HUMOR ME BY READING THIS QUINTESSENTIAL BORGER RUMINATION
OR SKIP TO THE TWO NEW REVIEWS
Everybody wants to find purpose and passion and meaning these days, and many church folks—inspired by many good speakers, conferences, books, websites and blogs—see this search for meaning and the desire to leave a legacy as integrally related to the call of Jesus the Risen Lord to “follow me.” Jesus didn’t say that he came in order to take us to heaven for everlasting bliss, but to recruit working witnesses to the salvage operation He was doing in and of the world; His gospel was “the gospel of the Kingdom.” To realize that following Jesus as ambassadors of His Kingdom and that that is a story which is bigger and better than the American dream is said more often these days, and I think our old tune is getting played more and more. Thanks be to God. I think more folks these days realize that we are to discover meaning and purpose and direction and joy by making much of God, by serving His world, in every area of society and culture; fewer and fewer church folks want a nominal faith that doesn’t have real-world traction. I think this desire for faith to really matter, to hunger for an awakening that helps us make a difference in the world seems to be the case across the theological and denominational spectrum; we hear this from Russ Douthart to Diana Butler Bass, from John Piper to Jim Wallis, all in their own way calling us to a search for a meaningful, intelligent faith that has fruitful implications for our life in the world. As you might guess, we are glad to offer books for this journey, fuel for the fire.
For way too long, in too many faith traditions, this very human task of making meaning, of determining the viability of the story we find ourselves in, however, has been oddly disconnected from our heart-felt professions at church, our heart-felt proclamations in worship. You may recall that line from Death of a Salesman, about the fellow that “dreamed the wrong dreams.” Sadly, some still attend church, claiming a faith for their personal lives, but are living in their public lives as if that story isn’t really true, or has no necessary implications for “the real world.” We dream the wrong dreams, arrange our lives in light of the wrong story. There has been a disconnect, based on a dualism: Sunday does not connect with Monday; religion doesn’t really relate, it just comforts us in our private lives, in our heart, as they say. As I said, I think this is changing.
Some of the books we’ve reviewed here over the years have helped (we have been told) as folks see that faith is to be integrated into all of life, that Christ is Lord of each zone of human activity, public and private. Some authors really are helping people see the natural connection between creation (life in the world), our fallenness (our idols and brokenness, sins and stupidity) and redemption (the promised restoration Christ brings to the entire cosmos.) You’ve heard us quote Abraham Kuyper’s “every square inch” phrase; we were “early adopters” of that Kuyperian worldview. Still, there are those who don’t quite realize that Christ does indeed claim “every square inch” so we continue on, talking, inviting folks to deeper considerations, naming authors who help us unpack this in one way or another. Christian faith does help us relate to all of life in new ways. From Barbara Brown Taylor to Leslie Newbigin, from Francis Schaeffer to Brian McLaren, from Dallas Willard to Tim Keller, Margo Starbuck to C. S. Lewis, Miroslov Volf to Phyllis TIckle, each in their own way help us piece things together — so many authors, read with discernment, can help us make sense of faith in a way that speaks to “hearts and minds” and allows faith to be big enough to frame and direct the unfolding of each aspect of our lives.
Recently, we’ve noticed a lot of books that happily encourage people to see their faith as more than a “Sunday” thing. I’m all for that, as you can tell, but it is growing tiresome, all these uplifting promises of a grand life, a meaningful life, a big life, this call to take faith to the next level, to be great, big, mighty. This new genre seems big on vision, but frankly meager on substance. Everybody is writing about making a difference, standing up, living for the gospel. Don’t Waste Your Life (John Piper), Radical (Richard Platt) Crazy Love (Francis Chan) and Not a Fan (Kyle Idleman) are among the better of these feisty calls to serious discipleship (although none have the staying power of, oh, say, The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer or the reasonable, sound books by John Stott.) So many recently popular books are just kicking us in the collective backside, chiding us to get going, live large, trust God for miracles and in faith set our sails. We can do this! Be great! Make a difference! Life in light of eternity! God will help you find your destiny! Blah, blah, blah.
