Chris Little's Reviews > Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish

Reading for the Common Good by C. Christopher Smith
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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 technical manuals, through journalism, fiction and non-fiction, as well as the Bible. He is also equally generous in acknowledging the range of reading skill levels: there's a clear effort to avoid snobbishness.

I have a couple of niggles, though, one of these is probably just a personal preference but the other is more important.

Firstly, the less important complaint, about a matter I notice in Christian books from time to time. I sense - maybe I'm oversensitive - that there are many moments of too-easy judgmentalism. There often seems to be a hidden phrase at the end of sentences like, 'We have been poor at ...,' or 'The church has failed in ...': 'by we I mean others.'

The second complaint is of theological looseness, of major terms going undefined. To limit myself to one example, take 'reconciliation.' This appears to be a kind of place-holder for the (true) idea that God is doing something for the whole of reality ('the healing and reconciliation of all creation' on p.18, or 'a way that bears witness to the reconciling love of Christ' on p.147). But what does Smith mean by this reconciliation? And who does it? I can't tell if he thinks churches and Christians to some extent bring about reconciliation, or if it's a completed work of God, or some other formulation. I expect that 'flourish' (used in the subtitle) will always be a flexible term, but think some terms do require more precision. Perhaps Smith covered this is his earlier work, Slow Church, but it still needs some coverage here.

But moving from these matters, I think this is a book worth reading with others to expand our view of what a church can be and do. It's full of ideas, it set me to think of ways we can be better neighbours, and it can promote something that Smith repeatedly extols - conversation!
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Reading Progress

September 21, 2020 – Shelved
Started Reading
September 22, 2020 – Finished Reading

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