The last few chapters were "disappointing" it got into some stuff that seemed to flow against (in ways) the way that they were advocating a church ris...moreThe last few chapters were "disappointing" it got into some stuff that seemed to flow against (in ways) the way that they were advocating a church rising up to become missional. Maybe my frustration with it was the fact that to get the tools they referred to was going to cost a church at least $500 dollars. You could do it yourself for free but if you wanted the questions they were advocating then you had to purchase their materials. The reason it got 4 stars was because 2/3 of the book. Great theology, great arguments and great reasoning. It was hard to read this book and not put it down and say loudly, "that is exactly right!". So i guess for some the $500 will be worth it! :) (less)
The Legend of Bagger Vance. A movie (I know, I know – a book too) that I watched several years ago inspired me to read this book. It’s funny how thing...moreThe Legend of Bagger Vance. A movie (I know, I know – a book too) that I watched several years ago inspired me to read this book. It’s funny how things remind us and make us notice other things. And that’s what this book is about. Noticing. Noticing the things that other people overlook and miss. Noticing the things that, if revealed, could bring incredible healing and help to a person who needs a new perspective.
The Noticer, is a single story made up of several mini-stories all revolving around an old man (is he black?, white?, Chinese?, Hispanic? All we know for sure is that he is old) named Jones. There are several peculiarities about Jones that make him unique –he always seems to be around, watching and waiting for an opportunity to speak into a person’s life and he carries around with him a beat-up, old suitcase. No one actually knows Jones but, yet, he is an instant friend to all that he meets and becomes their best friend, a confidant even, who, “will tell them the truth and include a healthy dose of perspective” because true friends do not just accept their friends “as they are.” And that’s Jones gift to Orange Beach, Alabama. He tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. And the difference makes all the difference in their lives.
Mr. Andrews has given us engaging stories and memorable statements. For example, “everybody wants to be on the mountain top…mountain tops are rocky and cold. There is no growth on the top of a mountain.” Yet, how many of us, if we are honest with ourselves, simply want to live “on the mountain top” yet it takes someone else giving us the perspective that growth happens in the “lush soil” of the valley. And again, “….a person could lose everything, chasing nothing.” A sentiment that many of us may agree with and think, “yeah, that’s true” but it takes the story of a man getting killed because of chasing a hat into traffic to see its reality.
However, in one chapter the reader will “notice” that Mr. Andrews basically takes concepts found in a recent popular book and condenses it into a single chapter in his book. Not just concepts but actual ideas and phrases. This is a good thing because you can get the gist of another book in a short chapter but also leaves us with the impression that Andy Andrews is the originator of these “perspectives.” And these perspectives and the ability to notice them are at the core of his book. These are slight problems, but only slight and don’t take away from the overall effectiveness of what Mr. Andrews sets out to achieve.
The Noticer is a good mix of life lessons and story-telling. Andy Andrews achieves something great for those of us who don’t gravitate towards fiction and, especially, “christian” fiction (even fiction that teaches us life and leadership lessons). Mr. Andrews has inspired me to take the time to slow down, to notice more, to be a truer friend and plant the seeds of perspective(s) in the lives of others.
Roger Olson is a theology professor at Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. In his book, Questions to All Your Answers he takes head on s...moreRoger Olson is a theology professor at Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. In his book, Questions to All Your Answers he takes head on some of the most heard phrases uttered by christians. He breaks them apart and then thrusts questions back on the phrases.
Some of the better chapters in the book are called, "Jesus is the Answer - So What is the Question?", "The Bible Has All the Answers - So What About Cloning?", and "Money Isn't Bad, Only What We Do With it - So Why Did Jesus Say it's Hard for a Rich Man to Enter Heaven?". These entries take you along for a entertaining, humorous but thought-provoking ride.
