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The Art of Steering

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Sacred Search
Sacred Search
by Gary Thomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.61

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read for singles, 22 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Sacred Search (Paperback)
Christian singles everywhere are asking who they should marry and where they might meet that person. Thomas challenges his readers to ask a different question: why should I marry? No doubt there are as many different answers to that question as there are people but The Sacred Search suggests that unless a marriage is built around a shared mission in Christ it may not stand the test of time.

I enjoyed this book. It's definitely for singles rather than marrieds: if you were unhappily married whilst reading this, you would likely not find it uplifting. In fact, as someone who is very happily married and who considered herself relatively well-prepared at the time through various pre-marriage counselling sessions, I still reflected multiple times on reading this book that I wish I had known some of its advice when I was contemplating marriage - it contains so much wisdom and it's a little scary to think that we embarked on this adventure so many years ago without that kind of advice being given to us. For that reason, if you are contemplating marriage or looking for a spouse, you would do well to read this book and take its advice seriously.

Unstoppable PB: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action
Unstoppable PB: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action
by Vujicic Nick
Edition: Paperback

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, 15 Dec. 2012
Despite having no arms or legs since birth, Nick Vujicic lives a full and active life as a Christian evangelist. Unstoppable is the story of his life, newfound love with his wife and ministry. Vujicic writes with the experience of someone who has faced trial and difficulty head-on and yet is prevailing and it is this which gives such authority to his encouragement to others in adversity.

I liked parts of this book very much but, after a while, I found the occasionally didactic tone a little repetitive. But it is without doubt an inspiring story of the way that God can change a life when that person chooses to trust him and - in Vujicic's case - also the lives of many many hundreds of thousands more.

I received a free e-copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in return for a fair review.

Hospitality and Community after Christendom
Hospitality and Community after Christendom
by Andrew Francis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and valuable, 15 Dec. 2012
This book reflects on hospitality in Jesus-communities, giving consideration to the biblical and historical background to the significance of food and hospitality, with a view to appropriating these habits for missional effectiveness in a post-Christendom world. Written by an Anabaptist who has spent a lot of time exploring these issues both in ministry and as part of doctoral research, the book is part of a wider series reflecting on what it might mean to live after the decline of Christendom.

I particularly appreciated the real-life stories of how congregations and communities have taken hold of some of these ideas - stories which are both from streams of radical Christianity in history as well as contemporary UK-based examples. The consideration of leadership strategies which might help communities to engage with Francis' thinking was helpful in my own reflection and I am excited to try out with small groups of Christians some of the 'table liturgies' which Francis presents in an appendix.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.

The Girl's Still Got It: Take a Walk with Ruth and the God Who Rocked Her World
The Girl's Still Got It: Take a Walk with Ruth and the God Who Rocked Her World
Price: £10.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hated the 'girlfriend' style but great on content, 18 Nov. 2012
Let me start by telling you what I hated about this book so we can get that bit out of the way... I really loathed the 'girlfriend' style. That might be because I'm British or maybe just because I'm miserable but, either way, it nearly made me give up on this book. In fact, if I hadn't had to finish it in order to get the next review book, I might not have done! However, it was worth the read!

So, having told you what I hated, now let me encourage you to consider reading it. Higgs is writing in a very particular style for what is, I would imagine, a very particular audience. In fact she writes much as we might imagine she speaks, although I have never seen her preach so someone else might need to correct me there! But this style is only the outer wrapping for what is in fact a very deep and detailed study of Scripture. Higgs has an enormous gift for retelling the stories of the Bible - in this case, Ruth - and she brings the story to life, yet still manages to go verse by verse. She does not make up details which are not there but remains true to the text, yet somehow manages to fill a whole book with her storytelling. And her work is rigorous: she is well-read in the commentaries, she digs deep into the meanings of language used in the texts as well as referencing a variety of translations.

I have a huge amount of respect for what Higgs has done here, would recommend her book to several of the women in my congregation and would even consider using it as part of my background thinking for preaching a book like Ruth because, whilst there is no substitute for the commentaries, there is quite a lot to be learned by preachers from Higgs' way of getting inside the story. I'm glad I finished it in the end!

I received a free Kindle copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in return for a fair review.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry
Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth buying and reading, 18 Nov. 2012
Tripp writes with the insight of one who has pastored for many years, one who is aware of the pitfalls of sin to which pastors are particularly susceptible and who longs to warn others who also walk this path. His style is generally quite flowing and it is clear from this writing style that he preaches regularly: somehow the cadences and repetitions of preaching come through in his text in a way which is quite powerful to read. The content is also wise and biblical, formed over years of experience in, and reflection upon, the pastoral calling. If you have had enough of books on ministry, then don't write this one off before giving it a go: I think you will think it worth your time reading.

That said, this book did feel like a long read and I did struggle to wade my way through some sections of it; I also seriously started to lose the will with all the numbered lists therein. However, those are my only negatives. In fact, I appreciated this book so much that I am seriously contemplating buying my own paper copy and rereading it every two to three years as a tool for self-examination in my path of church leadership.

I received a free Kindle version of this galley copy from NetGalley in return for a fair review.

by Mansfield Stephen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!, 27 Oct. 2012
In all honesty, I only selected this book for review from Thomas Nelson because I didn't fancy the look of anything else on the list. Oprah, I figured, might at least turn out to be interesting and I needed a light read! Some of the other reviews I read were not always complimentary about this book though, so I was not sure if I was making a mistake. But, then again, how much of a mistake can you make with free books?!

