So, thankfully, the best evangelical leaders are full-orbed missional even as they emphasize missionary work. Regardless of your own faith tradition I hope this interests you, and causes you to rejoice. Maybe even to order some of those books I listed.
That evangelicals, especially, are leading the way in fruitful social ethics and passionate mobilization for social justice is certainly one of the great news stories of the last decade. Gabe Lyon's mentions this in his wonderful book The Next Christians (Multnomah; $14.99) how younger Christians want to live out their faith in ways that offer restoration and social change. This is significant. I won't belabor it here, but it wasn't always so. I know. It just wasn't.
But now, it really is the case that most evangelicals are wholistic, concerned about evangelism and service, reaching the unreached and serving the marginalized. Most of us don't do as much as we might, but it evangelical publishers are without a doubt doing the most useful work on this, publishing the most exciting and interesting and helpful resources. Thanks be to God!
As a great example of how evangelicals are getting involved and doing good work on global justice work, consider the Passion gathering last week (the student worship event drawing 60,000 in Atlanta) which also signs people up for work in anti-trafficking initiatives, and raised over 4 million dollars! Please watch this incredibly moving CNN report, and rejoice in such integration of worship and action for justice.
IJM's Gary Haugen is interviewed briefly in the CNN video. I hope you know that we were "early adopters" of his good work against slavery and truly recommend his several important books. (I think in many ways his work became a tipping point, catapulting many young evangelicals into the arena of working for justice and liberation, perhaps in unprecedented ways in the last hundred years.) Gary's latest, by the way, is Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian (IVP; $18.00) and is indicative of so much. Glad to recommend it. Trust me, you won't regret it if you spend time reading, thinking, praying, and tell others about it.
Or, consider the popularity of the up-coming second Justice Conference, this year in Philadelphia. Sure mentors and early friends of mine like Ron Sider (of ESA), Jim Wallis, Tom Sine, Elaine Storkey or Tony Campolo talked about this kind of vision decades ago, relating vibrant Biblical faith and a Godly concern for social justice. And, even now, thoughtful theorists at places like the non-partisan Center for Public Justice (CPJ) help think through policy implications of God's call to order our public square justly. John Stott helped led the way in England, as did friends in Canada at Ottawa's Citizens for Public Justice. But it hasn't caught on in this kind of way until now.
Here is just another example, a wonderful illustration of how this wholistic, Biblical commitment to justice is being articulated so very well among those who are evangelical in their theological tradition. Start: Becoming a Good Samaritan (Zodervan; $29.99 for a DVD/Participants Guide) is quite simply the very best DVD curriculum resource for thinking about being a caring Christian justice-doer. You can read my brief summary from an earlier BookNotes, here. The six week video set includes brief pieces by all sorts of evangelical leaders, some a bit more politically progressive, some a bit more conservative. What a delight to hear the late Chuck Colson and Jim Wallis, Brenda Psalter McNeil and Amy Sherman, Shane Claiborne and Joni Eareckson Tada, John Perkins and Philip Yancey. You get the idea. Yes, as we've noted for decades, now, evangelicals are indeed involved in action for the public good, and the younger generation of evangelicals, especially are particularly interested. By the way, there is a very nice youth edition of this, as well, which we sell. Really good, some of the same format, just a bit different for teens. Love it!
Here are a few (mostly) releases that again illustrate this broad-thinking, wide-ranging, neo-evangelical call to Biblical justice, speaking out on burning contemporary issues, and learning to be God's people faithfully aware and engaged with the needs of the world.
