If you are not familiar with R.T. Kendall, you should take the time to learn about him. He is probably not on most fundamentalists’ spiritual radar screens. Brother Kendall replaced Dr. Glen Owen, who followed “the Doctor”, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as the pastor of the historic Westminster Chapel in London, England. R.T. Kendall was the senior pastor there for 25 years (to the day) before he retired on February 1, 2002. Since his retirement, he has devoted the majority of his time to writing. He is the author of over 50 books which include Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649, The Parable of Jesus, and the subject of this review Unashamed To Bear His Name: Embracing The Stigma Of Being A Christian.
In this short work (201 pages), R.T. Kendall has written with compassion and conviction. He states his main purpose as follows: “My goal in writing this book is to bring you to rejoice as Peter and John did, when they embraced the privilege of suffering for the shame of Jesus’ Name” (p. 34). He says that the value of this purpose is found in three principles:
- That “it is a privilege to be scandalized or stigmatized for following Jesus Christ” (p. 32)
- The reader needs “to see the utter folly of being concerned with a diminished reputation – if that comes about because of your obedience to the Lord Jesus” (p. 32), and
- That “the benefits that come from bearing the offense are incalculable” (p. 33)
Chapter 1 briefly covers R.T.’s childhood background in Ashland, Kentucky focusing particularly on his embarrassment and harassment for being raised in the Church of the Nazarene. He reflects on a life-changing lesson that he learned after a visiting evangelist’s prophetic pulpit warning and the next-day death of a young girl slightly older than he. The lesson learned was this: “The stigma of being chosen to follow the Lord is an inestimable privilege. And though it hurts to be categorized and it can be totally embarrassing, it is a most wonderful honor to be called to bear any offense for Jesus Christ” (p.31). R.T. has not been the same since. He finishes the chapter by stating that his days at Westminster Chapel were often hard for him and shares an example of what it took to get an outreach ministry called “The Pilot Lights” started.
Chapter 2 deals with the Gospel message and the stigma associated with believing and preaching it. He plainly states that “the message of the Gospel determines whether we spend eternity in heaven or hell” (p. 42) and then proceeds to hammer hard at the false gospel of prosperity that is widely taught and believed. He concludes the chapter with a gospel dialogue that he had with his friend, the late Yasser Arafat.
In chapter 3 Brother Kendall intimately addresses the reader with, and expands on, the question “Where will you be one hundred years from now?” (p. 50). The topic of chapter 4 is the lives of Old Testament saints and their bearing the offense of obedience to God in ungodly times, while chapter 5 focuses on the apostles in the book of Acts and the suffering they endured because of their faith in Jesus. Chapter 6 looks to church history and the verbal abuse of name calling against those who sought to follow Christ, such as the Puritans, Methodists, Anabaptists, Quakers and Shakers. He hones in on the beginning of the name Christian in Acts as a derogatory word which became a badge of honor to those who followed Christ.
“The Unnecessary Scandal” is the title of chapter 7 where R.T. centers on believers who bring shame on themselves due to differences in spiritual maturity (I Cor. 8), imbalance of truth, and committing sin, especially meddling in other people’s lives (I Pet. 4:15).
Chapter 8 is Kendall’s revealing what aspects of the Christian faith he would be willing to die for. He deals with the faith of Christ being the foundation of “Paul’s own understanding of justification by faith” (p.111) quoting numerous passages of Scripture to back-up his claim. He deals with the old cliché “Once saved, always saved,” which he has not always believed but does now. R.T. has an interesting section on the place of works in the believer’s walk with God, working through James 2:14, I Corinthians 3:15 and Hebrews 6:4-6. It is not the typical Calvinist position of works proving salvation. He concludes the chapter with a section on the Word and the Spirit and how evangelicals and charismatics emphasize different aspects of the Spirit’s work.
In chapter 9, he gives a biblical history of why the Jews missed their true Messiah stating that they didn’t recognize Jesus as such “because they made no attempt to obtain the honor that comes from the only God….” (p. 133) and warns Christians of the danger of falling into the same error. Chapter 10 revolves around the stigma that believers bear of not having God presently vindicate them in the eyes of unbelievers, particularly family and outspoken critics. R.T. shares a personal experience from his late teen years about the disappointment his father verbalized to him that lasted for 22 years and how R.T. learned to accept the internal vindication of God’s Spirit in his personal walk.
Chapter 11 tackles Brother Kendall’s view of the stigma that Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to bear about the circumstances around Jesus’ miraculous birth, which he calls the stigma of suspicion. Chapter 12 covers the stigma of the Holy Spirit and his view on speaking in tongues, which R.T. states that he experienced for the first time in 1956 and didn’t happen again until 1993. He says “Speaking in tongues was revived that day and I have been doing it ever since” (p. 166). Chapter 13 then deals with the manifestations of the Holy Spirit from Acts 2 and how “Acts 4:31 is the proof that we should expect subsequent Holy Spirit manifestations” (p.170). Kendall follows this with his claim that the revivals under Edwards, Whitefield and Wesley prove that the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in unusual ways, often embarrassing to most believers. He gives his approval of the Toronto Blessing and cites a personal experience that happened with his wife, who was dealing with illness and depression, when Rodney Howard-Browne, the “father” of the Toronto Blessing, and his wife prayed over her.
In Chapter 14, R.T. confronts the stigma that comes from what he calls embarrassing truths found in the Bible such as the biblical account of creation, predestination and eternal punishment. I was blessed by this statement about the battleground between science and Scripture: “… on matters of faith we must take our cue from Scripture, not from scientists. It worries me that Christians have listened to the latest word “science” says on the matter, then they turn to the Bible and try to make it fit” (p. 181). In the final chapter, he deals with the necessity of sometimes leaving the fellowship of denominations and other Christians due to the stigma of being a follower of Christ. He calls this going outside the camp, borrowing from Hebrews 13:12-14.
Unashamed To Bear His Name is not a difficult read. It could be given to a young believer and they would have no difficulty understanding Kendall’s terms nor would they have any problems following his reasoning. Each chapter would take approximately 10 minutes to read. This book abounds with personal narrative, followed by personal encouragement to the reader.
Most fundamentalists will not agree with Kendall’s non-cessationist position on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some may. Whatever position the reader holds, one of the benefits in reading this book is receiving a clear and simple statement of the positon for “the other side”.
As I read Unashamed To Bear His Name I realized that R.T. Kendall truly manifested this title in his own Christian walk. He has lost friends and gained new ones over the years as he has attempted to follow the Lord as closely as possible, following what he sees the Scripture and the Holy Spirit teaching him. Though I do not agree with every one of his interpretations and conclusions, I do sense the passion that this man has to get across the necessity of not being ashamed of being a follower of Jesus, wherever that may lead. That, at least, to this reviewer is refreshing to see.
Doug Brown was born and raised in Ohio and is an USAF veteran (1990-1992) who has a BA in Pastoral Studies from Bob Jones University. He was ordained by Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Taylors, SC in 1999. He pastored Madawaska Gospel Church in Madawaska, Maine for 12 years (2001-2013) until he and his wife, Sherry, and their two daughters, Rebecca and Sarah, returned to the Greenville, SC area in October 2013 for him to become the assistant pastor to Dr. Michael Gray at Colonial Hills Baptist Church.