Top Posts 2013

statsThe Christmas to New Year blog sabbatical starts here so I’ll leave you with the top 5 posts (in terms of hits) from 2013:

  1. Tim Keller’s top 10 evangelism tips
  2. God’ll fix it by Jimmy Saville
  3. Why ‘Yes’ men will kill you
  4. Why the FIEC is a good thing
  5. Why meet twice on a Sunday
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Best Reads 2013

readingFor those who like this sort of thing, here are my best reads from the last 12 months:

  1. Tim Keller, Center Church – simply magnificent. Buy it, read it, do it now!
  2. Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling – personally very challenging as a church leader. One of the best books I’ve read on the subject.
  3. Lance Witt, Replenish – a ton of bite-size soul help to get yourself spiritually reoriented
  4. C.S.Lewis, God in the Dock – Not a new book, but read by me for the first time in the summer. Wish I’d read it 10 years ago – some gems in there.
  5. John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One – an immensely stimulating scholarly treatment of Gen 1 that will no doubt prove a game-changer.
  6. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV.3.2  – perhaps a slightly controversial choice but Barth is intellectually stimulating and has some great insights on stuff.

And one more that I haven’t yet finished but would surely make the list if I had: Eric Mataxas, Bonhoeffer – simply brilliant on so many levels.

Why don’t you leave a comment giving a couple of your own recommendations for my new year’s reading.

Some useful video resources for your carol service talks…

There’s plenty of good stuff around – here’s a few of my favourites for this year:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ_MGWio-vc – Little Drummer Boy (Pentatonix)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IokTM3PEGiM – Anti-Santy Ranty (Glen Scrivener)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXfBXv78uOo – Christmas in dark places (Glen Scrivener)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OpWyZGTKyU – Christmas time (UCCF)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIEIvi2MuEk – WestJet Christmas miracle

Why don’t you post links to others you know of – you know how we all struggle this time of year to find good stuff that we haven’t already done!

Living Witness: Explorations in Missional Ethics

living witnessIf you want to get a feel for the immensely exciting field of missional ethics (my PhD interest!) here’s a good starting point: Draycott, Andy, and Jonathan Rowe, eds. Living Witness: Explorations in Missional Ethics. Nottingham: Apollos, 2012. Pp. 304. Paperback. ISBN 1844745759.

The book explores the various ways in which mission and ethics are connected. In the introductory chapter, “What is missional ethics?”, Jonathan Rowe argues that missional ethics arises out of the Missio Dei, embracing the whole life, as an expression of divinely bestowed identity. In scope it is “as wide as the human life itself” and takes on cruciform and community shape in the place in which we find ourselves within God’s larger narrative. Just rolls off the tongue.

Highlights from the book include Chris Wright’s exploration of the ‘sending’ of the Trinity in missional terms. As the Father and Spirit send the Son, the Father and Son send the Spirit, and so the Son and Spirit send and empower the church. Missional ethics “draws its dynamic from the ethical character of the God whose intrinsic Trinitarian sending lies behind any sending and being sent that we are involved in.”

Grant Macaskill provides a survey of hope in the Old and New Testament concluding that the church is itself the realization of the prophetic hope of transformation. As such, a community of justice and equity points away from the misery of self-incurvature to the restoration of life as God intends. This chapter was a real highlight.

The second part of the book examines specific issues pertaining to missional ethics; in chapter 7 Ruble, a historian, traces Christianity Today’s presentation of the debates surrounding evangelism and social action from the 1960’s to the present day. Ruble raises interesting questions about how culture (in this case male white Anglo-American culture) shapes the debates.

In chapter 9 de Graaff examines the concept of friendship and the missional implications. He begins by examining what Plato, Aristotle, and Seneca had to say on friendship, noting that for each a certain higher ideal surpassed any concept of true reciprocal friendship – the friendship was simply a means to a higher end. He then outlines a Christian account of friendship. Distinguishing between moral and epistemic reciprocity he argues, based on Jesus’ own teaching, that friendship is a reciprocal act of communion. Friendship is not a means to an end, but an end in itself and in that respect is missional. Again, a real highlight.

There were also interesting chapters on politics and economics though I personally disagree with the conclusions. What is evident in the field as a whole is a lack of consensus as to the exact shape of missional ethics. Part of this untidiness lies in the definition of terms. Draycott and Rowe state in their introduction that the scope of missional ethics is as wide as human life itself. But, as Bishop Neill argued, if mission is everything, mission is nothing. Missional ethics is an exciting field, and I think this book opens some interesting doors, but there’s still plenty of work to be done (hopefully not too much in the next few years, for my sake!).

Two Recent Books on Small Groups

small groups donahuesmall groups gladenHere’s a couple of books that have come out recently on small groups. Interestingly, both of these books focus not on how to lead a small group, but how to lead a small group ministry. So if you’re the person responsible in your church for looking after small groups these are worth looking at.

The first is from the Willow Creek stable and is entitled Building a Life Changing Small Group Ministry by Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson. These guys churn out materials on small groups and its usually sane and helpful. This offering is no exception. They walk through topics like ministry clarity, leadership, structure, leader development, and strategic planning. Now, it’s American, it’s geared at (very) large churches, and you won’t agree with everything. But, what I like about the book is that it asks good questions, and presents multiple models, without ever being overly prescriptive. In that sense, it’s a helpful book to get you thinking about the right sorts of issues.

The second book is by Steve Gladen and is entitled Small Groups With Purpose. Gladen looks after Saddleback Church’s 3,500 small groups (yes, you did read that correctly). Like Donahue and Robinson, Gladen walks through the foundations of a healthy small group ministry including core values, vision, development, and strategy. It’s a little more prescriptive than the Willow book, and based around Saddleback’s model of church. I personally liked their strategy for starting new groups, involving fringe people, around an annual ‘campaign’ (you’ll have to read the book!). The book also contains a helpful small group health assessment tool which I’ll be encouraging our leaders to use. And he also has some good advice for small group ministry coordinators in terms of how to invest in different types of leaders and groups. I wasn’t quite so taken with the leader recruitment model which essentially makes willing hosts small group leaders. I can see that you could end up with some spiritually immature people in positions of significant influence. But like the previous book, it gets you thinking about some important stuff.

If you are the person charged with looking after your church’s small group ministry I’d recommend you spend some time with these books. As I say, they’ll be plenty that you don’t agree with or doesn’t apply, but I do think these books get you asking the right questions about how to develop a small group ministry within a church.

Chesterton on Miracles

gkcHere’s a little gem from my favourite Catholic for your evernote books:

“Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arise that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them because they have a doctrine against them.”

 

– G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (p. 143 in the free Kindle edition)