DOES THE CHURCH REALLY HELP PROFESSIONALS AND OTHER WORKERS?
Again, I am glad that people are seeing that faith is lived out in the here and now, day by day. People are less likely these days to talk about their “personal, private” faith as if it doesn’t impact their work, voting, or entertainment choices. Still, there is that disconnect out there, a sense that what we do outside of the walls of the church is somehow not as important as churchy stuff. And that is what I think we should be vigilant about, read up one, dig deep into.
Indeed, just for instance, one recent book helpfully documents how many business people and those who work in the corporate world feel ignored (or even betrayed) because it seems that their church and pastor don’t seem to care much about equipping them to live faithfully in their complex, significant working lives. See: How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can Be Done About It) by John C. Knapp (Eerdmans; $15.00.) This is a very important new book, and I think may be more important in the long run than a dozen of the big name popular books calling us to high-energy, mega-church, big-time visions of making a difference. It is written by a person who has worked in the business world, and is also a theologian, helping the church bridge the divide, so to speak, between worship and work, between church and world. Here is a nice youtube clip of the author explaining about the book. It isn’t off-the-charts spiffy, not a lot of hip bluster, just good, solid reporting of how the ethos of many congregations seems indifferent to the public lives of most members.
Rousing cheerleading type books promising great joy in making a difference for God can only take us so far. More “basic Christian living” books aren’t enough; restating that the gospel is all we need isn’t enough. Formulaic books about church renewal aren’t enough. We need a better analysis of what went wrong (with this dualistic disconnect) and how we got hoodwinked into the secularism of our age, and how a truly Christian worldview can help us discover coherent lifestyle in the real world, imagining our lives in audacious ways that are, yet, grounded, informed, plausible.
UNDERSTANDING THE TIMES
Going a bit deeper, then, there are complicated historical and philosophical reasons for this painful disconnect, this gaping dichotomy in the religious imagination of so many (on both the left and the right, the mainline churches and the evangelical ones.) There are serious books that explain the history of the sacred vs secular dualisms that cause us to compartmentalize our faith into one corner of our life, that help us realize where we’ve gone wrong and what to do about it, in ways that are consistent with the apostolic tradition and the historic tenants of the faith. (That is, we don’t need to jettison the core convictions, as some say, or deconstruct historic orthodoxy.) Diagnosing the foundational problem, the root problem, is important. I think The Transforming Vision: Developing a Christian Worldview by Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton (IVP; $16.00) is still one of the very best books to help us with this very thing. I wish more of us, Hearts & Minds friends, fans, and BookNotes readers, had this telling of this tale under our communal belts. It would help, I think, to share (or at least to be well aware of) the interpretive moves Walsh & Middleton make to understand why privatizing faith isn’t faithful, and why western culture’s service of idols and ideologies of the Enlightenment, deformed and demoralized not only the culture, but the church as well. To see how they pick up the story in an even more complex way, taking it into the 21st century, see their magnificent Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age (IVP; $22.00.) This is one of the best books for serious thinkers trying to make sense of the cultural drifts in our times, and how faithful followers of Jesus can live into His ways even in a hyper-modern hot-wired technological culture.
I think, by the way, that these two books are very good to read prior to, or alongside, the recently popular stuff about the “prophetic imagination” by Walter Brueggemann—stuff like Out of Babylon (Abingdon; $14.99) or Journey to the Common Good (Westminister/John Knox.) Heck, Brueggemann’s old book The Bible Makes Sense (St. Anthony Messenger Press; $10.95)) starts off with two different sorts of worldviews, two life-stories that most of us tend toward, that explain our role in Western culture differently, and how those predispositions will effect how we read our Bibles. Good stuff.
More inspirationally I’d say, but equally profound, is an all-time favorite, Os Guinness’ The Call: Finding and Fulfilling Your Life’s Purpose (Nelson; $17.99) which, again, is a book we come back to again and again, when we want to help customers realize how faith is a big, exciting, drama, and discerning our role in it all is part of our life’s task. Guinness shows, in lovely and elegant meditations, with remarkable illustrations and examples from the worlds of science and literary, poetry and art, politics and commerce, how living fully for Christ in all areas of life—and then finding one’s own “secondary calling” which is our own particular sense of vocation—is what is taught in the Bible, even if we don’t hear it enough in most churches. “My utmost for His highest” indeed!
Did you know that Os the prominent sociologist and cultural critic was named for the passionate preacher and devotional writer, Oswald Chambers (who wrote My Utmost for His Highest?) Again, Guinness is always important to read (and he has a new book coming soon), not least this classic book on calling. His description of how the gospel impacts “everyone, everywhere, in everything” is so helpful; he has a chapter telling of how some 16th century priests locked the doors of their church so that people would stop feeling like they had to come back to church each day, that their real mission in life was to serve God in the real world. His very moving story about an Irish farmer plowing such beautiful rows is such a testimony to the power of a seamless simple life, lived well before God. This book is important because of the good ground it covers, it’s nicely written style, and the helpful stories that illustrate these profound, essential truths.
I’ve told you before about Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy Sherman (IVP; $16.00.) This is not the place to restate in detail the many strengths of this valuable book, but I note it just to remind you that there is a renaissance these days of rich and thoughtful books about calling and career, and about social change and the common good. This is a book that every church leader should have in his or her lending library as it lays out not only a robust theology of the common good, and a serious study of notions of vocation and calling, but also because it–unlike quite any book I know–calls for lay folks to really make a difference in their workplace, as servants, leaders, whistle-blowers, reformers, or creative social innovators. It affirms a “bloom where you’re planted” approach, but offers other pathways toward making a Kingdom difference in the local economy. How exciting to have these several models explained and explored, offering dreams and visions of how we can make a difference, how we can steward the ideas of vocation and calling, into actual service for human flourishing. I’m thankful for Ms Sherman’s astute approach and her very inspiring case studies. What a good resource this is!
Recently, one of the most talked about books in this whole arena of worldview formation, discerning vocation, living out the calling of God into all of life is James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (BakerAcademic; $21.99.) Every few years (heck maybe only once a decade or so) a book comes along that is a real must-read for thoughtful Christians, that is shaping the conversation in significant ways, in deed, that alters the conversation in significant ways. I have argued before that Smith’s book (the first of a three part series) is one of those kind of very significant and generative books. It is a serious read, demanding (he is a professor of philosophy, after all) but important. To be informed about the nature of faith and discipleship and cultural engagement these days one simply must be aware of DtK.
Smith is often cited and discussed much these days although not every agrees with all of his views. As with any vanguard author, there are reviews that are glowing, sometimes he is considered with circumspect. He reminds us that the transforming vision, the call of the Lord Jesus (to link two previously-mentioned books, which is my little rhetoric pleasure here, not that Jamie does this overtly) are not just matters of “seeing” or “hearing.” In deed, we must embody the faith, we must learn the habits of heart that come from thick, meaningful litanies. What rituals shape your imagination most—your trip to church on Sunday morning, say, or your trips to the mall or the sports arena or multiplex or grocery store? Don’t those “secular litanies” inform us and train us to “see” and “hear” the world in certain ways? Walsh & Middleton, Brueggemann, and Os Guinness, too, are very valuable, but we need Smith’s powerful insights about the influence of the world’s formative habits on our (embodied) discipleship.
Not, however, to escape the world, but to be aware, and to find a counter-narrative, a better story, more wise and durable liturgies, that can shape our heart’s desires so we “hunger and thirst after righteousness” and live to be an agent of the King. Desiring the Kingdom is really an amazing book.
Here, by the way, is a rambling, honest, interesting conversation with Jamie about a whole lot of things, interviewed on American Public Media by Krista Tippett. If you like to listen to articulate conversation while you’re at your computer, this really is very nice. It isn’t about the DtK book, which wasn’t written at the time of this interview, but it illustrates why we like him.