A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision of the Common Good edited by David Gushee (Chalice Press) $24.99 I mentioned this before, reviewed it here, and am happy to again name it as one of the more important resources of this sort. It is very comprehensive, semi-scholarly, urgent. As Ron Sider says on the back "Precisely those who confess that Jesus is true God and true man must always be eager to repent of ways that fallen culture has seduced Christians into abandoning Jesus' radical teaching. This books helps us to that." There are seven good chapters on Kingdom vision, wholistic discipleship, how to construe and promote a responsibly socially-engaged theology -- good reading, for sure! Then there are 15 more chapters, on topics as diverse as the needs of creation and the needs children, from the death penalty to issues of racial reconciliation. These good pieces invite us to show love to particular, marginalized neighbors -- Muslims, the dying, the global poor, etc. -- and how this compassionate neighborliness would lead to redemptive approaches in public life. Can we reduce abortion, overcome global warming, learn to resist consumerism? From Tyler Wigg-Stevenson on abolishing nuclear weapons to David Gushee insisting we stand fast against torture, these position papers are well worth reading, discussing, taking seriously. Too many of us (on the left or right and the big muddled middle) fail to do this kind of reading and research and, agree or not with their conclusion, this is a fabulous book with which to grapple. Very highly recommended.
Sacredness of Human Life: Why an Ancient Biblical Vision is Key to the World's Future David P. Gushee (Eerdmans) $30.00 Fuller Theological Seminary's Glen Stassen says "This is the most significant book I have ever seen about what it really means to say that human life is sacred." Charles Mathewes at UVa says it is "landmark." Jim Wallis of Sojourners says "David Gushee is one of the preeminent Christian ethicists in the country, and his work is important for both those in the academic world and all of us trying to live out obedient and biblical lives." What does this core aspect of a Christian worldview (as related to us from our earliest church sources) have to do with racism, the death penalty, environmental degradation, biotechnology? Jeremy Waldron, of the New York University School of Law notes that on the abortion matter, "even those who disagree with his position will not want to miss the cornucopia of insight he provided and --most strikingly -- the sensitivity and openness of his discussion." Amy Laura Hall of Duke notes that Gushee is "an uncommonly patient writer... I can't wait to teach this book!" In a polarized culture (even with the church) this scholarly, careful, well-argued, civil proposal is very, very helpful. That he invites us to prayerful, intentional practices is icing on the cake. Order it today!
he Prophetic Evangelicals: Envisioning a Just and Peaceable Kingdom edited by Bruce Ellis Benson, Malinda Elizabeth Berry, and Peter Goodwin Heltzel (Eerdmans) $35.00 This enriching, thoughtful collection is the first in what is going to be a very, very impressive series. Here, several evangelical scholar/activists tell their own story of coming to a more wholistic and progressive vision of political life and, importantly, an important Biblical theme or insight that has nurtured them along the way. These theological/Biblical meditations offer some fresh insights, are of a calibre second to none, and set the stage for great conversation and on-going dialogue. When I reviewed this before, I noted the great Rich Mouw blurb saying "These insightful essays speak to significant topics...I hope this volume will be read widely, both by evangelicals and by those who need to see evangelicalism at its best." The men and women represent various streams or traditions within evangelicalism, making this a fairly ecumenical and diverse collection. After this inaugural "Prophetic C
hristianity" volume we have also reviewed the second excellent one Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy Woodley (which I really, really liked, and learned much from) which brings Native insights to the Biblical vision of shalom. How important this is and how interesting! Highly recommended. And there is a new third one (Resurrection City by Peter Hetzel -- look for my fuller review to come, and our announcement that it is surely one of the Best Books of 2012!) Kudos to Eerdmans for this excellent, important indication of the mature work serious evangelicals are making for the common good. Meaty and solid and creative writing -- you should know these!
Nurturing the Prophetic Imagination edited by Jamie Gates & Mark H. Mann (Wipf & Stock) $29.00 These editors teach at Point Loma Nazarene University where Gates is Director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation. This book celebrates and seeks to build upon the legacy of Walter Brueggemann's seminal work The Prophetic Imagination. Those who have worked through that important book should know it, even if it is challenging and provocative. (I often say it took me reading it three times to "get it" and it continues to be one of my most cherished books.) The question of this book revolves around how we help others read the Bible in a way that helps us engage the call to be prophets, denouncing the idols of the culture, speaking wisely into the spirit of the age, learning to take stands in favor of the ways of the Lord. Brueggemann seems to wonder in his book how the Biblical prophets got to be like that, able to even imagine a covenantal fidelity that was so bold and subversive? The question remains for us. How do we discern God's work in the world? How do we form character and courage to be people of hope?
