The Reformed Handbook: A Field Guide to Church Life


The picture of John Calvin winking on the cover should be the giveaway: The Reformed Handbook sees things a little differently.

As the preface notes, the Handbook turns complicated, sometimes inaccessible ideas into simple, easy-to-understand concepts, and, if necessary, into action steps that are easy to follow.

In short, it’s a field guide for life in the church. Chapters range from explanation of doctrine to application of biblical truths to such nagging “church stuff” questions as What should I bring to the potluck?

Like so much else from the Reformation, the Lutherans were first to use this format. The Reformed Handbook builds on the original Lutheran Handbook.

Rev. Jim Dekker revised, supplemented, and otherwise edited the text for a Reformed audience. “This is actually the first time in my life I was paid really well for being irreverent,” Dekker says. But not too irreverent, he quickly points out. “I was interested in getting across serious historical information in an engaging manner, not yuks for yuks’ sake.”

Dekker says The Reformed Handbook is a translation for modern readers on how to live as Christians, so wit is essential. “I want to give ways to draw [readers] in, to engage them in an interesting and compelling fashion.”

Written from a North American context for all Reformed denominations, CRC and otherwise, the Handbook doesn’t focus on the Dutch but does include Canadians (see the hat-tip to Maple Leaf hockey fans in the “World Religions” section). Other articles include such favorites as “How to Avoid Getting Burned at the Stake,” new entries such as “Calvin’s Thoughts on Spiritual Living,” and the complete text of the Heidelberg Catechism.

The Reformed Handbook is available now from Faith Alive Christian Resources (, 1-800-333-8300). Read it for information, for reference, and for a good chuckle.