Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

Make a Difference: Following Your Passion and Finding Your Place to Serve

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
April 2018
Fred's Rating: 
James A. Harnish
Total Pages: 
Abingdon Press

James A. Harnish, author of numerous books and Bible studies, a pastor and elder in the United Methodist Church, served for 42 years in Florida. This book is for anyone desiring to take a next step in discipleship and engage in God’s work in the world. It was used for a 6-week Lenten study in my church.

Amazon’s website for the paperback edition uses the Kindle edition in the ‘Look inside’ preview option:

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

The home page has a good summary of the book’s contents (click on ‘Read more’). There are no Customer Reviews or Editorial Reviews as of April 2018.

Using Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ option, scroll down to the Contents page. I was in an Adult Study group that used this book during the six weeks of the Lenten season of 2018. We watched a video for each of the six meetings. The people in the six videos also have their discussion near the end of each session. For all of sessions we watched the video before discussing the session's topic.

The ‘Look inside’ online preview has a 2-pp listing of the author Jim and four other members of the Video Panel. This listing briefly describes these five people. The 6-pp Introduction by the author Jim is given in full in the online preview. It explains well the context and purpose of this study by the video, the book, and the Video Panel. It sets the goal for discussions by the members of the Adult Study group that is using these resources. At the end of each chapter are important Questions for Reflection, a Prayer, and Action Ideas to be studied before the Adult Study group’s next meeting. These studies are homework for the next meeting.

The first chapter Awakening! gets this study off to a good start but only the first two pages and a bit of the third page are included in the online preview of this 27-pp chapter. Immediately after the last sentence of the third page is the following (in a larger font) from Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961): “I don’t know Who – or what – put the question. . . . But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone – or Something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore my life, in self-surrender, had a goal. . . . I learned, step by step, word by word, that behind every saying in the Gospels stands one man and one man’s experience.” After this come two paragraphs from the author Jim: “As I look back across my own like, I can clearly identify times when I have been awakened to a new way in which God is calling me to serve. While my life as a disciple has been what Nietzsche called a ‘long obedience in the same direction,’ living in obedience to that call has led to major changes in the ways I’ve served and the needs to which I have responded.

“Like the young Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-11), I grew up in a home and church in which I was constantly encouraged to listen for and respond positively to Jesus’ invitation, ‘Follow me.’ I began saying yes to that invitation in worship and Sunday School, at summer youth camps, and at an old-fashioned Methodist camp meeting. While I was in high school, I was awakened to the possibility that God was calling me into pastoral ministry. Over time, that calling became clearer and was confirmed in numerous ways. That calling has never changed. But in my first appointment, obeying that call meant investing myself in ministry with youth. Those young people are now adults who are passing on what I shared with them to their children and grandchildren. God called some of them into ordained ministry. Others have found their way of making a Christlike difference through their involvement in the church or through their careers and their engagement with the needs of the world around them. When I moved to a small, rural community, I learned how to be in ministry with fern and citrus growers.”

Next I change what I can provide from quotes to a listing of the subsections of this chapter Awakening!. But first, here is a large-font quote from James Russell Lowell (1819-1891): “New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth; They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth.” To me, that means we must continue to become progressive and move onward to yet greater truths that lie beyond the scope of the ancient dogmas of Christianity. The next subsection of Awakening is “A Wake-up Call for Slumbering Saints.” The next subsection is “Remember Who You Are,” followed by “Reclaim Your Mission” and “Renew Your Vision.” The last subsection is “Keep Listening for the Trumpet Sound,” which includes Table Talk (by the Video Panel), Questions for Reflection, Prayer, and Action Ideas.

The above partial picture of the first chapter, about Awakening!, has to serve as an example of the author’s style for each of the six chapters. But, by the names of the six chapters in the Contents page, the author continues to develop a progression of how we can make a difference by listening carefully for a call to do what you feel you are called to do. I think that the call to do more, or something different from what you are doing now, is seldom given by ‘the Trumpet Sound.’ It may instead be something that slowly fills you as you ponder what you can do next. This book, and its video for each chapter, was designed to keep you thinking about listening for a call. If it comes to you while being in this six-week Adult Study, great! If it takes longer and grows slowly within you, it should make you feel more certain of what your new call is.

Upon reading this book, there were times that I felt that a broader outreach to others, who are now in other religions than progressive Christianity, would have made this book better, albeit longer. For this reason I rate this book at four stars.