Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George G. Hunter III

Ah… the good, old Celtic church. Sigh. What a group of radicals. Wink

As some of you know, I have a "thing" for the church in the British Isles from 300 A.D. to about 700 A.D. During this time, the Celtic church was more or less independent from the larger Roman Catholic Church (or anyone else for that matter…).

I say "more or less" because even though the Celtic church was outside of the leadership structure of the Roman Catholic Church, the monks still managed to obtain fiction and non-fiction scrolls. It just goes to tell you that bibliophilia is a powerful disease – overcoming wars and miles of once-charted oceans lands.

Yet, that's enough about that, let's move on too our book review!


When I first picked up this book, I was a tad skeptical – "oh great, ANOTHER evangelism book! This is just what the world needs…sigh."

However, I must state that after I finished the book, I was pleasantly trilled with how Hunter approached the topic. [@more@]

*laugh* Tongue out

Ok. I must confess. Even through the book is says it's about "evangelism" – it's really about contextual missions. There. I feel better.

Allow me to explain.

Between 300 to 700 A.D. there were too main models of spreading the Gospel or evangelism. The first model was that of the Roman church – in which the priest/missionary/evangelist:

  • Presented the gospel message
  • Waited for a decision
  • And then entered into fellowship with the new believers.

Note that at the heart of this model was the idea that in order to become a Christian, one must first become "civilized" – which, of course, is another way of saying "becoming Roman".

The second model – that of the Celtic church – was to send teams into un-reached villages and:

  • Enter into fellowship with the unbelievers
  • Minister to them as the opportunity arouse
  • Then, after folks trust and know you, invite them to follow Jesus.

You may say "ummm..Ardell, isn't that just relationship evangelism? I mean, that 'top topic' has left the dock years ago!"

In some ways, you are correct. The Celtic model is a type of relationship evangelism. However, it also differs (or at least it differs from my understanding of modern "relationship evangelism").

First off, the Celtic model is based upon community. There is a team – ten or twenty people – who work together to reach the pagans. As a result, the unbelievers in the village have the opportunity to see Christianity at work within a group setting – warts and all.

Second, it's deliberate – but not in a slimy, tricky, underhanded kind of way. The Celtic evangelists had a purpose – to love others and to start a church. However, they did not let this purpose undermined the fact that we are called by God to love other regardless of whether they join the church or not.

Third, and I love this part – the Celtic model allowed for the Mystery of God. The Roman Church – as is parts of the modern fundamental movement – liked to have everything explained logically. The Celtic culture was one that enjoyed the supernatural and mystery of an unexplainable Creator Lord.

Hmmm… This review is getting long… as such, I'm going to end it with one last comment.

Book good. Read if can.

Bye.

Judging a book…

How do you judge a book?  

Some say “by the cover” – yet, as many a movie or book, has taught us, a book’s cover can deceive us quicker then split peanuts.

Take the Bible for example. The majority of Bible’s covers are black with gold words proclaiming “Holy Bible”.  BORING!!!!  

Yet, the story within that large black book is one of the most powerful stories ever told.


How do you judge a book?  

I have been listening to an audio book the last few days. At first it seemed ok – no “bad” words or scenes. It is a fictional youth book about a young lady who goes to sea as a cabin boy…  

Yet, as I listened to the book, something didn’t seem to fit…. Something was “off” – yet, I couldn’t find anything written in the book to merit my dislike.

Then it hit me – the spirit of the book was wrong.  

For whatever reason, the book just had the wrong spirit – one that did not fit with the Presence of Eternity.

Lesson learned today: listen to the Spirit as words can be deceiving.

Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren

What can I say? How can one summarize a book that has caused more brain waves then Bede?

I guess you start by typing your thoughts… and hope that all goes wells. Undecided


There are three main topics that really knocked me about in this book:

  1. Justice
  2. Peace Insurgency
  3. Rethinking the “American Dream”

As such, I’m going to talk a bit about each of them – briefly as this is a blog post not a book. Tongue out

  • Justice

McLaren really changed the way I looked at Jesus and his ministry. A lot of scriptures I took to be purely “spiritual” or begin now have a huge neon “justice” sign next to them.

