Showing posts with label book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book. Show all posts

18 January 2015

Want to join a permanent revolution?

Perhaps you're already a revolutionary. Or maybe you'd like to be. If you are interested in church life, and want to live the revolution, then The Permanent Revolution Playbook by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim could be just what you need to help you get started.

The new book
The new book
Alan wrote The Forgotten Ways in which he analyses the ingredients of powerful and disruptive movements. He finds six essential ingredients and explains how they can (and must) work together to provoke rapid church growth. My own guide, Jesus, Disciple, Mission, Church (JDMC) covers the same ground but in an abbreviated and introductory way.

One of the ingredients is what Alan calls the 'apostolic environment'. Like all six ingredients (the six forgotten ways), the apostolic environment is essential but not, on its own, sufficient. But it is critically important and has to do with the gifts of service listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11-13 - apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (APEST).

Alan and Tim wrote a book about APEST, examining the five gifts in great detail, the book is excellent and is called The Permanent Revolution. Now they have brought out The Permanent Revolution Playbook to help small teams process the information to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses, to pinpoint where and how they excel, and to better understand how to work together to see the revolution take hold.

The book is available as a paperback and in e-book form. They also provide a sample that you can read online and I highly recommend taking a look at that.

13 December 2014

Every chapter is necessary

The recently published book, Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity, contains twenty-six chapters. Each one discusses a positive aspect of church, something that is an essential part of the whole. Reading from the book last night I was deeply impacted by Chapter 22 from Kathy Escobar; the chapter is entitled A church that restores dignity where it's been lost.

She writes
Jesus calls [Lazarus] out of the tomb, but then he looks to the people around him - his community, friends, and advocates - and says to them 'unbind him'. Unbind him. Unwrap him. Take off his graveclothes.

I think God calls us to participate in this uncovering-unwrapping-unbinding with each other through healing community.
Kathy Escobar's chapter
Kathy Escobar's chapter
And it struck me that although church is much more than the sum of its parts, all of the parts need to be actively present. There is a synergy, a sparking of abundant life that comes from the interdependence of the parts. Church is a person, the Bride of Christ.

Like all people, you and I are much more than the sum of hands, ears, spleen, heart, lungs and all the rest. But if any of these were missing we would either die or be unable to fully function. And it's just the same with the church.

Just consider some of the other chapter themes. The church cherishes Jesus Christ, exhibits personal holiness, counts every member as key, assembles for mutual edification, and knows eternal life is free. Imagine all of those being true in a church that fails to restore dignity where it's been lost. It would be a church without the active compassion necessary to unbind those who so desperately need it.

Or consider a church that clings to scriptural truth, is most notable for its love and is united in Christ but doesn't follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. This would be a church that failed to hear where to go and what to do and did everything in its own strength.

Or what about a church that was composed of peacemakers, viewed itself as a people, restored dignity but failed to proclaim the gospel clearly?

The chapters of this book all stand alone and can be read alone. But they often overlap so that there are echoes and glimpses of them in one another. Yet taken together, with no part missing or inactive, they describe a holistic church, a wholesome church and a church that is alive and active and effective in the world. There are other aspects that are not explicitly covered in the book, prayer for example. But these are implied throughout in a variety of ways.

Church is as complex as any living organism, and just like a living organism it is not only complex but also multi-faceted, and astonishingly well constructed. The church is also alive with the life of Christ. And every part contributes!

01 December 2014

Simple Church is now available

The twenty-four author, collaborative book Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity is now available to buy online and in bookshops. You can buy it direct from the publisher, Redeeming Press, or you can order it online from Amazon in both the USA and the UK. I was given the opportunity to write the third chapter, A Church That Follows the Lead of the Holy Spirit.

Simple Church, the paperback
Simple Church, the paperback
Here's a review I wrote for Amazon.

What has one purpose, but twenty-four authors?

This book does!

The editor, Eric Carpenter, has put together contributions from around the globe; and every single chapter describes an aspect of church life seen from the perspective of oneness and harmony. The book succeeds in its stated aim of filling a much-needed gap, expressing what the authors believe church can be, and doing so in a wholly positive way.

I am one of the authors, writing chapter three on following the lead of the Holy Spirit. But I have to tell you that I am blown away by the scope, insight and depth of the other twenty-three chapters that I did not write. The book contains sections on glorifying and enjoying the One we worship, living radically, building the body, impacting the world and proclaiming salvation. The focus throughout is on inclusive, positive and straightforward ways of living out what we believe. If you're looking for an uplifting read that will challenge and encourage you, this could be just the book for you.

It's refreshing to read a book so empty of criticism, yet full of insights and passion. Turn these pages and you will find personal stories, good analysis, and original thoughts. Expect to be changed and encouraged as you read, be prepared to laugh in some places, to cry in others, and to come away with fresh understandings and a determination to live more completely in the unity that is already ours in Christ.

Read this book, I don't think you will regret it.

And here's another review, this time from Jeremy Myers.

Lots of Christians talk about church unity, but usually what they mean is, "If you believe like we do and act like we do, then we can be unified."

