Archives For Narrative theology


6481X: Parenting Beyond Your Capacity A Review of

Parenting Beyond Your Capacity: Connecting Your Family to A Wider Community

By Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof.
Paperback: David C. Cook, 2010.
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Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Here at Englewood Christian Church, we believe that in a very real sense our church community is a family that God has brought together.  My wife and I have experienced this sense of family perhaps more intensely than some others here, as both of our extended families live hours away.  Thus, you can easily imagine that I was intrigued when I heard of the new book Parenting Beyond Your Capacity: Connect Your Family to a Wider Community by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof.   And indeed, the book did not disappoint, pointing us very clearly in the direction of the church community as a caring family, or to state the book’s main idea in the authors’ own words: “A parent’s influence is best realized in partnership with the church.”  After framing the shape of their argument in the book’s first chapter, the authors begin with a critique of the “Stock Family Syndrome,” the notion from which so many Christians work (and that is propagated throughout the evangelical sub-culture by certain family-oriented organizations) that there exists a sort of platonic ideal of a family.  No, the authors argue, no such ideal exists, and although we’ve all too often excelled at putting on a façade of success, all families are broken.  Furthermore, they make the keen observation that seemingly “God is more interested in using broken people than … in creating a better picture.”  This observation is refreshingly indicative of the narrative approach to theology from which the authors are working throughout the book: viz., God is at work redeeming creation and has called a people to join in that work.

Overall, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity offers simple, straightforward and practical advice on how we can begin to bear witness in our relationships with those in our local church community to the Kingdom reality of the family of God, which God is at work bringing to fruition.  Chapters focus on such topics as “widening the circle (of family relationships,” “imaging the end / [focusing on what matters most],” communicating in caring and edifying ways, “creating a rhythm [for family life that reflects] these new values,” and learning to embody genuinely the values that we wish to pass on to our children.  However, although the simplicity of this book is one of its greatest assets, it is also one of its primary shortcomings.  The authors never seem to develop a full and compelling theological account of how family and church community fit into the “big story” of God’s work of reconciling creation (In this regard, I highly recommend Rodney Clapp’s excellent book Families at the Crossroads).  Thus, at times they seemingly fall back into “old patterns” of arguing from what is best for an individual or a family (versus what is best for the common good of creation).

However, for its intended, evangelical audience, this book provides much fuel for the mind and the imagination, calling us to rethink the nature of the relationships that we have in the home and in the church, in light of the story of God’s reconciling work in the world.  This call to go beyond ourselves, and the authors’ insistence that this call should be explored primarily within the local church community, is one of which we all need to be reminded.  One can hope that this message begins to be heard in churches all over North America and that in being heard, it begins to bear fruit in transforming us more fully into the Body of Christ, that is the family of God.


“The Stories That Shape Our Lives”

A Review of
A Million Miles In A Thousand Years:
What I Learned While Editing My Life.
by Donald Miller.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years:
What I Learned While Editing My Life.

Donald Miller.
Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2009.
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Donald Miller - A MILLION MILES

Several years after the success of his New York Times bestselling memoir Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller was given the opportunity to assist in turning that book into a movie.  The process of editing his life into the screenplay for a movie has now become the impetus for his newest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (available today in bookstores).

Miller’s purpose here is twofold:  on one hand to help us see that the stories we find ourselves (particularly ones related to consumerism) are not very good stories; on the other hand, he encourages us to live lives that are indeed good and meaningful stories.  His writing is the same sharp, witty, self-effacing style that many came to love in Blue Like Jazz.  A Million Miles is particularly useful in helping us to see that our lives are stories and that the stories of our lives give us meaning.

Although it is a relatively small portion of the book, Miller is at his best in critiquing the cultural stories in which we find meaning for our lives.  He writes:

Most Americans aren’t living very good stories.  It’s not our fault, I don’t think.  We are suckered into it.  We are brainwashed, I think. …We watch a commercial advertising a new Volvo, and suddenly we feel our life isn’t as content as it once was.  Our life doesn’t have the new Volvo in it.  And the commercial convinces us we will only be content if we have a car with forty-seven airbags.  And so we begin our story of buying a Volvo, only to repeat the story with a new weed eater and then a new home stereo.  And this can go on for a lifetime.  When the credits roll, we wonder what we did with our lives, and what was the meaning (122-123).

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In our continuing effort to fund the publication and free distribution of The Englewood Review, we are going to be collaborating more intentionally with Christian Book Distributors.  Primarily, we will be offering you the opportunity to buy bargain books from CBD that we think of are interest.  Buying books this way is a win / win / win proposition.  You get great books for a great price,  CBD gets the sale and we get an excellent referral fee from CBD.  These books make great gifts!


This week’s bargain books (Click to learn more/purchase):

  • A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus.
    by Emil Schurer
    (Hardback, 5 volumes.) $29.99 !!!
  • A Visit to Vanity Fair.
    by Alan Jacobs
    (Hardback)  $0.99!!!
  •  The Story of the Christ.
    By Scot McKnight (Paperback)   $1.99 !!!