For instance, "Jesus is the Answer" - Olson believes that while not intending this result the preoccupation with WWJD has left many folk christians with a "Jesus Only" theology and have lost the Trinity. At it is at this point that he leans into Eastern Orthodox treasure and pulls out "Trinitarian Life." That from them we can learn that, "...knowing and communing with Jesus is one dimension, however crucial, within a larger spirituality of being taken up into the life of the Trinity and enjoying the fellowship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (pg. 72-73). Of course one of the main problems with this slogan, Jesus is the Answer" is that most people aren't even aware of any need that they have. People, according to Olson, need to know to what questions Jesus is the answer - so therefore we need to start with conversations about music, culture, goals, relationships, world problems - rather than just Jesus is the answer to your problems.
One irritating thing about Olson is that he seems to come from an Arminian point of view. Which is fine, but, he clearly takes jabs at non-Arminians (whether they be Calvinists or whomever). He says a lot of good things, but sometimes those things are drowned out by a constant need to elevate his viewpoint over his point.
It's a good book, some parts were definitely better than others, but all in all a good one to pick up and read through and be challenged by regarding the phrases that christ-followers can easily throw around.(less)
Sometimes you read a good book and walk away. Other times you read a great book, but because of life..it just doesn’t get the opportunity to sink in....moreSometimes you read a good book and walk away. Other times you read a great book, but because of life..it just doesn’t get the opportunity to sink in. Yet there are times when you read a great book at the right time and feel refreshed, awakened, challenged and motivated to change some things in your life. This was one of those books and one of those times for me.
Professor Camp has written a deeply challenging book entitled Mere Discipleship. The book is broken up into 3 parts. Reenvisioning Discipleship, What Disciples Believe, and What Disciples Do. In part 1 he traces much of the current problem with Christianity back to the Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Simply, according to church father Augustine, this is when the tables began to turn…Christians were persecuted and now were the ones who were able to persecute others. And for many religious right people they simply don’t understand how much of their thinking has been informed by the “Constantian Cataract.” In other words, the church is no longer the dominant voice in society and while many on the religious right want to shout and scream about how unfair this or that is…the church now has the opportunity to reclaim our truly prophetic, counter-cultural voice. In Camp’s words, following God in the way of Jesus now has a chance to be radical again. Instead of clamoring for power and position we can, “be a people marked by the Beatitudes, forsaking all lusts, giving up pursuits of security, refusing to amass wealth, and insisting on love of enemies.” The biggest question that was asked in this section was this: What is our fundamental identity? Citizens of the kingdom of God? Or of our nation-state? Unfortunately too many Christians choose the latter.
The second part of his book dives into issues of what is the Gospel (is it really just about getting into heaven?), the cross of Christ (this is what we are to imitate - suffering, bearing injustice and oppression), and the church (here he makes a huge connection for me - the church should expect, and to some extent welcome, persecution. Why? Because Jesus said, “Servants are not greater than their master. If they persecute me, they will persecute you.” - John 15:20 And the church is the body of Christ continuing the mission of love, forgiveness, reconciliation, giving up rights to power and position in order that WE MAY SERVE. Why do so many Christians want the church to be shielded from all persecution - Jesus said it would come, even if we are doing things that will help those around us.)
Part 3 deals with things that disciples do. Worship, baptism, prayer, communion, evangelism. This is more of the ’so what’ part of the book. In our worship, we worship God and we give praise and honor to Jesus as we follow Him in His way. But how does this worship inform our thinking? Is it wrong to critize a conservative (even Christian) president? The values of democracy will at times be at odds with the kingdom of God…where is our allegiance? Heresy for the church used to be the highest offense. It seems now in some corners of the world…treason is. In our baptism we are placed into a ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation which puts us at odds with many nationalistic and patrotic ideas. Communion is rooted in the idea of a communal meal of the early church. In which sharing all things happened. When we live in a consumeristic, capitalistic society today what does this principle of communion mean?
