Archives For books


God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church

by Charles Van Engen | Available Here

Charles Van Engen’s God’s Missionary People helped launch today’s missional discussion, and still has much to tell our local church. Before coming to Fuller, Van Engen was a missionary and theological teacher in Mexico. He has taught at other seminaries and served as president of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America. He continues his work in Mexico through his organization Latin American Christian Ministries. At Fuller, he teaches various classes in the school of Intercultural Studies and provides mentoring from Doctoral students.

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In their book The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World authors Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk state that “discontinuous change” is the defining feature of the environment where church leadership takes place. Such change requires new, rather than simply adjusted, forms of leadership. The book describes the course a church takes as it navigates change, and describes the type of leadership that such change requires.

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10 Great Reads Encountered in 2013

Chris —  December 26, 2013

Here are ten books I’m glad I encountered in 2013.

Daring Greatly
Brene Brown‘s “data with a soul” may be the most important book you read for awhile. She lays out issues of shame and authenticity in a way that make you feel known. You will be a better human if you read this book.




Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier
David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw

Ecclesia Network friends Fitch and Holsclaw’s pitch for missional neo-Anabaptism. It’s important.




Faiths in Conflict?
Vinoth Ramachandra

One of the best books I read in MAGL. Comparative religions written by a Christian from Sri Lanka.




The Social Animal
David Brooks

David Brooks parable using brain science, behavioral economics and even a pitch for neo-federalism. You might not buy his politics, but he is a model thinker.




Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts
Ian Chron

Don’t let the ridiculous title fool you. It’s a story about the adventures of life, addiction and where the divine fit in.




Snow Crash
Neak Stephenson

The Matrix meets Raiders of the Lost Ark. Do not read if you are a charismatic Christian with thin skin.




The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg

How habits work. Read if you want to be a better human. Read especially if any part of your life contains the word “discipleship.”




What We Talk About When We Talk About God
Rob Bell

God is: With us—For us—Ahead of us.
Nothing fans haven’t heard Rob say before, but written for a different audience. The Love Wins fiasco has forced Rob to find a new audience outside the evangelical world. This is a pretty good pitch.




Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

An introduction to Attachment theory. Great reading if you’re asking “why am I still single.”




Bill WillIngham

Grimms fairy tales meets Friends. So much fun.




Here are the two best prayers I know:

“Help me, help me, help me”


“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

The Two Best Prayers

The days when the West was filled with Christian institutions and one could assume everyone was (at least a nominal) Christian days are coming to an end. Now, the Church has to figure out who it is when the culture isn’t “Christian”.

The Anabaptist tradition helps a lot with this, perhaps because they were formed as a rejection of 16th century Christendom. Unfortunately, much of the tradition is “separatist”, avoiding engagement with the outside. This is where the growing missional conversation is so important: it gives the church a theology and approach for loving, serving and proclaiming in a culture where they are minorities.

Authors Fitch and Holsclaw call this missional-anabaptist approach “Prodigal”. This is drawn from Karl Barth’s interpretation of Jesus as the ideal “prodigal son”, a “radical missionary… that the Father has sent the Son into the far country to redeem the world”. Their book Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier suggests seven practices should shape the life of the church today.

1. The Hospitality of the Table
In instituting the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is creating a practice of humility, egalitarianism and hospitality. The act of serving and eating with people who are different brings the reality of the kingdom into the present, and spills into other opportunities for service throughout the week.

2. Proclamation of the Gospel
“Proclamation is the act of declaring a reality (or truth) that others have yet to see (the kingdom has come!)” They give the example of responding to others by reminding them “Jesus is Lord of your situation,” or asking the question “what do you think God is asking of you?”

3. Reconciliation
They suggest practicing the method of reconciliation provided by Jesus in Matthew 18. “As we practice this reconciliation in our lives together, we are then able to practice it in the neighborhood, bringing Christ’s in-breaking authority to broken relationships and structures where we live.”

4. Being with People on the Fringes
“Jesus says that when you are truly present with ‘the least of these,’ you are also in his presence and this is a sign of what the kingdom looks like (Matthew 25: 31– 46)”. This means creating opportunities to connect with different types of people often across racial or economic lines, where “we relax, take all agendas off the table, listen, and pay attention in order to listen for God and discover where God is working”.

5. Being with the Children
Jesus taught “when we welcome children, when we are present with them in love and hospitality, Jesus becomes present with us… Only by welcoming and becoming like children can we enter the kingdom of God (18:3)… When we refuse to make children into a separate program or ministry… We find ourselves being transformed by the love of children and the things they teach us.”

6. Fivefold Ministry and Gifts
Jesus is not distant but instead is present through his offer of “gifts for equipping the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers….these gifts are not only for the internal organization of the church…rather, they are necessary for forming the kingdom in each neighborhood.”

7. Kingdom Prayer
Following the model of the Lord’s prayer, Jesus teaches that Kingdom Prayer is “first and foremost about submitting our lives, circumstances, needs, wants, and struggles into God’s coming kingdom…” Such prayer creates space for Christ’s power and healing, removes ego and interacts with tangible issues in one’s life and community.

What do you think of these seven practices? Do they fit the reality of your situation? What would you add?