I don’t have to tell our readers that one of the important contributions of the British Biblical scholar — and H&M pal — N. T. Wright is exactly related to these themes: he explains that the gospel accounts tell us of a Jesus who was the long-awaited Messiah and liberator of ancient Israel, who came to announce and inaugurate a Kingdom come “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” I can’t say enough about the last two important Wright books, Simply Jesus (HarperOne; $24.95) and How God Became King (HarperOne; $25.95) which both open up this theme consistently in light of careful study of the gospels. We find our meaning not in just ramping up our enthusiasm for God, but by wisely finding our place in His coming Kingdom, by discerning our calling, knowing that it is something other than the conformed imaginations of the North American ideologies, value-systems, and ways of thinking. (Cue in Romans 12:1-2 here, please.) We need a transforming vision and transformed lives, renewed minds and embodied faith! But somehow, this means we have to be more intentional and knowledgeable about what the Bible teaches about creation, covenant, Israel, Christ, church, mission, and new creation. N.T. Wright has a great gift, and knowing his work will be life changing for some, I am sure. Read these two books this summer—you’ll be glad you did! They are thoughtful and meaty, but not too academic or arcane. Perfect!
Well, this is heavy stuff for a weekend, eh?
Sorry to be pondering all this, but I gave a talk a few days ago to a group of graduate students (in the Higher Education Degree (HED) Program Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA) who are grappling with these very matters as they attempt to think about serving God well in higher education (including in the informal networks and places that fall under the rubric of student affairs.) They, themselves, as professionals in higher education, want to have a Kingdom vision, and live out a Kingdom calling, in their vocations in institutions of higher learning, and they want to be an influence among the students with whom they work. It was a privilege to ponder with them stuff like Steve Garber’s profound book that wonderfully raises these life-long questions—The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP; $16.00) or the easy-to-read but very, very good The Next Christians by Gabe Lyon, now out in paperback with a new chapter on civility (Multnomah; $14.99.) As you might guess, the very good, and very helpful, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman (Baker; $17.99) came up, and I highly recommended it for anyone who works with younger adults. A bit more specialized, I showed them what I take to be the best book for understanding young adults, Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Formation, Richard Dunn & Jana L. Sundene (IVP; $18.00.) What a wonderfully written, lovely, provocative book.
I naturally suggested that these folks who run dorms and student clubs and who work under the student affairs deans at their various colleges, use Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Living by Derek Melleby (Baker; $12.99) since it offers guidance about these very things for those transitioning from high school to college. You know we think it is ideal for anyone just out of high-school, making their way to college, although it’s a good read for any first year collegiate, for that matter. Derek, you see, has himself been somewhat informed by the sorts of things I’ve noted above, perhaps even by the likes of Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton, Walter Brueggemann, Jamie Smith, Os Guinness, N.T. Wright. You don’t have to have read any of those authors (let alone agree with them all) to appreciate Make College Count, but it is interesting that Melleby took these big ideas and teased out some of the implications for adolescents making their way to young adulthood. I think it is remarkably good, and glad that I got to give it a shout out while at this HED program.
So I talked at Geneva College about some of my favorite Bible passages, told a few stories about decisive moments in my own life when I came to increasing awareness about the relevance and reforming and restoring power of Jesus’ Kingdom teaching. I called on them to take up their vocations as professionals in higher education by reading widely and thinking deeply about all the issues that come up in their own settings and context. Which is why I’m now reminding you of a few of these pretty foundational books that make up our story here at Hearts & Minds, the kind of take on things we are most excited about and most commend to you, our friends and supporters.
We think these are the kinds of books that are most fruitful and valuable for most of the churches, college fellowships, Bible studies or small affinity groups that we know of. More cheerleading for passion, more insistence we should engage culture, more enthusiasm alone is not enough. We need quiet empowerment by the Spirit of God and we need well rooted in good reading and sophisticated analysis of the crisis of faith in our times. I love the ones I mentioned above. But wait, there’s more.
Perhaps here is yet another way into this heavy conversation: think of the ways that evangelicals recently have been encouraging followers of Jesus to think of their role as humans made in the image of a Creator-God, folks who, in small and larger ways, are invited to create, steward, and enhance human flourishing and our shared culture. We are made to be involved in making the world a better place, being creative, engaged, as we say nowadays.
