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“Am I Missing Something?” – Ruth Roberts (book review) January 29, 2014

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Reading the book Am I Missing Something which is also subtitled “Christianity through the eyes of a new believer” was quite fun. As someone who has been a Christian for a number of years, it is very easy to forget what a challenge our faith and it’s practices can be like for those who are new to its strange ways. Ruth Roberts, a journalist, has an easy style of writing and in a wonderfully conversational way deals with the “Christianity that seems constantly at war with itself” whilst having made “a commitment to God…..to try to find Jesus and keep my eyes fixed on him”.
The book is simple, yet effective, in reminding us how ‘odd’ our church practices and beliefs can seem to those who are not familiar and it resonates with how many of my friends feel at my church and my beliefs. Ruth does not give theological answers but shares her own experiences and how she overcame some of the tensions. My favourite story was when Ruth was challenging herself to be more proactive in her witness, felt guilty for not being as upfront as she felt she ought but saw a great response as she sat silently with someone and their response was “thank you for noticing me”, a precious moment.
I was given this book by Ruth in a twitter giveaway, not a book that I would necessarily have chosen but one that prompted me to think differently, I enjoyed it as a refreshing reminder as we look to disciple new believers in the church. Ruth’s honesty and openness was appreciated and I imagine her thoughts and feelings would be shared by many who have begun their new life in Christ.
As a collection of shorter articles for Christianity magazine, this book is the completed selection.

: “unreached” – a book by Tim Chester December 3, 2012

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The tag line for this book is ‘growing churches in working class and deprived areas” – it will prove a decent seller in the Christian world as it promises to scratch where many evangelicals have started to itch.

The book was an easy read and was certainly competent in its work, that said, it did not inspire me in the way that I had anticipated, there was just something lacking. For those that have engaged in ministry in areas mentioned, there will be little new, rather a recognition of practices that will already be embedded in your life. For those that are exploring, it will be a useful guide.

There are plenty of anecdotes from those in the trenches (a limited few practitioners) that help to earth the theory and there are ideas that will be useful to those dipping their toes in the water. In truth this is a valuable volume with a poor working title – the book is worth reading as it will help you to think through mission in a particular context. However, the whole book could be summed up in one paragraph found halfway through;
“You don’t need a social science degree to work in urban contexts. You don’t need a theory of contextualisation. You need love. Love is the New Testaments core missiological principle” (p74)

Glad I read it, Yes! Although a day with one of the practitioners listed would teach you far more.

: Lead with Luv November 29, 2012

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This book was available for free as a kindle download, unfortunately that offer has ceased. The book is more of an interview by Ken Blanchard with Colleen Barrett but it is packed full of gems. The style of writing helps earth leadership and management tools and enables the reader to get a grasp of the practice that should follow the theory.
Colleen is an exceptional lady who demonstrates great leadership by showing”luv” – quirky stuff (well you can never escape these things). Some of the ideas expressed would be a step too far for many leaders, yet for Southwest Airlines, it worked, there is no escaping that.
Worth a read? Definitely. Will it change your style? Possibly. Would many people adopt it? Unlikely, because it means listening to others and losing an element of control.

Youthwork classics June 8, 2012

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20120608-192004.jpg I have a large library and as I have looked through have found a few bargains. Amongst them was this classic from Danny Brierley. It was in good condition and Amazon have just given me £17.80 for it, who says youthwork does not pay ;-)

Book Review – Sacralized Youth Work – Sally Nash December 8, 2011

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The Grove Booklet Series is one that, for me at least, helps to provoke thinking and discussion.  Their very nature means that they are easy to digest but they are best read when chewed over for a time.  One of the most recent in the youth series is “Sacralized Youth Work” from Sally Nash.

This booklet questions our approach to youth work and helps Christian youth workers bridge the gap between the secular and the sacred.  Many of the ideas expressed here relate with the ‘Generation Y’ books recently published and so, to those that have digested them, this is a whistlestop tour of the developed thinking there.

According to Nash, there are 5 key elements to sacralized youth work which are: Place, Conversation, Shared Experience, Fun and Journeying.  These are fleshed out a little through the booklet and worth wrestling through with your team.

The one quote that has stuck with me over the last few weeks since reading my copy is; “young people wanted to talk more about spiritual matters, more than the youth workers gave them opportunity.”  This quote should challenge us all.

Get hold of a few copies and read it through – it will be worth it!

