbell. Thank you for your comments about the book. It is certainly important to be accurate in reporting data and in using statistics. I will review your points carefully before the second printing of this book and make any possible improvements accordingly.

A few brief comments on your specific points:

Regarding the stats about pastors and pastor’s wives, there is a wealth of information that is indeed alarming about the health and happiness of the average pastor and his or her spouse. The reference I used from the book “Preventing Ministry Failure,” was selected because that book is about helping pastors and churches become more healthy, which is a focus of my book as well. It would be a good study for any pastor.

You are right that pages 15 and 16 are part of a quiz on statistics, but both pages give source data (in the footnotes on those pages) for the statistical findings that back the quiz data. Those several source documents, I felt, were most easily summarized by referencing the pages in the book.

Obviously you were confused by the way I referenced this statistical data, however, for which reason I will consider referencing the source documents when this book is printed again and will also do a review of any current surveys at that time to see if there are better sources or if there is new statistical data to be considered.

I don’t have time to dig more deeply into this right now, but here are some related statistics that popped up when I tracked one of the referenced articles: (See next post for a continuation)...

William said...

Response from WP Campbell, continued...

• Our surveys indicated that 80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses are discouraged or are dealing with depression. (Compilation of surveys from Focus on the Family, Pastor’s Gatherings).

• 80% of pastors believe the pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families (Life Enrichment Ministries – 1998; see http://www.yearofjubilee.org/2008/07/clergy-statistics-and-resources)

• At any given time, 75% of pastors in America want to quit (Resource Ministries – 1998; again, from http://www.yearofjubilee.org/2008/07/clergy-statistics-and-resources)

• Why are pastors struggling? There are many causes. The Fuller Institute of Church Growth found in 1991 that 80 percent of the clergy feel their families have been negatively impacted by the church, and 33 percent consider the ministry to be an outright hazard to their families.


Regarding your comments about the NCHS report, as you said, my data was correct. I was not focusing on the trends during the brief period covered in the report, however, but on the state of sexuality in our country overall, and I found the data in the report to be a significant indicator in long-term trends and of current statistics. Again, I’ll consider whether or not to refresh this for the next printing.

Regarding your third reference, the US Census Bureau report, you are right that I should provide more documentation and perhaps put a qualifier in the note about that data. Thank you for catching that. But again, as with the previous reference, the point being made in the book is quite tangential to its main arguments, and the actual point made is very relevant and not a distortion of the trends in our country (in this case related to marriage).

As a side note, your references to “alarmist” usage of data can itself become “alarmist.” I believe the main theme and tone of my book is untainted by the concerns you have raised and that any book with statistical references can be debated in terms of the usage of data. But this book is aimed to avoid controversy, not to create it, and in my research I have intentionally left out a lot of statistical data and its interpretation from both extreme camps related to this controversial issue.

Nevertheless, accuracy in details is important and criticism like yours can help me to improve the book. I thank you for your comments.

Bill

William said...
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William said...
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Andrew said...

Bill

Thank you so much for your comments, and for going to the trouble of posting multiple comments to provide thorough answers (I know that the blogger system can be annoying at times).

I appreciate the clarifications you have offered. I was confused by the way you referenced the material, and (being 1 year out of seminary with the chicago manual of style still ringing in the background) part of me wants to say it is inappropriate? (struggling to find the right word here). Your book is not meant to be an academic publication, however, and I am sure you do not want 50 pages of notes at the back to intimidate the reader, so I understand. It would be helpful to note in your footnote what you explained here, that your sources are summarized on pages of 15-16 of that book, rather than the normal reference which indicates that those pages were your source.

I also think you are right to point out the tangential nature of these stats and points; I tried to do that somewhat by making it a separate post/page, but I ought to have said so more clearly (and will edit my posts to do so).

To the specific statistics, I also don't have time to do more digging right now, but I notice a few things: most of these sources do not reveal their methods, nor are their results peer-reviewed or checked. I feel like you can find statistics for everything, and it is very easy to make them misleading.

As an example, you quoted from the year of jubilee page which quotes from Dr. Dobson's 1998 newsletter (which is no longer available online) which gives the statistics about discouragement and depression. However, by the time this statistic appears in your book, it is just depression.

The line between discouraged and depressed is important. One is an emotional, or spiritual, state which needs to be dealt with but not clinically diagnosed. It is something we all experience, to varying degrees, and in varying quantities.

The other is a clinically diagnosable issue which is accompanied by serious symptoms and so on.

As I think about the quiz which led to the survey result that 80% of pastors and 84% of pastors wives are discouraged or struggling with depression, I want to know if these were answers given on a sliding scale (you know, where 1 is depressed, 3 is discouraged, 5 is... and so on) or if they choose from a range of moods, or if they were asked to describe themselves, or what? More importantly, I want to know how many fell into each of those discrete categories, how those terms, and categories, were defined (they probably were not), and on and on.

That said, and I think that is fairly detailed look at one stat which you rightly pointed out is tangential, you are right to point out that any book including statistics can be debated in terms of usage of data. You are also right to bring up the fact that the rest of your book stands on its own, regardless of the results of these data debates.

So thank you again, both for your book, and your time in commenting here.

God Bless,
Andrew

Andrew said...
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Andrew said...
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Andrew said...

One other question. I have already edited my post, in a minor way, to point people to your own comments.

However, I would like to make a new post which draws attention to this discussion, so that anyone who read this post before you commented can still hear what you have to say.

May I have your permission to copy your comments into that post?

Thanks,
Andrew

Andrew said...

Lastly, I said (in my first comment response) that "you can find statistics for anything, and it is very easy to make them misleading" I did not mean you personally. I meant the anonymous you, or anyone/everyone.

I wish I could edit comments; yet more flaws in the blogger system :)

Thanks you again,
God Bless,
Andrew

William said...

Andrew:

Thank you for your response.

Yes, you are welcome to post my comments as you wish.

Bill

William said...

Andrew:

Thank you for your response.

Yes, you are welcome to post my comments as you wish.

Bill

Anonymous said...

last few days our class held a similar talk on this topic and you illustrate something we have not covered yet, appreciate that.

- Laura

Andrew said...

I am curious :) Which class? And which topic/illustration?

Anonymous said...

Отличная статья! большое спасибо автору за интересный материал. Удачи в развитии!!! :)
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