Archives For Neighborhoods


Won’t You Be A Neighbor?  Getting the Church Back in the Neighborhood
 A Review of 

The Neighboring Church:
Getting Better at What Jesus Says Matters Most
Rick Rusaw and Brian Mavis

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2016.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]

Reviewed by Alex Joyner

Nothing is more difficult for leaders in late-stage bureaucratic institutions than trying to navigate through a morass of well-intentioned policies and procedures in order to do the simple things needed to accomplish the institution’s mission.  Gordon MacKenzie called this leadership challenge Orbiting the Giant Hairball in his 1996 book of the same name [Viking: 1996].  “Orbiting,” MacKenzie said, “is responsible creativity: vigorously exploring and operating beyond the Hairball of the corporate mind set, beyond ‘accepted models, patterns, or standards’ — all the while remaining connected to the spirit of the corporate mission.” (33)

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Incarnating the Kingdom 
Within Your Neighborhood

A Review of

Next Door As It Is in Heaven:
Living Out God’s Kingdom in Your Neighborhood
Lance Ford and Brad Brisco

Paperback: NavPress, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Amazon
Reviewed by Ashley Hales


A year ago, a moving truck pulled up just ten miles from where my husband and I grew up. In the heat of summer, we moved boxes and unpacked: we were moving “home” to plant a church. A few months later, we invited neighbors and new friends to a huge Christmas party with food, good wine, and a hip jazz band. One of our neighbors, a bit incredulous about a church throwing a party with no strings attached, asked what our plan was to start a church. My husband floored him, saying, “I think we’re going to start by throwing good parties.” As we’ve met over small dining room tables and in local parks, hired a taco truck for a nearby neighborhood, and opened up our lives and homes, our little church has begun to grow into a generous and vulnerable community that is learning how to live out the Kingdom of God, even in the mecca of materialism in suburban, southern California. So it was with much excitement that I agreed to review Next Door As It Is in Heaven: Living Out God’s Kingdom in Your Neighborhood by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco.

We all care deeply about where we are placed, and we all long for home to feel like a firm foundational place of belonging. The problem is that we elevate the nuclear family and our physical houses instead of concomitantly seeking the good of our neighborhoods, cities, and world. Authors Ford and Brisco are desperate to recover a sense of the neighborhood as the space of connection, where the gospel takes on flesh.

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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
Buy now: [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]
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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Really enjoyed the Neighborhood Economics conference in Cincinnati this week, and left with much to think about!

What is Neighborhood Economics?  Peter Block has described it this way:

“Neighborhood Economics is an idea committed to accelerating the flow of capital into resident driven entrepreneurial enterprise. It calls us to shift how we think about ending poverty. It brings the world of social investors, community builders, community philanthropists, residents and local neighborhood leaders into the same conversations. This is what a systems approach to economic and racial justice is going to require.”

I came away from the conference with a hefty list of books that I hope to read (or re-read). 

Here are some highlights from that list:

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Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove


Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove recently paid a visit to Englewood Christian Church to discuss his latest book:

Strangers At My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests.

Paperback: Convergent Books, 2013
Buy now:   [ Amazon ]   [  Kindle  ]
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By C. Christopher Smith

In the current issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity, and the new book Gray Matters: Navigating the Space between Legalism & Liberty, offers his top 5 books on Christ and culture that have shaped this new work.

[ Read McCracken’s list on Christ and culture… ]
While McCracken’s list is solid, and I have a deep appreciation for three of the books on the list (Smith, N.T. Wright, Myers. Niebuhr’s work is dated and not particularly helpful and I haven’t read the Rogers book), I have been struck by recent statements by both Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben (in his new autobiography Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist) that the way forward for humanity lies in cultivating strong local communities. There often is a temptation to think of culture in the broadest, most abstract sense and to gloss over the particularities of the local cultures in which we daily live and move and have our being, therefore I thought that I would spin McCracken’s idea a bit and offer my own top 5 list, on the theme of Christ and LOCAL Culture.

I am eagerly anticipating the Spring 2014 release of The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community by Dwight Friesen, Tim Soerens and Paul Sparks, next spring, which will likely supercede all of these books, but until then, you can’t beat these five books.


