29 January 2011

Weekend Extra: Book Review

by Frank Turk

Back when I was in college, I almost got roped into applying to an MFA program for creative writing. I bring it up because it was my first exposure to what was then an odd phenomenon. To get into the program, you had to have a published book of writing, and some works published in literary journals. I knew I could probably get something published in a journal of poetry if I worked a full year on the objective, but a real book? How was I supposed to get a book of anything published?

Turns out it was actually quite easy -- there were publishers all over the country who would make a short run of your work if you would pay the set-up costs and materials, so for about $1200 you could have your book of poems or short fiction bound nicely, and you would have a box of books to sell when it was all done.

There's only one reason I mention it: that business model blew up when the world went digital, and the birth of on-demand publishing radically changed the practice of custom binding and circulation.

Reformed blogging hero Tim Challies has seen the value of this business model, especially for "simple, clear, well-written, well-edited and accessible" books by establishing Cruciform Press -- along with editor Kevin Meath and entrepreneur Bob Bevington. To date they have produced 7 titles, including the well-known pamphlet Sexual Detox. It's a brave new world for on-demand books, and I credit Tim and his partners for going to it with gusto.

Just to be clear, Cruciform is not a vanity publisher. Xulon Press is a vanity publisher where, just like when I was in college, you could buy the press time and publish anything yourself -- there's no editorial control over content. Cruciform was established to leverage the speed to market and low overhead costs of modern on-demand printing to create small publishing house with a heart for "meaningful" works.

Their newest title happens to be by my former pastor, Tad Thompson. Intentional Parenting is Tad's exposition on the practice of making every family (in the words of Whitfield) "a little parish". Tad sent me a pre-release copy this week, and I was greatly excited for him.

Tad's view of the issue is pretty simple: somehow we make the duty we have as parents to bring up our children in a godly way too complicated. Instead of seeking to somehow first get ourselves a Mohler-esque Library and a Piper-esque homiletic style, Tad says we just really need the basics:
  • The Gospel
  • The Big Story
  • The Big Truths
  • the Great Commission
  • Spiritual Disciplines
  • Christian Living
  • Worldview
Once we have the basics, the method is simple: together, be in continuous reflection on these basics.

One of the things about Thompson is that he's sneaky. See: this is not rocket science, and if you were only moderately-clever you probably could have come up with this much on your own. But Tad knows a secret that you don't: most people don't know how to do anything intentionally. This is actually a dirty secret in our culture -- we sort of form habits by convenience and by default, and then suddenly 5 years are gone, literally.

Thompson's secret is the idea of intentional activity. When we were there are Harvard Avenue Baptist Church, this was the secret for adult small groups as well: it doesn't matter how hokey you think the activity is, you cannot break out of old habits of behavior without intentionally practicing the new habits every time it is necessary.

As usual, I'm not going to read the book to you. This book is only 100 pages including the end notes (Sorry DJP), and you can read it in one sitting as these are not textbook-sized pages. But the rudimentary wisdom for starting family discipleship found in this book will break through your complacency and fear about the task.

Do yourself a favor and skip lunch one day this week, and put your lunch money up for this book. You can download it immediately, and you can start your new program of giving your children a godly heritage by dinnertime the next day.


Wendy said...

I saw that book on the Cruciform Press website and was wondering about it.
As a single mother, it seems like *almost* every book or article laments the illegitimate birth-rate and how fathers need to do this and do that and the world is going to end for your son if this doesn't happen.

Your review was encouraging enough, but it's unfortunate that Cp's system is set up for subscriptions (both print and ebook). I'd rather not buy books I'm not interested in just to get the one I want.

Wendy said...

Apparently, I didn't scroll down far enough. Yay, I can buy just that one book!

Sorry for the extra-posting.

Patience said...

I definitely want that book.

Frank, you're a good salesman!

Anonymous said...

I am curious though, what "spiritual disciplines?" Who defines them? Do I need to read the book to find out?

Stefan Ewing said...

Gee willikers, you're on some kind of roll this week!

