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Book Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

In the past, I would post only book reviews pertinent to worship, music in the local church, or general Christian leadership and discipleship. Recently, I've been studying many more general topics as well, such as history, economics and scientific thought, some of which end up as reviews here as well.

Entries in ministry (6)

Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life - Jack Deere (2018)

I've read a few of Jack Deere's books over the years. I've heard him speak at conferences. I've even had the opportunity to ask him questions briefly at a break time at one of those events. His brilliant mind, kind demeanor and likeable character give you no inkling that he could be leading a real life pressed with all the struggles and sins each of us likewise fight against in our lives. This book is clearly proof that is not so.

While it contains extensive discussion from real examples of "show time" sins such as sex, money, alcohol and drugs, the reader is not exposed to these for titillation. Instead, they are mentioned for what they are: the fruits of deep pain and suffering in lives broken by the sins we don't want to talk about- abuse, incest, suicide, and pride.

This book shouldn't be hailed because of its events, but rather because the ones who've lived through those events have chosen to honestly and seriously speak about them in a public way. We don't need more tragic stories. But we do need people as brave as the Deeres who will tell their story and allow us to believe that hope and peace are on the path if we can face down our shame and let our Father God in.

I was riveted by this book, but even more by the clear-eyed honesty by which it is told. As unsettlingly painful as it is surprisingly hopeful, the book doesn't defend the author. It allows you to believe what you will about him and his family. But it does force you to consider that his reality is no more special than yours and mine. Conversely, it may mean that our healing and way forward may be possible as well. This is a gift. I am thankful. As will be anyone who ventures to journey through the entirety of this book.

Amazon book link:


Review by Kim Gentes

Naturally Supernatural - Gary Best (2005)

Review of "Naturally Supernatural" by Gary Best

View more about Gary Best.

Gary Best

Over the last 25 years, I have had the opportunity to meet Gary Best only a few times. Each time, Gary has continued to live out his desire to train others, to see the kingdom of God expand and to see the love of God reach the hurting. Gary's book, "Naturally Supernatural" is written to help explain the process of praying for others and living a naturally supernatural life that exemplifies his understanding and practice of that kingdom of God teaching.

Since I first met him in 1987, Gary was the first person I knew of that used the term "Naturally Supernatural". The book title seemed appropriate when I heard it. It's a phrase that has since been used elsewhere, but none more fittingly than the no-hype, low pressure, but faith-building and love-centered approach that is unique to Gary. In this respect he the best of what he represents from his Vineyard tradition- solid biblical examination of the working of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and kingdom of God (i.e. continuationist) theology.

Gary Best served as the National Director for the Association of Vineyard Churches, Canada and oversaw the Pacific Rim theatre for AVC missions. He has traveled extensively, speaking in conferences throughout North America. Europe and Asia. He is married to Joy. He was the founding pastor of the Langley Vineyard Christian Fellowship, BC. Five congregations developed out of the church during their leadership. Gary and Joy now reside in New Brunswick, Canada, where they oversee the Dominion Hill retreat center near St. Andrews, NB.

Gary continues to travel and speak on "Naturally Supernatural" and other topics of ministry. I highly encourage you to contact Gary if you are interested in inviting him as a guest, speaker or conference leader. I've been to a number of events he has led and they are some of the best, most impactive events for equipping churches and their leaders.

For more info on Gary Best, his teaching and ministry, go to .

Let me share a true story with you.

It was 1987. I was visiting friends in Surrey, BC, Canada. One night, they invited me to go to a church class on praying for the sick. I went. At the end, the leader announced it was 'clinic time'. He invited sick people to get prayer. Brave man, I thought. He asked each person what was wrong, and taught others to pray for them. One person had to literally whisper because his throat had swollen so much over the last few days, it was causing him to barely be able to speak. The leader stopped, like he wasn't sure what to do. He looked at the class and said "Jesus often healed from compassion. Let's see who the Lord puts His compassion in their heart for this man."

As soon as he said the word "heart", my heart took one giant beat, feeling as if it was going to explode out of my chest. I'd never experienced this before. At the same time this happened I involuntarily and immediately gasped for air. The leader turned and looked straight at me.

"Oh no," I thought. I wasn't sure what was happening to me, but I didn't think it had anything to do with the meeting and I hadn't meant to get his attention. I quickly said out loud, "Sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you."

