I’m reading a little book right now that doesn’t have a copyright page or date, but the inscription on the inside cover (to a Mrs. Keziah Parr – a name you still hear everyday!) is dated March 8, 1905. I know it’s nothing special; not even really that antique in the grand scheme of things; but there’s something about holding a book in my hands that was held and read over a hundred years ago that makes me feel connected to a picture and world much bigger than my current one. Then, as I begin to read, this becomes even more true. The book is a collection of poems from great Christian writers of the past titled “Gems of Christian Poetry.” The words of familiar hymns, many originally poems, weave their way through the pages, surrounded by numerous pieces I had never read before, and which I doubt remain in too many a number of books (though not for lack of quality). Among the authors’ names is practically a who’s who of Christian poetry and hymn writing greats: George Herbert, Christina Rosetti, Spurgeon, Isaac Watts, Milton, John Newton, Whitefield. But then there are other poems labeled with names such as ‘Mrs. Browning,’ or simply ‘Pope,’ and many more with no name at all, in itself an interesting tribute to the memory of the innumerable saints of old whose names may be remembered by no one, but who have deeply affected our current lives and faith.
I first wrote about this book a few weeks ago here, and mentioned that I had hoped to blog my way through it, highlighting some of its thought provoking points and quotes. I’m now kicking myself even more for failing to do that, because there’s so much worth discussing in this book and one post can’t accurately portray its depth or communicate all its main emphases. But I guess that’s why it’s called a review, not cliff notes. So instead of trying to give a thorough synopsis, and since you can already tell from the past few sentences that this is going to be a positive review, I thought I’d try to provide a list of characteristics of this book that directly influence its quality. Of course there’s the subject matter, and those who are particularly interested in these topics may need no other reasons to read the book, but unfortunately there are plenty of books out there with good subject matter and even good conclusions that don’t go about addressing it in the most effective manner. This book is theological but readable, deep, but engaging, unique within its subject matter without reinventing the wheel unnecessarily, and its authors (Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert) manage to be very sure of their standing without needing to be arrogant, condescending toward, or dismissive of contrary opinions. This is an incredibly difficult line to walk.
The full title of the book is What is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission, and it sets out to do just that. It looks at the idea of mission (with all of that word’s Christian society loaded connotations), specifically related to the church and asks the question of what it is that Jesus has sent us into the world to do. It explores Biblical “missional” and “social justice” passages, looking critically at them for the truths that really can be drawn from context and in the larger picture of the Biblical narrative as a whole, and it delves into the discussion of topics such as the kingdom of God, the idea of shalom, the Great Commission, and, of course, good works and social justice. It does all this through, and while being…
I love words. We’ve already covered that. As may be expected then, I love to read. A wide variety of genres, really, but mostly I love to read good books. Books that make you think and encourage discussion. And I love that discussion, too. Well, usually…I don’t love discussion that dissolves into pointless argument, but I do love drawing out the positives and negatives within a book and the things about the Lord we can see and learn from it. Some books, of course, are completely packed with Biblical truth, whereas others may be Christian but written from a different theological viewpoint. Others may be written by Christian authors but not have an overtly theological nature, and of course most books are not Christian in the slightest, by author or subject matter. Does this mean any books outside of the specific theological category we may fall in are not worth reading? I don’t think so. Part of the wonder of God’s ability to reveal Himself is the fact that many, many books can have thought provoking concepts and faith-sharpening moments, regardless of whether we may disagree with part or most of them, or whether the authors even set out to demonstrate God at all. Continue reading
I’m reading a book right now called What is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission, by Kevin DeYoung (who also wrote the gem of the little book Just Do Something) and Greg Gilbert. I’ve been reading it for a while, not because it’s hard to get through or boring, but mainly because I kept pausing to read things like Sports Illustrated. And other things with slightly more meaning. And also, it’s a well-written and thought-provoking book, which means…well, it means that it provokes thought, which tends to make it take longer to get through. But it’s been well worth it.
Anyway, I’m not finished yet, and will have to do more of a full book review at that point, but a [very] brief synopsis is that, as the title indicates, this book dives into the idea of the loaded word of “mission” as it relates to the church. What does it mean and what doesn’t it mean? What is it that the church is placed in the world to accomplish? What does social justice have to do with that, and how do evangelism and social justice interact? It’s a lot of questions my team wrestled through during our time living and working in Africa, and around which we had a lot of profitable, and sometimes heated, discussions. But they’re important discussions to have and it’s an important question to define, as it lies at the heart of the role and impact of Christianity in the world. Continue reading