Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Slow Church: Savor, Deepen, Invigorate

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

I’ve posted on the concept of missional being the “slow movement” of Christianity. The concept of slowness, as defined by this movement, is essential IMHO. Taking the appropriate amount of time to experience the various activities, people and communities in our lives, we are able to savor, deepen, and invigorate the important things and relationships.

slow_churchTwo authors have now published a book focused on the topic. “In Slow Church, Chris Smith and John Pattison invite us to leave franchise faith behind and enter into the ecology, economy and ethics of the kingdom of God, where people know each other well and love one another as Christ loved the church.”

The book has been well recommend, so this 247 pager has been added to my “slow” reading list.

Here is another post related to consumerism in the church.

Also checkout

HT: Scot McKnight

Gabe Lyons and “The Next Christians”

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Good interview here with Gabe Lyons, author of the new book “The Next Christians”:

Couple of sample questions from the interview:

Even though you see “Christian America” as over, you argue we shouldn’t lament this development, but rather, see the opportunity for the Christian movement within it. How so?

I am incredibly encouraged by what I see transpiring around us. First, we have to remember that the Christian faith always thrives under these conditions. Post-Christendom is not unlike pre-Christendom. But tangibly, I am seeing a whole generation of believers who are recovering the gospel and living transformed lives. “The next Christians” are living out their faith in the workplace and the public square in new ways. They are provoked to engage the world and creating new organizations and projects to restore the world’s fallen state. These Christians are revitalizing old churches and planting new ones. If these next Christians are the future of the faith–and I believe they are–we just might be witnessing the beginning of the faith’s next great expansion.

How can pastors better encourage, affirm and shepherd these next Christians you describe?

For starters, they must be aware that this generation isn’t running from Jesus, they are running towards deeper meaning and connection between their faith and all of life. This should be one of the most exciting developments for a pastor to hear. However, it does mean a pastor’s priorities might have to change in how they interact with this generation. Instead of trying to pull them “into” the church–they need to discover how to work alongside them to empower them “outside” the church in how faith intersects with their passions and work. This next generation needs their pastor to live in the tension with them, to help them institute practices in their life that will keep them grounded and anchored to Christ in a world that is screaming for their time and attention in everything but a rooted faith.

I like Lyons’ ideas and will be adding his book to my ever increasing reading stack.

Book Review: Introducing the Missional Church

Friday, February 19th, 2010

I’ve been blogging on things missional for almost five years. Yet it’s often hard to get a firm grip on the paradigm and many questions still surround it. Questions like: What does a missional church look like? What exactly is the missional church model? How does it function? Can our old existing church become one?

These are some of the questions Scott Boren and Alan Roxburgh endeavor to answer in their book Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One (Baker Books, November 2009, available in paper or Kindle).

I particularly liked the chapter titled “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” where the authors caution us to beware of formulas and models that can be copied and emulated. Instead they say “…we need to see ourselves being called out of the comfort and security of attractional church life onto a journey like Abram leaving Ur of the Chaldees; we are moving into a strange land without maps to guide us on our way to a land God will show us. We are like those early Christians after the church at Antioch was birthed by the Spirit. We know something has shifted, but no one has the formula; it’s confusing and filled with friction as we try to figure out the next steps.”

They dispute three perspectives in this chapter:

1. They challenge the elevation of any model, formula, or blueprint as the way to do church.

2. They challenge the argument that the Bible reveals a secret missional blueprint that will provide us with a magic pill for entering missional life.

3. They challenge the idea that there is some point in the history of the church that provides us with just the right pattern for creating missional churches.

The common thread through the book is that we are on a journey, we are wanders who need to “develop skills of reading the winds of the Spirit, testing the waters of the culture, and running with the currents of God’s call.”

“There isn’t one specific form, predictable pattern, or predetermined model. On these new waters we become pioneers who are creating new maps shaped in, with, and for the contexts and communities into which we have been called. Here we will learn to experiment and test ideas. Some will work; others will fail. Through trial and error we will imagine new ways of being Jesus’ people.”

There is also a great deal of practical assistance in the book for those existing churches who want to make this journey. Forty percent of the book is devoted to a missional change process that includes five phases: awareness, understanding, evaluation, experimentation, and commitment.