"No, that's ok. What happened?" he asked. I explained that the moment he said the word heart my own chest felt like it was going to explode. He smiled and asked me to come to the front to pray for the man. I was unsure and not filled with faith. After a few moments of following his instructions and praying for the old man with the throat problem, the man's eyes got wide and excited. He smiled, and his eyes began to tear up. He started speaking. The swelling had gone down and he was feeling completely better. I was shocked.

This was my first time meeting Gary Best. From that time forward, my life has been changed with a desire and faith see God's kingdom become present in my life. I became aware that God's love was ready to intervene, to heal and to confront the evil of this world with the power of His Spirit. This book clearly articulates the main points of Gary's thesis- that the Good News of the gospel of Jesus is really "good news"; and that we are to join in the mission of Jesus and the early disciples to see that same good news demonstrated today.

The book is well written and very easy to follow. Beginning with Gary's personal story of his reluctant introduction to the "Naturally Supernatural", the author traces through the gospel of Mark and explores the challenges of the equally confounded first century apostles who found stepping out in faith as mystifying, yet necessary, if they were going to follow Christ. The author explores a logical progression of his own building faith through trial and error as the book teaches the reader about the gifts, seeing what God sees, prayer, empowerment, reaching out and persevering.

The content and personal exploration (and humility) of the author with the topics make the book not only easy to read but enjoyable. If you are the type of person that is skeptical about "healing", I'd recommend this book to you. Not because it argues indepth about theological points and wins the day, but because it balances nicely between the concepts, the scriptural underpinnings and personal examples. More than any other book I've read, "Naturally Supernatural" clearly articulates the passionate, yet thoughtful approach that is the main-stay of the Vineyard church's kingdom of God approach to ministry. What makes the book wonderfully Christ-centered, in my opinion, is it's unrelenting focus on God's love. As Best puts it:

"Our great encouragement," I told them, "is that we can't heal anyone. If anything is to happen, the critical factor will be God's faithfulness. What we can do, however, is love and then simply reach for all that God will gift us to do."1

Gary Best never allows the gifts become the "toy" or trophy of his teaching or practice. In "Naturally Supernatural", the place of healing and all supernatural gifts are the subordinated functionaries given to spread the good news of God's love to a broken world.

After reading through this book, I realized how much of Gary's teaching had been a lifelong dedication to seeing God's good news become reality for others. What I had encountered back in 1987 was just a sample of how God has continued to use Gary over the last 25 years and, by God's grace on his continued ministry, travel and writing, the good news of Jesus has been flourishing.

If you haven't read this book, I strongly encourage you to get it and read it. Very good, and very worthwhile!

Let me end with another personal story.

I just finished reading Gary Best's "Naturally Supernatural". That night, my family decided to drive to a small chicken stop in northeast Nashville (a unique place called "Prince's Hot Chicken Shack", very spicy). While we were eating, a lady walked by our table, talking across the room to a friend about her recent battle with cancer. When we were done eating, my son Jared told me he felt like he should pray for the lady before we left. I encouraged him to go with that compassion. My other son, Jordan, joined him. They approached the lady and soon were welcomed at her table. They listened intently, and with compassion, to the lady's story of her battle with cancer. Then they prayed with compassion and asked God to heal her completely. She began to tear up and hugged Jared. Other members of the table shook his hand and embraced him as well. My sons had prayed in faith, taken a risk of showing love to a stranger, and left trusting that God's faithfulness would have to prevail for the woman to be healed. As a parent, you're never quite sure how your "words of wisdom" are being heard by your kids. But the things I'd been introduced to in 1987 have impacted my life and, later, that of my children. And what I have continued to learn, my sons had been learning too.

What encourages me about Gary's book is that it's message is something that can be a teaching tool and lens through which people can better understand the kingdom of God and its practical application of the good news of Jesus.

If you are interested in reading something that will encourage you in learning about those things, I strongly encourage you to consider this book.

Amazon Link :


Order from the author directly at :

Also, if you are interested in more about the author, or contacting him you can do so at this link: Gary Best.


