Sunday, December 09, 2007

Books of Influence

I have read alot of books over the last couple of years. These are numerous and have had major influence on my spiritual journey. They have challenged my faith and while I do not agree with everything in them, they are influential and challenging and highly recommended reading.

Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: This was one of the first books I read when I was introduced to the "Emerging Conversation", this book is an interesting take on the Christian journey. It is a worthwhile read. A disclaimer though is that it should be read with discernment. I do not agree with all his points and I'm worried that Brian may have emerged too closely with culture and "gone native" (I have to talk about this term some time!) in some areas. But it is a good book to read if you want to look at what faith may look like in postmodern terms.

Michael Frost, Exiles: This is one of my favourite books on my shelf when it comes to talking about the posture and shape of a missional christian engaging with a postmodern world. It is essential reading for anyone wanting to engage with a post-christian west. It talks about getting back to the Jesus of the bible, rediscovering true christology, then reforging a missional imputus of both christians and the church. It essentially flows out from the idea that first we have to know Jesus, then we are sent, then we create and form communities of faith - these communities are there to strengthen beleivers (an essential of good community) but also sent to change the world (the other important issue.) Frost says that we should be missional not attractional. Attractional was related to the late modern seeker sensitive services and while they are good tools, they have thier limitations (as do post-modern modes of community I will add!)

Alan Hirsh, The Forgotten Ways: Hirsh is a friend and co-conspirator with Michael frost - he is part of Forge. The book of Hirsh comes from his experience creating missional faith communities and church plants. He reminesces and offers both hard lessons and theory on what that missional church should look like. His work is built on looking both historically at the church (what led to massive church growth in the early church and the in Chinese churches in the last fifty years), he creates a model that he calls "the apostolic genius." In his book he argues that if the church gets back to the "apostolic genius" we will see more people come to know the living God. His work is also rooted in chaos theory and organic models of organisation (something that as a person who has looked at more modern mechanistic heirarchical models of organization is very compelling!)

I enjoyed this book, something though that I find difficult with both Hirsh and Frost is that they seem to write to the educated, middle class. They seem to assume that all thier readers would have a strong understanding of church and church models of leadership. I wonder, is there a way to write thier views in a way that is simpler, so that the ideas can be got from the bottom up, rather than a way that seems to be top down approach (change the opinions of the educated leader, then that leader will change the opinions of the church laity)

John B. Hayes: Submerge: Maybe this was a stage of my thinking where I thought I might be sent in this area and into a point where I would minister to the poor, but this book has been of major influence on me as well. This book is written by a guy similar to Shane Claiborne (though not as young and hippy looking!) John B. Hayes has been sent to live with the poorest of th poor in america and in countries like cambodia, he is the director of Innerchange a mission order which is tasked to serving the poor. You will never look at the world the same way again after reading this book. He challenges us to take the red pill, to realise that the world is not as rosy as we think and to act on the facts he passes out.. It is challenging, hard-hitting reading. It mixes John B. Hayes story of ministry with a call to be actively being christ to the poor, we need to sent people out to the poor, incarnating into that environment, enjoying celebrating, weeping, laughing, being apart of the life and sharing christ with those who are lost. Read this book, it will challenge your worldview of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the world today.

Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church: To tell you the truth I'm only half way through this book. Its worth the read, especially if you are looking at how and why church should engage with post-christian culture. Kimball writes strongly from personal experience. I have found Kimballs work the most graceful work that I've read so far. One of the strengths is that he has allowed the comments of other church leaders, such as Brian McLaren but also Rick Warren from Saddleback. The first half of the book had loads of comments that I wanted to underline and take and put on this blog, plus I just read a really good paragrath on Paul and his engagement with the greeks at Mars Hill, which goes further than my posts on this subject.
One thing about Kimball is he is strongly evangelical in his roots - he engages scripture, puts Christ at centre and explains how we fall short and why we need Jesus! I like Kimball alot for this.

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