I finished three shorter books this week and offer mini-reviews here.
1. Preaching from Memory to Hope, Thomas G. Long
This is hands down the best book on preaching I've read this past year, and since I just finished a d.min. course on preaching where we read 15 or so books on preaching, that is saying something. Long analyzes the development and then decline of narrative preaching, and argues for a second look. Great historical review and summary. Then there are some wonderful middle chapter on the new atheists, the new gnostics, and especially caring yet probing look at the gnosticism of Marcus Borg. Finally, Long makes the case for the recovery of eschatology in preaching especially in mainline churches. He is such a spectacular writer, you won't be disappointed.
2. The Promise of Despair, Andrew Root
This is more of a devotional book than straight up theology, and it is both weaker and stronger as a result. Although Root grounds his stories and chapters by connecting them with various social theorists (Baudrillard, Lyon, Gibbons, Moltmann, etc.) the book is actually more of a memoir and commentary on the church and institutions Root is a part of currently. In fact, the web site he has launched in connection to the book is purportedly an experiment in living out the practices he writes about in his book in an actual congregation, the one his wife is pastor of. This is either genius, or disturbing, I haven't decided which yet.
3. The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for a Third-Culture Church, Dave Gibbons
This is a really popular leadership book, but I can't say I got a ton out of it, other than to be continually somewhat envious of Dave Gibbons and the NewSong movement he has initiated. Third-culture basically means multi-cultural or cross-cultural, possibly with an added dimension of being will to suffer the culture of another in Christ's name. Gibbons does define the term:
"Third culture is the mindset and will to love, learn, and serve in any culture, even in the midst of pain and discomfort" (38).
Gibbons tells a powerful story, and he is clearly an effective leader, innovator, and pastor, but I think I would learn more by visiting a NewSong congregation than by reading this book. I don't mean that to sound overly critical, but the book just didn't connect for me, other than making me very much want to visit one of his churches.