In Christ's love,
Kim Gentes


1. Best, Gary (2005-03-01). Naturally Supernatural (Kindle Locations 1290-1291). Vineyard International Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Country Parson, The Temple - George Herbert (1633)

The Country Parson is a instructional book written from 17th century Anglican minister George Herbert in an attempt to describe and define the “perfect” country ministry.  The same writer was a prolific poet and penned a generous volume of poems gathered and published as “The Temple”.  Herbert is a brilliant academic figure, whose writing is surprisingly poignant and succinct, while remaining excellent pastoral guidance across the centuries.

Much in the tradition of Gregory the Great, whose “pastoral care” manual gave very specific and practical admonitions about human behavior, Herbert helps us understand how to properly lead the life of an Anglican priest and how it can be properly administered in a country parish.  This is not so much an examination of the parishioner as it is a prescriptive agenda for various circumstances that may be encountered by the priest.

What is refreshing about Herbert immediately is his humility.  Though the book is little more than 60 pages, he starts out with this abrupt stance to those who would theorise the ministry from an academic understanding:

Of those that live in the Universities, some live there in office, whose rule is that of the Apostle; Rom. 12.6. Having gifts differing, according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophecy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministring, or he that teacheth, on teaching, &c. he that ruleth, let him do it with diligence, &c. Some in a preparatory way, whose aim and labour must be not only to get knowledge, but to subdue and mortify all lusts and affections: and not to think, that when they have read the Fathers, or Schoolmen, a Minister is made, and the thing done.[1]

Such clarity of theology and praxis is still appropriate advice for us today.  Herbert’s lessons to the pastor already serving are no less profound. One great example is his elevation of integrity as a duty for the minister to gain a hearing with his parishioners:

because Country people (as indeed all honest men) do much esteem their word, it being the Life of buying, and selling, and dealing in the world; therfore the Parson is very strict in keeping his word, though it be to his own hindrance, as knowing, that if he be not so, he will quickly be discovered, and disregarded: neither will they believe him in the pulpit, whom they cannot trust in his Conversation.[2]

Herbert teaches the minister to take the congregation as his barometer in all things. Preach using analogies they understand. Expound the textual meaning of a scripture, then communicate an application. Don’t preach too long. Divide your time up across a month and visit a quarter of the people in your congregation each week, thus seeing everyone personally in the span of each month in their own homes. Such practical wisdom is found on every page of Herbert’s book. All of this may sound mechanistic, but to a minister who is learning the craft of caring for people, it can be sound guidelines for beginning and understanding excellent common practices that can help frame a lifetime of ministry.

For sure, Herbert’s work is not to be taken as a exact template for every ministry or every circumstance. This is not his intention and we shouldn't be saddled by such expectations any more than us writing a book of practical wisdom for pastors today would be seen as useful in every aspect to ministers 300 years later from us. Accept and use what is good, but do not dogmatically undertake the book as a present-day regimen for all ministries.


Amazon Product Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


[1]George Herbert, “George Herbert: The Country Parson, The Temple”, (Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press 1981), Pg. 55

[2]Ibid., Pg. 57

Francis of Assisi and His World - Mark Galli (2002)

Francis of Assisi and His World is a historical biographical book on St. Francis, the founding father of the Franciscan order in the Catholic church.  The book covers Francis’ entire lifespan and touches on the continuation of the Order after his death.  His life reminds us of Antony, Augustine, Gregory the Great, St. Benedict of Nursia and other heroes of the faith- all having the common strand of being rich in worldly position and goods, but abandoning hope in those to serve and follow God with great passion and impact. To sum up his life would be difficult, but I found five themes in Francis life that are especially resonant in this biography:  moments of revelation, moments of contrition, self-disciple, submission to authority and intense personal joy.

