About August 2002

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in August 2002. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2002 is the previous archive.

September 2002 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

August 2002 Archives

August 1, 2002

John Calvin Meets Martha Stewart: Doing Presbyterian Evangelism in an Age of Cell Phones, Survivor and the Super Wal-Mart

In recent months, we've had the privilege of selling books at several different events. Over recent years, we have come to appreciate our friends in the Penn South East Conference of the UCC, and it was great to be with them at their annual gathering. The next week, I was pleased, as always, to hang out with the CCO new staff for a day; I challenged them to think about campus ministry in light of the Old Testament exile and the need to navigate fidelity like Daniel did in Babylon.

The Jonathan Edwards Institute annual conference in Annapolis is an amazing and significant event, with important authors like T.M. Moore, Os Guinness, David Wells and Bryan Chappell and workshops by good friends (who are also good authors), Drew Trotter, Steve Garber, Denis Haack and Bill Edgar.

The Synod of the Trinity of the Presbyterian Church (USA) had its 50th anniversary, week-long Synod School at Juniata College, and it was my honor not only to sell books, but to do one of the plenary convocation addresses. Synod School is a low-key, intergenerational community that means more and more to me each year.

At Synod School I spoke on a topic which is important to -- and intentionally discussed at -- each of the aforementioned events. In broadest terms, it is the question of the relation of Christ and culture. (Interestingly, both the evangelical and mainline flagship magazines, Christianity Today and The Christian Century respectively, had very helpful articles in recent months about R. Niehbur's important book, Christ and Culture, which has recently been reissued in a 50th anniversary edition. And, happily, Richard Mouw's fabulous He Shines in All That's Fair: Culture & Common Grace continues to garner rave reviews... )

My topic was more than my routine take on Christ and culture, text and context, reading the Word and the world, though. It was quite specifically about evangelism. And how to share the gospel of sovereign grace in a time such as ours, in the milieu of materialism and consumerism, individualism and self-reliance, of fast-paced change, hyperchoice and status. Hence, the title: "John Calvin Meets Martha Stewart: Doing Presbyterian Evangelism in an Age of Cell Phones, Survivor and the Super Wal-Mart."

The bibliographies that follow were designed for this fairly typical mainstream denominational setting. But I dedicate it here to the new staff of the CCO. May they, of all people, reflect upon, study, and enact creative and faithful ways to embody the Kingdom reign of God, erecting signposts pointing towards the New Earth, and regularly inviting others to the community of the King. A whole-life Christian worldview, of course, leads to bold initiatives for Christian witness in every sector of life and society. May such a vision also provide a framework for doing fruitful evangelism. May these books remind you of those who have done good work before us, giving us the insight and tips we need, and may we all find our place as winsome agents of reconciliation, ambassadors of the Spirit-movement called the Kingdom of God.

Before you click on the annotated listings of my favorite recommendations on evangelism and cultural criticism, let me note one wonderful, wonderful book that just came in and didn't make the orginal lists. It is a perfect starter for anyone considering creating a home environment which is open for hospitality and creating a lifestyle that exudes care, kindness, purpose and vision. It is a simple, well-written and altogether lovely book by Andi Ashworth (wife and partner with Christian musician, producer and author, Charlie Peacock-Ashworth) entitled Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring (Shaw, $10.99). This beautiful paperback is an invitation to serve God in the daily chores of home-making and life-making, of offering care for others, of learning to love God, place, calling and, of course, people. What a creative and joy-filled art such service can be for those who use imagination and caring to create space for ministry. This is an intelligent and good defense of deeply human ways of being and a warm antidote to the harsh speed of postmodern culture. A very, very good book!

Now, to the bibliographies:

Books on Evangelism

Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl (Eerdmans). The definitive work on both the history and theology of offering care to others and opening our homes and churches to include strangers. Very important.

Good News & Good Works: A Theology for the Whole Gospel by Ronald J. Sider (Baker). One of our favorite books! This is a serious call and a helpful guide to thinking about wholistic outreach, evangelism with words and deeds, all seen as a joyous witness to the Kingdom of God. Yes!

Lost in America: How You and Your Church Can Impact the World Next Door by Tom Clegg & Warren Bird (Group). This is one of the clearest and most compelling books on evangelism I've read in years! With suggested movies to watch, tons of striking stories and examples, it is a delight to read. Three sections explore changes, choices and challenges. Excellent & highly recom-mended for individuals, small groups or church committees. You won't put it down unchanged.

Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World by Becky Pippert (IVP). Perhaps my favorite book on evangelism, Becky insists on a "friendship" approach. This is a true classic, with great Bible study, breath-taking stories and delightfully humane care. A must-read! Make sure your church library has it (and that folks know about it!).

Conspiracy of Kindness by Steve Sjogren (Servant). The author invites churches to ministries of kindness--free car washes and the like--done simply in the name of Christ. No guilt, low stress, low risk and high grace. Great stories (this stuff really works!) that are truly inspiring.

How to Reach Secular People by George Hunter (Abingdon). An excellent study of cultural shifts, how secularization has influenced us all and creative ways to share the gospel effectively in our current context. A very, very insightful little book. Jam-packed with information, ideas, and very practical suggestions. Highly regarded.

The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs (Crossway). What a resource! Just about the best biblical and theological study, as well as immensely helpful advice about honest, faith-sharing efforts amongst our secularized neighbors. Thoughtful and wise.

More Ready Than You Realize: Evangelism as Dance in the Postmodern Matrix by Brian McLaren (Zondervan). Largely an extended dialogue with a non-Christian e-mail partner, this is one of the very best books which takes postmodern seekers seriously. McLaren eventually crafts a gospel presentation to relate to his friend's deep longings and serious questions, sharing Christ honestly, creatively and forthrightly. Brilliant, sincere and exciting. Wow!

The Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels (Zondervan). With Hybel's typical clarity, innovation, biblical faithfulness and passion, he guides readers towards greater motivation and offers practical help in being a relationally-sensitive friend willing to share the good news of God's love. One of the best--quite clear and useful.

Speaking of Jesus by Mack Stiles (IVP). Loaded with stories, lessons learned, biblical insights and practical tips, this maybe the best handbook for those seriously engaged in faith-sharing. A fun read, this really provides very concrete and detailed ideas.

Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism: Living in a Three-Storied Universe by Walter Brueggemann (Abingdon). This deeply nuanced and often ponderous biblical scholar is always worth reading...slowly. So read him here on evangelism, but be prepared to be immersed in a close and yet open reading of Scripture. He suggests that evangelism includes inviting outsiders in; calling jaded members of the faith community back to fidelity; and passing faith on to a new generation of the young.

Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them by Thom Rainers (Zondervan). The author, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, has done considerable research among the "previously unchurched" and here presents his extraordinary findings. Shows what drew people to church. One reviewer has written, "It's pastoral malpractice to ignore this book!"

Building a Contagious Church: Revolutionizing the Way We Do and View Evangelism by Mark Mittelberg (Zondervan). Who wouldn't want a church to be passionate about effective evangelism? This is a marvelous invitation to--and a practical guide for training in--new ways to share God's great news. Get it for your outreach committee!

The Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending Church in North America edited by Darrell Gruder (Eerdmans). Although the most scholarly book on this list, it is one of the most significant. Edited by a professor of evangelism at a Presbyterian seminary, this is a brilliant, serious and deeply theological work inviting new perspectives on the calling of the church in our own secularized culture. This is nearly brilliant and has been called pioneering. It is surely worth a careful study.

Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community With Good News and Good Works by Ron Sider, Phil Olson & Heidi Rolland (Baker). This is a call to wholistic mission and a wonderful, wonderful presentation of the best examples of such outreach (mostly in the Philadelphia area). It documents those churches doing the very best job of evangelism and social outreach and describes principles nearly any church can apply. Few churches really combine effective ministry in this wholistic way and this book will help us bring immense credibility and integrity to our efforts.

God for the World--Church for the World: The Mission of the Church in Today's World by Shirley Guthrie (Witherspoon Press). A great, six-session, interactive study guide prepared by the PC(USA), discussing Reformed views of mission and evangelization.

Books on Contemporary Culture

Prodigal Hugging Church by Tim Wright (Augsburg). Not an assessment of modern culture, but a brief and joyous case for appreciation of culture and how to engage and use the best of our contemporary context. A solid reminder of the need for relevant engagement. Very solid. And the notion that we embrace and celebrate "prodigals" is nice, too, eh?