No one book indicates this shift better than (again) one that is a personal favorite, written by a friend and hero of mine, a journalist and author named Andy Crouch. I know you know about our appreciation for Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (IVP; $23.00) as we have promoted it often. We have shown this book at church conference, amongst college groups, to artists and social reform groups and ordinary churches. We do so again, here, as part of this reflection about why we need foundational, solid, readable books that can help us find coherence and Biblical guidance for all of life; we think it is one of books on the short list of titles that will help the recent interest in purpose and passion get grounded, be effective, going beyond fluff to substance. I can’t say how very important I think this one is, and how foundational this book is to the story we are trying to tell here at Hearts & Minds. If you haven’t read it, we suggest it heartily. Besides it being a helpful book about being engaged in doing meaningful work and contributing to the common good, it also illustrates the caliber of the conversation we’ve come to appreciate in recent years. It is nicely written (Crouch is an excellent journalist and very, very smart) but has a light touch. It isn’t overly academic. Three cheers!
MAKO FUJIMURA: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO MAKE TODAY?
Although he doesn’t cite Andy Crouch, he could have. This recent talk by the acclaimed artist, Makoto Fujimura, the video clip offered below, is a fabulous way into this conversation about learning to see Christian faith as somehow more than a Sunday morning religion, but a living relationship with Christ that compels us to be creative, to social concern, learning to be “salt and light” in the secularized, pluralistic culture. Yes, this worldviewish way of life I’m ruminating upon is well captured by IAM founder, painter and cultural organizer, Mako. We here at H&M have all of Mako’s books; his most famous is Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture (NavPress; $24.99) and it is truly one of the most precious books we’ve sold in our 29 years here in Dallastown. His “refractions” journal entries are wise and interesting and beautiful and good. If we are going to get all fired up about cultural engagement, as so many books and websites and movements now insist, we sure better be passing out books like this, so folks know what it looks like to take faith into the artistic marketplace.
Listen to Mako Fujimura, who gave a very thoughtful invitation to graduates of Bioloa University in their recent commencement ceremony. He invites students to ask “What will you make today” but he does not say it cheaply. Mako links the (transgressive) effort of being creative to, also, the suffering of 9-11, and to our own opportunity to think about our contribution to the world. Mako embodies as an artist and as a public thinker some of these same themes of calling, passion for gospel transformation, cultural renewal and distinctly Christian thinking about our vocation in the world. This really is a fine, sober, and very interesting address; the host’s introduction is a bit long, but very nicely done, as well. Enjoy!
THESE ARE IMPORTANT AND GENERATIVE
Okay, I’ve laid out a way of thinking about faith and discipleship and culture that suggests we would be better equipped if we read important books about worldview and calling, about “the fabric of faithfulness” and being attentive to the shape of our desires and longings, as we see ourselves as culture makers, serving the common good. These sorts of books are generative and important: they are the books that have been influential for many of the folks I most esteem. They are proven and transforming, at least to those who want to dig a bit deeper and broader. I am confident that they will go a long way beyond the sorts of “cheer-leading” books that are popular these days, that just say that we should live with passion and abandon for God, but don’t really offer much substance or insight. And they are broader than those that are merely engaged in the project of getting theology re-done (either as liberals or conservatives.) We need some handles and models of what it all means and what it looks likes, and these books provide just the needed backdrop for lasting renewal and reformation in our day.
Yet, another way many authors, preachers, and faith-based pundits are exploring how honoring the Lordship of Christ should be an all-encompassing way of life, a way of seeing and perceiving, a way of being and a way of living, is less by talking about worldview and wholistic, embodied living, but just by ramping up the call to discipleship and the implications of that. They (and here is the somewhat new and essential twist) explain discipleship as missional. Not as a formula for personal growth, or for every-increasing interest in the church, or even as the process of being changed into Christlikeness in our innermost selves–although any gospel-center vision will, of course, have that impact, described very well by Jerry Bridges in, say, Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love (Navpress: $14.99.) Missional discipleship is on the move, active, multi-dimensional. We are hearing now that discipleship is essential outward, being sent, being agents, ambassadors, life-long learners in the Way; discipleship is a journey, a walk into life with others and God for the sake of others. We are being invited to not only practice spiritual disciplines, but to embrace new practices of living. This vision is insisting that discipleship means we are all on a mission from God. Get on those Blue’s Brother’s shades, and join the adventure: no longer dare we suggest that just missionaries are missionaries. In the missional age, we are all missionaries. We are, as Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi say, “on a mission from God.”
