Archives For Review

 

A Truly Dialogical Space

 
A Feature Review of 
 

The Mission of the Church:
Five Views in Conversation

Craig Ott, Ed.

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2016
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Reviewed by Joe Davis.
 
 
 
In The Mission of the Church, Craig Ott facilitates an energizing, informative, and mutually enriching dialogue on how the church participates with God’s work in, for, and with God’s creation. Five contributors participate in this dialogue: Stephen Bevans representing a Roman Catholic tradition, Darrell Guder representing mainline Protestants, Ruth Padilla Deborst representing Latin American evangelicals, Edward Rommen representing an Eastern Orthodox tradition, and Ed Stetzer representing North American evangelicals. Each contributor provides their own perspective and then responds to the other four perspectives. I write this review as a North American evangelical raised in Stetzer’s tradition, but trained academically in Padilla Deborst’s tradition. I was familiar with the work of Bevans and Guder, and am least familiar with Rommen and the Eastern Orthodox tradition. In this review, I briefly summarize each view, discuss the common themes of Trinity and contextualization, and explore how Christological nuances lead to missiological differences.

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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.
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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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Sacred Ordinary/Ordinary Sacred
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Liturgy of the Ordinary:
Sacred Practices in Everyday Life

Tish Harrison Warren

Paperback: IVP Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Michele Morin
 
 

Watch for our interview with the author
in our Lent 2017 print magazine…
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Annie Dillard has (famously) said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  This is a cautionary saying for those of us who live our days as the sandwich-makers, the sock sorters, and the finders of misplaced library books.  Therefore, Liturgy of the Ordinary has landed upon my reading list like a benediction, for in Tish Harrison Warren’s words, I hear the husky contralto sound track of Peggy Lee’s musical question “Is That All There Is?” Thanks be to God, Tish arrives at a resounding “No!”  The daily, mundane tasks that comprise civilization and self-maintenance on this planet are clearly not “all there is.”  On the contrary, they are shot through with the sacred — even all the repetitive and seemingly Sisyphean tasks that, while admittedly are sacrificial, seem hardly to be sacramental.

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“Be holy, because I am holy.”
 
 
A Review of 

Blessed Among Us:
Day by Day with Saintly Witnesses

Robert Ellsberg

Hardback: Liturgical Press, 2016
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Reviewed by Danny Wright
 
 
In His book Blessed Among Us, Robert Ellsberg provides readers with an encyclopedia of introductions to a wide variety of saintsEach day offers a brief biography of two “saints” who have lived a life of example and ends with quotes to aid the reader in reflection. This particular volume can be used as an addendum for praying the hours (and can be found as such in the daily prayer app offered by Liturgical Press, Give Us This Day), as a supplement for personal inspiration and reflection, or as the subject for family devotions, or as encouragement for a church/ministry staff. There is a wealth of information shared in a succinct, accessible style that will spark your creativity and curiosity, inspire more attentive living, and may even cause you to fire up your search engine, or send you to your favorite website or bookstore in search of the actual writings that are being referenced.

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Linking The Past With Present
 
A Brief Review of 
 

Poets & Saints:
Eternal Insight. Extravagant Love. Ordinary People.

Jamie George

Paperback: David C. Cook, 2016
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Reviewed by Lynn Domina
 
 
In Poets & Saints: Eternal Insight, Extravagant Love, Ordinary People, Jamie George has undertaken an intriguing project. Partly memoir, partly religious history, partly devotional, the book links the past with the present, the extraordinary with the ordinary, the public with the personal. Traveling through Europe with his children and a film crew, he reflects on the lives of several writers and saints (some canonized, others not) affiliated with the regions they explore. He pays particular attention to the characters’ flaws in order not only to humanize them but also to provide specific detailed examples of individuals who did what was theirs to do, trusting that God will show contemporary readers what is their own. George’s project is ambitious, but his style is hospitable. He writes conversationally, including sufficient detail for readers unfamiliar with his material but also with sufficient energy to keep readers with a stronger background in religious history engaged.