This book seeks to look at several things that all people of all (almost all, anyway) forms of church can be unified about. Though most of the 24 authors of this book practice various "simple" or "missional" forms of church, this book is not for those sorts of Christians only, but for everybody who hopes and prays along with Jesus "That they may be one..."

The book is divided into 5 areas in which Christians can be unified: (1) Glorying and Enjoying God, (2) Living Radically as followers of Jesus, (3) Building up the Body of Christ, (4) Impacting the World through missions and service, and (5) Proclaiming the freeness of salvation.

The 24 authors of this book come from a variety of backgrounds and church experiences, with many of them coming from or currently serving on the mission field overseas. Several of the authors have published other books, and almost all of them have blogs about church, theology, missions, and following Jesus. By way of full disclosure, I am one of the contributors to this book, but have been challenged and blessed by every chapter in it.

If you buy the book and review it for us on Amazon, you will receive the unified and most heartfelt gratitude of twenty-four authors. With most books you'd do well to get the gratitude of more than one!

06 November 2014

Simple Church (the book)

There's a new book ready for publication, pre-orders are now being accepted by Redeeming Press and Amazon. It's called Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity.

Front cover
Front cover
Why all the excitement? This is a book with a difference, it aims to show how we can be one even though we are many. Unity doesn't mean uniformity, it means togetherness despite the differences. Indeed, the differences between us should be seen as a great strength. There is balance in diversity; it's a wonderful guard against the propagation of errors.

I'm including a preview of the book cover (click the image for a larger view) and an extract from Chapter Four, A Church that follows the lead of The Holy Spirit in all things. I was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute this chapter to the book and grateful to the editor, Eric Carpenter, for entrusting it to me.

You can also read the blurb from the back cover (again, click the image to enlarge it).
Back cover blurb
Back cover blurb
The Holy Spirit teaches us to be more like Christ. His fruit builds in our lives over time. He equips us by pouring out His gifts as and when they are needed. He builds us in relationship. The Holy Spirit sends us out on mission. He want us to live in the world as a blessing and a challenge. He is always doing new things. When we meet, the Spirit meets with us. After all, Jesus lives in each one of us and the Holy Spirit fills us to overflowing. Usually that overflowing serves to inform our meetings, guide our thoughts, lift our hearts into the presence of the Most High and speak to us moment by moment in our lives.

What would church be like without the Spirit? It’s quite hard to imagine. I wonder if it could even be called ‘church’ at all! Church without the Spirit of Christ? I don’t think so!

17 November 2013

Sinéad O'Connor's Theology

Sinéad O'Connor's album, 'Theology', is challenging if you listen to the words carefully. It's easy to overlook the lyrics, but they are the whole point of the album. Sometimes the words are straight from Isaiah or Jeremiah, sometimes they are her own, but always they hit home without compromise.

I wonder how many of you have listened to Sinéad O'Connor's album 'Theology'?

Like all of her music it's a little edgy. It needs to be listened to carefully and understood. Sinéad's life, her music, and her faith are all a little unconventional, but that's what makes her and her music so interesting.

It's relatively easy to be bland, perform bland music, and blandly follow where others have gone before. But to succeed in charting a new course, that's a little harder.

Above all, I'd say Sinéad O'Connor does things her own way without trying to please other people [Tweet it!]. And I admire that in anyone. Much of the music and words are her own (some with Tomlinson), but she also sings pieces by Mayfield, Dowe/McNaughton, Lloyd-Webber/Rice, and a traditional piece too.

Uncompromising words - If you want to hear the music you'll need to buy the album or use Spotify or similar; but here are some of the words (partly biblical) from the track 'Something beautiful'.

I couldn't thank you in ten thousand years
If I cried ten thousand rivers of tears
Ah but - you know the soul and you know what makes it gold
You who give life through blood. Blood, blood, blood...

Oh I wanna make something so lovely for you
'Cos I promised that's what I'd do for you
With the Bible I stole, I know you forgave my soul
Because such was my need on a chronic Christmas eve
And I think we're agreed that it should have been free

And you sang to me

They dresssed the wounds of my poor people as though they're nothing
Saying peace, peace when there's no peace.
They dresssed the wounds of my poor people as though they're nothing
Saying peace when there's no peace.
Days without number, days without number
Now can a bride forget her jewels
Or a maid her ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten me days without number...

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch mention Sinéad's album in their book 'ReJesus', and that's what got me listening. They point out that although it was part of a protest about Catholicism, there's a powerful message here for all who claim to follow Christ. They are right.


  • Read Jeremiah 6:13-15 and Jeremiah 2:31-33. How does Yahweh feel about injustice and neglect?
  • Why is Sinéad quoting these verses in her song?
  • Now read Isaiah 61:1-3 and Isaiah 61:10-11. How often do we live up to these expectations?

See also:

08 May 2013

Jesus in proper context

In their book, 'The Shaping of Things to Come', Frost and Hirsch point to Jesus' Jewish background as key to understanding his life, death and his mission. Any attempt to understand him based on Romano/Greek culture or 21st century western culture will cause distortions to the truth.

