CHURCH GROWTH IN CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN NIGERIA by John B. Grimley and Gordon E. Robinson. Eerdmans, 1966, 374 pages.
This is actually two books in one volume. The first is Church Growth in Central Nigeria by John B. Grimley. The second is Church Growth in Southern Nigeria by Cordon E. Robinson. The authors did their research and writing under the Institute of Church Growth, now located at Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, and headed by Dr. Donald McGavran.
McGavran’s name has become very familiar in mission circles because of the leadership he has given in advocating new missionary methods. Among other things McGavran emphasizes close attention to interrelated families and tribes, clear-cut statistical analysis of missionary advance. and spending the most resources in places where the Holy Spirit is giving the most abundant harvest. This volume by Grimley and Robinson is an effort to apply these and similar insights to the Nigeria situation. As such they have made a significant contribution to missionary literature.
It should be borne in mind that this book is a survey of the Nigeria situation; it is not an exhaustive description. But if this volume does nothing more than stimulate further study, thought, discussion, and action, among all those connected with mission work in Nigeria, it will have served a very worthy purpose. Grimley’s map of the many tribes in Central Nigeria who have not yet been reached by missionaries, is especially revealing to those of us who thought the country was pretty well covered by various missions.
Christian Reformed readers may be especially interested in Church Growth in Central Nigeria because of the large role the Christian Reformed Mission is playing here. One of the churches with which the C.H.C. is working is the Tiv Church, and the Tiv Church is criticized by Grimley for having overly strict entrance requirements. Grimley feels that these requirements arc hindering rapid growth. I tend to agree with Grimley hut would hasten to add that there is much more involved. Most of the Tiv Church is growing moderately; in western Tiv country there is very little growth; in southern Tiv country the growth is phenomenal. If the entrance requirements are about the same throughout the church, why this lopsided growth? There surely are other factors involved which must still be brought to light.
ADVENTURES OF A DESERTER J. Overduin. Trans. by Harry VanDyke. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids. 1965. 153 pp. $3.50.
The book of Jonah is a fascinating study in human nature in the Bible. One finds himself pictured time after time in the excuses and heroics of this pampered prophet of Jehovah. Whether or not the minister has recently preached on this book, if he has not read Overduin’s delightful account of Jonah’s experiences, he owes it to himself and to his congregation to go back to some of the insights that the author finds in the book of Jonah. The author of this commentary is pastor in the Reformed Church of Veenendaal, the Netherlands. His wide experience includes that of radio speaker, orator, writer, as well as prisoner during the German occupation of the Netherlands. This experience is mirrored again and again in his pointed comments on Jonah and his often petulant career.
However the book Adventures of a Deserter is not and a wonderful aid in the understanding of Jonah’s life and mission. It is also a book that opens a window into the life of every Christian. In a very real sense, we all are confronted with the kind. of situation that Jonah faced. We must also witness to people whom we sometimes consider unfit for the mercy of God. Then when we turn to the book of Jonah and see him as God sees us, we begin to understand the meaning of God’s mercy. Pastor Overduin brings this message to the heart and conscience of every reader. As such, this is a book that every person ought to read.
Overduin makes Jonah live for his readers. He makes Jonah so contemporary that one really becomes a little ashamed of himself when he finds that he is doing exactly the same thing that Jonah was doing. But the most wonderful thing about this book is not what it says about Jonah, although this is timely and relevant. But the truly great thing about the book is what it says about God. For when God in his great grace can take a Jonah and still use him to bring the message of salvation, then there is room for me and every other Christian too within the service of God. We have all felt this mercy of God in the book of Jonah. And now Rev. J. Overduin puts it in words so poignant that no one can forget it.
HENRY VANDEN HEUVEL
THE EPISTLES OF JOHN John R. W. Stott. The Tyndale Commentary. R. V. G. Tasker, editor. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids. 230 pp. $3.00.
THE EPISTLES OF JOHN AND JUDE. Ronald A. Ward. Shield Bible Study Series. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1965. 102 pp. $1.50.
Here are two very fine commentaries on the epistles of John and Jude. They are authored by Britishers who are conservative in their approach to Scripture and to the epistles with which ther concern themselves in these volumes. The Tyndale Commentary according to its very purpose, goes into the critical problems of authorship, content, and destination of the epistles of john a great deal more than does the Shield Bible Study Manual of Dr. Ward. In that respect, I suppose that the Tyndale volume would be more useful to the minister who has knowledge of the original languages and the questions that confront the serious student of the Bible. This characteristic of the commentary is appreciated especially when the author leaves no doubt in the mind of the reader that the epistles considered here are indeed written by the apostle John. The author presents cogent arguments to prove this position, comparing these epistles with the Gospel according to John in a helpful way. Furthermore, the Tyndale Commentary gives a series of additional notes at the end of various sections of the treatment of the text. For example, one of these “additional notes” concerns itself with the idea of the “Logos” that is found in I John 1:1, comparing John’s use of the term here and in the Gospel. Such additional notes add a great deal to one’s understanding of the text.
On the other hand, the Bible Study Manual by Dr. Ronald Ward is as the name indicates, a manual for the study of the epistles of John and Jude. It designed, it seems to me, with the layman in view more than the minister or professional scholar. This does not mean, of course, that the book will not benefit the preacher. Indeed, it also presents fresh insights into the message of Scripture according to the apostle John and Jude. The introduction of this commentary is of necessity much briefer than that of the commentary by Stott. It assumes the authorship of John and Jude, the brother of James, without attempting to prove it from external and internal sources. This further indicates that the primary purpose of the Manual is for use by Sunday School teachers, for use in Bible discussions, and societies.
Keeping in mind these differences, it is my opinion that both of these commentaries will find ready place in the libraries of both the minister as well as the laity of the Church.
HENRY VANDEN HEUVEL