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Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish

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3.81  ·  Rating details ·  112 ratings  ·  34 reviews
We have been created to live and work in community. But all too often we see ourselves primarily as individuals and run the risk of working at cross-purposes with the organizations we serve. Living faithfully in a neighborhood involves two interwoven threads: learning and action. In this book C. Christopher Smith, coauthor of Slow Church, looks at the local church as an or ...more
Paperback, 179 pages
Published May 12th 2016 by IVP Books
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Bob
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Summary: Explores how the communal practice of reading in congregations fosters a learning community and shared social imagination the results in clearer congregational identity, sense of mission in one's setting, and wider engagement with the environment, economics, and political order.

I came across the work of C. Christopher Smith a few years ago through an online version of The Englewood Review of Books. The online site has become one of my "go-to" places to learn about new releases and also
...more
Ginger
Good, but a surprisingly small percentage of this was actually talking about reading, as most of us think of reading (i.e. books as opposed to technical manuals, legislation, etc.). A better title might have been 'Conversation for the Common Good' because books were a small means to an end to start conversations, and while I don't at ALL disagree with him that that would be the goal, I think anyone who picked up this book is likely already on board, so spending 100+ pages convincing of the WHY s ...more
Robert D. Cornwall
I am an avid reader, and I've always been an avid reader, as can be seen in the very fact that in elementary school I was a member of the Library Club! I've always preferred non-fiction to fiction, with history and then theology being at the top of the list. At any moment in time I have probably five to ten books in play, and my Kindle makes it even easier to access books. Books inform and form us. The open new worlds and new opportunities. When Gutenberg invited the printing press the world of ...more
James
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
 C. Christopher Smith is the editor of The Englewood Review of Booksan online and print journal  which  showcases valuable resources for the people of God. Another site Smith, curates is Thrifty Christian Reader, a website which catalogs quality sale books—mostly Kindle, mostly Christian—which explore culture, theology, sociology, justice, ecology, poetry and literature. His own books also promote the kind of thoughtful Christian engagement he highlights online. Notably, Slow Church (IVP, 2014 ...more
Emmanuel Boston
“In the age of fast food and fast culture, we are often inclined to speed along with the flow of traffic on the highway leading to the death and destruction of creation. Will we, through practices of reading and conversation, attempt to exit from this highway? Will we begin to crawl, perhaps even to take baby steps, along the path that leads to life and flourishing?” (Page 143)

This book is internally-conflicting for me. Perhaps that’s the mark of a really good book, or perhaps that’s the mark of
...more
Joe Johnson
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reading normally seems like a pretty private affair, something one does late into the night after everyone else has finally fallen asleep, or in order to better pass the time on a train. While it’s not that hard to find people (rightly) arguing for the importance of thoughtful reading habits when it comes to becoming more deeply rooted theologically on a personal level, it seems more unusual to find it regarded as something with significant implications for community life.

In his new book, Readin
...more
Adam
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book that will generate many fantastic ideas in the minds of pastors and church leaders. Smith presents this overture to church members: only by educating yourselves will you know how to act, and you should act, in love, in service, in hospitality, for the good of your community. So, read more. But don't read for yourself, read for others. Learn about your Faith, your neighbors, your community, your government. Dig into your town's history and get to know how your ...more
Amanda
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
More a book about how vital conversation is for our flourishing, conversation with God, conversation with each other, and conversation with our communities. And conversation happens with books, over books, through books! It's great!

"[The Church] is the possibility given to man to see in and through this world the 'world to come,' to see it and to live it in Christ. . . . A Christian is the one who, wherever he looks, finds Christ and rejoices in Him. And this joy transforms all his human plans a
...more
Jim
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
In 2014 I read Humanities and Public Life edited by Peter Brooks. In that book the “ethics of reading” was a theme addressed from a variety of perspectives in a scholarly conference devoted to the humanities and public life. One key idea from that conference and the essays published from it had to do with the possibility of reading making people more humane people.