The Shaping of Things to Come
I'm currently reading The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch.

Here's a brief quote from Chapter 7.

...the Jewish heritage is the primordial matrix out of which Christianity was birthed, and which we would argue is the only matrix out of which it could be organically understood in its fullness. Except for Luke's writings (he was in all likelihood a proselyte of Judaism), the New Testament is a document written by Jews. Therefore biblical Christianity's 'genetic code', its kinships, its plausibility structures, its genius, are all Hebraic to the core and back.

The point is this. Because Jesus is a Jew, rooted in Jewish society two thousand years ago, if we want to truly understand him we need to view him, read him, hear him and watch him in action from a Jewish perspective.

Not to do so is to risk misunderstanding much that he said and did. And what is true for Jesus is also true for his church; this comes out clearly in the extract above.

Have we missed something? - Perhaps this is something the church has overlooked over the centuries. We have often tried to understand Jesus in terms of the Romano/Greek culture of his day or in terms of today's western culture. But neither of these is appropriate and both may mislead us.

How are we going to tackle the task of refocussing and recalibrating? A good place to begin is by reading and re-reading the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Perhaps a rhythm in which these books are read regularly might help us.

The Shaping of Things to Come is a good book, even a great book. It examines the phenomenon of church in a new light and shows the developing western model of the past 1700 years to have been missing the mark. It's accessible, enjoyable to read, and should provoke much thought.

The book was published in 2003 but a new edition is now available.


  • How often do you cover the gospels in your Bible reading?
  • What might the effects be of taking Jesus out of his historical context?
  • Have you read 'The Shaping of Things to Come'?
  • If so, would you leave a comment sharing your thoughts about it?

See also:

13 February 2013

Cross Roads

William P Young's latest book is good, very good. 'Cross Roads' follows the events in... Hmm. I'm not going to tell you any more; that might spoil the story. Once again the author manages to write something that reveals the heart of a loving and purposeful Creator.

'Cross Roads' by William Paul YoungI've just finished reading Paul Young's latest book, 'Cross Roads'.

I read his first book, 'The Shack', before it was published in the UK (I had to order copies direct from North America). Donna and I thought it was such a wonderful book that we wanted to give copies away and bought considerable numbers for exactly that purpose.

I must say that 'Cross Roads' did not disappoint, in some ways I think it's even better than 'The Shack'. Words like awesome don't even come close. Paul Young's latest book is almost literally a gentle and profound stroll arm in arm with the Most High, yet at the same time an emotion-yanking roller coaster ride with the characters it portrays.

How he writes like this is an utter mystery, but like all such mysteries the roots go deep into relationship and love. This book is another gift, from Papa to Paul, from Paul to Papa, and from them both to every reader with a heart to feel truth and see life and love in action.

I hope many, many people will read the book, I shall give some copies away for sure - as Papa leads. Meanwhile, here's a taster from the beginning of the book. At least you can decide if you like the writing style.

Some extracts

Some years in Portland, Oregon, winter is a bully, spitting sleet and spewing snow in fits and starts as it violently wrestles days from spring, claiming some archaic right to remain king of the seasons - ultimately the vain attempt of another pretender. This year was not like that. Winter simply bowed out like a broken woman, leaving head down in tattered garments of dirty whites and browns with barely a whimper or promise of return. The difference between her presence and absence was scarcely discernible.

Anthony Spencer didn't care either way. Winter was a nuisance and spring not much better. Given the power he would remove both from the calendar along with the wet and rainy part of autumn. A five-month year would be just about right, certainly preferable to lingering periods of uncertainty. Every cusp of spring he wondered why he stayed in the Northwest, but each year found him again asking the same question.

And here are some brief quotes from other parts of the book; these little nuggets impressed me.

  • Pain, loss, and finally abandonment are each a hard taskmaster, but combined they become a desolation almost unbearable.
  • ...hell is believing and living in the real when it is not the truth.
  • Let me see if I can answer the question you meant and not just the one you asked.
  • You are asking me something where the knowing is in the experiencing.
  • Ah, there's the real miracle ... Somehow the pain, the losses, the hurt, the bad, God is able to transform these into something they could have never been, icons and monuments of grace and love.
  • There has to be a tearing down for the real and right and good and true to be built. There has to be a judgement and a dismantling. It is not only important, it is essential.
  • ...boundaries mark the most beautiful of places, between the ocean and the shore, between the mountains and the plains, where the canyon meets the river.


  • Did you read 'The Shack'? It's not too late!
  • Which of the quotes above do you like most? Consider leaving a comment to explain why.
  • The book portrays the Mighty One as loving and understanding yet insisting on truth. Do you see him in that way?
  • If you have read 'Cross Roads' maybe you could tell us how you feel about it.

See also:

02 October 2012


The book 'Britain Begins' tells the story of the landscape and people who lived in these islands from the end of the last great ice-age (when they were still part of mainland Europe) right up to the end of the Saxon period. It's a great read.