I’ve mentioned before books that take the “missional church” approaches for congregations, and apply those models to daily discipleship. This is a notable trend in the last year or so, and there are numerous studies of this.
For instance, this powerful trio of books is very, very important, written by authors who have been innovative, pioneer leaders—the Blues Brothers of the missional church movement, I’d say.
You should know Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship by Alan and Debra Hirsch (Shapevine / Baker;$14.99) and Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People by Alan Hirsch & Lance Ford (Shapevine / Baker; $14.99) or The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure and Courage by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch (Shapevine / Baker; $16.99.)
These are very, very important books, exciting, to be sure, but also rooted in
transformational theory, insights about cultural shifts, and awareness of what sort of practices allow us to be effective in bearing witness to the work God is doing among us.
This new publishing imprint (Shapevine) specializes in this serious stuff. In other words, they are, at times, a bit heady, and rooted in very solid theory. For those who like meaty stuff, they really, truly, are essential reads. They are based on earlier “missional church” thinking, and apply those philosophies of church life to our life in Christ as leaders in the Kingdom.
TWO NEW, WONDERFUL, EASY-TO-READ, INSPIRING, HELPFUL, BOOKS ON MISSIONAL DISCIPLESHIP ON THE LIKEWISE IMPRINT
But, having said all that, and offering that overview of some important resources to enhance your missional vision for daily discipleship, here is what I am most excited to tell you about. Here are two fantastic books about this whole “missional living” – whole life discipleship, active, engaged, servanthood lifestyle. They are both fairly new, and I fully love them both. I applaud the Likewise imprint of InterVarsity Press for bringing to us these sorts of upbeat, exciting, and challenging resources. (We carry all the Likewise books in their whole line, by the way.) I hope many folks order these two, share them with others, helping us cast a vision for people learning to live missionally, radically, in and for Christ, in acts of daily discipleship. Read these, order them, share them. They are fun and worthwhile. And better than a lot of the “same old, same old” stuff. They are visionary and practical and astute, more than just cheerleading or offering cheap formulas.
Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World Leroy Barber (IVP) $15.00 First, the cool news: this has a retro cover with a goofy car heading over a map, the type font screaming as if a vintage movie poster for a 1940s horror show. What fun. Okay, there’s that. Now to the great news.
This book is great! It should be taken seriously as one of the most important and helpful and truly good books of the year. Leroy is a hero to many of us, a friend, in fact, to so, so many, but yet he isn’t exceedingly well known as an author (yet.). If this book were on a super famous publisher and issued in hardback with an oh-so-classy dust jacket, it might be taken more seriously—but that isn’t how Leroy rolls. He’s down to earth, fun-loving, keeping it real. But he is also a bundle of energy. Barber is an urban activist, cultural innovator (he started an upscale looking coffee shop in his urban Atlanta ‘hood) and an African American leader. He’s the President of the rightly-famous Mission Year, overseeing their several houses of young adults living simply in service in some of the nation’s worst ghettos, although before that he started Restoration Ministries in Philadelphia, and, more recently, founded the Atlanta Youth Academies. Barber is esteemed amongst the best urban workers in the country, from Bob Lupton to Shane Claiborne. He’s been on main stage at events from Catalyst to Jubilee, Q to the annual conferences of CCDA.
We have promoted his first book, which is an exceptionally handsome small book full of artful b/w photographs with moving meditations about the journey from alienation to reconciliation, set in the inner city. That rare small volume was called The New Neighbor (Mission Year; $14.99) and showcased his poetic lines, his heart, his vision, as he helps people move towards the beloved community. Very artsy.