I think that C Christopher Smith’s book Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods to Flourish (IVP,
...more
Ian Caveny
Jun 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I can't quite decide whether a book whose purpose is to encourage reading that is also functionally a bibliography is a good thing or a bad thing. It is certainly helpful, in a metaliterary way: Smith opens up a wide variety of texts that would be invaluable for thinking about the imagination and reading as vibrant modes of Christian discipleship. Yet, all-too-often one gets the feeling that Smith is just a medium for those same other texts, that he hasn't relayed enough of his own life, his own ...more
Jennifer
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Read my full review at www.jenniferneyhart.com

Positives:

-Well written
-Some good ideas (I especially like the idea of the way books read us and form us.)
-Great annotated bibliography at the end of the book.

Negatives:

-Seems a little thin on the question of how to get our church to be a reading church. (Though Chapter 9 attempts to address this question.)
-The question the subtitle of the book sets itself up to answer is “How do books help our churches and neighborhoods flourish?” While Smith d
...more
Daniel Silliman
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
This is an argument for communal reading and reading for community. It's also a demonstration of how individual social practices, which have become individualistic social practices, can be re-immagined for the common good. In that sense, the book is kind of a model for evangelical thinking about intentional living. ...more
Patrick Walsh
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Church and community leaders, leaders of nonprofit organizations.
Reading for the Common Good, as the subtitle suggests, is written in part for Christian churches. There is considerable focus on the reading of the Bible and on practices for disciplined reading of the Bible such as Lectio Divina. There is broader application to reading of just about any other form of literature, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Application is also made to reading in other types of community organizations beside churches.

Reading for the Common Good is about more than j
...more
Chris Little
Sep 21, 2020 rated it liked it
The surprise for me on reading this book is that it's not about reading, not primarily. It seems to me that Smith's primary argument is that local churches can and should aim to make their neighbouring communities flourish. As part of this - a very major part of it - is to read well and to read widely. To say that reading is secondary in this work is in no way to minimise its significance, but to place reading in service of a greater purpose.

For Smith, reading is broad. He mentions material from
...more
Melody Schwarting
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: r-2019, r-nf-religion
Positives: Smith lays out a wonderful plan for developing churches into reading communities, investing in local communities politically and economically, and practicing lectio divina as a church. He has some helpful tips on building a church library, book lists, and accessibility to books in general for churches. I love the idea of a church-based book club that meets elsewhere and thus involves the local community more. Fiction as cautionary, showing the negatives in society, fit well into his v ...more
John
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
C. Christopher Smith has written a wonderful book on reading and how it influences one’s local church and one’s environment where it is located. He uses the example of the Irish monks in the Middle Ages and how they brought literacy to Europe. Literacy was used by the missionaries.The
local church can recommend certain books or it may have a library or a bookstore or it may connect with the local town library to promote literacy. Smith makes many recommendations of books relating to the topic of
...more
Justine
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A thorough examination of challenges facing the modern Church and how reading and discussing together as a congregation might lead to the flourishing (Shalom) of our communities.
Andy Johnson
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, read-in-2017
In Reading for the Common Good, C. Christopher Smith imparts a vision for the local impact that can come through deliberately reading together across a broad range of subjects and taking collective action from what learn for the good of our communities. Reading is more than an individual effort for our own enrichment. It is a way for us to join efforts toward the flourishing that God intends for the world.

The book’s theme follows up well on what Smith and co-author John Pattison presented in Sl
...more
Phil Aud
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
-Love the idea of sermon as Lectio Divina

Ch. 2
Social Imaginary (Taylor) in our time becoming important as local challenges corporate. Novels change how we see ourselves in the story, possibly contributing to less violence (loc. 475).

Book has great resources for reading on particular topics from science to mentorship.

Reading for the Common Good is a unique and necessary book for our time. There are some decent books available on reading from a pastoral perspective, such as Plantinga’s “Reading f
...more
Dorothy Greco
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-living
From the back cover: "Living faithfully in a neighborhood involves two interwoven threads: learning and action." C. Christopher Smith skillfully, thoughtfully addresses each of these threads. Reading for the Common Good challenges us to not simply be diligent, purposeful readers but to then put what we've learned into action for the betterment of our church and our communities. His commitment to reading (and writing) is evident and heartening. I believe that this sentence, found near the end of ...more
Ann
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a volunteer church librarian and book junkie, I didn’t need to be convinced, but I was eager to learn what more my fellow librarians and I could do to help our church and its neighborhood flourish. This book broadened my concept of reading and the importance of doing it in community, accompanied by conversation. Chris Smith (editor of Englewood Review of Books and co-author of Slow Church) addresses the value of slow reading, which he advocates not just for Bible study and the reading of “Chr ...more
Matt Miles
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Chris Smith believes reading can be transformative, and as he shares the experiences of his church and community it becomes clear why. Reading is thinking, and thinking is best done when it leads to conversation in community. Done in prayer and community, slow careful reading can guide local churches in their calling to love God and neighbor and to live in biblical Shalom with God, our neighbors, and the world.

What I appreciate about Reading for the Common Good is that it starts with careful re
...more
Tamara Murphy
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Oh my goodness. Could Christopher Smith include any more of my favorite words in this title? I thoroughly enjoyed this read (much the same as I enjoyed Slow Church by the same author). As someone who has been encouraged by writer and theologian Eugene Peterson in the act of spiritual reading, I was reminded again to embrace this practice, and not for myself alone.

In "Reading For the Common Good", Chris Smith encourages us to do the slow, thoughtful work of reading in community in order to grow i
...more
Michelle Welch
Nov 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reading For The Common Good is a wealth of information and truth. As the churches get bigger and the world turns to 140 characters and 10 second sound bites we too often miss out on the richness that comes with the shared love of reading. Chris's love of books and everything involved with learning more comes through on every page. Scripture tells us that we should be continually learning as well as teaching and what better way to accomplish this around good books. Of course our time in the Word ...more
writer...
Through language we are continually creating and refining reality.

Excellent ideas on creating communities that live, work, support, and play well together. Beginning with decisions and discernment that influence the shaping of that community. Reading is influential collectively as members read and reflect according to their gifts, interests, and passions. Which increases understanding of the times and the placing of each community recognizing the impact of reading.

Fascinating concept for this re
...more
J. Bill
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beside the fact that it's well written, the premise that reading in community (especially in spiritual community) challenges, deepens, and binds us together in mission to the world around (and within) us is cogent and resonating. And we people of faith need to be reminded of the power of reading in community! ...more
Cara Meredith
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
An important, easily-digestible read for all church audiences. Chris Smith makes a compelling case, so much so that I'm eager to restart a book club in my own church's setting. I only wish his to-read list at the end (along with several of the examples in the text) contained more works by female authors: but for the poetry and fiction recs at the end, he averaged 1 or 2 out of 15:( ...more
Richard Ryan
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: christian-books
I was so looking forward to reading this when I first heard about it. A book which tells of the importance of reading books particularly within a church context. Can't help feeling disappointed by it. Maybe it lacked something. Maybe I didn't get to grips with all that was addressed. Maybe I was on the wrong part of the journey to really appreciate it at this time. ...more
Judy
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it
The premise of Smith's book is solid but his limited references and very close ties to both his own church and business left me wondering if his definition of communal reading would be feasible in broad situations. Sometimes I was confused about what he was really trying to say. ...more
VeeInNY
Jul 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Opportunity to equip congregation for intentional incarnation in the community...
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“In conversation we are sustained by the wisdom of those who have gone before us. We are also empowered to discern how we will face the challenges of both the present and the future. Reading is essential to this conversational way of life, as we often cannot literally converse with our forbears or with those who are following similar vocations in other places. We read as a way of listening to the wisdom of others. The conversation continues as we reply to this wisdom both internally and externally. Internally, we reply as we grapple to make sense of this wisdom in our own context. Externally, we reply to our reading as we discuss it with our church or work community.” 1 likes
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