Archive for November, 2009

The Liturgical Year, by Joan Chittister

Posted in Book Review on November 20, 2009 by seguewm

I would suggest this book for those who already have a working grasp of liturgical practices.  To be honest, this isn’t my church tradition and this book really, on the whole, didn’t help.

The author’s passion for liturgy was palpable, but it seemed to outweigh her ability to really make it sensible to the uninitiated.  Again, it was easy to ‘feel’ the author’s passion for the topic, but her pronouncements, repetitiveness, and regretfully absent initial overview left me, the reader, often stranded chapter after chapter. 

That being said, there were several chapters that left me spell-bound and challenged – particularly chapter 24 on Holy Saturday – the Loss That Is Gain.  I could only have wished this clarity had been represented in each chapter. 

In sum, I would recommend this book to fans of the author – those already familiar with her style of writing, and to those already familiar with the liturgical year.

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Lost and Found, by Ed Stetzer

Posted in Book Review on November 20, 2009 by seguewm

Lots of churches are spending a lot of money and time trying to reach unchurched young adults – yet they are making plans based on hunches and anecdotal accounts.  What are the facts?  Stetzer & team put in the time and research effort to move us beyond all the guessing – and they present their material in an easy to read format.

This book is divided into three sections.  Part One discusses just who the young adults are.  Part Two is an analysis of what the ministry needs of the unchurched young adults.  Part Three is an exciting survey of what some churches are already doing to reach this important segment of society.

The stats are facinating and the authors tease out some intriguing facts that would otherwise have not been noticed. One particular stat stood out for me: “about 90% of the younger unchurched believe they do not need the church in order to have a good relationship with God or to learn what it means to be a Christian.”  This makes the attractional method of church ineffective.  About the same percentage are open to people sharing their beliefs, but just aren’t open to the church. 

Part Two introduces four key ‘markers’ for ministry geared toward unchurched young adults – Community- they want to have genuine relationships through life, Depth – they want to wrestle with the difficult questions and not just get ‘pat’ answers, Responsibility – they believe their choices make a difference in this world and thus they want to do what is right, and Connection – the want mentoring from those more experienced.

This is not a ‘how to’ book, but it is a vital source of much needed information for leaders who are truly committed to reaching our young unchurched adults.

churchmorph, by eddie gibbs

Posted in Book Review on November 16, 2009 by seguewm

churchmorph

Perplexed leaders need to distinquish between the treasure of their tradition and the baggage they carry along with it.  Loyalty to tradition does not consist in living in the past but in learning from the past and in reinterpreting the tradition in light of a changing social context. p. 73

Our world is changing.  The changes are influencing the church – of all types and styles.  Gibbs presents with clarity the trends we are facing and describes the responses various elements within the church at large are making. 

An important publication for church leaders wrestling with decisions for future ministry. Goes beyond the anecdotal and personal hunches presenting innovative examples to spark imagination and gobbs of references for further research.

Free For All, by Tim Conder & Daniel Rhodes

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , on November 11, 2009 by seguewm

Free for All

This book is written by two very thoughtful, friends, Dan Rhodes and Tim Conder.  The discussion invites us to rediscover the Bible through community.   It is absolutely a brilliant and fascinating read.  The bible becomes the voice of the Living Word when considered through the myriad of different voices within our community.

Part 1 discusses the nature of interpretation.  We all come to the scriptures with biases, which is exactly why we need to read all that has been written in sacred text.    If we really want to listen to the voice of the living Christ, we need to listen to the voice of the whole canon of scripture, rather than using it merely as a buffet from which we select what we prefer and ignore the rest. A text without a context is a pretext.

Secondly, catholicity, we should value the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ – people who have put on paper their own wrestling with the Bible – valuing and learning from those who have gone before us in history and left to us the legacy of their own attempts to understand the Bible. 

Thirdly, we need to listen carefully to what the Spirit is saying through our community. We can only receive Christ as we receive him in others.  The Spirit of God is manifested differently in each individual.  Listen to what God is saying through others that could not be fully said through me?  Each of us is a unique interpretation of God.  Our individual wrestlings with scripture are an essential part in our search to know God better.

In part 2 of this book, the authors share several examples that demonstrate how a diverse group of folks handle a particular text of scripture in one sitting.  The passages selected for discussions were messy and controversial, yet the willingness of all present to respect each others interpretation and perspectives actually built up the fellowship of the church. 

This is not a book containing monotonous transcriptions of hours long discussions of a passage in scripture. Though quotes are given, this book well describes the process of community when it wrestles through a text.  Some of the passages selected include Genesis 34 on the rape of Dinah, Psalm 22 the cry of dereliction, and Romans 1.  There wasn’t any attempt to shy away from the controversial topics.

Part 3 of this book speaks to the ever-present issues of proclamation, ethics, hospitality, mission, and imagination inviting us to act on what we have discovered. 

If you have become bored with reading the Bible, the authors invite you to recover the Word in the Bible through an interpreting community.

The Case for God, by Karen Armstrong

Posted in Book Review on November 8, 2009 by seguewm

Case for God This is an important and life-altering book.  We are always so liable to ‘see’ the world around us only through the lens we have inherited that we fail to see things as they really are.  What may well be the ‘facts’ of religion today, by not be the ‘truth’.  Anachronistic readings of the scriptures yield to the adage that a text without a context produces a dangerous pretext.

Karen Armstrong invites us into a more holistic historical world where ‘god’ helping the reader to pursue the origins of our biases.  The result is an opportunity to better know and to more fully engage a far more ‘godlike God than the often narrowly constructed god we unwittingly hace created.

God is always more than we can ever put into words or imagine. Speechlessness seems to be where our search for the divine more realistically leads us.  Reluctance in assuming ‘our’ god is only god is probably where humility keeps us.

I kept my thumb in the much needed glossary in the back of the book, I also appreciated the chapter by chapter references for further study as well as Armstrong gift for making a difficult and controversial topic more accessible to the non-scholar.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller

Posted in Book Review on November 8, 2009 by seguewm

Don MillerAs I read through the first few chapters of this book, my first impression was ‘this is curious’.  Most of the books I read are of a different genre.  What, really, was this book about?  He had my attention, but where was he taking me?

My next impression came as a particular sentence insisted that I stop and think about what I had just read.  This was more than curious.  This was insightful.  He wrote: A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it is the basic structure of a good story.  My life was flashing before my eyes.  Hmmm.

It became difficult to put the book down and to pursue the requirements of my usual day.  This guy, Don, was on to something that was inviting me to see life – my life – from a fresh new perspective.  He had more than engaged my attention, he was doing surgery on my life. 

There was, I confess, one event in his story that got past all my well-constructed defenses and had me so thoroughly in tears that I had to put the book down for 24 hours. It was the story about search for his dad. I’m a sucker for reconciliation stories and the one Don relates in this book is a wing-dinger! 

This book moved from curious to insightful and then to inspiring.  Don’s story was not merely something to escape into, to vicariously live within for a time, and then – finally – leave the reader with a wise set of proverbs to occasionally revisit and cleverly share with others through life.  The inspirational elements of this book challenge us to live life differently – providing not only opportunities to join something Don has created, but to imagine for ourselves novel ways to serve our world.  In other words, to see ourselves in a much larger story than ourselves – much as described in John Eldredges’ book, Epic.

This book does not end with a pretty  finale.  Rather, his story leaves the reader with an invitation to re-imagine.  I can’t imagine anyone who would not be more than blessed by reading this book – in fact, in reading all of Don’s books.  Then, re-reading them.

For more info: http://donmilleris.com