My new and improved edition of Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do With Well-Intentioned Dragons arrived in the mail last week and a quick perusal shows some needed updates and timely material in the original chapters. It also sports one of the most simple and attractive covers I’ve seen in a while (I’m a minimalist, in the tradition of the Swiss school).
Marshall Shelley has added two new chapters, which reflect our times. First, he grapples with the emergence of the internet and the challenges of social media that didn’t exist when the book was first published back in 1994. Then, he takes on the controversial subject of mental illness.
Electronic Warfare begins the discussion of social media with this timeless quote by John Calvin:
It is a sign of a perverse and treacherous disposition to wound the good name of another, when he has no opportunity of defending himself.
The author goes on to provide anecdotes that illustrate the actual, not fictional, accounts of churches that have been caught up in roiling flame wars via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, texting and email campaigns. As in other chapters, Marshall Shelley provides Biblical, real-world wisdom for church leaders about how to deal with the electronic warfare attacks from outside the church and guerrilla warfare within.
When the Mind Isn’t Quite Right begins with the story of an awkward public disturbance on a Sunday morning and transitions quickly to a pressing issue in the contemporary church:
Public disturbances such as this are relatively rare, but other less dramatic encounters with mental illness in the church are increasingly common. In fact, mental disorders are the number-one cause of disability in North America. Some of the most common are mood disorders, depression, autism, and attention deficit disorder… and in that awkward climate of pain and silence, conditions are conductive to surprise appearances of dragon behavior.
Both chapters address this present reality on the ground, in our churches:
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10–12 ESV)
But, Ministering to Problem People offers a parallel reality of hope, redemption, and change in the Gospel:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:21–25 ESV)