This table from the book will give you a feel for the process.

Introducing the Missional Church is highly recommended for those who want to begin or extend their “journey of entering into the missional river of mystery, memory, and mission.”

Further Reading

Brad Boydston or Scot McKnight.

Disclosure: I purchased this book with my own funds.

ReJesus Podcast

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

ReJesusIn this 56 minute Praxis Podcast, Alan Hirsch reviews the basis for the book he coauthored with Michael Frost — ReJesus. The big question they ask is, “Do we [the church] fairly represent what Jesus represents?”

They talk about other subjects also. Good listen.

Click here for the podcast.

Reggie McNeal on Attractional and Missional

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Reggie McNeal looks the attractional model and how it differs from the missional paradigm.

I’ve have been tweeting other quotes via twitter.

The attractional model of church creates a ‘member culture,’ in which people join a particular church and support that organization with their attendance, their money, their prayers, and their talent. The flow is toward the church, which is always at the center of the action, where the big game is being played.

The missional church is made up of missionaries, who are playing the big game every day. They live their lives with the idea that they are on a mission trip. On mission trips, people focus on the work of God around them, alert to the Spirit’s prompting, usually serving people in very tangible ways, often in way that involve some sacrifice or even discomfort. Life on mission is more intentional and more integrated. While the concerns of life (family, work, leisure) are pursued, they are part of a larger story being played out for the missionary.

The member culture views society as a series of silos: politics, business, education, arts, media, technology, health care, social sector, and so forth. All of them are separate. The church culture has developed its own silo — a parallel culture in many respects — complete with schools, businesses, educational institutions, health care facilities, sports clubs, travel associations, and social agencies. Positioned as one silo among others, the church works to recruit people and resources from the other domains, vying for attention and money…. Its activities serve effectively to take a lamp and put it under a bushel.

The missional church views the church’s position in society very differently. It understands that God has his people — his missionaries — deployed across all domains of culture. After all, since the mission is redemptive and the world is God’s target, doesn’t it make sense that he would take this approach? Otherwise, how would salt be distributed or light puncture the darkness?

Quotes from Reggie McNeal’s “Missional Renaissance” (Jossey-Bass, February 2009), page 54 & 55.

Book Review: Under the Overpass

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Image: Under the OverpassA book review of Mike Yankoski’s “Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America.”

* Paperback: 224 pages
* Publisher: Multnomah Books (March 2005)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 1590524020
* Available on both the Sony Reader and Kindle.

I love this book. Read it from cover-to-cover in less than 72 hours. It is about two twenty-something Jesus followers (Mike Yankoski and Sam Purvis) who spend five months on the streets of six difference American cities as homeless men. They “went from upper-middle class plush to scum-of-the-earth repulsive overnight.”

As the publisher writes, it is a story about faith, identifying with the poor and discovering more “forgotten, ruined, beautiful people than we ever imagined existed.” But it is also an examination of how other Jesus followers reacted to them “from complete rejection and contempt to wonderful acts of love.” But this is NOT a book of condemnation, but of challenge, appraisal and encouragement.

Here are just two of the many stories.

When another guy walked upstairs, he, too, went to the far side of the room and plunked down his tray. On it I noticed a meatball sub and a worn brown leather New Testament. Soon all five, obviously strangers to each other, were busy eating their sandwiches.

“I [Mike] pretended to be reading a book, and Sam did the same, but the aroma of that meatball sub was killing us.

“After a couple of minutes, one of them asked the man with the Bible what translation it was.

“NIV,” he answered. “What version do you read?”

“NLT,” the guy answered.

“Really?” the girl from the other table chimed in. “I really like the NASB.”

“I guess it’s a matter of preference,” the guy in the middle said, taking another bite of his juicy meatball sub. The next ten minutes were filled with lively conversation between the five new friends. Across the room, Sam and I sat quietly, reading and reeking.

“Eventually the five ate their fill and crumpled up their wrappers. Getting ready to leave, the man with the Bible told both couples he would pray for them. Both couples thanked him honestly and said the same thing in reply. As they walked past us, Sam and I looked up trying to catch their eyes and nod a hello. But they carefully looked away. Each emptied their tray of garbage into the trash can next to Sam and turned to walk down the stairs.

