PRACTICAL THEOLOGY by RICHARD R. OSMER

4.5 of 5

The bottom line: A book that delivers on how to execute theological principles in real-life scenarios.

 

Practical Theology offers exactly what the title states—real-life, functional ways to apply what one has learned about theoretical theology and how that can be applied to institutions and regular people with everyday problems. The reality is that many of the tools needed in ministry are not taught in seminary, and faith leaders often find themselves feeling unprepared once their professional careers begin. Although dealing with complicated life scenarios can’t really be taught per se, this book does manage to give specific guidelines on how to steer through such rough waters. In short, this book is very useful and practical “how-to” guide for ministerial and organization life.

One of the hidden gems within this book is located in first section of Chapter 2 (The Interpretive Task: Sagely Wisdom). Here, Osmer draws on the Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job in order to illustrate sagely wisdom, characterized as not embracing certainly and one true perspective but “moving more deeply into the mystery of God and God’s creation.” The author does a fantastic job of highlighting the idea of wisdom as a means of inquiry and the knowledge gained from that inquiry, as well as a vehicle to steer one through life’s uncertainties, and harmonizes different perspectives on wisdom portrayed throughout these three books. The other gem is the discussion of congregational models (in Priestly Listening) that will quickly allow you to “take the pulse” of a church and identify the unique congregational personality that largely influences how it operates, how it learns, and how it is best guided to grow as a community of faith. The section on prophetic discernment (The Normative Task) is very helpful and insightful, assisting the theologian to properly discern how to apply divine disclosures to contemporary popular ideologies. Lastly, Servant Leadership provides a blueprint for action for leaders wishing to implement cultural and institutional change, and Osmer highlights the different approaches and pitfalls to avoid in making such change a reality. Anyone looking to change and hearts and minds through Christ will find tremendous value in this chapter.

As a negative, the section in research design will be largely inapplicable to most unless you are involved in some form of theological research or are in an advanced degree program.

Many other reviewers found the book difficult to get through, but I thought it was a fairly easy and straightforward read. I believe this book is a “must-have” in any library of leaders in ministry.

 

Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal

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