Please enjoy some rest this weekend, and as you would say, be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people.

Stefan Ewing said...

...And I like your outline of Pastor Thompson's book. We're thinking seriously now of having a little olive branch of our own,* and this may be just the book I'm looking for.

Even with end notes.

*That's a Romans 11 joke.

FX Turk said...


The standard stuff -- yoga, lectio divina, candles, labyrinth walking, tantric meditation. All the stuff we here at TeamPyro have endorsed over and over through the years,

FX Turk said...

Stefan --

Unless your wife has health problems that will put her life at risk, have children. I have nee met anyone who was serious about their marriage who was sorry they had children -- only that they did not have them sooner.

Anonymous said...

Funny Frank.
No just wondering seriously, not thinking lectio divina.

Anonymous said...

And Frank,
You sure do carry a big stick...
*dizzy from whack on the head*

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, I am actually reading on here to LEARN and not to accuse or point out error. I realize my ignorance, speak of it often when writing in response to posts on this blog. I respect what is being done here and on some other blogs. You put up a book review, I've seen things about "spiritual disciplines" and was wondering what that means in the context of this one particular book. I am actually coming at this with an open mind and my question comes trying to learn not accuse. I know you've probably taken some hard hits lately with your open letters, I am not trying to hit you. Am trying to figure out things though. That is all. I personally have 7 kids myself, heard "intentional living" on Bott Radio Network radio for years. It's a concept I'm familiar with. Spiritual formation does have bad press, and because this blog is not one to support the things you mention sarcastically here, I knew this author wasn't referencing these things. So, what types of things does he mention or since it's a 100 page book, should I just read it and go on?

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, meant to say "Spritual disciplines" not Spiritual formation...

And now I've posted WAY too many times in a row, you may delete my whole thread if you'd like at this point....I don't mind at all.

FX Turk said...

The jokes are the most dangerous part of this blog.

As I know Tad personally and am his brother in Christ, let me say that I am certain he would recommend without any qualification Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney if you want more info.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reply Frank, and for the book reference. I'll check it out to get a better understanding.

And I am not as good at reading sarcasm and jokes even with my family, I'm sorry if I read your comments as an attack and not just a joke.


Tom Chantry said...

Sorry, Frank, but I have to check your language here:

Unless your wife has health problems that will put her life at risk, have children. I have nee met anyone who was serious about their marriage who was sorry they had children -- only that they did not have them sooner.

Should have read:

Unless your wife has health problems that will put her life at risk, have children. I have nee met anyone who was serious about their marriage who was sorry in the long run they had children -- only that they did not have them sooner.

We must "mind our own precision," you know?

Rachael Starke said...

LOL @ Chantry. (On a Saturday morning where the amount of chores needed to be done by my daughters are inversely proportionate to their joyful enthusiasm and delight in obeying their Mother in the performing of said chores. At this moment, I would gladly sell them to the nearest circus.)

Sounds like a great book. It's embarrassing to admit that my husband and I love reading hefty theological tomes, but we're both intimidated by hefty parenting books, sure to reveal within five pages that WeRDoinItRong. Like we don't already know that.

Kevin Meath said...

Intentional Parenting is not technically available until February 1, but to help keep Frank's fans happy we have made the ebooks available for instant download as of about two minutes ago. ePub, Mobipocket, or PDF.

The links are at

FX Turk said...


Point made and taken. I consider myself properly blogged.

FX Turk said...


Did the traffic spike?

Stefan Ewing said...


Thanks for the encouragement.


Thanks for the clarification.


I'll wait for the soft-covered hard copy.

Doug Hibbard said...

Thanks for pointing this out. I went ahead with the 'monthly e-book subscription.' Seems worth it for the cost.

Steve Berven said...

I tend to get a little skittish around terms like "intentional ____" because it's a little too Saddleback-ish for me, but as I consider the folks at Pyro credible sources, I'll work to overcome this little mental hiccup.

I've been struggling lately with actually living out my walk at home more, I guess, "intentionally" (deliberately? Better?), so this is a timely review.