Of course, in making the sign, I had to ask myself “What is justice?”  Is justice purely a legal term describing the emotions of someone wronged when the cook gets thrown in jail?[@more@]

Or perhaps justice is something more… maybe it’s helping those oppressed by the culture around them…. those casted aside by the rest of society.  If that’s so, then Micah’s words to “act justly” means more then not lying or creating.

It could also mean that Isaiah 61 is more then just a spiritual prophecy. – perhaps, Jesus came to physically release the captive in addition to releasing us from spiritual bondage…. things to think about.

  • Peace Insurgency

I have been looking for another term to describe my passion for the Creator of All… the terms “Christian” and “believer” have been highjacked…”Kingdom of God” is to archaic…

How about “a member of the peace insurgency”?

Ponder this: a revolution or civil war is again a legitimate government…but an “insurgency” is a group of folks fighting again an illegitimate ruler. 

That is where we are – Satan has taken over this world illegitimately. We are fighting against him – yet, we fight not with guns, but with peace, love, justice, mercy and the grace of the Lord Almighty.

  • Rethinking the “American Dream”

What is the “American Dream”? Grow up, obtain a good job, get married, buy a house with a white picket fence and then start acquiring as much toys as possible.

Sounds good?

I think it sounds like crap!

They call my generation the “Me” generation – yet, I think that term fits each and every generation on planet earth. We are all – especially in the West – concerned about what “I” get out of it… even in the church.

Americas consume more resources then any other people group – we create companies that destroy the environment and/or “hire” slave labor so that we can buy more items/toys. And we call it “progress”!

Hear me out – and think about what I’m saying.

I think it’s time we, the church, stop pursuing the “American Dream” with all it’s fancy toys and start caring for the poor, the widow, the hungry, the homeless, the corporate cube worker trapped in debt, the rich fool trying to gain the most toys before he dies….

We call ourselves a “blessed” nation….but are we really ‘blessed’?  How are our spiritually lives?  Are they solid? or do we just have fat pocket books?

Just Ella By Margaret Haddix

A feminist, justice seeking Cinderella with a knack for making culturally insensitive remarks while wooing the oppressed, blue-collared workers.

Hmm…that's a fragment isn't it?  Can you tell that English wasn't my first language?

Hoppish was! Tongue out (ask my wife!)

Back to the book at hand (or finger or eyes or..whatever)

Just Ella is one of my wife's favorite books. Ever once in a while, she will break it out and read it (this time she checked out the audio book – oh, and "ever once in a while" is very relative as it's been over eight years since the last time she read it…unless I was a typically male and missed the event…which I'm not counting out). =/

After much prodding, I decided to read Just Ella – actually, it was after Em started quoting it in response to my rants about justice, the kingdom of God and Jesus.  

Yelp – here I am reading all kinds of theology books – wading through big words in German, Latin and English – mean while Em is reading a nice fictional store, emerging with a better understand of justice and the kingdom….. sigh.[@more@]

Just Ella.

Plot – hmm… see Wikipedia.

Ok – I'll give you a brief run down (along with my thoughts, of course). =P

In this re-telling of Cinderella, Ella (the main character) creates her own destiny through hard work, good brains and guts. There are no fairy godmothers or magic.

Once in the castle, Ella finds out that Prince Charming is anything but 'charming' (love the puns). Tongue out  So instead of marrying him, she runs away and becomes a doctor helping war refugees. Along the way she meets a young man with a heart for the refugees (he starts the refugee camp) – yet, she doesn't marry him. At least, not at first – after she "finds" herself, then she agrees to marry him.

Points to Ponder:

1) The "self made women" – view is promoted through out the story as Ella over comes various challenges. At first this feminist propaganda rubbed me the wrong way – then I started thinking (a dangerous thing):

The book was written in the late 1990's – about the same period as the new empowered women movement. Women were finally beginning to enjoy the success of the previous generations in that women were able to do all the same things men were (jobs, voting, living, having credit cards, etc).

At the same time, there was an under current of "little princess" toys and stories – teaching young girls to sit under a tree and wait for some gentlemen to come by and "rescue" them. Shoot – at one point the villainess of the story tells Ella that women are suppose to do nothing but look pretty.

Just Ella brings a refreshing view to the stage – love, marriage, and men are all good things – yet at the same time, the heroin is not sitting around waiting with starry eyes.

2) "Doing It Myself"
– The author threw in a great twist to the whole feminist deal. You see at the same time that the author was empowering women to be themselves and case their dreams; she was also teaching them that they can't do it themselves.

In addition to one's own willpower and go-get-them attitude, Just Ella highlights the view that we need friends to help us along. It's a both / and deal.

Oh – let's not forget "god". At first the book seems to promote an atheist view on religion and deities – yet at the end, Ella realizes that she could not of done what she did by herself. There must have been some deity or something that helped her along the way (ie. helping her be in the right place at the right time; providing friends; and other seemingly accidental things).

3) Justice Issues – In the book one of the main characters in the story promotes the view that servants (ie. non-royal, non-rich people) want to serve their "betters."

Talk about a justification for the greed, laziness, and down-the-nose attitude!  The author does a great job at highlighting the fact that the rich are just as human as the poor. Actually, it pretty much tears down the rich and brings to light the injustice done via their greed.

4) Finding a Cause – this was an awesome motif in the book. You see, through out the story, Ella is trying to find a "cause" or a reason to give her life. At first she thought it was finding "true love" or marriage – but she quickly learns that "love" fades and marriage isn't all that.

So she runs away and tries to find herself…. At the end of the book, Ella still doesn't know that her "cause" is or what she wants to do with her life. Yet, she makes this profound statement (my paraphrase):

Maybe it's ok to give oneself to the cause of the man you love.

Wow! Did you catch that?

Here is a powerful story that captures real-life better then…well…better then 90% of the books out there. It tells young people (well, mostly girls as I don't know many young men who would read this book), that why it's good to chase after their dreams – there are times when you don't have a dream; in which case, it's ok to give your life to the dream or cause of your husband.

Double wow – this review has turned into a book itself. Tongue out

Give Just Ella a read – and remember to read it cover to cover as the lessons within really take the whole story to develop.

Book Review: Light Force by Brother Andrew

“The book you are holding will be considered by some as controversial.”

So starts the first line of the introduction of Brother Andrew’s book Light Force: A Stirring Account of the Church Caught in the Middle East Crossfire.

Just the book for me. Laughing

The Author:

Some of you may remember Brother Andrew from his first book The God Smuggler. It was an account of his journey encouraging the church behind the Iron Curtain – as well as smuggling Bibles and other literature to the people.

He has challenged me in a lot of ways through The God Smuggler and The Calling (not to mention Light Force). In fact, a good deal of my “mission practice” comes from him – ie. to calling to go and encourage the church, where ever it is, no matter what; showing up is 90% of the battle.

The Book:
 
Light Force tells the story of Brother Andrew’s work among the Christian Church in the middle east – mostly Lebanon and Israel. [@more@]

What makes this book different is that it focus on the little known (or cared about) churches among the Palestinians.

Of course, that is why Brother Andrew went to the Middle East – to encourage those believers caught between two waring ethic groups to be the church. In other words, he went to strengthen what was left of the 2000 year old Christian Church and help them minister to the people around them (both Muslim and Jew).

Interesting Fact: There have been Christians in Bethlehem and the surrounding area since the time of Christ.

Now before you all fire off nasty emails to the author about the theological stance of Israel and the end times, please understand that I am not “anti-Israel” – I am pro-Christ.

I don’t care what race a believer is – if they follow Jesus, then they are a brother. This is the same message that Brother Andrew promotes in his book.

One of the cool parts of the book is when the Palestinian Christians get together with a bunch of Messianic Christians!  

I love this quote by a Arab minister (a lady nontheless):

Jesus ministered to people through their needs. He went to sick people not to the healthy people – people sick in spirit, sick emotionally. That’s mostly what we have here in Beit Sahour. We have people with broken hearts. Most believe that God doesn’t love them. They think God loves the Jewish people, but He doesn’t love the Arabic people. They are not the chosen people, so they don’t deserve God’s love. All Arabic people feel that way, especially Muslims.

How sad is that?