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These great new books on marriage were featured in
our Advent 2016 print magazine
(As sidebar reviews to  Katherine Willis Pershey’s excellent book Very Married)

Reviews by ERB Editor,
C. Christopher Smith

 

*** SUBSCRIBE NOW to our print magazine!

 

Making Marriage Beautiful:
Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You

Dorothy Greco

 
Hardback: David C. Cook, 2017
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Dorothy Greco offers us in Making Marriage Beautiful a poignant reflection on the many challenges of marriage that will require our attention and our diligence. Beginning with the helpful conviction that marriage will change you, Greco explores the dynamics of marriage and how indeed we are changed through the covenant of marriage. Each chapter ends with a story from a different married couple that sheds light on the theme of that chapter. The beauty of this book lies in its insistence that the fruits of marriage–joy and intimacy, for instance–are cultivated through weathering challenges together. Cultivation is a helpful, agricultural metaphor, for a marriage, like farming, will require hard work, but there are also other factors that shape a marriage that cannot be controlled by our most diligent efforts. Making Marriage Beautiful is a wise and immensely practical book for anyone who is married, or who  hopes to someday be married.
 
 

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A Vision of Love and Unity
for All of Creation

A Feature Review of 

The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian
Brian McLaren

Hardback: Convergent Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Leslie Klingensmith
 

For several years, I was a Brian McLaren skeptic.  It wasn’t personal.  I’ve never met him, and have not seen him speak in person (although I would like that to change).  My skepticism was based on what felt like a universal wave of adulation for him that, in my opinion, was easily turned into dismissal of everything about the church and our history.  While I agree that much about the church needs to (indeed MUST) change, I bristle at the suggestion that the church by which I was nurtured and to whom I have dedicated my vocational life is as hopelessly misguided and selfish as many McLaren devotees say it is.  After all, there are millions of people across denominations who are doing such wonderful work in the world and who make me hopeful for the future of God’s people.  If the church produced them, can it be all bad?  Skeptics in the McLaren universe don’t get very far – if you raise questions about the “Everything Must Change” mind set, you are dismissed as defensive and too invested in the old order of things.  If you point out ways that the current church is already moving in many of the directions McLaren advocates, especially missional communities and emphasis on serving the wider world instead of maintaining institutions, you are in denial about how bad things really are in the mainline church.  Brian McLaren’s cult-like status got on my nerves.

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What is the Human Being?

 
A Review of 

Being Human in God’s World:
An Old Testament Theology of Humanity
J. Gordon McConville

Hardback: Baker Academic, 2016
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Reviewed by Nick Jordan
 
 
J. Gordon McConville’s central question, repeated at regular intervals throughout this book, is a Biblical question: “What is the human being, that you [God] should call him to mind; or the son of man that you should pay attention to him?” (Psalm 8:4). He explores this question not only as a Biblical scholar and theologian, but as one who wants to help Christians. As he writes in his Preface, “what follows should be regarded as an essay in reading the Bible in pursuit of oneself, individually and in one’s various communities, as a human being.”

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A More Productive, Fulfilling Life.
 
A Feature Review of 
 
Rest: Why You Get More Done
When You Work Less
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Hardback: Basic Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Emma Sleeth Davis
 
 

In Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang starts with a simple premise: working more hours does not mean getting the most—or best—work done.  Part self-help, part scientific findings, part biographical anecdotes, Rest is an engaging, well written and researched read for white collar workers interested in improving their productivity.

The book is organized into three parts: an introduction and two opening chapters; the pith of the book, concerning the schedules and techniques of successful workers; and a concluding section on sustaining productivity.

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Embracing the Spirit of God
that Rests in us All

 
A Review of

Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World
Leroy Barber

Paperback: IVP Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Leroy Seat
 
 
For many years one of my favorite images of Jesus, and of Jesus-followers, is that of him welcoming us with open arms. After reading Leroy Barber’s new book, I realized that I needed a more dynamic image. Not only does Jesus stand with open arms, he also moves to embrace all who come to him. We followers of Jesus should be willing to do the same.

Barber, an African-American man who grew up in Philadelphia but who now, after several years in Atlanta, lives in Portland, Oregon, has long served as a pastor and as a leader in several organizations ministering to people in need. He has spent his adult life of more than 30 years pursuing reconciliation and justice between diverse people and groups who have often been separated by fear and prejudice.

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