There are four portions to this fascinating and diverse book. The first few chapters are a "Primer on the Prophets" (one of these sets the stage as it dialogues with Brueggeman's own views; one is on the Older Testament prophets, one on "Prophetic Imagination in Matthew" and a fourth on the vision of German Lutheran and liberationist Dorothee Soelle. (Did I mention that these were presented firstly among Nazarene folk? Wow!) The next part is called "Open Our Eyes" and includes a variety of authors (including, curiously, the famous Philadelphia author Michael Eric Dyson) reflecting on topics such as racism in higher education, "Unmasking the Gods of the Marketplace" and a study of whether "fair trade" practices are adequate. The third part ("Refuse to Be Consoled") includes pieces by Emmanuel Katongole, Kathleen Norris, and---yes! a chapter on the prophetic imagination of singer-songwriter, Bruce Cockburn entitled "Rumours of Glory." The final part, includes some wonderful essays as well, under the theme of "A Eucharistic People." How good to see a piece on world missionaries, on World Relief's work and a very interesting interview with Bill McKibben. The final chapter, which I have yet to ponder, is called "missiology as ecclesiology." Nurturing a Prophetic Imagination, indeed. That a small and historically conservative Protestant denomination could invite these diverse authors into a project relating deep Biblical themes with the manifest brokenness and needs of our time, inviting us to re-imagine, to care, to lament, and to be broken and poured out for the world, well, this is just extraordinary. Thing is, these days, it isn't really. This book is a great example of the good (ecumenical) conversations happening all over the body of Christ. (And, interestingly, Brueggemann's work often comes up.) What a curious, stimulating book, and what rich, rich conversations.
Leadership Revolution: Developing the Vision & Practice of Freedom & Justice John Perkins & Wayne Gordon (Regal) $14.99 This is a stand-out book, readable and interesting and very inspiring. From any publisher it would surely be one of the best of the year. It is notable, I think, that Gospel Light is an old-school, mainstream evangelical press, and the tend to be charismatic. Yet, this famous, older African-American leader (as fun and feisty and revolutionary as ever) and his white, experienced, urban ministry friend, Wayne Gordon, hold forth in ways that are anything but traditionally mainstream. These guys are outside of the box thinkers, doing innovative work to alleviate poverty, re-claim broken down infrastructures, and working hard to mentor leaders who can (a la 2 Timothy 2:2, perhaps) mentor others. They've focused for decades on community development work, which includes not only socio-economic initiatives and spiritual formation, disciple-making ministries. It has included intentional efforts at leadership development. These stories are thrilling, grounded in the grace of the gospel, and a perfect example of the vast ramifications of what we often call, often glibly, servant leadership. This is a "how to" book on creating disciples and in it, as Bill Hybels writes they "take servant leadership to a level I have rarely seen demonstrated." If there has been a shift within evangelicalism within our lifetime (as I have maintained) it is in no small part due to the relentless, Biblical and justice-heavy messages and projects of John Perkins. This is how to get the job done, raising up the next generation of justice-minded leaders. See another short review I did at my Capitol Commentary column over at CPJ.
The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Zondervan) $14.99 Again, this is a very good example of the sorts of healthy, provocative books coming out these days by socially radical authors (who are, dare I say, infused with prophetic imagination.) It is wondrous that Zondervan does these kinds of books these days, and promotes them with some gusto. (It was nearly a watershed moment, I think, when they released the first Shane Claiborne book in early 2006, the still popular Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Shane wrote the lively forward to this good new book; he and Jonathan were friends in their student years at Eastern College.) I don't know if many conservative evangelical churches are attracted to what they call the new monastic movement, but I do know that this book shares the content and vision of the new monastics in the language of ordinary church folks -- conversational, inspirational, upbeat, and -- importantly -- Biblical. It includes lots of stories from their own respective faith communities, people living in community as hopeful agents of Christ, practicing new things for the sake of the world.
