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: