I am going to do this post in two parts. I'll get the second one up as soon as I find time.
I recently finished Kevin Kirkland's debut book called Broken Walls: And Those Who are Called to Repair Them. Check out the ad for the book here.
It was a privilege to read this book for a number of reasons, but one in particular stands at the forefront, namely, I personally know Kevin Kirkland. He and I lived in the same town (San Angelo, TX) for about six years where we would occasionally interact. Thus, to some degree I understand and recognize his passion for the subject he addresses. He loves to pour his life into young people--I have seen this first hand! I have heard Kevin speak a number of times and have watched him love and lead students as a youth minister, through various Sunday-night gatherings, overseas missions, and his traveling evangelistic ministry known as Katalyst (see link above). His love for students comes in second only to his passionate zeal for Jesus. Kevin has spent much time overseas, as the book will reveal, and wants nothing less than to see hordes of people come to know Jesus. So, reading his debut book was interesting. I could literally hear his passionate voice in my head as I read. It was really only a matter of time before he wrote a book. Kevin is filled with things to say, and say he did. So, without further ado, let's look at just that.
What is This Book About?
Simply stated: if we do not take the next generation seriously, we are headed for perilous times. Kevin's heart bursts forth with love, passion, sorrow, and determination for today's and tomorrow's young people--and his zeal is quite compelling. There is no doubt that he is operating under the tremendous weight of how sin is destroying our world and how children across the globe suffer as we sit comfortably in our air-conditioned living rooms watching television and waiting on our next meal. Kevin shouts loudly from the pages of Broken Walls (BW) that we need to repent from our pride and selfishness and let Christ guide us into lives of loving sacrifice and service for our children. This book will strike a deep chord for those who know they should simplify their lives for the sake of others. As the idolatries of American culture are exposed one by one, one's use of money, time, energy, vacation, home, etc., will be challenged in light of Christ's great mission to heal the brokenness of our world.
Kevin shares story after story and statistic after statistic that vividly portray the current state of ruin that our children find themselves in. He knows firsthand the death, deception, and misery that millions of children across the world encounter everyday. From holding dying orphans in Kenya to working with passive parents in West Texas, he has come face to face with the physical and spiritual decay that surrounds the next generation. He is deeply broken, and he invites all who read to share his passion for the healing of our youth.
In light of all this, BW is a smooth read and Kevin's heartbeat is accessible to all his readers. He doesn't write as an expert on the matter, but one who is in the trenches wanting to strengthen his fellow soldiers. One can tell that he has spent a lot of time passionately teaching this from group to group. BW will challenge every reader to play his or her part in the task of being a sage for the youth of our day, whether in sending or going or praying.
(In part II, I will discuss my favorite chapters as well as a few more questions I have. For now, here is a discussion of the use of Nehemiah.)
-Use of Nehemiah?
As I write this in the James P. Boyce Centennial Library at Southern Seminary, I am incidentally sitting right in front of a section of Nehemiah commentaries--no lie. I could literally reach behind me and pull one off the shelf. So, having made that cute little introductory comment, here are my thoughts on how Nehemiah was used in Broken Walls:
In the intro, Kevin writes, "The steps that Nehemiah follows for the restoration of his nation are the very keys that I believe God has called us to utilize in the rebuilding of that which the enemy has destroyed in our own land" (p. xv). He also entitles a chapter, "You are Nehemiah" (ch. 16). From this point, he parallels Nehemiah's situation with our own in America and proceeds to offer practical guidance for how we are to repair the brokenness around us. Kevin is making a passionate plea for us to mourn, fast, pray, and act on behalf of the young people in our nation--make no mistake, this is a great end in itself! Yet, I think an important question should be raised about the means to this end: Is this a proper use of Nehemiah? Now, before you think that my question is rigid and uncaring, even pharisaical, consider that I am not attacking Kevin personally, nor his content. I am only offering a critique of his interpretative approach and his use of Nehemiah. I affirm that everything he concludes in his book is helpful and biblical, but the way he derives his conclusions may not serve as the best model of interpreting Scripture. Could there be a way to say the exact same things that Kevin does that is just as passionate, yet preserves the redemptive-historical significance of Nehemiah's (and Israel's) situation? Or, are there better interpretive approaches that can reach the same exhortations yet remain consistent with New Covenant promises given to the church? I answer both in the affirmative. Let me explain the significance of my question: If Nehemiah's story is truly a model for us in our situation, then it is hard not to expect the obsolete promises that are also given to Nehemiah (and ultimately Israel) in his redemptive-historical context. Kevin's use of Nehemiah can inadvertantly set people up with false expectations about how God will respond to our "rebuilding" efforts. Ultimately, my question addresses the very heart of this book: Can we realistically expect the walls to be rebuilt? I will answer that next time, but in this section my point is that we can find guidance for our situation that is just as urgent, yet also faithful to the redemptive-historical context of Christians under New Covenant promises. In the end I find his interpretation a bit too allegorical and detatched from it's context. Though everything he says is on point theologically, I think his overall thesis could be strengthened if his material was more grounded in the New Testament.
For resources that discuss redemptive history, see:
Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan
Bartholomew and Goheen, The Drama of Scripture
William Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament
Stephen Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty
and, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Overall, I have a lot of agreement with Kevin and I think he did a great job on his first book. I will have more to say in due time, along with my thoughts on my favorite chapters. Good job Kevin.
Till the next episode. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?