10 Best Reads From 2009

December 28, 2009

I don’t know how so many great books found their way to my doorstep, but I think this year in reading has certainly been one of the best I’ve ever had.  If you’re looking for some good reads, or you’re curious what I’ve been reading this last year, here are my top ten:

  1. Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester — In many ways this book started much of my journey in to ecclesiology this year (its kind of a theme for the list…:)).  This book, paired with superb training from the people over at Soma Communities, has spoken volumes to me of the church as a sign, a servant and a foretaste of God’s Kingdom on earth.
  2. The Open Secret by Lesslie Newbigin — Almost finished with this gem.  Newbigin is a prophetic voice on mission in this introduction (written in the late 1970’s) that many would benefit from reading.
  3. So Beautiful by Leonard Sweet — With so many conversations these days speaking to increasingly smaller niche markets, Sweet’s book has a pleasurable generality to it.
  4. Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller — A great exposition on storied living and a pleasure to journey with Miller into purposeful living
  5. Organic Church by Neil Cole — Though a little more tilted toward the house church form of church, Cole has some great insights.
  6. Organic Leadership by Neil Cole — Another great perspective from Cole, this time on leadership.  I’m anticipating the value of this book (and #6) will both rise as the Church continues to lose its assumed position of authority (where I believe the American church is heading and the European church has already gone)
  7. The Prodigal God by Tim Keller — An inspiring, thorough exposition of the Prodigal Son (or Compassionate Father more accurately).
  8. Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal — While McNeal doesn’t detail the destination so much, I found this book had some great perspective for the journey.
  9. The Mission of God by Christopher Wright — To be fair, I haven’t exactly read this one yet, but it is next on my list.  I think it has made it on the list because of both my anticipation and it’s reputation as perhaps THE biblical theology of mission in the Bible.
  10. Compromising Redemption by Fewell and Gunn and Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel by Alan Culpepper — Two commentaries tied for 10th place for their acuity and insight into their respective texts.

By and large, it has been a year of ecclesiology really, but what great resources! All of these books are available here through Amazon.com. Hope you get a chance to check them out!



Knowing me in you

November 22, 2009

For a long time now I’ve marveled at how relationships seem to find their foundation in the most mundane of times.  Sitting around playing games or something.  Do it for long enough and your circle of friends will be seriously renovated.  A couple things recently–things I’ve read, heard and experienced–might finally be bringing some clarity in to this.

Tim Chester said something that caught my attention when he said this:

“In the triune God the one and the many are perfectly held together…God’s plurality does not compromise his unity nor does his unity compromise his plurality.  He is not one in a way that he cannot be three.  He is not three in a way that he cannot be one.  And the key is that divine personal is defined in relational terms…God is persons in community and human personhood too is in the image in the triune God and therefore defined in relational terms.  You can no more be a relation-less person than you can be a childless mother or a fatherless son…Who I am is defined in relation to other people.” (beginning around the 33rd minute of this message)

In stories, characters who tell us things about the main characters have come to be called “foil characters”, and in some sense all of us are foils to other characters in the stories we all inhabit.  In the words of C.S. Lewis,

“By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald” (The Four Loves)

Personally I have been reflecting on this and it has been slowly working its way in to reality.  My being is both that which is called from me in relation to other people and that which is created in my interactions with other people.


"Because you've given so much of yourself to the company that you don't have anything left we can use."

Slowly I think I am really coming to believe that I too am known in my relationships.  I am not who I am because I am a success or because I know the things I know, etc.  What this means is that my value no longer rests in what I produce or what I know.  My value rests in my relations, which is of course essentially the Law-Gospel juxtaposition as well, here my value is in Christ rather than my obtaining righteousness by the law.


Drawing the focus back a bit, I wonder how this impacts my understanding of Church.  We are who we are together not because of what we do but because of whose we are and our relationship with him.  I wonder that this is why Leonard Sweet should say this about church and “going”:

The church doesn’t ‘go’ into the world and take the church there.  The church ‘goes into the world to discover itself there.  The church isn’t ‘sent’ into the world merely to bless or even to ‘be a blessing to the nations.’  The church is ‘sent’ to be Jesus.  Jesus is the blessing.  As we incarnate Jesus in the world, we will find ourselves doing things he did, even ‘greater things.’ ” (So Beautiful, 61)

What is a Missionary?

October 29, 2009

A great question with many answers.  Its an especially good question considering every follower of Jesus, if they’re really following him, ought to live in like [missionary] form.  So if all Jesus followers are missionaries then again, what is a missionary?

Reading more of Len Sweet’s So Beautiful he mentions this definition: “A missionary is someone who lives on someone else terms.”

Amazingly someone has made a game called Missionaries and Cannibals where you shuffle the two groups between shores all the while keeping the cannibals from eating the missionaries.  My offering for a new game: How many faulty ideas about all parties can you find?

Amazingly someone has made a game called "Missionaries and Cannibals" (click picture to play) where you shuffle the two groups between shores all the while keeping the cannibals from eating the missionaries. My offering for a new game: How many faulty ideas about all parties can you find?

What a great way to view myself as a Christian.  What a great way to view Jesus’ coming to earth, being wrapped in flesh and living among us.  I picture Jesus in the womb or lying on Mary’s lap crying for his next meal and I think, “Wow!  That is meeting people on their terms.”

The Gospel didn’t change–again look at Jesus!–but everything about it was brought to bear in a place that formerly could not see, hear or touch him.  And he so fully dwelt there, that they could not only see him, but kill him.

Please choir, don’t think I’m preaching at you.  I’m really searching for how our missionary identity in Christ would shape my life as well as those around me.

(For more on the Christian’s missionary identity in Christ check out Soma Communities’ page and audio on the subject–really good stuff!)



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