Part of north-west Europe 10 000 years agoI'm currently working my way through 'Britain Begins', Barry Cunliffe's latest book. Sir Barry Cunliffe is a well-regarded archaeologist working at Oxford University. In fact he's Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology at the University's Institute of Archaeology.

In the book he traces the origins of human occupation in what is now the British Isles, though at the time of the early settlements some 10 000 years ago, most the North Sea was an extension of the North European Plain and Britain was part of the European continent.

Part of an illustration from the book (right) shows some of the Atlantic coastline of Europe around 30 000 years ago, along with the ice sheets in grey and today's coastlines in orange. (Doggerland in my title refers to the central part of what is now the North Sea. It was an area of rolling hills and river valleys.)

Although the ice retreated almost completely from Britain by 15 000 years ago, sea levels remained low for some time and migrating hunter-gatherer communities would have been able to live in the new landscapes right across areas that are now the English Channel and the North Sea.

What a fascinating insight into a time before history began. Although we don't know the details of life in those days, Cunliffe is able to draw a lively picture in a general way. He writes of the separation of Ireland...

The return to temperate conditions beginning around 9600 BC set in train the processes that created the British Isles familiar to us today. The first stage was the separation of Ireland from the mainland. This occurred around 9000 BC as the deep river valley, scoured out by the flow of meltwater from the Scottish ice-cap, was progressively flooded by the rising sea until the last land bridge between the north of Ireland and the Inner Hebrides was broken through. The deeper waters of St George's Channel and the North Channel, now below 50 fathoms, mark the course of this original valley.

It's a great book and I highly recommend it. Cunliffe condenses a great deal of scientific and archaeological data into a cohesive description of Britain from the final stages of the ice-age to the time of the Norman Conquest and the end of Saxon rule. The book is accessible to the interested layman (like me!) but will also find a special place on library shelves in schools and universities.

If you're interested in the history of these islands - buy a copy!

19 March 2012

Viral Jesus - REVIEW

'Viral Jesus' is an excellent new book by Ross Rohde.  It's well worth reading, be prepared for a challenging and absorbing romp through church history and more - much more.

Viral JesusIf you have no idea what a 'viral Jesus movement' is it will be a voyage of discovery. If you're already familiar with such movements your thinking will be expanded by the many examples from real life and you'll be encouraged as Ross shares his heart.

The book has three major themes
  • Defining and describing the concept of a viral Jesus movement
  • Examining the early church (an example of such a movement) and considering how and why it faltered and eventually withered
  • Advice and encouragement on viral discipleship, church planting and evangelism
Those three themes do not capture everything in the book, but they do give a sense of the framework Ross uses. And it was a good choice, allowing him to lay everything out in a logical way.

Lying deep beneath these themes and the many great stories are two important factors that crop up again and again. One of these is the idea that our thinking in Western culture is based on a Greek philosophy far different than the Eastern view of the world so familiar to Jesus and his disciples.

The second is the important principle that we are called to follow Jesus in practical ways - to do what we see him do and to say what we hear him say, no more, no less.

Here's a short extract as a taster...
[T]he way to live consistently in a deep, obedient, abiding relationship with Christ our Lord has to be learned. For that we need each other in community. We also need the guidance of more mature believers. These believers don't decide for us what we are to learn; they help guide us to the lordship and direction of Jesus himself. They push us toward Jesus; they don't step between Jesus and us. To do so would be to play the role of priest. We are all priests in that we have a direct connection with God. Yet we have only one High Priest, and his name is Jesus. Viral discipleship will lead us into an ever-maturing and obedient relationship with Jesus himself. That will end up having a profound impact on our lives and the world around us.
Read Ross Rohde's blog for more about Ross and some of the ideas behind the book. There's also a link for buying the book online.

17 October 2010

NEWS - Worth taking a look at these

Listening to the Lord in Denver, USA, a book from Floyd McClung, focussing on the simple.A megaphone
  • Stories from the Revolution - John White discusses the ideas around 'smaller still and wider yet'. This involves Church of Two (CO2) and regional networks.

  • Felicity Dale's Blog - Felicity writes a short note on Floyd McClung's book, 'Follow'. See what she has to say and consider reading the book.

  • SimpleChurch Journal - Roger Thoman posts, 'Sometimes I think that, rather than focusing on simple church, we should really be focusing on the true simplicity of the Gospel'. Amen to that! Take a look and see what he's getting at.

  • Stories from the Revolution - John White writes about the important difference between a relationship with a book and a relationship with a person. He includes a video interview that reveals this difference in terms of personal experience.

15 September 2010

REVIEW - The Grace Outpouring

A lady came into Cornerstone in St Neots and asked for a copy of 'The Grace Outpouring' by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts. She had heard about it somewhere and felt she needed to read it. James was serving at the book counter and checked the catalogue to see if we had it. We did. We hunted the shelves and failed to find it, but we said we'd continue looking for it and the customer agreed to come back later to collect it.

The Grace Outpouring
After she had left we found it almost immediately!

James went off for lunch and left me in charge. The shop was quiet so I picked up 'The Grace Outpouring' and flicked through some of the pages. One or two passages leapt off the page and I was close to tears as I read how a young American woman had come to faith simply through reading some Bible verses and praying to a Jesus that she did not initially know.

It quickly became clear that the book was full of stories like this and I ordered a copy for myself. I've just finished it and already intend to pass it on to a friend tomorrow evening.

Roy and Daphne Godwin are directors at Ffald-y-Brenin (Welsh for 'the King's sheepfold'), a retreat centre/house of prayer and more that is being used by the King himself to bless local people, the whole region of south-west Wales, and much further afield internationally too.

Roy and his co-author Dave Roberts describe how Ffald-y-Brenin came into existence, how Roy and Daphne became involved, how the place has been used by the King of Kings to touch individual lives and the entire area in extraordinary ways, and how you might expect to see similar things happen where you live too.

It doesn't require skill or knowledge, great wealth or influential friends. All it takes is a willingness to be used by Jesus, an open and humble heart, and the courage to surrender what you thought you wanted from life in exchange for what Jesus wants for you.

Basically, it's about obedience. That means listening carefully to Jesus, hearing what he says, seeing what he does, and following him wherever he leads. These are the same things we have been learning over the past few years, and we too have seen extraordinary things happen as a result. It's not what we do that counts, it's what Jesus will do in us and through us.

I heartily recommend this little book, 185 pages containing a great story told well. Like all good, true stories this one is full of illumination; I guarantee that it will delight, challenge, encourage, and excite.

Obtaining a copy - Order it in paperback or as an audio book from Cornerstone in St Neots if you live locally, or direct from Ffald-y-Brenin. It's also available from Amazon and other online sources.

See also:

31 August 2010

REVIEW - The End of Religion

This is not a full review of Bruxy Cavey's amazing book, 'The End of Religion'. It's just a few comments and a brief extract. But I feel strongly prompted to write these words so if you are prompted to read them - here they are...

The End of ReligionI forget where I bought the book, but I was intrigued by both the title and by the author's unusual name, so after an engaging and encouraging dip into the pages I went ahead and bought it. That was probably a year or two ago.

I really enjoyed this book - I mean really enjoyed it. For me there was refreshment on every page, I knew right away that the author sees Jesus much as I do. Bruxy Cavey understands that Jesus came to release us, not to bind us up with a thousand more dos and don'ts.

Recently I decided to give the book to a visiting friend. It encapsulates what he thinks too and if it refreshed me I think it will also refresh him.

Here's a little extract to whet your appetite for more. It comes from the introduction which is entitled 'The Holy Hand Grenade'.
I am convinced that the Bible holds clues to a way out of our slavish addiction to religious systems, while it simultaneously invites us into a direct connection with the Divine.

But isn't the Bible a book full of rules, regulations, rituals, and routines - the very stuff of religion? True, the many texts of the Bible, especially those of the Old Testament (that part written before Jesus), do contain laws and rituals, systems and institutions. But these religious ideas are not its starting point or its ending point.

The Bible begins by painting a picture of the ideal world - a world without religion, a garden where God and people live in naked intimacy. This was God's original intention for humankind. In the Bible it is only after people turn away from his ideal of mutual trust and intimacy that God gives them rules and routines, traditions and teachings - but this is not the end of the story.

The rules and rituals of the Bible are like a map that leads to a great treasure, though they are not the treasure itself. I think this is what the revered Jewish poet and philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel is driving at when he says, 'Religion as an institution, the Temple as an ultimate end, or, in other words, religion for religion's sake, is idolatry.'

Religious people often tend to confuse the treasure map for the treasure.

If you want to buy the book you can get it from Amazon. But if you live anywhere near St Neots in Cambridgeshire I urge you to visit Cornerstone, have a coffee and a delicious bite to eat, and pick it up or order it while you're there.

17 December 2009

Putting women in their place

For many years there's been debate in the church about the place and role of women. From the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches right down to the smallest organic church meeting at home, it's often just assumed that men should take leadership positions while women should not. This has been the pattern throughout most of church history.

Jon ZensThere are plenty of exceptions of course, especially in the non-denominational, less structured groups. But even in the small, organic house churches it's not unusual to find reduced or limited roles for women. The view that women should be passive is generally reflected in church practice, supported by many Biblical scholars, and taught as both required and beneficial.

Often women are accepted or even preferred for work involving other women or with children and there are many other roles open to them. However, in many cases women are not allowed to teach men or have any authority over men. Authority itself is often misunderstood, but that's another story.

On the other hand, many of us sense that something is seriously wrong. It seems that half of the talent, wisdom, energy, and capability of the church is prevented from functioning or at best limited to functioning only in ways that are circumscribed and restricted.

But whatever we might think we have to accept the Bible's teaching on these matters, right? Right!

And we all know that the Bible is clear about this, authority is laid on men while women are to be in submission, right? Well - let's not be too hasty here.

