Book Reviews

Following the River - Sorge ~~  Worship is not linear.  We are not in charge even of worship.  Worship is like jazz.  The leader starts with a riff, the rhythm he thinks the Holy Spirit is calling for and hopefully he's right on and the group joins.  Kind of like in "Bobby's Blues", you just try to find what Jesus is doing and join His music.  If you aren't worshiping God on your own, you aren't going to be bringing it to church.
+Ministry and Solitude - Fenhagen ~~ The book to start your study of formation with.  A good, solid, short introduction to formation and spiritual growth. What needs to happen to/in people for growth to occur.  "spiritual awakening, quest for clarity, change of behavior, reoccurring sense of the absence of God, compassion and increased simplicity..." 
+Soul Searching - Smith ~~ The research standard on what youth believe and why/how they get there.  Dry but important read for everyone who works in formation.  Basic conclusion: Foremost, people will generally have the faith of their parents.  Secondly, hanging with a Christian peer group is critical for persevering in the faith.  The primary social engagement for your kids needs to be a Christian group.  Doesn't need to be youth group or Bible study but consistent.
+Building God's People - Westerhoff ~~ Another book reminding us that formation is not more study.  Focus is on catechesis but with a profound understanding that everything we do is catechetical.  "We are formed by the liturgy." This one should sit beside Fenhagen's.
+Spiritual Passages - Groeschel ~~ This is overtly Roman Catholic but a great understanding of how formation happens, psychologically and emotionally and spiritually.  Looks deeply into our response to God's grace.
+Moral Development and Behavior - Lickona ~~ Secular text on the psychology of how children develop morally.  Good solid psychology that must be tempered by our understanding of grace.
+Desiring the Kingdom - Smith ~~ Terrific discussion of formation.  P43 we think the way we do about ideas, concepts, theology, through the lens of what we already believe therefore we must start people out, formation with belief – the lens through which they approach the Bible culture, ideas, friends, marriage, everything. Therefore the primary instruction must be to shape what they believe which means that our primary instruction is not knowledge but liturgy – practice, doing when they are very young and then augment that with knowledge.  P35 the classroom is parasitic upon the worship of the church.  It lives off the capital of Christian worship.
+Proper Confidence - Newbigin ~~ A short discussion of how certainty is problematic in any relationship, esp one with God.  Looks at the variety of lens we all use to see faith.  That the lens determines what we see and how we are able to respond.  Providing more Bible study is useless if the lens is wrong or broken or deformed.  Also looks at our desire for a dualistic theology of faith vs works.  Good read but pretty deeply philosophical.
+Growing True Disciples - Barna ~~ If churches think discipleship “just sort of happens” they are wrong.  Discipleship requires a plan.  In the back of the book it explains that you need a plan, small steps that people can get a handle on, help to move in the process.  Plan needs to be simple.  Same message as Simple Church
+Sticky Church - Osburne ~~ Good examination of what churches must do in order to get people to stick around.  Closing the back door of the church is a problem for all churches.  People are too mobile.
+Christianity, Art and Transformation- DeGruchy ~~ A heady book on how important art is to transformation.  Deals specifically about South Africa but applies to everyone
+Teaching that Transforms: Worship as the Heart of Christian Education - D.D. Murphy ~~ Murphy is right on.  p161 "the counterstory of God's eternal reign, might not be welcome news.  This is an alien is the intent of the Gospel, of course, that the Word kill us that we might die to our old ways and be raised to a new life."  Great stuff.
+The Celtic Way of Evangelism - Hunter ~~ Very helpful discrimination between typical western, learn and then believe formation, as opposed to the Celts, join our community first and learn as you go.
+Learning to Pray Like Jesus - Coy ~~ A very practical book on prayer.  One of the best to pass on to people who are just starting to establish regular, devoted prayer as a discipline.
+Walking with the Poor - Myers ~~ Textbook on who the poor are and why and what we can do.  Dry but clear with good insights.
+Community and Growth - Vanier ~~ Awkwardly written but a good description of what living in community actually entails.  Vanier is the founder of the L'Arche communities/communes for mentally disabled people.  A wonderful ministry.  His book is a frank discussion of how hard but essential community really is.
-Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered - Wilhoit ~~ wonderful first chapter then unfortunately wanders the balance of the book in his awkward formation system of receiving, remembering, responding, relating
-Foundations of Spiritual Formation - Pettit ~~ Very elementary and flat style.  "Christianity is an important part of the Christian life for males and females."  Surprise.
+Launching Missional Communities - Breen ~~  A great workbook on what small groups are and what they can do.  Disagree that communities should be based on mission since that means when the mission is done or collapsing, the community is done or collapses.  Communities should be built upon relationships between the people with mission as crucial but secondary and may change over time whereas the relationships should be a marriage.  Modify In//Out/Up to Inward disciplines.  Out as mission or ministry.  Up as worship.  Our IOU.
-Counterfeit Gods - Keller ~~  As with Prodigal God, Keller takes way too much liberty adding in his interpretation as to what people are thinking or feeling in the story.  Makes some good points but couched in scenes fabricated to support his ideas, an inherently dangerous occupation.
+Hole in the Gospel - Stearns ~~  This is an important book in the same genre as Radical and Irresistible Revolution, as a call to Christian social justice.  They are all good though unfortunately most of these books are individual accounts which people simply dismiss as odd.  It would be more helpful if the authors would present a compelling call for all Christians to change our fundamental understanding of money and possessions.  Even these authors, while calling for noblesse oblige, cling to a "what's mine is mine but we ought to be nice and share" philosophy rather than the economics of the disciples in Acts.
-Lady in Waiting - Jones ~~ As a guy, I hate these books that promote that a woman is not complete without a guy.  Much better than Captivating, this book does a better job than many talking about wholeness without a man but still the general message is, "this is how to find a guy" or perhaps, "do something productive while you wait for a guy.  Boaz is on his way."  We need to kill the romantic, sentimental lie that there is no life for people that are not a couple.
++Erasing Hell - Chan - This is an important book. An essential book.  Perhaps if I could only teach people one thing it would be this thesis: "In the beginning, God...." and "You must accept all of this book, no picking and choosing whether you like it or understand it or not."  Chan is typically frank and transparent and though the issue seems to be Hell, the message of the book is, "God is God and we are expectedly bewildered by Him."  This is humility.  This is submission to God.  This is being a follower.  This is dying to self.  Go Chan.