Somehow the Arabic people go the impression that God does not love them… wow… that breaks my heart.

I pray that the Church – especially the Western church – will remember their brother and sisters who are caught in middle of a ugly situation.

Muslims, Magic, and the Kingdom of God by Rick Love

I know I wrote a reivew of this book before… but was while I was still in the first half of the book. I have now finished the book…so, by my rules, that means I need to write another review. Tongue out

Don't worry – I will make it quick, simple and fast. Laughing

On your mark…..get set….GO!


Don’t let the title fool you – it is not JUST about working with Muslims. In a lot of ways, it has helped me understand the post-modern worldview and the mindset of fringe groups here in the USA.

How? [@more@]

The book deals with how someone can claim to follow Islam (ie. a formal religion) while still using magically charms and spells for everyday events (ie. folk religion). This same breakdown is happening here in the USA where people claim to be following one religion while actually doing something else. This book helped me to understand how that is possible – and how to ministry to people living this way.

Oh – did I mention that that the book also gives a great Biblical, sane, practical view on spiritual warfare? In fact, I think Rich Love does more in one chapter then a lot of books do in 20!!

Trust me, this book is not just about Muslims – it’s about ministering to people bound by magic, charms and folk religions.

 


Done!

 

See that wasn't that painful. Simiple, short and too the point. Laughing

The Changing Face of World Missions: Engaging Contemporary Issues and Trends by Pocock, van Rheenen and McConnell

Similar to Winter and Hawthorne (the Perspective book),  Michael Pocock, Gailyn Van Rheenen, and Douglas McConnell combined the works of various authors into one missiologoy book. The main difference being that each chapter of The Changing Face of World Missions was written expressly for the book instead of being chosen from previously published works and compiled, like the Perspectives book.

In the introduction, Pocock, van Rheenen and McConnell lay out the missions theology they used to create their book.

“We hope this book will positively affect the progress of the missionary task, not simply in numerical expansion but also in qualitative depth . . . Such engagement involves a renewed focus on God's glory and a renewed love for one another.”  

This focus on the glory of God is very similar to the theology of missions promoted by John Piper in his book Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions. [@more@]

With a name like The Changing Face of World Missions: Engaging Contemporary Issues and Trends, you would expect to find a plethora of trends and issues facing world missions. Pocock, van Rheenen and McConnell follow through on their book title and provide twelve trends and issues within three contexts:

  1. the global context
  2. the missional context
  3. the strategic context

They also make a point to differentiate between a trend and an issue. To them, trends are “what is characteristically happening and they intensify over a period of time.”  Issues, on the other hand, are “points often raised by those trends that become the focus of debate.”

Within these twelve trends and issues, there are three main themes that run throughout the book:

  1. disillusionment with modernity
  2. use of modern technology
  3. the shift of Christianity from the West to majority world cultures.

The first theme, disillusionment with modernity, refers to the syncretism of Western Christianity with Western Enlightenment principles that left modern missionaries ignorant of “key elements of the supernatural.”  

The second main theme of the book is the increased use of modern technology. While generally a good thing, in several cases the reliance on modern technology has created “tension between those who have access to certain capabilities and those who do not . . .”  

Pocock, van Rheenen and McConnell define the term “majority world” as that “part of the world's population living outside Europe and North America.”  The shift of Christianity from the West to majority world cultures is a major theme throughout the book as this shift affects all areas of world missions. The authors even go as far as to state that:

“North American evangelical schools and their graduates can remain relevant only to the extent that they read, listen, and interact with believers from around the world about the conduct of the missionary enterprise.”

In summary, the authors of The Changing Face of World Missions promote a theology of missions based upon God's glory and the love for one another. Surrounding this missions theology are the main themes of disillusionment of modernity, technology, and the shift of Christianity from the West to majority world cultures.

These three themes weave their ways through all twelve trends and issues discussed in the book. In an ironic way, the three themes of the book are also the three main challenges that face the Global Church in world missions today.

Perspectives On The World Christian Movement by Ralph Winter and Steven Hawthorne

At 782 pages, the Perspectives book quite the read. In fact, it is less of a “book” and more of a compilation as it is comprised of 124 articles from various theologians, missiologists, pastors, missionaries, and church leaders.

