Archives For *Featured Reviews*


Opening Ourselves to Surprise

A Feature Review of

The Listening Life:
Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction
Adam McHugh

Paperback: IVP Books, 2015.
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Reviewed by Andrew Camp


The American life will never be remembered as a life that listened well, especially in the second millennium. More talking and less listening is our default when it comes to our ideas of leadership and being taken seriously. The technological advances of the past 15 years have also produced a culture that has moved passed being polyphonic to being harshly cacophonic.

Sadly, this disease has infiltrated the American evangelical church to a large degree. We firmly believe it is our duty to tell people what to do, and as the church’s influence wans in America, our solution seems not to listen more, but to pound the pulpit louder and harder. We are a people anxious of what might happen if we shut up long enough to truly hear, not only the voice of God (which is of utmost importance), but also the cries of people both inside and outside the church.

In situations like these, God seems to raise up men and women to call the church back to its task to embody kingdom politics, part of which is learning to listen well. This is exactly what Adam McHugh calls the church to in his new book The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction. This is not a book outlining seven easy steps to becoming a better listener; this book is an invitation into a spiritual life marked by deep listening in all components of the Christian life. Listening is foundational to what it means to be a human, both physically and spiritually.

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Setting an Agenda for the
Future of Missional Theology

A Review of 

Called to Witness:
Doing Missional Theology
Darrell Guder

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2015
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Reviewed by Christopher Brown

Called to Witness is a collection of essays, papers, and lectures in which Darrell Guder forcefully develops the theological movement that launched with the 1998 publication of Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. Called to Witness is Guder’s most substantial publication since The Continuing Conversion of the Church (2000), and it possess the richness of more than a decade’s worth of reflection and development. In his foreword to the book, John Franke (now General Coordinator of the Gospel and Our Culture Network and General Editor of the recently restarted Gospel and Our Culture Series) suggests – I think rightly – that the “volume will have a catalytic effect on the development of missional theology in the years ahead” ( x).

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Bringing About Lasting Change

A Feature Review of 

Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness, and Justice
Brenda Salter McNeil

Hardback: IVP Books, 2016.
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Reviewed by Megan Fetter
Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil’s Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness, and Justice is a practical guide to how to go about the process of working toward reconciliation.  She states, “I’ve been calling people to reconciliation for a long time, but in some ways I’ve been remiss because I haven’t fully explained how to go about it.” McNeil shares the process of first discovering the need for reconciliation and then becoming deeply invested in building communities of justice.  She does this by sharing stories of her own 25 years of experience in the ministry of racial, ethnic, and gender reconciliation and the experiences of people she has come into contact with through her consulting work.

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Quietude, Stillness, and Silence

A Feature Review of

Unquiet Vigil
Paul Quenon, OCSO

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2014.
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Meditations in Times of Wonder
Michael Martin

Paperback: Angelico Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Matthew Braddock


The mathematician Henri Poincare, once said, “It is by logic that we prove. It is by intuition that we discover.” When our minds are set on one way of thinking or one way of doing things, mindlessly determined by the past, we blur our intuition and can miss much of the present world around us. A purely rational/logical understanding of events can confirm old mindsets and preserve rigid categories. One should pay careful attention to what happens when one becomes stuck in a particular rational narration of a dominant story.

The counterbalance is to discover alternative narratives through awareness and intuition; varying ways of perceiving a reality that has become lost. This is one of the reasons we have poetry. As Paul Quenon reminds is in Unquiet Vigil, poems helps us listen and pay attention to that which has not yet been seen or heard. Through intuition, one may excavate stories and experiences that have been repressed, submerged, or buried. Quenon, a Trappist monk and student of Thomas Merton, refers to the process of watching and listening as “keeping vigil”.

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Discerning Our Way Toward Neighborliness
A Review of 

An Other Kingdom:
Departing the Consumer Culture

Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight.

Paperback: Wiley, 2016
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith

This is an abridged version of a review
that appeared in our Advent 2015 print issue.
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Several years ago, I took note for the first time of the collaborations of Walter Brueggemann, Peter Block and John McKnight. I suspect that Brueggemann’s name may be familiar to many of our readers for his work in theology and Old Testament scholarship. Block and McKnight, however, might not be as familiar. Block is renowned for his work in the world of business consulting, in which he has written a number of bestselling books. John McKnight is co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University, and his work over the years has focused on community-building. In many ways, it comes as a surprise that these three thinkers who have distinguished themselves in vastly different arenas should come together and collaborate on a book project.

