The-Contemplative-Pastor-Peterson-Eugene-H-9780802801142Unbusy.

Subversive.

Apocalyptic.

These are the adjectives that ought to describe the pastor, according to Eugene Peterson. Though written in 1989, The Contemplative Pastor is just as, if not more, relevant to today’s church culture. The pastors we honor in American evangelicalism often do little or no pastoral work. They are high-achievers, brands unto themselves. They are CEOs of ever-expanding religious empires. They are busy. They tackle problems head-on. They have neither the time nor the patience to plow the fields of the hearts of their congregation.

The pastor should not be busy. “The word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.” We often search for significance in busyness. If I am busy, then I am important. But this is vanity, argues Peterson. Instead, the pastor should be unbusy enough to do three things: pray, preach, and listen. “The question I put to myself is not “How many people have you spoken to about Christ this week?” but “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?”

The pastor should not use blunt force, but rather use the subversive methods of the kingdom of God. Jesus, after all, was the subversive par excellence. He preached in parables, which “aren’t illustrations that make things easier; they make things harder by requiring the exercise of our imaginations, which if we aren’t careful becomes the exercise of our faith.” The kingdom which is grown is more permanent and powerful than the kingdom which is imposed. “God does not impose his reality from without; he grows flowers and fruit from within.”


The way the gospel is conveyed is as much a part of the kingdom as the truth presented. -Peterson
The Contemplative Pastor is must-reading for all who are pursuing the ministry. My fear is that many young pastors, especially church planters, are motivated not by the needs of the kingdom but by the needs of their own egos. Peterson is a douse of cold water to a drunken narcissist. The work of the pastor is gloriously ordinary, but we have stars in our eyes. We long for crowds and lights and buzz, but the pastor receives something far better – ordinary people who struggle to believe, to be faithful, and to attend church even twice a month. This is not the job for superstars, but it is perfectly suited for the unbusy, apocalyptic subversive.

GISM_Cover_150ppi

What does God look like in slow motion? Does the thunderbolt in his hand meet halfway between the earth and sky, like real lightning? Does the furrow of his angry brow seem extra intimidating in super slo-mo? In fact, God in slow motion is Jesus in real life, and according to author Mike Nappa, there are ten “unexpected lessons” we can learn from his life.

These ten unexpected lessons take the form of apparent contradictions – oxymoronic chapter titles that capture the inverted nature of what we think God looks like and how he actually appears. Mischievous Glory is how Nappa describes the birth of Jesus, which is the first, and perhaps most profound, chapter of the book. Nappa argues that the way in which God chose to enter the world upends all of our expectations of what glory truly is. We see, in the nature of the Incarnation, that Glory = Humility. 


“God, in his great wisdom, thumbed his nose at all human expectations of greatness, choosing humility underfoot as the most resplendent setting for the opening act of his grand redemptive work.” (9)

Taking ten stories from Jesus’s life and ministry, Nappa paints a picture of God that is both surprising and comforting. God is, after all, like Jesus, and not like the angry gods of our imaginations. To see God in Jesus is to see God in slow motion, viewing each frame of God’s activity with full clarity and in sharp focus. Jesus makes God clear, though that doesn’t mean the oxymoronic lessons make any more sense to our imperfect, rightside-up (or is that upside-down?) minds.

Nappa’s book reads like a series of sermons about Jesus, and would be useful for new or younger believers that are just getting to know what God is like. It could also be a tremendous help for those who have grown up with a false understanding of God, particularly one that painted a picture of God as a loveless, joyless, graceless deity ready to dole out punishment at the first opportunity.

BookSneeze® provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

 

This is a collection of essays by Teddy Roosevelt, America’s 26th president. Roosevelt is a fascinating character, and I have read several of his biographies, most notably the trilogy by Edmund Morris. I was first turned on to Teddy when I read his famous “Man in the Arena” quote at the beginning of John Eldredge’s book, Wild at Heart. Since then I’ve seen it in a number of other places, and no doubt you have seen it, too.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.-Theodore Roosevelt

Continue reading

I haven’t read a book like this before. N.D. Wilson’s Death by Living is prose you experience rather than read. The cover image of breaking waves is an apt metaphor, not only for the content of the book, but also of the style. It breaks over the reader, engulfing him in words and narrative and life.

_240_360_Book.903.coverThe story is the story of Wilson’s life. Or, more accurately, the lives that led to his life and how those lives continue to impact his life. It’s a family memoir and reflection on the mortality of human existence. It’s the story of people you’ve never heard of, but who have lived fully enough to deserve their own biopic on PBS. It’s the story of how stories get passed from generation to generation to generation, and how those stories guide the paths of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

One of the most beautiful contributions of the book is Wilson’s insight about how people he will never know and can never thank gave up their lives so that others–including his grandparents–could live. He exists because someone seventy years ago died for a stranger, a brother-in-arms, who went on to get married and have kids who had kids who went on to write books and teach English and have kids of their own.

This book is the antidote to cynicism. It is profound and beautiful, and will give you a sense of awe for the little things, the forgotten things, the things overlooked and passed over in the busyness of life. It won’t solve your problems or even give you a plan of action, but it will change your perspective on the world.

BookSneeze® provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

In his forthcoming book, Fight, Craig Groeschel turns his insight and humor toward the issues that American men deal with every day. Using the famous biblical strongman Samson as a counterexample, Craig calls out the three primary sins that plague men today: pride, lust, and entitlement. Each of these, he argues, cuts men off both from fulfilling their intended purpose and from their most important relationship, which is with God, their true Father.

_240_360_Book.901.coverThe book is arranged in an easy-to-read format, with each section divided up into subsections (or subchapters) that typically run just 3 or 4 pages. A guy could easily read a subchapter between meetings, in a waiting room, or before work each day. The accessibility of the format, as well as the content, makes this book a prime candidate for small group studies. While the material of the book doesn’t go as deep as, say, John Eldridge’s classic Wild at Heart or LeAnn Payne’s Crisis in Masculinity, it may be more likely to reach men on the fringes of our churches–those who come because their wives demand it, and who are too distracted by the allures of this world to invest any of their time or energy into a relationship with Jesus.

The book is at its best when Craig combines his self-depracting humor with broadly-appealing biblical insight. He is casting a wide net, one that will capture the attention of most middle-class American men. In that lies the book’s value: to get men thinking about the deeper issues of life who may not otherwise stop and think about such things, much less develop a plan for fighting the various temptations in their lives.

If I were overseeing a men’s ministry and looking for a way to start discipling those men who are on the fringe of my church, I would definitely use this book. It’s funny. It’s challenging. It’s helpful. And it goes deep enough to get men invested in developing a plan to fight the most important battles in their life, but not too deep to overwhelm them. After taking men through Fight, I would probably turn to a book like Wild at Heart to help men confront the inner realities of sin and temptation, as well as deepen their relationship with Jesus.

All in all, this was a really good book with a lot of ministry potential. I recommend it, especially for use in men’s groups.

BookSneeze® provided me with a complimentary, advanced reading copy of this book.

Page 4 of 11« First...345610...Last »