The book, throughout, asks this one question: Are the teachings of Jesus, the ethics of the kingdom, the values and concerns that God displays in his letter to us…are they to be lived out in the real world? And should they be? So many of us want to keep our faith private and pretend it doesn’t impact every part of our life. Example: I know Jesus said to love our enemies, pray for those who would want to bring us harm…but I can do that in my mind and in my heart while I use my weapon to kill someone. Yet, is it just an inner attitude that we are to have and not an outward expression of that ethic?
One area I wish he had touched on a little more was the issue of justice. I understand non-violence and probably lean toward that myself. Yet when is it appropriate to pursue justice? But I understand his argument. Many of us have lost the concept that God doesn’t call us to find our identity in a political group, or even a nation-state…God calls those of us who would follow him in the way of Jesus to identify ourselves with the kingdom of God. And in so doing it will cause us to rethink many of our held positions because following God is radical. When a nation calls me to kill and Jesus calls me to love what happens then? When a nation tells me to consume and save for myself and Jesus calls me to freely give away and share wealth what happens then? When a church or another Christian tells me that a real christian would vote in such and such a way but that way values many ideas that seem to run counter to the kingdom of God and it’s ethics what happens then? As a Christ-follower do I believe that the ethics of the Kingdom of God and of Jesus actually work in the real world and am I called to follow those ethics?(less)
What an absolutely incredible book. Page after page I was literal glued to what he was communicating. I took two weeks to read this book (instead of o...moreWhat an absolutely incredible book. Page after page I was literal glued to what he was communicating. I took two weeks to read this book (instead of one - which is okay, i have a few extra weeks built into my reading plan for the year) - which normally would allow more time for digestion; however, a number of things went on in this two week period which made for reading that was spaced a little too far apart. Upfront let me say that this is one book that will be on my reading list for next year. It is that good and insightful. This is one of two books that I wish I had about 3 years ago in a previous life (metaphorically of course). The other being, Well Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in Your Church.
Chapters 2-4 deal with the “Seven Deadly Fears and Seven Essential Conversations.” And within this context deals with such things as culture and the gospel, scriptures and ethics, and christian traditions. He deals with the idea that the method and message have never been culture free. Our understanding and communication of this wonderful message of Jesus has always been linked to the culture we find ourselves in. The message (for right or wrong, good or bad) is always shaped/changed according to our interests, worldview, prejudices, etc. Just look at modern, western churches. Salvation is very personal and private. That feeds off of our value, and cultural idol, of individualism. Yet, biblically there is more said about salvation being communal and public. Another idea in this section is, ‘the loss of tradition.’ Yet he writes, “typically, when we decry the loss of tradition, we mean we’re losing the way things used to be done around here - at least in the recent past….our primary resistance to change stems from the fact we don’t feel comfortable with transition. Comfort and safety are two of our most common, unspoken values.” And then the clincher, “in certain circumstances each can be appropriate, BUT NEITHER ONE IS A BIBLICALLY ORDAINED ‘GIVEN’ IN OUR LIVES OF FAITH AND COMMUNITY.” So you see, safety and comfort are two American values…and for so long chuches operated (and still do) under the banner of safety and comfort - it has tainted how we view the message of God. Since when is what God calls us to corporately or individual always safe or comfortable?
He takes a chapter and talks about “Transition in Community Formation.” So many people today complain that the church has lost her voice in contemporary culture. What they mean is that we don’t have the same influence, primarily, politically that we used to. That our nation was founded on Christian principles and everything is just going to hell today because we can’t pray in school, post the 10 commandments. We need a Christian president, Christian judges, Christian this or that…….but yet, and this is what many people miss, with this marginilization comes the freedom of the church being able to be the church again! The question according to Rodney Clapp used to be, “How can we survive and remain faithful Christians under Ceasar?” to “How can we adjust the church’s expectations so Caesar can consider himself a faithful Christian?” to “How can we create a community identity distinct from our surrounding culture, yet retain our favored status?” Yet what Clapp gets at is this: we don’t have favored status anymore, we are aliens and strangers and because of that we have the ability to pursue what God has truly called us to be.