1) Journey to the Common Good by Walter Brueggemann.  [ Read our review… ]
Brueggemann provides here a compelling theology of church and local culture. He concludes the book by saying:”[A] biblical perception of reality is urgent for the imagination of the public community, especially if that public imagination has been enthralled for a very long time in the claims of Enlightenment rationality.  While there are huge gifts given in that rationality, what we cannot derive from the account of Enlightenment rationality is demanding, generous neighborliness grounded in God’s own passion for the neighborhood.”

This book and Brueggemann’s recent work with community development gurusPeter Block and John McKnight, moves his work to the top of this list of resources for understanding the relationship of Christ and local culture.

2) Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World by John Howard Yoder
Although Yoder’s work is coming under scrutiny of late, as the Mennonite church wrestles to understand it in the context of Yoder’s patterns of inappropriate relations with women, this is an essential book that demonstrates how five essential Christian sacraments each provide a way for churches to engage their neighborhoods and to leaven their places with the shalom that God intends for all humanity.
3) The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

[ Our 2010 Book of the Year – Read our review… ]

As long as a we continue our habits of moving from place to place every few years as individuals, families and churches, we are unlikely to bear much fruit in the work of engaging our neighborhoods. As the most prominent non-monastic book on stability, Wilson-Hartgrove makes a compelling case for staying rooted in our places.

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Anthems, Neighborhoods, and Adulthood.

A Review of

Belmont: Poems
Stephen Burt

Paperback: Graywolf Press, 2013
Buy now:   [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Joel E. Jacobson

Well known for his definition of elliptical poetry and labeling “the new thing” in poetry, critic Stephen Burt adds his own voice to the choir of American poets searching for meaning and identity in a cultural climate intent on crucifying outsiders. Burt is not just a poet and critic, but also a husband, father, professor and cross-dresser. These eclectic details may not directly relate to each other, but they help understand the bared heart of a man searching for a world in which he and his family can exist and thrive.


The opening poems are meditations of a father-to-be as he wonders what type of person his child will become. In the process, the poet begins to evaluate his own life, his own evolution of being, his own place of acceptance in a world that alienates men who wear dresses and makeup. Burt masterfully uses urban imagery to embrace both his personal values and the values of his surrounding community. The tone is pastoral, but the material is urban, which creates a meditative ambivalence of love and hate, materialism and abstemiousness. In “Poem of Seven A.M.”, Burt writes, “The tireless & endless rubbish on & against the curb / looks to have been the product of a bilious regime /  unknown to human motives, & too big for human hands.” He continues describing the piles of trash and recycling that “dwarf us, although we have carried them out; they build, indifferently, our tombs . . . all come together in hasty concert / to make their parts a demented harmonium.” These symbols of self-created trash and accumulation of stuff stand for “repeated anthems for our neighborhood, our home.”

*** Other Books by Stephen Burt

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Through Monday May 27, Amazon is running a huge sale on ebooks.


Over 500 ebooks have been marked down, with savings of up to 88%!!!


You can browse the full list here:


CLICK HERE to jump right into the Religion/Spirituality section


HOWEVER, if you don’t have the time or desire to browse the full collection, we have picked 10 essential ebooks that you should own and read:

1) The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Communities – John McKnight / Peter Block
Read an excerpt here
2) The Autobiography of Mark Twain
3) Abraham Lincoln: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership by Elton Trueblood

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One of the best books out there on neighborhoods and caring for our neighbors…

The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and NeighborhoodsJohn McKnight and Peter Block

Paperback: B-K Books, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]


SUPER DEAL: The Kindle ebook is only $2.99 through May 27!!!!

Read an excerpt:

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Eric JacobsenThe City of God in our Neighborhoods

A Feature Review of

The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment

Eric Jacobsen

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Eugene Peterson paraphrases John 1:14 in this way: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”

This vernacular translation neatly captures the potency of the incarnation as recorded by the Apostle John, while also placing it within an equally latent scale: the neighborhood. In fact, picking up the narrative of incarnation and reconciliation with Jacques Ellul, the neighborhood takes on its full significance:

But because Christ is Savior and Lord of both creation and mankind, he is also Savior and Lord of man’s works. In him, God adopts man and his works… He has chosen to dwell in it. And just as the man living in the city is directly subject to the spirit of the city, now those who dwell in it are in communion with God, for he has truly assumed it… and has transfigured it. For even in the resurrection, God does not shatter men’s hopes. Rather, he fulfills them there… And all this happens in the New Jerusalem, so as to forever link man’s work with Christ’s… Man’s version of the incarnation finds an eternal home. (The Meaning of the City, 177)

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