Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. by Skye Jethani

Insightful, Illuminating and readable are the words that I think best describe this book. Jethani has focused on five tiny words---under, over, from, for, and with---to illustrate the different ways most of us relate to God. Brilliant idea, I think.

The writing is clear, thoughtful, and even touching from time to time. He does not leaving you hanging with no recommendations for change and does go on in an appendix to give the reader a few ideas that he found helpful. Nothing new there; we know what needs to happen, but a reminder certainly isn’t out of order.

You will find yourself identifying people you know, stages that you may have gone through, or even find yourself in the midst of now. This book explains one of the major reasons for burn-out and disillusionment among Christians.

I liked the inclusion of Loyola’s examen and the brief explanation of that practice. Made much more sense and is doable in Jethani’s version.

There is also a study guide for private or group study. Good questions there.

The negatives? The chapter from must have hit a bit too close to home maybe, but the tone changes and I found myself getting angry at the author. Or it might just be me. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

I do recommend this book. Read it. Don’t put down for later, like I did. You will regret that when you do finally pick it up to read.

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson from the BookSneeze site for my review.

Review: What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission. by Kevin DeYoung and Gregory D. Gilbert

DeYoung and Gilbert have authored a thoughtful look at the mission of the church. The first task they undertook was to sort through the different ideas and definitions of mission. They do arrive at what seems a reasonable definition, which means I generally agree with it. Much of the book is devoted to developing their theme that mission and ministries can be distinctly different, even to the place of losing sight of one another altogether.

Another point they make later is that the church, a Christian, and a bunch of Christians do not necessarily have the same focus, mission, or ministry. That is a very important point and I think needs to revisited and expanded. The confusion that these authors see about the mission of the church is based in that area, I think.

But, as well written as this book is, the crowning glory for it is the epilogue, a fictitious conversation between a young church starter and a mature pastor. If for no other reason than this epilogue, this book needs to be on the required reading list for pastors and church starters/planters.

There’s isn’t too much to say on the down side about this work. I do feel that one thing that will hurt this book is the title. It will be one of several on the shelf with the word mission in the title.

That said, I do want to say this book is definitely worth the read. It is thought provoking, and well written. It helped me sort through some areas related to mission versus ministry.

This book was provided by Crossway via netGalley for review.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of Our World by Bradley R.E. Wright, PhD

Review: Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of Our World.
Bradley R.E. Wright, PhD
Bethany House Publishers

What a nice change of pace! Looking at the upside of major trends like finances, education, crime, marriage, environment and other big topics that are in constant conversation lately it seems. His approach to the material could not have been handled any better from a layman’s point of view. Wright’s area of expertise is sociology and he teaches at the university level. A textbook this is not. And I for one am very glad. So, when you flip through the book, don’t let the graphs scare you. His explanations are user friendly. The graphs are self explanatory and make nice summations of the discussion.

I was surprised by some of the results of his work, in that they did show positive trends. I was just sure what I had seen and heard elsewhere was more the case. Worldwide educational levels were one such area. The trend is upward. And that is the key to this author’s interpretation. Trends.

He looks at a bigger picture than most of us are generally exposed to in the material we use to form our opinions. From that perspective things do look different. Given the nature of our society the long haul gets little attention. We want fixes yesterday or sooner. Some of his data shows how that mindset can even make a problem worse. In some of the other conclusions he makes Wright shows what might be seen as problem today is not seen that way over a longer period of time and some of that is not necessarily good news.

There wasn’t much not to like here. The ending of the book was possibly its weakest point, but trying to tie all the threads of a work like this together does get messy. His final paragraph will make you crazy unless you have really given his work in the book some real thought.

Upside is definitely worth the read. There’s a list of references for those that like to fact check and for those that would like to read further.
This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers in return for my review.