“I remembered many times I had walked past a homeless man or woman sitting on the cold sidewalk, awkwardly averting my eyes and whistling to cover my discomfort. I wondered if those men and women had been as frustrated with me as I now was with the people who were walking down the stairs.” (78-79)

Then there is the story about a man named Rings. A kindhearted old chain smoking Jesus follower who lived in the cab of his pickup truck. Rings said he’d been told by God to feed the homeless.

Over the next minutes, Rings told us about his personal feeding program and invited us to help him out the next day”.

The next morning Rings said, “Well, boys like I told you, you’re the answer to my prayers. I got a check yesterday, and my coolers are all empty in the back of my truck. When we finish our coffee, we’ll go to the store and buy enough food to cook up a feast. The [homeless] folks down at the park will be speechless!

“The last thought gave him so much obvious pleasure, he started to laugh, and that led to more coughing, and eventually to more cursing.

“I was impressed that a guy living in a truck cab would consistently give his entire (measly) government check to feed others in similar straits. Most homeless people we’d met blew their checks on booze and drugs within a couple of days.

“I gave him time to regain his composure. ‘Rings, who are you, really?’ I asked.

“I’m just a man,” Rings said with a wink. “Jesus saved me. Been a trucker, a carnie, a door-to-door salesman, a husband, a father. I’ve been in jail, been an addict, been a drunk. Now I follow Christ. All that I have is His. If He can save me, He can save anybody.

“We asked him to tell us more, but rings had other plans. ‘It’s been a crazy road, that’s for sure,’ he said. ‘But come on—the road up ahead is always better than the road behind. Let’s get started.’

“We walked out to his battered pickup, piled in, and drove off to a nearby supermarket. There we bought a hundred dollars worth of eggs, milk, orange juice, pancake mix, steak, tortillas, and butter. Then we headed for the beach”[where] Rings fed twenty or so that day out of the back of his truck. And what a sight that was, too. Hungry, forgotten people stood around in a circle in the foggy morning air watching an old man hunched over his propane stove cooking and smoking, cooking and smoking. I don’t think an eye ever left the chef’s hands as he worked”.”

“When the tailgate feast was ready, and the first man stepped up to take his plate, rings had a speech ready.

“Do you know why I do this?” he asked his attentive audience. “I do this because Christ pulled me out of the mess I was in. then He told me to do this. You want to be free? This is freedom! Enjoy!

“And breakfast was served.” (201-204)

Great read for any Jesus follower and particularly those working with our friends on the streets. And yes, it will challenge you to see these people differently.

More Information

Under the Overpass website.

At Amazon.

Book Review: The Fine Line

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap between Christ and Culture
By Kary Oberbrunner, Zondervan, January 2009

Image: The Fine LineThe question Kary attempts to answer is, “Why are so many from this generation voting on spiritual matters with their absence?” He writes that, “Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there is little difference between the attitudes and actions of believers and unbelievers. Rather than drawing people to Christ, many Christians are pushing people away because of the disconnection between what we say and how we live.” (20)

Why is this? To get at the answer, he suggests that Jesus followers have divided and reassembled themselves into two main camps, the Separatist and the Conformist.

“The first camp separates itself from people, society, and culture in order to stay “˜unstained.’ They turn God’s commands, plus hundreds of other rules and laws, into a heavy burden that supposedly grants personal holiness”¦. They judge others in light of their self-made religion. They’re laced with fear: fear of sinning, fear of compromising, fear of enjoying anything. These people make up the Separatist camp.” (22)

“The second camp conforms itself to the ideals and philosophies of the world. They value what the world values and worship what it worships. They’re a cookie-cutter cutout of pop culture. Attempting to be all things to all people and to enjoy what God has created,”¦ These people make up the Conformist camp.” (22)

These seem to be pretty “black and white” and therefore make for a dangerous over simplification. My experience is that most Jesus followers, although they may lean towards one or the other, are far more complex and can’t be pushed to one of these two extremes. But I suppose it is a helpful foil.

After spending several chapters exploring each of the two camps, Kary suggest an alternative: the Transformists.