Isn’t it ironic that so many people will sing of this place not being there home, they are just passing through, etc., yet, they are trying to make the layover as comfortable, safe, convienent, and to their benefit as possible? Hmm. Is this a case we’re we have changed the message of God? I had a guy tell me once that he thought i was not only changing the method but the message in my preaching. And you know what? I think I was. Thankfully! My message was saying you don’t have to vote republican to be a christian, that God cares about social issues and we should too, that God embraces everybody not just people who look, think, act, vote, dress just like us, that our church would welcome people whose lifestyles didn’t match ours…not that we would approve of their choices but because they are made in the image of God and worthy of our love and compassion, knowing that we all make choices that go against what God wants for and from our lives. The message that this guy thought i was changing was ‘God’s Word.’ But really I was challenging his understanding of the message that had been wrapped in the cultural context he grew up in, his own prejudices and worldview. He wanted a safe gospel, I wanted a gospel that challenged us to the core. Whose message was actually changed?
He deals with the ideas of being missional, and the transition in worship. Along the way he makes comments that are sure to challenge and provoke discussion. But needed discussion. There is a change happening in culture/society. And it profoundly affects the church. And if the church is going to be faithful to her calling she will need to adapt, change, retain that which is good and right, strip herself of unneeded baggage and concern and learn to live as aliens and strangers once again. Tim Condor is a good and needed guide that will inspire and challenge us all in this time of transition.(less)
Joseph Myers is the author behind this book and his previous bestseller: The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups.
I was...moreJoseph Myers is the author behind this book and his previous bestseller: The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups.
I was a little hestitant to get this book, not because his other book was bad (in fact, it was good)…but as I was flipping through it I found myself thinking….”his last book was good, but how does one begin to incorporate his insights and wisdom”. And while his latest book starts to answer that question it remains purposefully slim on “here is what you do.” Rather it makes you flip the questions over and over in your mind and in your context and begin to ask “what does what he is talking about look like in our situation” rather than taking examples that he may give and just apply them haphazardly.
The whole books turns on the idea of Master Planning (MP) versus Organic Order (OO). He then chapter by chapter shows how most churches operate under the concept of MP but find themselves not really doing much or accomplishing much by focusing on what their plans are for people’s lives. This really challenged my thinking. Is the church all about making people plug in to fit their (the church’s) agenda? And should the church perhaps be more about finding ways to incorporate itself into people’s lives? The concept was (and still is) hard to get my mind wrapped around, but I think the implications are huge.
MP promotes place or point thinking “we’re headed there!” by asking the question: “where are we going (headed)?” OO asks the question: “what are we hoping for?” is more substance oriented and filled with journey language that promotes flexibility.
To keep this review short(er) I will comment only on some of the 9 areas that he talks about in regards to organic community.
1. Patterns: Presecriptive vs. Descriptive. Many ways to use to connect to God and others. Small groups (however good or helpful they may be…are not the end all be all).
2. Participation - lots of time trying to get people to participate, little time figuring out how. Churches tend to want people to plug into what they are doing. We must, as a church, answer the real question of “why me?” that people ask, rather than the organizational focused question we assume people are asking of “what’s in it for me?”
3. Measurement - This is not a neutral tool. This was a mindblowing section for me. We measure what we perceive and tell others is important, or that will become important. People’s stories are a universal measurement of life.
4. Growth - Piecemeal vs. Incremental. Churches tend to choose incremental because there are bigger upfront “growth” reports. It is quicker and faster. Yet it can exhaust a lot, or most of our resources because we are just wanting one or two things done, right now, to get see and experience growth.
5. Power - MP: power through position. OO: sees people who take on roles during the life of a project. Project holds the power, not the position.
