By Shannon Youell
Ahhh, the warm, laid back days of summer. As I write this, I am looking longingly at my summer vacation reading pile, tempted everyday to delve in now but knowing I must stay on task and not be distracted! So I thought it was a good time to let you know what we’ve been reading and what some of our staff has been and will be delving into this summer.
We would love to have your reviews and feedback from books you have read too. You know where to find us and we encourage you to send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share what is impacting your heart, mind, soul and strength as we labour together with Christ in our church communities.
- The Patient Ferment of the Early Church by Alan Kreider: Kreider shares important characteristics of the early church that drew others to consider a life of faith: practicing patience as a virtue, living a Christian life, careful formation and teaching, and worship. This book helps us understand the shared practices, the rhythms, that helped form the early Christians and through this formation, made them distinguishable, not solely because of their testimony, but because they lived their ordinary lives in a way that was distinguishable to the norms of the culture and society in which they lived. Looking at early church sources, Kreider develops his thoughts. Here is a piece from his introduction:
“The sources rarely indicate that the early Christians grew in number because they won arguments; instead they grew because their habitual behavior (rooted in patience) was distinctive and intriguing. Their habitus—a term I have learned from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu—enabled them to address intractable problems that ordinary people faced in ways that offered hope. When challenged about their ideas, Christians pointed to their actions. They believed that their habitus, their embodied behavior, was eloquent. Their behavior said what they believed; it was an enactment of their message. And the sources indicate that it was their habitus more than their ideas that appealed to the majority of the non-Christians who came to join them.”
- A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together, by Scot McKnight: Several of us are reading or have read this book recently. Here is a bit of what inside cover reveals:
“Author Scot McKnight believes that your local church determines what the Christian life looks like for you. Essentially, local churches matter far more than we often know.”
McKnight begins by describing his own formation in what the Christian life looked like, growing up in a church where everyone basically was “the same” in colour, ethnicity, and tastes in music, worship, sermons and lifestyle.
Delving into the theology of the early church and the practices and issues they were engaged in, McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary, helps us see how those first Christians tackled the reality that the world is full of “differents” and how they wrestled and prayed through sharing life together “…as a new kind of family, showing the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life togther is designed by God to be. He encourages Christians to embody belief, to be holy and loving as we attempt to follow Christ.
I found the chapters “The Table of Connection,” “We is Bigger than Me,” and the whole of Section 4 on Holiness, very helpful and hopeful as we more and more live in a world of differents in ways that continually point to Christ and God’s kingdom gospel story of redemption, reconciliation and restoration of all things. Having said that, that takes the reader to about the half way point of the book and I anticipate there is more deeply thoughtful and grounded content to come.
- Survival Guide for the Soul: How to Flourish Spiritually in a World that Pressures Us to Achieve, by Ken Shigematsu: Ken is our Banff 2019 speaker. I have gone through this book twice and now, with a friend, going through slowly and intentionally. He takes us on the journey of finding the ways to make space to flourish spiritually in the midst of living in a culture that acculturates us to accomplish, succeed, and be validated for the things we do.
“Drawing on a wide range of sources—including Scripture, church history, psychology, neuroscience, and a rich variety of stories from his own life—Shigematsu offers a fresh perspective on how certain spiritual practices help orient our lives so that our souls can flourish in a demanding and competitive world.”
My recommendation: pick this up prior to Banff as I think there will be a rich layering as he shares with us there.
- Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison: Another book drawing us deeper in community living as people of faith in ways that reflect God’s heart for all humans. Here is what the authors say about Slow Church:
“Slow Food and other Slow movements hold important lessons for the (church). They compel us to ask ourselves tough questions about the ground our faith communities have ceded to the cult of speed. And they invite all of us—clergy, theologians and laypeople—to start exploring and experimenting with the possibilities of Slow Church. Not as another growth strategy, but as a way of reimagining what it means to be communities of believers gathered and rooted in particular places in a particular time….Slow Church is a call for intentionality, an awareness of our mutual interdependence with all people and all creation, and an attentiveness to the world around us and the work God is doing in our very own neighborhoods.”
- Reimagine Church, by Nic Harding: If you are deeply invested in discipleship that forms disciples who make disciples who make disciples, this book is one that we are currently reading (and have passed a few around to you). Nic directs us to understanding that “missional discipleship is not just an activity or job description, but a call to embody the message with your lifestyle, and apprentice others in the way of Jesus.”
- If you, like me enjoy reading text books and commentaries I would like to recommend two I have been reading or 2 I will be reading.
- Tremper Longman III & Scot McKnight are the editors of a commentary series called The Story of God Bible Commentary. At my local church we have recently used the commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew and a whole separate one on the Sermon on the Mount. I am currently going through both Philipians and Genesis in this series.
- The other a classic is EP Sanders Paul and Palestinian Judaism, the 40th anniversary edition.
Happy Summer reading and don’t forget to send Cailey your reviews of these or other books to share with your CBWC family of readers!