Last year I shared the platform at a YWAM conference in Canberra, Australia, with an American pastor who told me he had lost a thousand church members because of a sermon series he preached! These messages appeared in book form last year. Sally Frahm writes as follows about this book, responding to my request last week for reviews from WW readers:
“The best book I’ve read recently is The Myth of a Christian Nation, by Gregory A. Boyd, a Minnesota pastor and theologian. His argument from scripture is compelling for a power-under Kingdom of service and sacrifice, not a power-over Kingdom, in which Christians are aligned with political causes. As his church members encouraged him in the fall of 2004 to support one cause or another, he began to preach a series of sermons entitled The Cross or the Sword. He lost 20% of his congregation, 1000 people. He remained steadfast, and yet not in a spirit of arrogance, but humbly seeking his God.”
The book, writes Sally (not an American), “was a breathe of fresh air! I’m on my 3rd time through…. I feel it is such an important book.”
Sally points us to the following link: www.christianitytoday.com/tc/2006/005/10.48.html where we read further:
“The book is based on a set of sermons Boyd presented to his 5,000-member congregation at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the months leading up to that year’s presidential election, Boyd became increasingly uncomfortable with the pressure he felt to use the pulpit and his pastoral position to steer his congregation in the ‘right’ (i.e., Republican) direction. ‘It wasn’t overt pressure,’ says Boyd, ‘but more of a constant urging to get out a specific message. I’d get mailings from different groups, hear it on Christian radio, get the nudge from colleagues and parishioners. I came to the conclusion that I needed to clearly articulate something I’d been thinking about for years: How the kingdom of God is radically different from the kingdom of the world.'”
Irishman P√°draig Twomey remarks: ‘You seldom mention either poetry or fiction in your musings, so I thought I’d stock you up with some wonderful examples of both…’ Stock me up he did, with more examples than we have space for.
“I got Billy Collins’ new book The Trouble with Poetry and other Poems as a gift this year,” P√°draig begins. “Collins writes poems that are initially incredibly simple to read. They don’t rhyme, they meander into a subject, and I find myself tempted to think that Collins’ only genius is to have the ability to describe lovely moments. But there is often so much more. There is often an insight into the heart, into the way human beings relate to each other that is beautiful and poignant.
“I also delved into Margaret Atwood for the first time ever this Autumn. I’d had The Blind Assassin sitting on my shelf for a few years, but was put off both by the cover and the title. A friend told me not to be so daft, and I took it with me on a trip, and devoured it. She has composed a story within a story within a story within a story. There is something irreplaceable about the power of story – this is a theological point! We learn to live our lives by story. Stanley Hauerwas, a London theologian, when writing about the Johannine community, says that ‘communities are meaning-seeking, symbol-making entitles’ and I find both meaning and symbol in Atwood’s fierce narrative.
“I just finished reading Jeanette Winterson‘s Oranges are not the only fruit. (It) is a wonderful story, delicately told, about a girl who is gay who undergoes a few different experiences of religion. She has structured the chapters of her book around the first eight books of the Old Testament. She allows nuances of theme to creep from the main themes of Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy etc. into the successive chapters of OANTOF, mixing narrative, philosophy & myth.
“I’m fascinated by people who observe religion & religious communities from the ‘outside’. Both Jeanette Winterson & Margaret Atwood make very valuable points about religion…
“Finally.. I took a journey into Vikram Seth‘s A Suitable Boy again this year – it’s my fifth time reading the book. I can’t recommend it enough. Seth is a 20th Century Indian version of Jane Austen/Charles Dickens/Oscar Wilde. A Suitable Boy is the longest single-volume novel in the English Language. An amazing 1500 page novel that traces the relationships of four families in 1950’s India, just a few years after Independence.”
Thanks, P√°draig. That last book reminds me of Salman Rushdie‘s Shalimar the Clown, also dealing with India, Pakistan, Kashmir and terrorism-just to let you know I do occasionally read fiction!
Lastly, Colin Cinderby recommends Jesus Christ Disciplemaker, by Bill Hull, on rediscovering Jesus’ strategy for building His Church; also, Church Next, by Eddie Gibbs and Ian Coffey, on how to develop churches attractive to under 35s; as well as Rescue The Perishing, the story of the Dorothea Mission, started in South Africa in 1942, “an exciting journey of how God works in ‘mysterious ways’, using ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.”
Well, we’ve filled the page already. My apologies if I accidentally deleted anyone’s review when I lost some files using a Russian computer in Minsk, Belarus, this weekend.
Till next week,