6. Cordination - MP: cordination through cooperation. OO is about collaboration. Organic community, he writes, “is not a product or end result, but rather it is a process.” It is a different kind of ‘intentional’. “We have some control over environments but not on actual community emerging.”
7. Partners - Edit-ability vs. Accountability. Perhaps to simplistic but grace vs. keeping track of wrongs.
8. Language - Language is living. Moving from noun-centric to verb-centric world. I would ask though, is there room for both?
9. Resources - OO celebrates possibilities not options. A spirit of scarcity but not be truth but a personal view of resources available. He states that the church promotes scarcity world view through trying to get people to buy into their (church) MP. Example - bulletins are filled with ministry stuff inside the walls of the church or members home. He asks a vaild question: What can the church do to assimilate into people’s lives?
This book is part of the new line of books from emersion. Which is the Emergent Village’s resource arm for leaders and the church. To be honest I ended up liking this book more than The Search to Belong. They both are good, ask great questions and make leaders delve a little deeper into our minds, hearts, and motives of why are we doing what we are doing. You may or may not agree with his conclusions - but he gets the conversation started. By the way, he isn’t some whack job saying whatever. He owns a consulting firm that helps churches, businesses, and other organizations promote and develop community.(less)
This was a book that I wanted to read for quite a while but never went out and purchased for myself. About 1 1/2 weeks ago, I was given this book as a...moreThis was a book that I wanted to read for quite a while but never went out and purchased for myself. About 1 1/2 weeks ago, I was given this book as a gift and so I dived in and read. It was good, not as good as I had hoped (which made me glad that I wasn’t the one who bought it!). The format was rather simple. Two respected Christian leaders (no matter if you agree with them or not)…each wrote a number of chapters in the book and at the end of each chapter the other one gave a brief response to what was written. What was nice was that there wasn’t always agreement between the authors, but never a condemning, ‘you idiot’ attitude either.
They talked on such things as the environment, sin, gospel, salvation, social action, postmodernity, homosexuality, women as pastors, doubt, worship and the like. McLaren comes from a postmodern/emerging viewpoint on most issues, while Campolo comes from the ‘left edge’ of Christianity. What was truly a unique experience for me was that, while I have come to appreciate, love the writings of, and agree with a number of things that McLaren (and others) espouse, is that I found myself nodding in agreement at more points with Campolo than McLaren.
Even during the times I disagreed with either author I found myself thankful to be understanding where they and others are coming from on these important issues. Good book, not great but worth the read (if you get it as a gift!)(less)
Truly, truly, truly a great book. Rick McKinley is the lead pastor of Imago Dei, a community of faith in Portland, OR. This is the church where Donald...moreTruly, truly, truly a great book. Rick McKinley is the lead pastor of Imago Dei, a community of faith in Portland, OR. This is the church where Donald Miller, the author of numerous books including the phenomenally successful book Blue Like Jazz attends and helps out at. This book is about how do we see ourselves, how do we let other people, how do we let other things, and circumstances define us. Much of the time we can be defined by others in loser type categories. We aren’t this or that. And because of this we are pushed towards the gutters, the margins of life.
McKinley says…don’t let these things define you because that is not who we are. First Jesus came and he came to the margins and he spent time there and hung out with people who felt alienated and out of place with the rest of society. In the words of the old Steve Taylor song, Jesus was for losers. And then he says let God define you. God sees us so much differently then we see ourselves or how others see us. We are his creation, we are his possession, we are his treasure. Reimagine life defined by how God views us rather than how we view, or how others view, ourself.
Jesus came to the margins, to redefine our view of ourselves. But he came to the margins not to leave us there but to pull us from there and then to help others escape the margins of life.
The book is a great read, moves, at times, a tad slow but is filled with good stuff. If you are caught in the margins you can escape. If you are out of the margins you don’t have to ever go back. Allow God to define you, not others.(less)