Book Review “In Sheep’s Clothing” May 12, 2011

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This book subtitled “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People""” was bought on a whim but has proved to be most helpful.  We all have those people in our lives (family, friends, colleagues) that we struggle to cope with or trust but are uncertain as to why – our gut instinct is strong on the warning signs but the actual evidence is lacking.  This book highlights a distinctive type of person – the ‘covert aggressive”.  In highlighting a number of case studies the book is very practical and a quick read.  Its conclusions are helpful but in terms of the book, quite short and pithy with little meat on the bones.  Definitely worth a read though.

In a little more detail:

The book is split into 2 parts, the first concentrating on understanding manipulative personalities and the second part on dealing effectively with manipulative people.  The case studies are extremely helpful in terms of the way they are written and it is not difficult to see traits in anyone you meet.  The danger is that you may begin labelling everyone that you meet, when in fact not everyone is ‘guilty as charged’.  If you know of people who fit the character traits there are useful approaches in how to counter their manipulation but to most seasoned observers they are common sense.

All in all a useful tome that may be helpful to help search your own soul.  I am glad that it reached my booklist and am certain that it will be one that I refer to on more than one occasion in the future.

book review: Right Here Right Now, Hirsch & Ford February 8, 2011

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Being missional is quite a trendy thing these days.  The difficulty is understanding what people mean by ‘missional’ – there are far too many interpretations and ideas that people ‘put out there’ are often beyond the average church member.  This book, Right Here Right Now seeks to put things straight and is an excellent read.

There are 3 sections, after a lengthy scene setter, from getting our hearts into it, understanding it and the finale of actually doing something.  The book itself is an easy to read example of theory and practice intertwined and this is why it is such a good book.  You can’t simply read and ignore what has passed your eyes, you need to respond.  Simple actions as being aware of your environment, living what you believe, showing hospitality, all shine like beacons of hope from the pages.  Is there anything revolutionary here – no!  However, it is a practical wake up call to get out of the pew and actively seek to engage in our community with the gospel.  Hirsch and Ford give a great mix of theory, illustration and practical output.

There is a need to read (or at least understand) the previous Hirsch books to aid your reflection but it is not an absolute necessity.  My personal view is that you should go and read it – it will be worth the investment.

Book Review – “The Faith of Generation Y” Pt2 November 2, 2010

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Finally……

The 2nd part of “The Faith of Generation Y” sees the sociological aspect of the research meet with theological reflection through the work of Stanley Haerwas.  The premise that christian “youthwork is only moderately successful in bridging the gap between church and society and raising young peoples Christian consciousness” is, according to the writers, that a ‘strategic liberalism’ has been taken up youth workers and that this is done outside , rather than rooted in, christian community.

The words that should adorn our lips in BOLD are ‘ story and engagement’ and these need to be rooted within the context of a wider christian community.  Tradition is important and whilst the “church appears to want the young people to discover their own way of being church”, the young people of GenY “do not want to be left to their own devices”.  This is a challenge to those of us working in the church with young people.

The conclusion that is reached from the research in this book is that  …..”the primary theological responsibility for the church is to give glory to God, the primary social responsibility for the church is simply to be its own authentic self”.

This is a whistlestop review – the book is far better than I have portrayed and one to read.  Read it and be challenged

Conquering the Atlantic July 12, 2007

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This book was given to me as a birthday present a few weeks back and I found it an exciting and riveting read. Just could not put it down. It charts the story of Ben Fogle and James Cracknell crossing the Atlantic and their brutal honesty is appealing. Two men, very different in outlook and approach, joined together as a team. Their motivations were different, the challenges similar but the determination to succeed in both men was extraordinary. Both men learned a great deal about themselves with Cracknell (an olympian) seeing his desire for competition as necessary to his life rather than Olympic Rowing was quite an eye opener for him and one that has since changed the direction in his life. Both men showed great guts in spending 50 days in an ocean separated from everyone and acting like a cork in a bleak watery wilderness. Some great insights and well worth a read!!

Brueggemann rocks! June 4, 2007

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Once in a while a book captures me and just recently this book by Walter Brueggemann has taken me by storm as I have read and re-read it, made notes, marked it (normally will never mark a book!) and taken in so much of what it says. Ok, it is not the Bible but the timing for me on my spiritual journey makes it poignant.
The book explores the life of the people of Israel in regards to its relationship with God and the “promised” Land, exploring biblical themes in times of promise, the land as a gift to the people and then into exile from the land. Brueggemann’s style is very easy to read and he has a clarity in this book which is not always apparent in some authors.
It has challenged me on how I live my life in relation to all that God has given to me. Do I hold the gift tightly or loosely? Do I allow the gift to become more important than the giver of the gift? So many questions and challenges. It would be high on my recommend list….and it is well worth the read.

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