Monday, August 30, 2010

A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch | Book review | Books | The Guardian

A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch | Book review | Books | The Guardian Great review in The Guardian by Rowan Williams. Anyone reading this right now? I've been recommending it and will spend the fall reading it in preparation for Advent and the next church year.

Church in the Inventive Age review

If Pagitt's book is about the church in the "inventive Age," one could also argue that his book is a book of the Inventive Age. It reads like a long essay (it took me about 45 minutes to read it cover to cover), and has many pull quotes inserted throughout that offers a lay-out similar to print journalism. It's the first book from sparkhouse, the Inventive Age subdivision of Augsburg Fortress (an Information Age institution).

It also reads like a sermon. It offers an analysis of the situation (especially reflections on culture and change), helps you chart where you are (Agrarian Age, Industrial Age, Information Age, or Inventive Age, which he also charts as rural, urban, suburban, global, see page 35), and then moves to encouragement to action, either as a church "for," "with," or "as" the Inventive Age (see comparison chart on page 108).

In this sense, Pagitt's book is not unlike Niebuhr's Christ and Culture, and compares favorably to it. It is shorter, very clear, and up to date. Leaders of congregations are more likely to read it (it takes about as much time to read as to watch a movie--Niebuhr's book takes two or three days to read well).

The other reason Pagitt's book compares to Niebuhr is that, although Pagitt says that churches that are informed by previous eras still can and should exist in the modern era (he offers great advice on how to be Agrarian, Industrial, or Information Age churches given the new cultural situation), finally he does prefer and encourage the Inventive Age, just as Niebuhr ultimately prefers Christ transforming culture.

Best pull quote from the book that summarizes his overall argument? Maybe this one: "The ability to teach and preach and lead is taking a backseat to the pastor's capacity to create and facilitate open-source faith experiences for the people of the church" (34).

This a really helpful book. It isn't deep or heady or profound. It is pithy and clear, and inspiring. If there is one weakness to the book, it is that it is too strong on analysis of past cultures and the situation, and does not offer as thorough a description of what the Inventive Age actually looks and lives like. I'd like to hear more stories about Inventive Age churches, and more analysis of what precisely the inventive age is. Since more books from Pagitt are promised through sparkhouse, I hope he'll author more in that direction.

Buy this book in bulk directly from the publisher and get a very deep discount. It is worth reading with a church council, leadership team or small group.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

re:form gallery

We're using the new re:form curriculum from Sparkhouse as our content for confirmation this year, which I believe is a super great way to present catechetical questions to teens. We've been previewing the videos this summer and folks just love them. One aspect of the curriculum I'm especially curious to see in action is the re:form gallery It's a place where youth present their point of view by uploading their work after they've seen the video and engage the re:form Anti-Workbook.

Is anyone out there already using this resource? Id love to share tips and ideas back and forth.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New articles on prison ministry in The Lutheran

I've got a couple of new articles at The Lutheran, both on prison ministry. One is about a pastor who started a mission congregation on the west coast, the other is about a local pastor and chaplain in Dane County. Hope you find them inspiring!

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Sufjan Stevens EP

Sufjan Stevens has a new album out, and you can stream it. It's an EP that is longer than many LPs, and what is an EP any way?

Funded and Free Table of Contents

If you review the topics in the Table of Contents, I think you'll be as interested as I am in this book...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Best Books About Being a Pastor

Over the course of the year, I tend to loan interns a few books. Maybe too many books. It occurred to me I should try to narrow the focus to a particular genre that would be especially helpful for interns. It would need to be compelling to read, but also theologically informative and pertinent to the tasks of ministry.

Memoirs and autobiographies are particularly well-suited to this task, and so I offer this Top 15 list of books for supervisors and interns to consider reading together during the course of the year. All of them are rich in wisdom, grace, and faith.

1) Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, Reinhold Niebuhr: Notes from Niebuhr's early years as a pastor (1915-1928) in urban Detroit, this book has been formative in the careers of at least two generations of pastors.

2) Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discover, Richard Lischer: Before becoming a professor of homiletics, Lischer was the pastor of a small rural congregation in southern Illinois. Open Secrets details his first three years of ministry, witnessing the joys and challenges that come from transitioning from university to parish life.

3) Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx, Heidi Neumark: Neumark spent nearly 20 years serving a Lutheran congregation in the South Bronx, and this book details that incredible journey of faithful ministry in a challenging urban setting.

4) The Preaching Life, Barbara Brown Taylor: These are Taylor's early reflections on ministry as an Episcopalian priest, followed by 13 sample sermons from her exemplary career as a literate and thoughtful preacher.

5) The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for a Third Culture Church, Dave Gibbons: Although not strictly a memoir, Gibbons weaves enough of his own story into the text that you get a powerful sense of what it means to be a missional pastor in the 21st century.

6) A Pioneer Churchman, J.W.C. Dietrichson in Wisconsin 1844-1850: I'm probably biased, because this is the founding pastor of East Koshkonong Lutheran Church, where I currently serve, but this travel narrative gives a profound sense of the early immigrant church and the role of the pastor in that context.

7) Under the Unpredictable Planet, Eugene Peterson: Peterson weaves his own story into many of his books, and he has written lots of wonderful books on the pastoral ministry, but this may be the most refreshing, especially for pastors learning to self-differentiate.