Jon Zens has just published a careful analysis in reviewing John Piper's book 'What’s the Difference? Manhood & Womanhood Defined According to the Bible'.

Jon's review is well worth reading whatever your current understanding of these things. He writes refreshingly and thoughtfully and draws on a wealth of biblical knowledge and experience. You can read the review in the panel below and you can also download it, print it, or enlarge it to full screen using the options at the bottom of the panel.

You can find more from Jon on the 'Searching Together' website.

Women - Jon Zens Review

Since I published this blog post Jon Zens has written an excellent book on the same topic, 'What's with Paul and women'.

08 September 2009

Lake Worth - A book discusion

On Tuesday evenings Steph has been inviting friends, some of them her students, for a book discussion. From Eternity to HereWhile I was staying with them I was able to join in for just the one Tuesday. It was fun and a privilege to be included.

There were seven of us - Steph and her husband Earl, Steph's friend Theresa, three students, and me. We discussed chapter 12 from Frank Viola's book 'From Eternity to Here'.

I thought it was a really useful time, and something we might try back home. I have a feeling that Neil Carter's book 'Christ in Y'All' would be a good choice for a group exploring what it means to be church together. We'll see!

But back to the discussion on this Tuesday evening in Florida. Chapter 12 of 'From Eternity to Here' is entitled 'The Story of a Homeless God'.

Summary of the chapter - Earlier chapters have established that 'God's ageless purpose is to obtain a bride for the eternal Son'. Now a different perspective is covered, the idea that the Father intends to obtain a home. This idea of a home for the Almighty is a thread running right through the Bible.

In Hebrew thought, house and home are synonymous. A home is a place of rest, a place where you can be yourself, somewhere that expresses your personality and can communicate freely. It's a safe place, free of fear, and the place where you are accepted and welcomed. It's a place where you can commit your presence and a place where you are lord and king.

Before creation, the Almighty had no home.

Prayer - After discussing all this and having a lot of fun doing so, airing all the arguments and asking one another pertinent questions, we moved on to a time of prayer.

We prayed for a family member who had been taken into hospital with pneumonia (well on the mend at the time of writing). We prayed about college work and career options, and we gave thanks for the fact that our individual strengths and weaknesses enable us to help one another as we live our lives together, and that Jesus' strengths support us too as we live our lives together in him.

03 September 2009

Israel's New Disciples

This is the title of Julia Fisher's latest book, the subtitle is 'Why are so many Jews turning to Jesus?'Israel's New Disciples.

It's a very good question! Julia provides some intriguing answers in the book by publishing edited interviews with a number of key people living and working in Israel.

Although I haven't yet finished the book I want to draw attention to a couple of brief mentions that struck me as particularly significant.

First, as someone interested and involved in networking small groups of believers in Eastern England, I was fascinated to read about the same sorts of things happening in Israel too. On page 56 Julia quotes one of her interviewees,

I see, alongside the traditional congregational structure, a growing number of smaller groups of believers with a greater focus on community living.

And secondly, on page 79 she refers to Islamic Indonesian followers of Isa actually praying for Israel and a real need for believers in the West to get more involved in prayer and interaction with Messianic Jews.

These two factors mesh amazingly well with things I've been watching elsewhere. Namely the growing trend in the West to meet at home informally and become more involved in practical ways of real community living, and the trend reported by Wolfgang Simson of rapid growth of small, close-knit groups of new believers in Asia.

We live in very exciting days!

By the way, I strongly recommend anyone interested in events in Israel to read Julia Fisher's other books, 'Israel - the Mystery of Peace' and 'A Future for Israel?'.

05 May 2009

Are you an edgling?

Stowe Boyd is a computing/internet/techie guru. He's the kind of guy who tweets from conference sessions every few seconds Stowe Boydand he's almost always worth following. He has his ear firmly on society's sounding board, and he picks up and comments on the most subtle of vibrations.

Back in 2006 he wrote a blog post highlighting the way that influence in modern society is moving from 'centroids' to 'edglings'. You might like to consider which term best describes you.

What he wrote about industry, government, and society is equally true for the church. It's uncanny. We think 'house church' is unrelated to developments in society generally, but it's just part of a much wider trend. House church folks are 'edglings' par excellence.

Stowe Boyd - Stowe is what Wolfgang Simson would rightly call a prophet. He may or may not be a believer, but he is a man who sees core issues. He recognises the difference between the day-to-day view of the majority and unborn megatrends that are bubbling beneath the surface. He knows they will burst out soon and surprise everybody. How does a prophet know these things? Prophets don't know in some mysterious way, they are sensitive to tiny vibrations that others miss, subtleties of heart, mind, spirit. When they speak of these things they often go unheard, they are commonly rejected as fools, interfering busybodies, or enemies of the state.

Here are some quotes from Stowe's 2006 post, see how they mesh with the recent growth of house churches worldwide.

