Book Reviews

I am often asked about what I am reading.  I shall use this page to let you know my thoughts, both favorable and unfavorable, on the books I am reading.  I am a slow reader so this will not be a very dynamic page.   The most recently read and reviewed books will be at the top.   Peace, Pastor Bruce

Rowan Williams’ What is Christianity? is a booklet more than a book.  It opening chapter is a useful lens on how non-churched people might see the culture of Christianity.  If you choose to read and reflect on this booklet, it will say more than if  you scan it for powerful declarative statements.

The author organizes his subtly made argument around the idea that Jesus inaugurates his earthly ministry in the Gospel of John with a question and then an invitation: “What do you seek?” (John 1:37) and “Come and see” (John 1:39).  This question and invitation is the beginning of spiritual wisdom today, just as they were two thousand years ago.

One of my favorite excerpts from the book is “The story of Jesus…is not just an epiphany – a revelation of glory and no more – and it’s not just a commandment or a set of instructions dropped down from heaven.  It’s a manifestation of radiant beauty that lands in our world in the form of a profound moral challenge, because it’s a revelation of active love that dissolves fear.” (p.52)


David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church …And Rethinking Faith (BakerBooks, 2011) is an excellent read.  Kinnaman  with Aly Hawkins do a tremendous job of using data and anecdotes to explain the struggle that churched-millennials have with the formal established church.   True to his Barna Group background, Kinnaman relies on statistically significant facts to inform his expressed opinions, but only after interviews with large numbers of individuals corroborate causal relationships.  The book is spiritual, thoughtful, easy to read and actionable.  I found this book to be enormously encouraging.  The punchline line for me is that millennials are not “failed Baby Boomers.”  Millennials are vastly different from Baby Boomers and in many ways are closer the values of the Gospel than the established church they are abandoning.  The Body of Christ would be greatly strengthened if we could find a path(s) for welcoming, celebrating, empowering millennial Christ-believers and their perspectives on how to authentically live out Christ-centered lives of faith in the modern culture.

Stephen Wellum and Brent Parker’s Progressive Covenantalism.   This book was used for a book study by a group of about 14 local pastors.  Apart from that group, I cannot think of a single person to whom I would recommend this book.  The book has many contributing authors, all weighing in on the debate between Convenantalism and Dispensationalism.  I do not generally find this theological debate of sufficient pastoral importance to devote so much time to it.  The book was hard to grasp, mainly because most of the contributing authors advanced their arguments through allusions to the work of other writers, who have devoted themselves to explaining/debating Covenantalism and/or Dispensationalism.  Since I was unfamiliar with the referenced authors and their arguments, I usually missed how the discussion was being set up and contextualized. That said, worship with my fellow pastors was fantastic and I learned a lot from them on the debate topic, even if I did not learn it from the book directly.

May McNeer and Lynd Ward’s John Wesley.  This is a truly  excellent book written for thoughtful youths.  It’s about 100 pages and has excellent artwork.  It is historically rich and very inspiring.  I greatly enjoyed reading this book and feel as though I learned and experienced a lot through it.  I have purchased a copy to share with children of the church.  I highly commend it.

Sam Storms’ Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life has been an excellent read for me.  The book is intended for people just like me.  That is to say, the book is intended for people who believe that the Holy Spirit probably operates today much in the same way the Holy Spirit operated in the Book of Acts, but who do not have rich first hand experiences of Holy Spirit empowerment to corroborate that understanding.  The book is Scriptural, theological, and richly anecdotal.  It offers practical advice and is full of cautions of how things can go badly when human weakness and error enter in.  It has a reverence and candor that make it a most pleasant educational read.  I recommend reading this book before praying for Holy Spirit led revival.  Since I DO recommend praying for Holy Spirit led revival, I recommend reading this book.

Carl Medearis’ Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships, is a bit of a God-sighting for me.  In the Fall of 2016, I found myself dwelling on the recent spree of terrorist attacks conducted in the name of Islamic jihad.  I developed a rather negative heart towards the religion whose name was being used to justify these evil atrocities.  One Sunday morning, before worship, I felt a conviction that God was displeased by my negative heart.  That very Sunday morning, at church, my friend Robyn was selling Medearis’ book in the back of the sanctuary (gymnasium).  Robyn is a friend of the author and commended the book to me.  The book was a blessing in changing my heart.  My thoughts have not been altered very much, but how I hold those thoughts sure has.  If you are feel convicted about how you think about Muslims, I commend this book for your consideration.

Steven Tracy’s Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse is a powerful book for group discussion.  It is one of those books that comes with DVDs and workbooks and is intended for a group of students with a commitment to the program and to each other.  The group works best when the facilitator is both a gifted individual and has already been through the course at least once.  I went through an abbreviated program in the Summer of 2016.  It was heart wrenching to be surrounded by so many people I knew and cared for who had suffered terrible abuse (usually sexual abuse but not only that).  I have come to the opinion that our churches must be filled with people who have been viciously victimized and who bravely managed to put a veneer  over their scars to keep other people from seeing their wounds.  Sadly, the veneer does not support healing, and so they often find themselves living perpetually wounded and wounding lives.  This book and study is not for the faint of heart and it should probably not be read in isolation.  That said, this book if a powerful resource for those who need healing from abuse or who wish to aid someone in their healing.

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