Best Books of 2016

Here’s the obligatory list of good reads from 2016. Enjoy!

  • 5 Voices and 5 Gears (Cockram and Kubicek) – two simply outstanding books on leading and understanding others and ourselves.
  • Understanding Christian Mission (Sunquist); Introducing Christian Mission Today (Goheen) – two excellent, more heavy-weight, missiology texts – must read for anyone doing work and research in the area of missiology.
  • Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully (Piper) – lovely stuff on the power of crafted communication, with excerpts from Lewis, Whitefield, and Herbert – what’s not to love!?
  • Justice (Sandel) – excellent, entertaining, informative look at ethics (non-Christian, but that wouldn’t put you off a good book now would it!?)
  • Bringing It To The Table (Berry) – a stimulating look at our relationship with the land and our food. You don’t need to agree with everything here, but it’ll certainly make you think.
  • Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Mohler, Enns, Bird, Vanhoozer, Franke) – strange, frustrating, shrill in places – but Vanhoozer’s essay alone is worth your time and money (and Mike Bird will having you laughing out loud too!)
  • Isaac Watts (Graham Beynon) – accessible, heart-warming, practical, and applied – more please Graham!

So there you have it. Now it’s your turn! Comment to tell which books I must read in 2017.

Seasonal blessings and cheer on you all!

A couple of models for missional thinking

I came across these in some recent reading as they relate to my PhD. The first is the Engel scale – a sixteen point scale that attempts to plot responses to and journeys toward Christian faith.


The second is the Gray Matrix. This is a response to and development of Engel’s scale which factors in attitude as well as knowledge.


Now here’s a few reflections on these models:

  • First, I’ve been unable to find the methodology behind these results. I don’t know if they’re based on research interviews or something else, and I’d be keen to know the basis upon which these models are proposed (any help on sources appreciated).
  • Second, it has been widely recognised that overly neat and linear presentations don’t fully represent the reality of people’s faith journey.
  • Third, these models are only useful if you factor in the sovereign grace of God, at which point the usefulness is hugely relativized.
  • Fourth, these models strike me as a tad cognitive, and perhaps do not give quite enough weight to the emotional or experiential – perhaps?
  • Fifth, there is the danger that we can use these models to plot the idealized pathway to faith which is, given points 2 and 3, not easy or necessarily fruitful.
  • Finally, and with all the necessary caveats in place it may be worth pondering whether our missional strategies hit some of these different points on the pathways. Are we doing all our work at points 8, 9, 10? Are we sufficiently aware of and active in the realms of points 1, 2, 3? And how might you adopt different approaches to the open and to the hostile?

Models like this are funny things. It strikes me they can serve as potentially useful tools, but truly terrible masters. What do you think? Is this stuff helpful? How might you utilise these models?

Let Your Gentleness Be Evident To All

I was reminded the other day of the cartoon in which a man is huddled over his computer in his dressing grown, and calls out to his wife, ‘I can’t come to bed just yet darling; someone on the internet is wrong.’


The reason I mention this is because I’ve seen a number of examples in recent weeks of Christian leaders frankly disqualifying themselves in the way they speak to and about others. There seems to be a strange delight in being provocative, curt, uncharitable, and just plain rude. If we spoke to those we lead the way we speak online many of us would lose our jobs. So here’s a few verses that I think apply every bit as much to social media world as the real world:

  • ‘a gentle answer turns away wrath; but a harsh word stirs up anger’ (Prov 15:1)
  • ‘Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own’ (Prov 26:17)
  • ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’ (Gal 5:22-23)
  • ‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.’ (Eph 4:2-3)
  • ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.’ (Phil 4:5)
  • ‘clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’ (Col 3:12)
  • ‘the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone’ (2 Tim 2:24)
  • ‘slander no one, be peaceable and considerate, and always be gentle towards everyone (Titus 3:2)
  • ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit (Jam 3:17)
  • and don’t forget those elder qualifications – temperate, self-controlled, respectable, gentle, not quarrelsome (1 Tim 3:2-3), upright, holy, and disciplined (Titus 1:8).

Now of course I don’t think that means we aren’t allowed to disagree, debate, and dialogue, but tone and context are everything, and I’m increasingly convinced that Facebook and Twitter aren’t the place. So can I gently encourage us all – leaders and role-models in particular – to let our gentleness be evident to all.

If you want to think more about this, one of our ministers here at Grace, Jon Putt, did an excellent five part series recently on how we use and engage social media – you can find it here: