Thinking Out Loud

April 24, 2018

Evangelicals: A Guided World Tour

As Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Brian Stiller has a big-picture perspective unlike anyone else on the planet. His two most recent books have confirmed this: Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century (Zondervan, 2015) and An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World (Baker, 2016). Simply put, Brian Stiller is a walking encyclopedia on all things Evangelical and he gains his information not from typical research but through firsthand, on-the-ground observation and involvement. We’re talking both frequent flyer miles, and the recognition of Christian leaders on every continent.

This time around he’s with InterVarsity Press (IVP) for From Jerusalem to Timbuktu: A World Tour of the Spread of Christianity (248 pages, paperback).

So…about that title. Brian Stiller argues that if we see Jerusalem as the birthplace, and thereby global center of Christianity, that center point moved up into Europe and then back down and then, around 1970 that center started shifting to the global south. The impact of this is huge; it means that North American and Western Europe are no longer setting the agenda for Christianity. It also means that one particular nation, rocked by the link between Evangelicalism and the election of a particular leader and now trying to consider if it’s time to rename the group entirely, simply cannot be allowed to dictate that change when one considers all that Evangelicals, quite happy with the term, are doing in the rest of the world.

Disclaimer: I am blessed to know Brian personally. His wealth of knowledge impacted me when I sat in the offices of Faith Today magazine, and Brian rhymed off the names of organizations founded in the years immediately following World War II, and then how, as these maverick, dynamic leaders passed the baton to the next generation, these organizations entered a type of maintenance mode, with lessened radical initiative. As Director of Youth for Christ Canada, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (this country’s counterpart to the NAE), President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and now Global World Ambassador for the WEA, he has truly lived four distinct lifetimes.

But that’s not the topic for this book. Rather he looks at five drivers which have characterized the growth of Evangelicalism globally. These are:

  1. An undeniable increase in emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The fruit of years of work by Bible translators.
  3. A shift towards using national (indigenous) workers to lead.
  4. A greater engagement with legislators and governments.
  5. A return to the teachings of Jesus regarding compassion and justice.

Beginning with the first of these, Brian doesn’t hide his own Pentecostal/Charismatic roots, something I haven’t seen as much in his earlier books. A final chapter looks at the influence of prayer movements, the role of women in ministry, the trend in praise and worship music, the challenge of welcoming refugees, and the constant spectre of persecution.

The book compresses decades of modern church history into a concise collection of data and analysis.  It is an answer to the question, “What in the world is God doing?”

I know of no better title on the subject simply because I know of no one more qualified to write it. This is an excellent overview for the person wanting to see the arc of Evangelicalism since its inception or the person who is new to this aspect of faith and wants to catch up on what they’ve missed.

For both types of people, this is a great book to own.

► See the book’s page at the IVP website.

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February 29, 2016

Andy Crouch on the Strength/Authority Continuum

Filed under: books, Christianity, reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:45 am

Just when I was really comfortable thinking about strength vs. weakness as a linear continuum, Andy Crouch comes along with another dimension — a second dimension — that challenges my basic assumptions, and in his words, challenges a false choice or false dichotomy many of us held to.

Andy Crouch - Strong and WeakThe result is a vertical axis labeled “authority” and a horizontal axis labeled “vulnerability.” This in turn creates four different quadrants, and the one you want to strive for is “up and to the right” which he calls “flourishing.”

All that brings us to the title (and probably more importantly, the subtitle) Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing (IVP, hardcover, March 2016).

There’s no spoiler here, the two-dimension model is presented at the outset. Much of the first half of the book defines each of the four quadrants. Vulnerability without authority is suffering. High authority with low vulnerability he calls exploiting. Low authority and low vulnerability he terms withdrawing.

But the big payoff is the second half of the book. Once you get inside the mindset of the paradigm — and an appreciation for it grows more enhanced the further you read — the rest of the narrative is powerful within the model’s context.

…I get to choose the books I want to review, and unless there’s a major disappointment, it’s already a given that I’m going to give a favorable review. So the answer here is a big ‘yes’ to those who ask, ‘Did the reviewer like the book?’ I found this very engaging reading.

But another question I seek to answer here is, ‘Who is this book for?’ In other words, I want readers to know who, in their sphere of influence, would be a likely candidate to be a recipient of a particular book. It’s hard for me to answer that succinctly, because I’ve been told I often think about things that nobody else considers.

In many respects, that is the nature of the titles which bear the InterVarsity Press (IVP) imprint. They publish books for thinking people. (Andy Crouch’s last two books, Culture Making and Playing God are also with IVP.)

Strong and Weak - Andy CrouchAs the following excerpt — from the unnumbered chapter between chapters five and six — shows, one certain target reader would be someone involved in leading others:

Leadership does not begin with a title or a position. It begins the moment you are concerned more about others’ flourishing than you are your own. It begins when you start to ask how you might help create and sustain the conditions for others to increase their authority and vulnerability together. In a world where many people simply withdraw into safety, where others are imprisoned in the most extreme vulnerability, where others pursue their own unaccountable authority, anyone who seeks true flourishing is already, in many senses, a leader.

If you’re looking for something that will challenge your assumptions and get you thinking about life differently, this is the title for you.

February 11, 2016

Book Mentions

Two titles you can share with people who wouldn’t normally read a Christian book.

Because of the popularity of the blog, I receive many books for which I’m not able to do a full review. Today I want to mention two of them, both of which would be suitable for giving away to someone outside your faith circle, as they’re both not preachy and just the right ticket to get conversations started. Both have brightly colored covers! Both have nine chapters.  Both are peripheral to the Christian Living section of the bookstore.

They are however both aimed at vastly different audiences.

Life's Too Short - David DarkLife’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious by David Dark (IVP)

Some chapters grabbed me right away, so I again committed the sin of reading things out of order. David Dark would maintain that everybody — no exceptions — has a religion of some type. The book is a series of essays relating to entertainment, literature, and popular culture in general and how these intersect with belief and faith. (I passed the Doctor Who-inspired chapter on to my wife to read, and we discussed the two episodes cited, which she has seen, but I have not.)

Dark is a professor — one of his courses is “Religion and Science Fiction” — at Belmont University. He meets his topic with wit and humor and yet enough substance to satisfy any student of philosophy or religion, or the skeptic who questions the place of faith in the modern world. Hardcover, 199 pages, releasing now.

Hands Free Life - Rachel Macy StaffordHands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better and Loving More by Rachel Macy Stafford (Zondervan)

Rachel Stafford is a mom to two girls and the author of the highly successful 2014 book Hands Free Mama and the blog of the same name popular with women. (Hands free means not holding on to the wrong things.) In this second book, she continues her style which is a mix of parenting stories told with transparency and self-help principles taught with conviction.

The sub-themes (3 chapters each) are Creating Lasting Connections, Living for Today, and Protecting What Matters. Each of the nine chapters also has three principles, and then ends with a “Habit Builder” to help moms live a life of significance. Paperback, 224 pages, released September 2015.

Click the book images to learn more about each title.

 

June 30, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Check your calendar:  The year is half over.   Just eighteen months left until the world ends in 2012.    Here’s where we were this week:

  • Without question my number one link this week is Francis Chan’s children’s book trailer — that’s right, a kids book — for The Big Red Tractor releasing in September from David C. Cook.
  • Pete Wilson pays tribute to a retiring staff member who he hired seven years ago to bring some experience and wisdom to an otherwise younger team; sharing some valuable lessons he learned from Tom Tyndall.  Here’s a sample:

    Great sermons will get you pats on the back. Savvy leadership skills will win you admiration from your colleagues. Hard work will catch peoples eyes as you separate from the pack. But if you don’t love you’re nothing more than a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal. If you don’t love the people God has placed in your life nothing else really matters.

  • Andy LePeau at InterVarsity has a surefire way to increase the earning potential of your children and it’s not (directly, at least) education.   Check it out.
  • I really enjoyed Rick Apperson’s Blogapalooza throughout the entire month of June at Just a Thought, but especially this guest piece by Clay Crosse.  (Check out the other posts, too.)
  • Mark Wilson has a hilarious hypothetical conversation between God and St. Francis on the subject of lawn maintenance.

    GOD : They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
    ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
    GOD:  They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

  • Know somebody who is giving your pastor a hard time?  Probably not anything like this story.   This guy was a terrorist.  This is a book trailer for an upcoming non-fiction book, The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Alonzo; releasing August 1st.
  • A 2006 iMonk column by Michael Spencer showed considerable insight in trying to bring balance to the young-earth/old-earth tensions in science vs. creationism.  He felt the Bible was a book about God and Jesus, not a book about science.
  • Here’s something you don’t see every day; a book about the ascension of Jesus and why it matters.   Check out Jeff Loach’s review of He Ascended Into Heaven.
  • First it was the hymn people versus the chorus people.  But recently there’s been more visible unrest within the modern worship community itself.   Michael Krahn comments,  in a blog post inspired by one by Canadian Chris Vacher.
  • New Blog of the Week:  Contrast by Terry Foote in Florida.   No particular post, though you might read a father’s perspective on the loss of a child.
  • Atheists have put the “under God” part of “One Nation Under God” back on the agenda with a billboard campaign .
  • There are parts of the Christian internet I’m sure some of you (us) never get to see. Not sure what to make of this one: The blog Enoch Route introduces us to “Billy” who offers some signs you might be in a cult.
  • Can you handle one more Drew Marshall Show link?   When the new archived interviews (from last week’s show) go up on Friday, it’s Drew’s first “Gay Day” with Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network, Wendy Gritter from New Direction Ministries, and singer-songwriter Derek Webb, just back from a tour with Jennifer Knapp.  Click here after 7.2.10 and select the show from 6.26
  • Ruth Graham observes that the themes in Christian young adult fiction are creeping into the mainstream book market.  (Some critics felt it was the other way around.) Check out her article at Slate.
  • Some people have all the answers until you start asking spiritual questions.   Check out this Soul Chat promo.   More Soul Chat video content here.
  • If you’ve read the last chapter of the book version of Stuff Christians Like (as opposed to the website) you know the (somewhat) serious side of Jon Acuff (pictured at right). CNN’s Belief blog had him back again, this time to tell everyone why some Christians act like jerks online.
  • Late breaking item:  With too many contradictions in his Muslim-turned-Christian story, when Ergun Caner’s current term as dean of Liberty University Theological Seminary expires today (6/30) the job won’t be renewed, though he gets to stay on staff.   The Washington Post tells the story, additional background is at World Magazine.
  • Our cartoon today is a classic — in internet terms, it’s actually only from 2008 — Hi and Lois by Brian and Greg Walker.

If you were listed in the blogroll here at Thinking Out Loud, and your blog name begins with “The,” don’t panic, you’re still here.  Look for your blog’s title without the “the.”  (Requests to have it reinstated will be considered by a bureaucratic committee that meets in Switzerland twice a year.)

Last week’s link list got bumped from its home page position by another post, check it out here.

January 30, 2009

The Final Apologetic: Francis Schaeffer

I’m taking my own advice from a few months ago, and trying to read a current title and then read a classic title, and then keep alternating like that.    This time, the book I picked up is more of a booklet — so small I’ve misplaced it twice — but it is a classic from Francis Schaeffer.     Many of the books of that era were small pocket-sized books originally; Basic Christianity and Baptism and Fullness by Stott; The Pursuit of Holiness by Bridges, New Testament Documents by F. F. Bruce, etc.   Today, publishers don’t do smaller books because there’s not enough money in it, unless the book is a spinoff of an existing larger title.

Francis Schaeffer

mark-of-the-christian…John 17:21…Jesus prays, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me.”  In this, his high priestly prayer, Jesus is praying for the oneness of the church, the oneness that should be found specifically among true Christians.   Jesus is not praying for a humanistic, romantic oneness among men in general.

…Jesus goes on… to say something that always causes me to cringe.  If as Christians we do not cringe, it seems to me we are not very sensitive or very honest, because Jesus here gives us the final apologetic… “That they may be one … that the world may believe that thou has sent me.”   This is the final apologetic.

In John 13 the point was that, if an individual Christian does not show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to judge that he is not a Christian.   Here Jesus is saying something which is much more cutting, much more profound:  We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.

Now that is frightening…

…The church is to judge whether a man is a Christian on the basis of his doctrine, the propositional content of his faith, and then his credible profession of faith…  But we cannot expect the world to judge that way, because the world cares nothing about doctrine.  …That is especially true [now] …men no longer believe even in the possibility of absolute truth.   And if we are surrounded by a world which no longer believes in the concept of truth, certainly we cannot expect people to have any interest in whether a man’s doctrine is correct or not.

But Jesus did give the mark that will arrest the attention of the world…

~Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian.

Bonus quotation today — completely unrelated — at no extra charge!

Hope
Hope returns when I remember this one thing:  the Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.  The Lord is all I have and so I put my hope in him.   The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him, so it is best for us to wait in patience – to wait for him to save us – and it is best to learn this patience in our youth.
Lamentations 3:21-27 (Good News Bible/TEV)

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