The Awakening of Hope is less about public policy or the common good than about what, at least, the church is called to be. It is a very important contribution. Why do many younger evangelicals want church to be a real, lived community, why is serving the poor central to new visions of outreach, how do we become people who are reconciled across ethnic, gender or class divides so that we can be agents of reconciliation in the world? What does prayer have to do with politics? Why is eating (and fasting) so important to sustainable, radical discipleship? Drawing on often beautiful, very interesting, truly important theological writers of the previous generation such as Mennonite pacifist John Howard Yoder, the Episcopalian lawyer William Stringfellow and the theologically conservative Catholic Worker Dorothy Day, these young Baptists bring energy and breadth to their books ---their writing just naturally flows out of their lives and work and prayer together. They read remarkable stuff and live it out with grace and courage. This should give us all great hope, and that they describe their view of the church in these ways is remarkable. The Awakening of Hope is not the final work on being a missional community, but it is a very solid book for our times.
Jonathan and Shane also released a video curriculum, The Awakening of Hope DVD (Zondervan; $26.99.) This energetic six- week resource is great, if your group might like the casual and counter-cultural vibe of these guys. I think it is perfect for open-minded small groups, adult Sunday school classes, campus ministry groups and others who want to engage in good reflections about being the body of Christ, living faithfully, and seeing how our work as intentional faith communities can spill over into our social and political lives. There are great cameos from a number of good folks, both famous, and from their local communities. I guarantee you will will generate some good discussion. Order it from us and tell us what you think! I'm all ears! Does this generate good conversation in your congregation? Are you surprised by their down-home, "ordinary" radical vision of discipleship?
Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What he Said Tony Campolo and Shane Clairborne (Nelson) $22.99 You may have heard of the "Red Letter" movement. The name came when a non-practicing Jewish media guy was perplexed by Campolo, who he was interviewing. Tony was differentiating himself from the politics of some well known religious right leaders. In trying to explain that he thought that Jesus' words had political weight and implication -- you know, like love your enemy, take care of the poor, the obvious stuff -- the radio guy asked if those were the words in red in the Christian Bible. You're like "Red Letter Christians" then, he declared. The name stuck, although, of course, it is not without its problems: all the words of Scripture are important, after all. In this fiesty new book, Tony and Shane draw on the whole counsel of God to get to their decidedly Jesusy perspectives on issues, so they themselves wouldn't want to ignore the whole Biblical narrative. Anyway, this is a heckuva book. It is so energizing and fascinating to have Tony and Shane in conversation, talking about all manner of concerns, celebrating the insights they've shared, debating some finer points, wondering together where their "red letter" discipleship will take them. Agree or not with one or the other, love or find wanting either or both, this is a fabulous conversation to listen in upon, and a book well worth reading. I could hardly put it down, and was reminded how much I like both of these guys. Come on, I dare ya.
Scroll through some of Shane & Tony's Red Letter Christian internet TV program and see some of the interesting folks who he interviews. Many of these folks are good authors, most are examples of the sorts of wholistic missional perspectives we are celebrating. Go!
Liberty to the Captives: Our Call to Minister in a Captive World Raymond Rivera (Eerdmans) $18.00 Ray has been on the radar of many national leaders and his good work at the Bronx-based Latin Pastoral Action Center is properly respected. He's got a great personal testimony here, theological chops for sure, and a robust vision of social engagement based on the full gospel. Jim Wallis, who follows these sorts of wholistic ministries all over the world, notes that "Ray should be considered an elder statesman in the world of social justice. He has mentored thousands of pastors, activists, and faithful followers for many years. John Perkins simply says that "This book needs to be read...it is relevant to the church at this moment. Read this book!" This includes wise material about engaging and confronting the principalities and powers that keep your own community in captivity, and how to break out of narrowness of vision into full Christian liberty. For ministers and leaders, obviously, but a great read for any of us. In a stirring afterword, he invites us to do battle with the Goliaths within our church and culture, and to take up the "lessons and principles" he shares, and "apply them to y our own life and calling." He notes that it will not be easy. But, he reminds us, "Christ is sufficient." This is gospel goodness, radical and true.
he Just Church Jim Martin (Tyndale) $14.99 This exceptional work is co-produced by IJM, where Martin works as vice president of church mobilization. He know what it means to help congregations live out the mandate of Isaiah 1:17 and here offers not only good insight into God's heart for justice, but practical ways typical congregations can take steps to be more active and strategically involved in making a difference. Of course your church wants to make disciples. But shouldn't learning to be just and agents of social transformation be a natural part of being a disciple? There need not be a dichotomy between justice and discipleship, and churches need to help nurture wise, responsible, global citizens. As the subtitle puts it on the front cover: "Becoming a Risk-taking, Justice-seeking, disciple-making Congregation." Cool, huh? I can't tell you how good this is, how useful, wise, helpful. Thank goodness for the common sense and uncommon guts of leaders who help us get there, taking "next steps" to understand, care, and get active. As one reviewer said, this book is "a great road map from apathy to action." I hope somebody at your church is reading it. If not you, maybe you could get it and share it with a person who cares about these things. Thanks.
The Samaritan Project Rob A. Fringer & Jeff K. Lane (House Studio) $14.99 Again, I could write pages about the importance of this book, but list it here not only because it is a great resource for personal growth or small group discussion, but also because it is indicative of this great trend of evangelicals who are on the cutting edge of service to the poor. These authors write out of their experiences and invite us as readers into this journey of Biblical faithfulness, raw discipleship, taking up the call to be our brothers and sisters keeper. Like much of what House Studio produces, this is an artfully created, interesting book, inviting us to ponder, to consider, to seek answers. They are clear that it is not about telling you what to do, but helping you process the implications of this most famous of Biblical parables. The book itself is creative and evocative, and very appealing to younger readers. From the graphic design to the open-ended questions to the cool pull quotes and experiential suggestions, it has an edge and appeal that isn't often found in more traditional publishers. Who is your neighbor? Can you enter in to that story? This is a wonderful little books to help you and yours answer those questions!
A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor Chris Seay (Baker) $13.99 You may recall how we have raved in the past several years about the excellent, interesting, and very helpful Advent Conspiracy DVDs. Chris was one of the founders and principle characters in that project and we so respect his gracious way of inviting us into the story of the gospel, living in God's abundance and rejecting the ways of consumer culture. Not unlike this book, the AC doens't just grump about the problems of materialism, but offers us new ways to practice gift-giving and offers space to ponder ways to be more relational, more stewardly, more joyful, more caring. So, this book and DVD -- use one or both -- is somewhat like a "Lenten Conspiracy" (my phrase, not theirs) and is written literally about fasting, about entering the desert, about being intentional about solidarity with those who are most hurting in this hungry world. Some of it is colorfully filmed in the deserts of the holy land regions. Lysa TerKeurst (who wrote the popular spiritual self help book about food and dieting, Made to Crave) writes that it is a "realistic, honest, and compassionate treasure. A Place at the Table is a journey of surrender to God that will usher us to transformed living." Some of us have been anti-hunger activists or donors for decades. Some of us have longed to related spiritual disciplines with are concern for the poor, for justice. I have rarely seen a resource so useful, to deeply spiritual, and so inviting into this journey of care for the poor. Again, we can only thank God that the Holy Spirit is moving in these ways and that evangelical authors, pastors, and publishers are offering such socially engaged, helpful tools. Thanks to Compassion International and Living Water for their help with this project. Check out trailer for the DVD here, and order from us if you'd like. We've got 'em!
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