8) The Pastor: A Spirituality, Gordon Lathrop: Again, although not strictly a memoir, this book arises out of Lathrop's long wise look at the pastoral ministry from the perspective of liturgy and the catechism.

9) The Country Parson, George Herbert: This is the the classic of the genre, and though it is sometimes difficult and very distant in time and tone, it is worth the time.

10) Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: More a memoir and theological treatise on Christian community than the life of the pastor per se, this book about the underground life of the seminary Bonhoeffer led during the Third Reich is seminal, and worth reading many, many times over.

11) Hannah's Child by Stanley Hauerwas and A Broad Place by Jurgen Moltmann: Two of our greatest living theologians have written wonderful autobiographies, and they help place the work of a a theologian in the context of life in a way that will bear fruit for thoughtful readers who care about theology.

12) This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver: This is probably the most recent book published under the genre of "pastoral memoir", and it is unique in weaving the story of two pastors together, chapter after chapter. This is a really creative way to team-author a book.

13) Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry: Ok, this isn't a memoir, it's a novel, and it isn't about a pastor, it's about a barber. But I'm telling you, you might learn more about being a pastor from this book than any other book on the list.

14) Gilead, Marilynne Robinson: This is a novel, but it actually is about a pastor, or more properly, it's letters from an aging pastor to his young son.

15) Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry, Will Willimon: This is kind of like the comprehensive handbook for pastors, and the accompanying volume, a reader, is worth acquiring and reading together with Willimon's textbook.

I'm sure many internship supervisors would list others (when I was in seminary, a big one was The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz), and I'd love to hear what they are. In the meantime, I imagine anyone can find at least one book on this list that is worth digging into and living with this next year of ministry and study, and I would love to hear what you learn as you do so!


Mateo Ilasco — TO-DO LIST NOTEPAD has revolutionized my note-taking and planning. The design is perfect!

Kaivama: Finnish-American Excavators

Kaivama: Finnish-American Excavators Looking forward to this album!

On the Expense of Remythologizing Theology

Dear Editors,

I first encountered Kevin J. Vanhoozer's work in a slim and affordable volume, Reading Scripture with the Church: Toward a Hermeneutic for Theological Interpretation ($20 from Baker Academic, or $9.99 on the Kindle). All four essays contributed to that volume are wonderful, but Vanhoozer's "Imprisoned or Free? Text Status and Theological Interpretation in the Master/Slave Discourse of Philemon" was especially revelatory.

When D. Stephen Long's review of Remythologizing Theology appeared in the most recent issue of The Christian Century, I was inspired to purchase a copy and read it for myself, especially when Long issued this challenge: "In an era in which more clergy know their Myers-Briggs score than can explain the doctrine of the enhypostaton, Vanhoozer's work is a breath of fresh air. If you are one of those clergy, obtain and read Remythologizing Theology." However, Cambridge University Press's price for the book is $131, and the best on-line prices are around $120, or $80 on the Kindle. Not to put too fine a point on it, but most pastors I know are even more familiar with the limits of their book budgets than with either the Myers-Briggs or the doctrine of the enhypostaton. If clergy are going to read this book, it will need to be priced for that market, and not exclusively at a price point affordable to institutions of higher learning.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

John Goldingay's Genesis for Everyone

Rating: 4

Goldingay, John. GENESIS FOR EVERYONE: PART ONE AND TWO. Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. 197 and 186 pages respectively. Paper. ISBN 978-0-664-23375-4 and 978-0-664-23375-7

N.T. Wright's popular The New Testament for Everyone series is now followed by an ambitious project, John Goldingay's The Old Testament for Everyone. These are commentaries written with a lay audience in mind, integrating personal stories and contemporary illustrations with exegesis of the biblical text. Goldingay wisely devotes two full volumes to Genesis, and then finishes up his commentary on the Penteteuch with two other volumes, Exodus and Leviticus for Everyone, and Numbers and Deuteronomy for Everyone. Because Goldingay intends to write commentary on the entire Old Testament, libraries may want to wait and purchase all the volumes as a single set (a format that is now available for N.T. Wright's commentary on the New Testament, ISBN 978-0-664-22851-4). On the other hand, churches that lack commentaries designed for lay readers may want to purchase these immediately, because they are certainly some of the best work out there written for a lay audience, and would be incredibly useful for small group bible study, personal devotions, and other contexts.

Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

Rating: 4

Smith, Christian with Patricia Snell. SOULS IN TRANSITION: THE RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL LIVES OF EMERGING ADULTS. Oxford University Press, 2010. 368 pages. Cloth. ISBN 978-0195371796

A few years ago Christian Smith published a seminal work summarizing his research into the religious and spiritual lives of American teeneagers. All the research for that book derived from the National Study of Youth and Religion. His findings changed dramatically our understanding of teen religion. He emphasized that teens are more traditional than we had thought, adopting, for the most part, the religion and spirituality of their parents, a vague, self-defined spirituality Smith titled Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Souls in Transition is the follow-up study to Soul-Searching, analyzing data on the teenagers who are now emerging adults. Smith is a sociologist of religion, so the book reads like a work of sociology, with a heavy emphasis on statistics and data-analysis from interviews. However, it is not a dry read. Librarians will want to acquire Soul-Searching and Souls in Transition as a set. Together, they will give readers a better picture of the spiritual lives of teenagers and emerging adults than any other book on the market today.