recently read

Here are the titles of some books I have recently read along with a brief summary of each.

Peter B. Barnes, The Missional Church: Restoring a Vision for the Mission of God through the Local Church in the 21st Century. (Privately Published).

Peter Barnes is Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Winston-Salem, NC. In this series of sermons he explores the Christian church’s current cultural moment and explores the ways in which the church has failed to adapt to the significant cultural shift of the last half century. He goes on to build a Bible-based, Christ-centered model of Missional church for the church both today and tomorrow. A helpful explication of the principles of Missional theology applied to the life of a particular congregation. Barnes steers clear of the twin evils of mere cultural accommodation and cultural rigidity to provide a credible, orthodox witness to the Gospel.

Michael Hyatt, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. (Thomas Nelson, 2012). 259pp.[Amazon]

Michael Hyatt is the Chairman and former CEO of Thomas Nelson. He has become known for writing and speaking on the subject of intentional leadership. In Platform he makes a case that it has never been easier, less expensive, or more possible for creative professionals and entrepreneurs to get attention for their products, services, or causes. The book gives a step-by-step plan for building a loyal tribe of followers using social media and other technologies.

Michael S. Horton, A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering. (Zondervan, 2006). 203pp. [Amazon]

That each of us will experience suffering–perhaps even profound suffering–is a constituent part of being human. Yet the gospel of Jesus Christ is often viewed as a commodity that can be appropriated for the purpose of avoiding suffering and hardship. Many follow Christ in the hope that such a choice–to once more use a consumer analogy–will provide a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. As a result many walk away from the faith when the road gets tough. Some doubt the reality of God’s saving grace in their life. Most are unprepared for the suffering that we all know will come. Horton provides a pastoral and theological resource that reorients us to the great theme of the Christian message: God’s covenant faithfulness.

Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. (Thomas Nelson, 2006). 227pp. [Amazon]

Scazzero insists that Christian maturity includes not simply Christian discipleship and theological formation, but also emotional health. Many discipleship programs fail to include this with the result that many Christians seem to be emotionally stunted or under-developed. Discipleship is, for many, a list of moral does and don’ts–litany of things to feel bad about screwing up. Scazzero sketches a vision of an alternative–one rooted in the ancient Christians practices of spiritual formation in the the contemplative tradition. He explores emotional issues through tools like genogram, and shows how disciplines like developing a rule of life can deeply enrich our life in Christ.

__________, Daily Office: Remembering God’s Presence throughout the Day. (Willow Creek Association). 174pp. [Amazon]

This is a prayer book based on the ancient Christian tradition of praying the divine hours. Each day offers two set devotional exercises that includes time for silence, a Scripture reading, a short devotional, and some reflection questions. The book traces the trajectory of Scazzero’s recent work, Emotionally-Healthy Spirituality. For those who like liturgy, but find some more typical forms too removed from Scripture, this book offers a fresh alternative.

L. Roger Owens, Abba, Give me a Word: The Path of Spiritual Direction. (Paraclete Press, 2012). 162pp. [Amazon]

In warm prose style, pastor and theologian Roger Owens introduces the ancient practice of spiritual direction. This book is written not as an academic treatment, but as an experiential introduction to a practice that has moved from an almost exclusively Roman Catholic context into the evangelical church.

James K. A. Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology. (Baker Academic, 2004). 262pp. [Amazon]

Smith offers a critical engagement with Radical Orthodoxy, a theological movement that offers a theological position described as, “postmodern critical Augustinianism.” Smith interacts with RO as an ally and brings his own reformed theological heritage into the conversation. The result is an engaging interaction between two theological schools with numerous points of parallel as well as several areas of marked distinction.

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. (Random House, 2012). 318pp. [Amazon]

Haidt’s project is find an answer to the question of rival moral and political positions/impasse by appealing to social science methodologies rather than to metaphysics. His starting place is the notion of moral intuitions–our instantaneously-formed perceptions about situations we encounter. Haidt traces these intuitions and examines how differing religious and political positions appeal to varying intuitions to varying degree–hence the impasse. The book is well-written and quite interesting, but in the end the author fails to show that what he has outlined in the book is anything other than a useful strategy for creating appropriate propaganda to appeal to those outside of one’s own tribe.

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