“Transformists are the alternative, the exception, the remnant. Transformists are people in paradox, people living in the World but not of the world. Their lives are characterized by balance and relevance.

““¦Unlike Separatists who embrace only Christianity or Conformists who embrace only culture, Transformists embrace both.

“Transformists actually invite tension because they know that where there’s tension, there’s life and growth. But most importantly, where there’s growth, there’s Jesus. By inviting tension, we invite Jesus.” (111)

Transformists, explains Oberbrunner, struggle to balance Christianity with culture and loving God with loving people. This to him is the way we as Jesus followers become relevant to our context and culture.

In the remainder of the book Kary explores the world the Transformists lives in and how they move and interact with it.

For those who have been on the missional journey for some time, you aren’t going to find any new thoughts. But you will find a helpful framework for understanding the concept and a good reminder of what an incarnational life should resemble. It is a quick and enjoyable read.

If you are new to the missional journey, this would be a good and instructive book to read. You’ll learn how to live in the world but not be of it and why it is so powerful and transformative.

Additional Resources

Kary Oberbrunner’s Blog
Book Review at Church Marketing Sucks
Ed Stetzer Interview with Kary Oberbrunner

Is the Science vs. Religion Debate Over?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

“The Ooze” Select Blogger Book Review

Is the Science vs. Religion Debate Over? From the number of new books coming across my desk this year, it doesn’t look like it is over. I’ve had three just in recently including “Thank God for Evolution!” by Michael Dowd (Viking Adult, 2008) and “Nature’s Witness, How Evolution Can Inspire Faith” by Daniel M. Harrell (Abingdon Press, 2008) which is part of Emergent Village’s Living Theology series.

Thank God for Evolution!

Here is how the publisher describes this book:

“Thank God for Evolution! presents in a lively and accessible manner the reasons why it is now possible to view evolution as a divine process; how current science shows that evolution is not meaningless blind chance; practical methods for using evolutionary insights to achieve greater personal fulfillment and thriving relationships; and how aligning with evolutionary trends can guide activists and others hoping to make our world a better place. As a Christian minister, Dowd especially addresses the concerns that Christians have about evolution, but this book contains insights that will appeal to people of all faiths and of no faith.”

Nature’s Witness, How Evolution Can Inspire Faith

Whan asked what the author hoped people would gain from this work, he said, “Written as a pastor and practitioner, the intent is to provide scientific information and theological reflection making a connection between faith and evolution reliable, comprehensible, authentic and less fearful.”

Regarding his motivation behind writing the book, he noted, “Theological integrity demands that whatever we think about faith and life correspond to the way things actually are as opposed to how we want or wish things to be. God is the God of reality. If evolution is real, then to reject it presents difficulties for Christian faith and theology. A proposed alternative is to assume that ultimate truth resides in the heart and mind of God and to assume evolution to be part of that truth (‘all truth is God’s truth’). Based upon confirmed scientific data, a flourishing, robust Christianity stays faithful to the Biblical narrative as its source for theological reflection, while at the same time heralding scientific discovery as an accurate description of the universe on which theology reflects.”

If you are wanting to hear about Evolution from a Christian perspective, you should find these two works helpful.

I’m not interested in a debate over Creation/Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, so please don’t start one in the comments section. I bring these two works to your attention in the spirit of fairness and balance.

For those interested in my position, I’m a six day creationist to the core.

More on The Shack

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Derek Keefe’s “overview” of The Shack called Reading in Good Faith has been getting some buzz.

Keefe brings some needed balance to the conversation.

Jesus is Not a CEO

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Chris Blumhofer writes a needed corrective at Out of Ur on the trend to make Jesus the greatest CEO of all time.

Reading the Gospels for leadership principles like team building, vision casting, or ‘seeing the potential in others’ makes a mockery of authorial intent and historical-cultural backgrounds. Such readings appear to take the Bible seriously, but they don’t do it justice; they simply create anachronistic interpretations.

People need to stop using the Bible to justify their church-as-business paradigm. Chris correctly observes that Jesus was not first-and-foremost a leader with a message for us, but rather a savior who loved the world enough to die for it. He was consumed with the idea of servanthood. If leaders want to follow Jesus example, they too should be servants.