What moves me powerfully about Francis is his passion for following the Lord’s direction without hesitation or concern for “balance”.  Like Francis, I believe many people (including myself) want to respond without hesitation to God’s voice.  But unlike Francis we often convince ourselves (or allow others to convince us) that we must concern ourselves with our future.  What Francis did in his life, was completely abandon the thought of taking his life in his own hands.  This inspires me. Here was one example in Francis life:

In the midst of his preparations, Francis had a dream. He found himself in his father’s house, which had been transformed into a palace filled with arms. Instead of bales of cloths, he saw saddles, shields and lances. In one room, a beautiful bride waited for her bridegroom. Francis heard a voice saying that all this was for Francis and his knights. When Francis woke, he was ecstatic...[1]

Another thing that impacted me about the biography was Francis’ discipline. Francis ability to master asceticism was not derived from a supernatural gift of sustenance. He had to work at bringing his actions into subjugation of his will.   Many of the things Francis did, seemed to come as much from a clear understanding of personal work ethic as it did from a “gift”.  And this was a primary thread throughout his Rule, which stipulated such strong adherence that its following could only produce like people.  He says:

A little while later, Francis was riding his horse near Assisi (apparently this took place before the rift with his father) when he saw ahead of him a leper standing in the road. He determined immediately to do something sweeping, something dramatic to change his attitude. He dismounted, walked up to the man and personally gave him a coin. But this still was not enough to a man of Francis resolve. So he bent over, drew his lips near the mans decaying hand and kissed it. The man replied by giving Francis a kiss of peace; Francis did not recoil. Then Francis remounted his horse and went on his way.[2]

While it is hard to dislike Francis and his relentless pursuit of God, Francis deep devotion to poverty may have been inordinately self-effacing. Some of his practices and beliefs not only likely led to his early suffering and death, but also brought unnecessary burden on those who followed him with fervor.

Product Link: Francis of Assisi and His World


Review by Kim Gentes


[1]Mark Galli, “Franics and His World”, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), Pg 25
[2]Ibid., Pg 49

Pastoral Care, Gregory the Great (591AD)

Pastoral Care is an ancient volume written by Pope Gregory the Great in 591AD. It was written to instruct pastors on the details of their office, warnings to those entering its service and extensive instructions on how to administer spiritual care to parishioners. The primary content of the book is a systematic listing of methodologies for how to evaluate and speak to Christians under the pastoral care of the reader. The methodologies, called admonishments,  contain two basic components in each. First, each admonishment contains a paradoxical evaluation of two kinds of people. These are categorizations of the types of people a pastor will encounter. While they are fairly simplistic in name, it is their simplicity that makes them especially effective as diagnostic tools.  Each admonishment begins with a listing of the two paradoxical types of people that will be dealt with. A pastor can use those types to help him find (within Gregory’s extensive treatise) and diagnose the kind of person he is trying to help.  Second, each admonishment also contains a specific and detailed account of how to treat each person described therein. Especially clear is the assumption that Gregory feels his coverage of the subject as a whole should be sufficient for almost any situation, and he approaches it is an analogous manner to a physician, employing the metaphor extensively, and acting as a instructor to spiritual physicians.

One topic which Gregory deals with that I was particularly impressed by was his understanding of giving. He states it this way:

For when we administer necessities to the needy, we give them what is their own, not what is ours; we pay a debt of justice, rather than do a work of mercy..[1]

His discourse on giving is one of the most extraordinary I have seen. Though not without objectionable points, he perfectly applies a surgical knife to misguided thought about giving when he states:

"[one] gives of his bread to an indigent sinner, not because he is a sinner, but because he is a man. In doing so one actually nourishes a righteous beggar, not a sinner, for he loves in him not his sin but his nature." [2]

Though the work is vastly important and helpful to the pastoral office, it is not without its questionable suggestions:

The married must be admonished to bear in mind that they are united in wedlock for the purpose of procreation, and when they abandon themselves to immoderate intercourse, they transfer the occasion of procreation to the service of pleasure. Let them realise that though they do not then pass beyond the bounds of wedlock, yet in wedlock they exceed its rights. Wherefore, it is necessary that they should efface by frequent prayer what they befoul in the fair form of intercourse by the admixture  of pleasure.[3]

Sadly, Gregory’s pre-medieval understanding of the marriage bed will only serve  as a template to plunge the church and its leadership into 1300 years of further angst and castigation against sexual fulfillment through marriage in specific, and anything sexual in general.

Product Link : Ancient Christian Writers - The Works Of The Fathers In Translation - St Gregory The Great: Pastoral Care

Review by Kim Gentes


[1]Johannes Quasten, “St Gregory The Great: Pastoral Care” in Ancient Christian Writers - The Works Of The Fathers In Translation, translated Henry Davis, SJ (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1950), Pg 159
[2]Ibid., Pg 155
[3]Ibid., Pg 188