â€¨THREE REASONS TO READ IT
This new one, Everyday Missions, was for me so inspiring and I really think our readers—that would be you!—will enjoy it and be blessed by it. I want to highly recommend it, for at least three reasons.
Firstly, it is full of vibrant writing, good stories, powerful examples, practical advise that you most likely need. This is no arm-chair thesis, it is written on the run, down on the street, in the trenches. I respect a guy who can turn a well-chosen phrase and footnote recent studies and make a clear case for his ideas without loosing heart and soul. I’m here to tell ya, Leroy’s got heart and soul. And he knows that we simply must be wise in any daily endeavor to serve God, so he has sections on “blending in versus standing out” and “risking safety.” I love the chapter–apropos of all I wrote above—called “Job Versus Calling.” He has chapters dealing with money, with time, and very eloquently with being guided by God, inviting God to guide our best dreams and aspirations (“Two kinds of dreaming.”) You will enjoy this book!
Secondly, the book is grounded in the Bible. Barber loves the Scriptures and his compassionate urban work comes from the obvious verses about reaching out to the needy neighbor and caring for the peace of the city. But he goes a bit further, offering insights on Biblical characters, bringing their hopes and dreams and challenges and failures and faith into our own day. Check out his chapter of Moses called “Kingdom Imagination” or the one which he calls, sounding all the world like Eugene Peterson, “God-confidence” (David.) He talks about Esther and Peter in a section entitled “Spirit-Led Mentors” and it is thrilling and informative. I think you will be glad how he opens up the Bible in creative and helpful ways.
Thirdly, this book both incorporates social concern, passion for the poor, Biblical teaching on justice and reconciliation, but it is not written for urban activists or Shane Claiborne wannabes. It is for you, no matter where you live–as the subtitle puts it, “ordinary people.” Leroy, in many ways, is like his old boss, Tony Campolo (founder of Mission Year) who calls many to lives of great sacrifice, but also invites all of us–butcher, baker, candlestick maker–to lives of joyous service, too. Whether one is a suburban housewife, a college student perplexed about how to pick a major, or a professional well established in a career and congregation, these stories, this instruction, this wisdom, will help you live out your faith. It really is for “ordinary people.” I like Campolo’s line that this “how those of us in the pew can become radical followers of Jesus in our everyday lives.” And Bob Lupton’s blurb, who writes,
Provoking —in the very best sense of the word—this hopeful, can-do book inspires readers to risk pursuing their created purpose and discover their true source of meaning.
Go and Do: Becoming a Missional Christian Don Everts (IVP) $15.00 Okay, the retro rocket ship on the cover is cool in some Jetson’s kind of way.&nb
sp; And the tag-line on the back, “God Has a Mission. And You Are Part of It.” couldn’t be clearer. As we get a glimpse of the vision of what Jesus is doing—He is alive and well, you know—we get to “go and do likewise,” as He once put it.
Go and do likewise. Well, that isn’t as easy as it sounds, so we need some guidance, some handles, some help. Don Everts is a very enthusiastic speaker, a great leader, and a man a bit humbled by a few decades of experimenting, trying to reach out, serving, sometimes failing, always learning. He has written popular, poetic books—the small paperbacks Jesus With Dirty Feet and The Smell of Sin are tremendous—and he has co-written a very helpful book based on research about barriers and hurdles which postmodern collegiates need to overcome before they are open to even consider the claims of Christian truth. (That is called I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Paths To Jesus IVP; $15.00.) And, he has others (a set of four short books of his own philosophical ramblings, the “One Guy’s Head” series about the Bible and truth) as well a great hardback, an overview of the life of Jesus called God in the Flesh. He’s a good writer.
Everts is now minister of outreach at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in Chesterfield Missouri, where he especially helps folks discover a passion for local evangelism and global justice. â€¨â€¨This great book has two clear parts. Each chapter is full of stories and builds step by step. The vision is broad and colorful and multi-faceted, but the book is clear, sober, instructional. There is impeccable logic and wonderful stories, some very poignant.
Part one explains what we mean by the word missional (even though he admits to considerable discomfort with the now-faddish, oddball word.) And, more to the point, how to be the kind of person that cares about God’s purposes, and has a chance of being effective at advancing Christ’s redemptive work. He calls this section “Anatomy” because he looks at various body parts as images and metaphors; exploring parts of who we are that have to be transformed by God. He helps us get Sober Eyes, Servant Hands, Ready Feet, a Compassionate Heart and a Joyful Soul. This is not cheesy, by the way, although I suppose it could seem that way. It’s really good material! I think this could be a great design for a sermon series or class, and on its own would be well worth the admission price. He talks about these aspects of our character and how we are to live faithfully as God’s own, seeing and caring, and being; knowing and doing. He develops with clear teaching and touching stories, including honest admissions from Everts himself about his own struggles and failures and some provisional successes. I suppose this isn’t all that new, but it is good, and is, again, the solid stuff many of us need. But he’s just getting started.
Part two he calls “Geography” and it basically shows how a missionally active bit of servanthood is lived out in various arenas. Five areas are explored in these chapters (and he is really, really good in each) and you can recognize the topic by the titles: Purposeful Family, Relational Evangelism, Thriving Church, Urban Mercy, and Global Partnerships.
I suspect that not too many folks really buy whole books about, or undertake entire studies of, each of the topics explored in each of these chapters. This book is such a good resource because, here, in one happy volume, you can learn a bit about being “missional” in and among your family, your neighborhood, in church, for and with the hurting world nearby and far away.
I love this book. It is evangelically minded, but, like the writing of the best evangelical authors these days, it is wholistic, passionate about justice, and sensitive to a variety of cultural concerns. It isn’t explicit about the kinds of worldviewish things I wrote about above, but it doesn’t erode those kinds of profound foundations. His perspective is solid, serious, yet winsome. And he doesn’t over-reach: Everts is tender and wise (and honest) in talking about dysfunctional families, he is aware of how slow-moving and traditional many churches can be; he doesn’t make missional living sound all that easy (but he also doesn’t make it sound all that complicated, either.) He makes the case clearly that there are connections between the anatomy and the geography (the inner character stuff and the outward service stuff) so he is wonderfully doing both spiritual formation and Kingdom mission, discipleship of the heart and hands. Can you see why I’m so fond of this?
There are discussion questions, too, making this an ideal book for small groups, Sunday school classes, book clubs and the like. Or just read it yourself. It covers a lot of ground, is easy to read, and he offers excellent suggestions for further reading in every section. I’m fond of this, of course, as it just might lead you to deeper and more specialized resources. As we become whole, become the sorts of people who reflect Christ, and then “take it to the streets” we will make a difference among those around us. Three cheers for Don Everts and this lively book that is arranged in such a helpful way. And for how he starts off noting that, uh, well, “missional” is not a word. Ha!
And how he, as Bob Goff puts it, helps us “get to the do part.”
I’ve already said why I think it is important to wade through heavier books like Transforming Vision by Walsh & Middleton or The Prophetic Imagination by Brueggemann or Desiring the Kingdom by James Smith. You know that I think N.T. Wright is the best for getting a solidly Biblical view of the Kingdom of God. I’ve promoted important titles like The Call by Os Guinness, Kingdom Callings by Amy Sherman, and Culture Making by Andy Crouch. Jumping to the “do” part can be premature if we aren’t insightful and wise and aware. So these sorts of foundational books are helpful backdrops for a Kingdom vision that isn’t shallow or formulaic or just more graceless noise.
And I listed a trio of important, serious studies of contemporary missional theories for transformational, risky discipleship; new models and new energy from guys like Michael Frost and Alan and Debbie Hirsch. These are commendable for their willingness to take seriously the compromised nature of the church and the need for new thinking about new ways to be radically committed as we serve the world in our lives and lifestyles and communities. Wow.
But then I described these two small, accessible, interesting, upbeat books by Barber and Everts, both on the Likewise publishing imprint. This two little books—Everyday Mission and Go and Do— if taken seriously, could rock your world. The are basic, yet remarkable, interesting and informative. Give them a try. Thanks for sending the order our way. We hope all of this is useful in your own search for meaning, missional living, and daily discipleship.
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