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Love and Prayers in the Holy Land

A Feature Review of 

Where Jesus Prayed: Illuminating The Lord’s Prayer in the Holy Land
Danielle Shroyer

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Alex Joyner


On my initial visits to the Holy Land I felt under-mapped.  Overlaid on every piece of terrain I visited there were lines and boundaries – some seen, (like the security barrier that snakes along as fence and concrete wall), some unseen, (like the real and present divisions between Palestinian and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem).  I was always uncertain of the significance of the land where I was standing.

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Mission is Habit Forming.

A Feature Review of 

Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People
Michael Frost

Paperback: NavPress, 2016
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Reviewed by James Matichuk

This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s blog,
and is reprinted here with permission.

As I write this review we are a week into 2016. Many people have already had their resolutions wrecked on the reef where good intentions and harsh reality meet. Most of these New Year’s resolutions are about personal development: losing weight, exercising more, mastering a new skill, etc. What about making habitual changes that will make you a more compelling force for God’s Kingdom mission in the world? Can we pursue the sort of life change which will impact others?

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Both Too Broad and Too Narrow

A Feature Review of

American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism
Matthew Avery Sutton

Hardback: Harvard UP, 2015.
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Reviewed by Timothy Morriss.

I managed to avoid several showings of the movie “A Thief in the Night” while growing up.  The movie was already past its prime shock value, I knew enough to steer clear of its one world government and guillotine, and so my determined lack of enthusiasm for viewing it did not cause undue alarm or derision among my peers or youth leaders.  I was raised in a fundamentalism that came awake politically during Jimmy Carter’s campaign and presidency and with Francis Schaeffer’s, “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” It was intimately concerned with immediately saving souls, with missionary activity and defending the Bible, while it also was fascinated with both the beginning and the end of the world.  It was not all that concerned with its own specific history.  Reading George Marsden’s Fundamentalism and American Culture, altered my ahistorical outlook and created an intellectual and cultural history for my childhood faith.  The book is thirty-five years old now and historians are trying to craft a newer and more complete history of the movement.

Matthew Avery Sutton in his American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism, deliberately sets out to tell a different story about fundamentalism than Marsden did.  Marsden defined fundamentalism as “militantly anti-modernist Protestant evangelicalism,” a broad definition that encompassed theologically conservative Protestants from many backgrounds, influenced by revivalism, Reformed and Holiness spirituality and premillenialism, all of which militated against theological modernism.  Sutton defines fundamentalism much more narrowly around premillenial dispensationalist views that intricately traced biblical prophecy and offered a historical timeline of the end of the world to be initiated by Christ’s return and the Rapture of believers. Included here are men like the leaders of Moody Bible Institute, but Sutton also includes pentecostals, especially Aimee Semple McPherson (he has written of her in the past) as well as African American leaders who adopted premillenialism.

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Joy, Even in Death

A Review of 

Joy in the Journey: Finding Abundance in the Shadow of Death
Steve and Sharol Hayner

Hardback: IVP Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Kevin Wildman
I have become convinced over the past few year that one of the biggest idols in the American culture is life. Often it seems that people are willing to go to extremes to get one more day with a loved one, often sacrificing quality of life for quantity of days. In their magnificent work, Joy in the Journey, Steve and Sharol Hayner help the reader to realize that life is not an idol. In fact Steve writes, “But life is about a lot more than physical health. It is measured by a lot more than medical tests and vital signs.” (62). As simple as it seems, this is a lesson that I think is desperately needed for today.

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A Parable on Grief and Healing

A Review of 

The Abbey:
A Story of Discovery

James Martin, S.J.

Hardback: HarperOne, 2015
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Reviewed by Ryan Johnson.
Noted for his depth of insight and his light-hearted wit, James Martin, SJ constantly delivers best-selling spiritual works such as A Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything and his more personal Jesus: A Pilgrimage which recounts his own pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  The Abbey is at once both a continuation of these earlier works and a departure.  It marks Martin’s first excursion into fictional writing and while the genre may be new territory for him, the spiritual insights and his signature humor continue to pervade the entire book.  Perhaps not an instant classic as his previously mentioned works, The Abbey is nonetheless an enjoyable read for anyone who is eager for the practical spiritual wisdom that Martin is known for.

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