At first it may seem that there is no way a book with that many authors can have a central theme or theology. However, as you read the book it becomes apparent that the Perspectives book was edited specificity to help the reader “live strategically” towards “finishing God's work.”

In fact, this theme of “finishing God's work” or closure is the dominant missions theology for the book. The entire Perspectives course is geared around Matthew 24:14 [Revised English Version]:

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the earth as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.”

[@more@]In keeping with the closure theme, Winter and Hawthorne chose articles that emphasised people groups, church planting and frontier missions. The phrase “people groups” is defined within Perspectives as the largest possible ethnic or cultural group “within which the gospel can spread as a discipling, or church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”

Realizing that the evangelism of every individual on earth is both impractical and un-Biblical, Winter and Hawthorne emphasize planting churches within each people group. They chose Kenneth Mulholland's article “A Church for All People” to define and promote this viewpoint:

“Although intensely personal, the Christian faith is not individualistic . . . He came to establish communities of His followers among every people group on the face of the earth.”

The last motif in the Perspectives closure theology of missions is frontier missions. Frontier missions is “cross-cultural Christian work that seeks to establish churches within people groups where it does not yet exist . . .”  Winter and Hawthorne spend the most time and energy on this motif as they seek to motivate the Christian church to devote money, people and resources to this area of world missions.
    
About three-quarters of the way through the Perspectives course, Winter and Hawthorne lay out what they see as the remaining tasks for the Global Church. These tasks are as follows:

  1. Establishing a “viable, indigenous church planting movement within every people,”  
  2. Establishing a “breakthrough in every people group on earth,”  
  3. Verifying the “progress towards closure.”  

I must point out that while task one and two seem the same, they are actually different as task two is focused on completing the Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20] while task one is focused on contextualization of the gospel.
    
In summary, the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement has a missions theology based upon completing the Great Commission with the motifs of people groups, church planting and frontier missions. Winter and Hawthorne stay very positive throughout the book, believing whole heartedly that closure can happen in their lifetime. This optimism is very prevalent throughout all the articles selected with only a few articles mentioning or referencing the one issue, according to Winter and Hawthorne, that is slowing down the Christian movement.

This issue is one of cultural barriers:

“If the messengers are not sensitive as they convey the message across cultural barriers, then the message becomes only so much intercultural noise.”

However, given the rise in cross cultural training among mission groups, this issue is referenced with optimism and high hopes.

Eldest by Christopher Paolini

The second of the three volumes Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini was pretty dang good. (click here for a review of the first book)

My greedy hands obtained the audio book on Thursday and didn’t let go until Monday evening – 20 CDs and 12 plus hours later…. much to my demise as the time set aside for my paper got taken up listening to the book. Undecided

Pros

  • Excellent writing
  • Similar to LOTR, Paolini creates a land with tons of history and multiple back stories
  • The culture of each race is described and talked about

Cons

  • As the main character visits the homeland of each race, Paolini describes each of the races religious beliefs. For the most part, this is very good as it helps set each race apart – however, I feel that he kind of over did it with the elves. In a nutshell, the elves – who are portrayed as the “top” or highest race – hold to very atheist, material-base mindset in which they gain immortality through scientific and logically means. I wouldn’t mind this so much except Paolini spends more time on this view point then all the others combined…
  • Similar to The Empire Strikes Back, the Eldest focus more on filler then moving the plot forward..

Overall it’s a great book. Laughing

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Dragons. Elves. Magic. Heroes. Novel. Written by a 15 year old boy.

Those are the rumors that reached my ears about Eragon.

So, I did what any self respecting book worm would do – I checked the book out the library and proceeded to listen to it. (audio books rock!!) Cool

In a word: Awesome!!

Paolini weaves a beautiful story within a masterful prose of descriptions, feelings and excitement. I love the way he develops the depth of the characters as they live their lives across the pages.

Note that it is a thick book – but once you’re into the world of Eragon, you lose yourself into a tapestry of adventure and excitement. *smile*  Time found me wondering around working on the house with headphones and a CD player… Tongue out

It’s a good read. I would recommend it – especially as I move on to book two (of three): Eldest.