Carpe Mañana: Is Your Church Ready to Seize Tomorrow? by Leonard Sweet (Zondervan). Sweet's newest offers 10 "naturalization lessons" for those of us for whom this new hot-wired postmodern world is not the culture of our birth. Classic Sweet, chock-full of stories, examples, statistics, new definitions (even new words), trends and tons of things to do, consider or discuss. Fun, provocative and, even if you only use a portion of it, it is well worth the ride! For a real treat (and perhaps the best way to appreciate his material) check out the SoulTsunami audio tapes. Woo-hoo.

The End of the World as We Know It by Chuck Smith (Waterbrook). Nobody has explained postmodernism as simply as this! Very basic and altogether helpful. For a deeper study, ask us, as there are several important titles we recommend, but for starters, this intro to the cultural shifts away from the "modern" is really good. At last.

No More Front Porches: Rebuilding Community In Our Isolated Worlds by Linda Wilcox (Beacon Hill). A Christian sociologist has given us an insightful invitation to rebuild neighborhoods by reconnecting with one another. A clear critique of the trends towards individualism and fragmentation. Offers clear hope for building "front porches" in today's world. Social commentary doesn't get any clearer than this.

Eyes Wide Open: Finding God in Popular Culture by William D. Romanowski (Brazos Press). The author--a native of Pennsylvania who came to faith through a local Presbyterian outreach (and who served for 12 years on CCO staff)--has given us the very best biblical argument for engaging popular culture. Truly fascinating, insightful and exciting (yep, it is actually fun), this is theologically clear and solid as can be. Fabulous!

Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom & Discernment by Brian Godawa (IVP). An exceptional and brand new study of how movies have shaped our views of life. Written by a Hollywood screenwriter, this is no ivory tower treatise. It is, however, very thoughtful, philosophically learned and worthy of serious consideration. (His Web site and movie suggestions are fabulous resources, too.)

A Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype & Spin by Os Guinness (Baker). An elegant and eloquent essay on the profound nature of truth and the need for a reconsideration of the notion of truth in a culture which has rejected the idea. For many, this will be a rich resource for serious reflection and repeated readings. Guinness is surely one of the finest public intellectuals and a theologically astute observer of the contemporary cultural crisis.

Confident Witness--Changing World: Rediscovering the Gospel in North America edited by Craig Van Gelder (Eerdmans). A serious examination of the radical shift that has reshaped American life and what it means for congregations and their mission...insightful critique and profound reflections on the new challenges. A semi-scholarly, foundational discussion of how our churches can have a greater witness with biblical fidelity. An important volume in the ongoing Christ and Our Culture Series.

Consuming Passion: Christianity and Consumer Culture edited by Rodney Clapp (IVP). A collection of serious essays (a few of which are nearly brilliant). Looks at various ways the ethos of consumption has effected our lives and even our understanding of the gospel itself! Much, much more than a warning against the lure of materialism, this is a study of the whole ethos of consumerism.

Dining With The Devil by Os Guinness (Baker). One need not agree with Dr. Guinness' criticism of "seeker-sensitive mega-churches" to appreciation this keen, clear critique of how the values of the modern world -- technology, choice, change, marketing, growth, image -- have presented unprecedented challenges to the communication of the gospel. His urgent warning that we not adopt these values unwittingly is truly worthy of our utmost consideration.          

Is It a Lost Cause? Having the Heart of God for the Church's Children by Marva Dawn (Eerdmans). Although the subtitle indicates that this may be mostly about children or for Christian educators, this is a radical and clear-headed critique of our cultural values and family habits -- materialism, TV violence, etc. -- and a reminder that the gospel calls us to be a counter-cultural community, different from the world, but for the world. What a wake up call! Truly one of the most important theological voices writing today, this is one of her most challenging and important.

A Beginner's Guide to Crossing Cultures: Making Friends in a Multi-Cultural World by Patty Lane (IVP). There are plenty of powerful books on cultural diversity, various ethnicities and the biblical call for racial justice and reconciliation. This book spells out as well as any the details of actually learning to be comfortable in our diverse and multi-cultural world. Very important amidst our "global village."

Uncommon Decency by Richard Mouw (IVP). As Christians press the claims of Christ across the entire spectrum of society, we must be humble, fair and civil. This astute evangelical Calvinist has learned much about principled proclamation as well as graciousness in the public square. Delightful, challenging and more urgent than ever!