Personally, I favor the term Edgling because I want to move away from media metaphors, and use economic or sociological ones. This is not about who is "producing content" and who is "consuming" it: which is the basic paradigm of media thinking. Instead, it is about control moving from the central, large, mass-market organizations -- which includes media companies, but also other large organizations, like government, religious organizations, and so on -- out to the individuals -- we, the people -- at the edge.

As power moves from the center to the edge the "Centroids" -- those that hold with the centralized power of an industrial era -- will scream about all the negatives that they perceive in the out-of-control future that threatens the basis of their worldview. But the Edglings will find it liberating to get out of the stranglehold on information, communication, and the marketplace that centralized organizations attempt to impose.

Centroid or edgling? - Does that ring any bells? Take a look at Stowe's list of characteristics...

Work and PoliticsTop-down, authoritarianBottom-up, egalitarian
Point-of-ViewObjective, ImpartialSubjective, Partial
FamilyNuclearPost-nuclear networks
Political scopeNationalismRegionalism
EnvironmentExploitative, UnsustainableRestorative, Sustainable
SpiritualityCentralized, Dogmatic, Outside of NatureDecentralized, Enigmatic, Nature based

George Barna - You might like to compare this with George Barna's comments in his book 'Revolution'. Here's an extract from p 13-14...

I want to show you what our research has uncovered regarding a growing sub-nation of people, already well over 20 million strong, who are what we call Revolutionaries ... They have no use for churches that play religious games ... worship services that drone on without the presence of God ... ministries that compromise ... people in ministry ... who seek popularity ... man-made monuments ... accredited degrees.

There's a fresh wind blowing through the church as also through society. People sense that it's time to move on, to change the rules, to move from organisations with centralised authority to organic groups at the periphery, where the edglings are living and meeting in a fresh, new way.

It's no longer about organisations, it's about an organism that is alive and can reproduce in a natural way.

05 April 2009

'The Shack', blasphemous?

More than seven million copies of William P Young's book, 'The Shack', have now been sold around the world - and it's still selling well.

Most of those who've read it have found it helpful in opening their eyes to the love and nature of the Father. But some have found the book disturbing in various ways. One cause for concern has been Young's depiction of the Trinity.

In a recent blog post, Candice from Kansas writes

So many people I know have read The Shack, but I'm opting not to because I can't get past the blasphemous depiction of the Trinity. I've heard people say, "It's only a fictional book", as if that makes it all okay. I've also had a friend tell me recently that reading it "changed her life". Which is it? A harmless work of fiction, or a palatable twisting of truth?

I would begin by gently asking, 'How can you have an opinion on the book's depiction of the Trinity if you haven't read it for yourself?' All you can do is base your opinion not on the book itself but on someone else's opinion (in this case a review by Dr Gary Gilley). If my only knowledge of 'The Shack' came from reading Dr Gilley's review I would certainly be a little anxious about it too. But having read the book first I would have to say Dr Gilley is quite selective in his choice of quotes. I don't really recognise the book or Young's intentions in the words of the review.

Candice, if you do read 'The Shack' for yourself (and I hope you will) may I also suggest you listen to a radio interview with Paul Young in which he tells how and why he came to write the book? I'd be most interested to hear what you think.

Maybe later you could post again on your blog and share your own thoughts about the book and its author. Tell us what you think is good and what you think is not.

I don't believe this book is either 'a harmless work of fiction' or 'a palatable twisting of truth'. I think it's something far more wonderful and amazing, the Lord himself opening his heart to hurting, helpless, humans. Paul Young didn't write it for publication, but Father had other ideas. The full story is there in Paul's interview.

31 January 2009

Henri Nouwen

I was introduced to Henri Nouwen by a dear friend some years ago. She showed me where to A book by Henri Nouwenfind little extracts on the internet and I read them avidly for several years. The collection cycles round annually so eventually they become quite familiar. Even so, I'm still signed up to the mailing list and read them from time to time.

This year she sent a small book in which Philip Roderick asks Henri Nouwen a series of questions. The answers do not disappoint!

You can try the daily extracts for yourself by visiting the website and signing up on the Free eLetters page. The short book (one of many) is called 'Beloved', you can find it online at Amazon or order a copy through any good bookshop.

So why do I like Henri Nouwen's writings so much?

Thoughtful writing - The main reason is that he was such a contemplative believer. He wrote nothing without thinking about it carefully and, one suspects, long. His life was spent in serving others, and sharing in community with them. He lived in a l'Arche community for the mentally handicapped for some years, sharing his life with those who could not care fully for themselves. Everything he said, did, or wrote came from a heart of love, gentleness, and caring.

Most important of all was Henri's deep understanding of the heart of Christ. He knew there was a depth of love and caring in Jesus and in the Father, and that only when that is reflected in our own hearts and lives can we truly claim to be his children. You can get a glimpse of this by watching the video.

Wikipedia has a short article on Henri Nouwen. It provides a basic biographical introduction, some good quotations, and a bibliography.

I recommend Nouwen's writing to anyone who'd like to experience a careful, thoughtful, gentle, loving heart in action. What better way to finish than with a quotation?...

You cannot live in communion with God without living in solidarity with people; it is essentially the same.