But this book was fascinating! Well-written and informative, it probes Oprah's worldview, assessing the formative influences of her childhood as well as her history as a media professional. Of immense value are the chapter entitled 'The Age of Oprah', which scans the spiritual currents of her generation (especially the New Age influences), and the chapter which provides background on those who have been her spiritual mentors, namely Marianne Wilson, Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra. In fact, I will be referencing these very chapters in a Masters seminar I am due to teach early next year where we will be comparing the Biblical wisdom endeavour with contemporary self-help philosophies: this book is a gift indeed!

Mansfield writes from the perspective of a Christian worldview and subjects Oprah's worldview and practices to a healthy but also sensitive critique. These are not the self-righteous rantings of a man convinced that his calling is to ridicule the woman who has so entranced millions; rather, it is written with humility and tenderness towards a woman whom Mansfield hopes may yet turn to discover the true nobility of her story as it might be found in Christ.

Whether you feel any affinity with the story of Oprah or not, this one is worth a read if you are interested in understanding the religious influence of one of the world's most famous women as well as the influences which have been formative upon her experience.

I received a free copy of this book in return for a fair review from [...]

Deep and   Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend
Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend
Price: £7.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and engaging, 4 Oct. 2012
Andy Stanley's Deep and Wide has as its self-confessed aim the task of making 'your church more appealing to the people who are put off by all the shenanigans that give church...a bad name.' It's organised into five sections:

Stanley's own story of starting a church (North Point)

- a Biblical justification for North Point's approach to church
- a spiritual formation model (the deep part)
- planning for irresistible worship environments (the wide part)
- how to lead a local church through change towards the deep and wide paradigm.

Whilst I didn't find all that much which was new here (indeed, some of it forms part of a previously-published audio series by Stanley on the church!), I did find the writing engaging and there were some valuable things to think about as a result of my reading.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.

Two Destinies (Secrets of the Cross Trilogy)
Two Destinies (Secrets of the Cross Trilogy)
by Elizabeth Musser
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.62

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!, 4 Oct. 2012
The trilogy (Two Crosses, Two Testaments and Two Destinies) chronicles the history of several generations of a family with French, American and Algerian connections. Based in Montpellier with brief interludes in Algeria, this story is one of great faith in a God who sometimes seems to lead his people into real danger for the sake of Muslims who don't yet know him. The Midi culture and environs are powerfully drawn: knowing Montpellier quite well, I can almost feel the shimmer of the Mediterranean heat as the story weaves through the Place de la Comedie and the shadowed streets off to its sides.

I came across these books quite by chance at a time when I wanted some fiction to make light relief from my diet of endless how-to books on church, discipleship and leadership. I never expected to review these books as so much of the Christian fiction I'd read was not great. But this trilogy was a complete surprise, being both educational as well as having an engaging storyline.

I received free copies of each of these books through NetGalley in return for a fair review.

Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults
Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults
by Jana L. Sundene Richard R. Dunn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant must-read!, 19 Sept. 2012
I could hardly wait to get this book on review, perhaps because I had been able to read parts of the first chapter online. It seemed like it might speak to my own disciple-making context amongst those in their 20s and 30s in the U.K. In summary, all I can say is that I was not disappointed!

Written from the U.S. context, Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults is a reflection by Rick Dunn and Jana Sundene on what it takes to make disciples in a generation quite unlike any other which has gone before it. Dunn and Sundene are seasoned practitioners and this book makes a hefty contribution to thinking about the nuts and bolts of disciple-making amongst this age group. Yet these authors are more than this: one is associate professor of Christian ministries at Trinity College, Trinity International University; the other is a lead pastor educated to doctoral level. Thus, what they have to say is soaked in academic rigour, whilst all the time remaining rooted in practice.

The first chapter alone, which traces the landscape and challenges of emerging adulthood for this new generation, was worth the price of the book. There is perhaps not a great divide between the U.S. and U.K. experiences here. I certainly felt that the writing gives voice to my own growing experience in the U.K., namely that this Facebook generation's specific needs and characteristics have made abundantly clear something which has probably always been true: disciple-making cannot be just about a pre-determined curriculum but must be inherently relational and responsive to the leadings of the Spirit.

Yet it is more than just a good survey of the characteristics of the emerging generation which makes this book stand out. The description of rhythms of disciple-making (discernment, intentionality and reflection) are helpful as a framework for those who want to explore investing in disciple-making relationships but don't know how. The lengthy discussions of how to apply these rhythms to some very specific and oh-so-common(!) challenges of emerging adulthood were also useful, especially in their fusion of theory and case study examples.

I could go on but suffice to say that if you are committed to making disciples, you will find much of this material beneficial - especially if you are not part of this emerging generation yourself. In fact I had already recommended this book to a friend looking for books on ministry to those in this age group, even before I had finished it; at the same time, another is already queuing to read my copy. In short, buy it and prepare to enjoy!

Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do
Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do
by Christine Caine
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit preach-y but generally well-written and engaging, 7 Sept. 2012
In Undaunted, Christine Caine writes a combination of memoir and spiritual exhortation. She tells the story of God's part in her life and of the lessons which she learned through her various struggles, including the discovery of her adoption, early years of abuse by men outside of her family and a later miscarriage which occurred much later during married life.

At times, I found the content a bit too 'preach-y', although the book was generally well-written and engaging. I think a newer Christian would really enjoy it and it is certainly potentially very helpful in its implicit teaching about God's concern with the whole of life and his presence in suffering as well as joy.

I received a free copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

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