Category Archives: Books

Hey Let’s Be Powerful

The Korean pastor handed his business card to me, and immediately two words jumped out from his vision statement: Powerful church. I found myself recoiling, the words grated on me. ‘How arrogant!’ I thought, judging before even thinking.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you,” says Jesus at the start of the Book of Acts, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” If Pastor Park was arrogant in his vision for a powerful church, then how much more Christ himself?

It’s interesting and wonderful how it takes believers of other cultures to see the ways in which we have sold out to ours. Australians value humility. We really value it, and are at our most powerful when we’re pulling down someone who’s up themselves. We hate pride and arrogance, and sometimes so much that we forget to love God.

You see, we tend to draw a straight line from strength and success to pride and arrogance, so much so that we often can’t tell the difference. Someone who’s successful is obviously proud. And therefore, one way that we can cleverly avoid that deadly sin is to not be successful. To not strive, nor pursue excellence. The words “powerful church” grate on us, because we can make a virtue out of our churches being weak, disorganised and unfruitful. We congratulate ourselves, agreeing that “we’d rather be like this that like one of those try-hard churches.”

Yes, churches and Christians who make efforts to love the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind and all their strength are obviously doing it wrong! Believers who study the Scriptures hard, pray regularly and work on sharpening their ministry are clearly mistaken and trying to build up Brownie points with God. Don’t they know we’re saved by grace, and our Master loves it most when we bury our talents to show our trust in him?

Sacred agents, let’s try to recognise this idiocy when we see it and repent from it. God is calling us to step up and grow up, strive forward (1 Co 9:24-27), and actively seek his empowering. “Strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees,” says the writer to Hebrews “…so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” In Christ it is perfectly possible to be both strong and humble, powerful and noble, excellent and gentle. Worth a shot, despite what the Aussies around us will say?

For more on the pursuit of true humility, rather than pride-in-shame, see Dan Kent’s provocative little book Confident Humility. And while I’m plugging books, keep an eye out for Taking the Plunge: Baptism and Belonging to Jesus. Coming soon!

2013 Resources of the Year

The highly recommend Outreach Magazine has just announced its 2013 Resources of the Year. Here are the category winners:

Telling the Gospel Through Story: Evangelism That Keeps Hearers Wanting More  By Christine Dillon (IVP)

A Shot of Faith to the Head: Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists  By Mitch Stokes (Thomas Nelson)

Missional Preaching: Engage * Embrace * Transform  By Al Tizon (Judson Press)

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City By Timothy Keller (Zondervan)

Church Transfusion: Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out By Neil Cole and Phil Helfer (Jossey-Bass)

A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good  Edited by David P. Gushee (Chalice)

Missional Church
Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission By Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Crossway)

The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church By Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim (Jossey-Bass)

The Post-Black & Post-White Church: Becoming the Beloved Community in a Multi-ethnic World  By Efrem Smith (Jossey-Bass)

Global Outreach
The Future of the Global Church: History, Trends and Possibilities  By Patrick Johnstone (IVP)

Compassion and Justice
Compassionate Justice: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue With Two Gospel Parables on Law, Crime, and Restorative Justice By Christopher D. Marshall (Cascade Books)

The Global Orphan Crisis: Be the Solution—Change Your World By Diane Lynn Elliot (Moody)

Missional Living
The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door By Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon (Baker)

In the Land of Blue Burqas By Kate McCord, a protective pseudonym (Moody)

Small Group Curricula
It’s Not Too Late: How God Uses Less Than Perfect People  By Tony Evans (LifeWay)

Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do  By Christine Caine (Zondervan)

Pass-Along Resources
Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing By Pete Wilson (Thomas Nelson)

The Action Bible Devotional By Jeremy V. Jones and Sergio Cariello (David C Cook)

Just a Minute: In the Heart of a Child, One Moment … Can Last Forever By Wess Stafford with Dean Merrill (Moody)

MEGA Sports Camp: Beyond the Gold By Gospel Publishing

The Jesus Survey: What Christian Teens Really Believe and Why By Mike Nappa (Baker)

Life in 6 Words: The GOSPEL Explored By Dare 2 Share

The Road Trip That Changed the World – Book Review

Why is it that on some road trips, time slows down and you think you’ll never ever arrive, and on others you seem to blink and you’re already there? Perhaps it’s the company you have. Reading is like that for me, and I’m happy to say that I just blinked and arrived at the end of Mark Sayers’ new book The Road Trip That Changed the World.

And thanks to Mark, one lucky sacred agent will win a free copy of his book. Read on…

Sayers is a brilliant cultural exegete – one who effectively explains our culture to us. Just like when you listen to a preacher who is skilled in exegesis, you have a lot of “Aha!” light-bulb moments, when you see clearly things that are so obviously right in front of you but you’d somehow missed before.

This is a short but important book that’s worth your time. You will come away with a clearer window into our culture, and that is gold to any sacred agent. To describe our own culture takes real skill and clever tricks. It’s not sufficient to simply hold up a mirror to ourselves – all we will see is more of what we already see. So it is with the increasing amount of data and statistics we consume. They’re useful, they tell us what’s happening. But they don’t tell us why.

You won’t see charts and stats on the pages of Road Trip. It reads more like poetry, actually. Sayers weaves story and insight and personal experiences in a way that combines deep and thorough research with remarkable leaps of intuition. Very occasionally his insights seemed a long bow to draw. On the whole, however, he is on the money.

His apparent thesis – that one novel by one author 60 years ago has steadily ruined us – is, he openly admits, an over-simplification. But this is the trick of the exegete: He uses it as a very effective lens to focus us on not merely a snap-shot of our culture, but a trajectory – to makes sense not only of where we are, but how we got here. And that is more than convincing.

Anyone who tries to paint a picture must choose a point of perspective. This is a further key value of the book. Sayers unashamedly writes about Western culture from the perspective of mature Christian discipleship. This meant quite a lot of mental ‘Yay!’s from this sacred agent as I read along, and some moments too to pause and re-evaluate my own journey.

Thank you Mark Sayers for a significant and timely book.

Now about winning that free copy: Let’s practice some cultural exegesis, amateurs though we be. To enter, leave a comment on this post, naming a single book, movie or historical event that you think has influenced Australian culture. And, briefly, what that influence has been. It doesn’t have to be amazing – it’s just practice! The winner will be chosen at random on July 16th from those (any!) who simply have had a go.

Otherwise, it’s currently $10+postage at Amazon, $15 at Koorong, or $14 at Book Depository

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