15 August 2008

Reimagining Church

I've just finished the preface and introduction of Frank Viola's book 'Reimagining Church'.

Reimagining ChurchIt's a good start so I'm much looking forward to reading the rest of the book. Here in the summerhouse at the end of the garden it's shady and cool and conducive to reading but there are other things waiting to be done - maybe one more chapter then I must put the bookmark in.

So why am I excited to be reading this book?

There are several reasons.

1 - It's the sequel to 'Pagan Christianity' that Frank wrote with George Barna (a book I could hardly put down). This examined the origins and history of the church and describes how things changed until what we think of as church today is barely recognisable as a descendant of what Christ started almost 2000 years ago. The source of the rituals, buildings, emblems, practices, structure, management - it's all there.

'Reimagining Church' picks up where 'Pagan Christianity' left off and considers where (and how) we might move on from here.

2 - This has been my own journey for more than thirty years, much that Frank writes in the early pages of the book ring true in my own experience. He provides quotes from others whose experiences are also much the same. Take this short extract as an example...

As we loved Christ together our hearts were knit with each other. True change was being made in our lives as we were learning of the Lord's eternal purpose. I saw that the church really is Christ's body, and He is the Head. Only as we allow Him to have His rightful place will we experience His life as we were meant to. Church life in this way is the Christian's natural habitat where we grow and flourish, being nourished by all the riches of Christ. I could go on and on because there is so much more!

Wow! Yes! This is absolutely what I feel myself.

3 - It has the loud and persistent ring of truth about it. More than that (here comes some Christian jargon, please excuse me), the Spirit of Christ witnesses with my spirit that truth is being shared. These are things that nobody could invent. They are things that have always been revealed to a few, but now they are opening up in the hearts and minds of many. This is exciting!

4 - It's a practical help and an encouragement to those who are already meeting simply and organically as well as to those who feel something is missing or awry in institutional church.

And finally...

5 - It might open the eyes of some who haven't yet realised there is an alternative to institutional church.

13 August 2008

The 'Eagle and Child'

Previous | Part 2 of a series | Next

The 'Eagle and Child' is a famous old pub in Oxford, often known to the city's students as the 'Bird and Baby'. It serves the usual range of beers, ciders, wines, and spirits along with typical British mainstays like bangers and mash, steak and ale pie and so on.

Its main claim to fame is that it was the meeting place of 'The Inklings', a group of writers active before, during and after the Second World War. 'Who were 'The Inklings'?', I hear you cry! Ah, you will already know some of the names. The pub and the writer's group may not be widely known, but the members included CS Lewis (Narnia) and JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings).

We visited Oxford on 28th July and paid a visit to 'The Eagle and Child'. It's a bit like Dr Who's Tardis, far larger inside than you expect. The street frontage is quite modest, but the pub goes back and back, room opening into room after room. It seems the Inklings met in a sitting room towards the back of the building. But we picked a little snug near the street entrance and ordered ice creams.

What a delight to sit in this place, so full of history and atmosphere. Looking around, it was quite easy to imagine Lewis and Tolkien coming round a corner deep in conversation about a proposed character for a new story.

Those two wrote such good stuff!

Tolkien's great series of books ('Lord of the Rings') about the hobbits and other characters describes a classic struggle between powerful forces for evil and weak, humble, sometimes foolish, homely country folk. The hobbits had no idea at first what they were up against, they had help along the way, mostly unlooked for. In the end they succeeded, not because they were powerful, clever or cunning but because they were weak, honest, and open. The enemy was looking for guile and strength, he overlooked simple folk without power. In the end they slipped through unnoticed, too small for the enemy to trouble with. They were courageous, selfless, and focused.

Lewis' books about Narnia are even better in my opinion. They are direct parables, written for all who will listen - children and adults alike. Tolkien's tale expresses great truths in a rather general way. But Lewis wrote much more specific stories, direct parables in which Jesus is portrayed appropriately as the great lion, Aslan. The evil queen thinks she can carry the day by killing him, yet to her astonishment and dismay he returns to life; death can't hold him, she has misunderstood the ancient law. But Aslan gave his life to rescue the condemned, knowing that everything would be put right and made new as a result.

How fascinating that these two great writers walked these floors, sat in these rooms, ate, drank, and discussed. Their other works are considerable and important. JRR Tolkien was part of the Bible translation team that created the Roman Catholic version known as the Jerusalem Bible. CS Lewis wrote many great books such as 'The Problem of Pain', 'The Four Loves', and 'Mere Christianity'. Both great scholars, both great story tellers, and both knew 'The Eagle and Child' almost as well as they knew their own homes.

It's a privilege to have been there. It's an even greater one to have been there with close friends.

Previous | Part 2 of a series | Next


Creative Commons Licence

© 2002-2022, Chris J Jefferies

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. A link to the relevant article on this site is sufficient attribution. If you print the material please include the URL. Thanks! Click through photos for larger versions. Images from Wikimedia Commons will then display the original copyright information.
Real Time Web Analytics