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on 4 February 2009
Firstly, I have to confess, I'm not a big fan of reading Christian book- generally I'd rather go to the source. And that's kind of what this book is partly about- taking off our 'modernist' glasses & trying to look again at the breadth of Christianity. This is the first book I've read about the emergent/ missional movement so I don't know how well it represents that view, but there was nothing in this book I found scary. I'm from a conservative charismatic branch of the church (New Frontiers) so I guess some of my friends might not agree with everything, but a sense of grace pervades the book, without turning 'liberal'. I plan to read this again very soon using the study guide in the back to think a little more deeply about some issues. I'll definitely be buying the other books in this series...
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on 18 March 2011
This book really puts the finger on a lot of what's wrong with the Church in the Western world (most of it is true for most denominations, I guess), and gives pointers for the way to go in the future, if the Church wants to be relevant to 21st Century living. It is also very stimulating for those wanting to make their own personal faith more relevant and, I believe, more in tune with what Jesus really wants us to be as his disciples.

I read this book after reading "A New Kind of Christianity" by the same author. I've really liked both books. I would tentatively suggest reading this one "A New Kind of Christian" first, unless you're already familiar with other books by the same author. It is also probably a slightly easier read, as most of it is in narrative form (the meetings and conversations between to Christians).
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on 5 February 2007
My hairdresser recommended this book to me. The relationship one has with one's hairdresser means that you often end up talking about quite deep things and my hairdresser and I, both Christians, have done a lot of talking over the last ten years. He was obviously pretty much in tune with where my thoughts were as he told me about a book I had to read.

"A New Kind Of Christian" is that book. And my hairdresser was right - I really did have to read this book. Why? Mainly because it has given me fresh hope in Christianity in the 21st century when I had pretty much given up hope. Look around you at the people you work with, you travel on the train with. If you stopped one at random to describe what they thought a Christian was they would probably say something like "a nice person, a good person, but also very judgemental, bigoted, brainwashed and a hyprocrite." And I would agree with them. Most Christians I know - well, almost all of them - are really nice people. They can be very hospitable, wonderfully generous, they give up no end of time and money to charity, they want to invite non-Christians to as many events as possible to convert them (for their own good, of course) and they want to live a faithful, good, nuclear family kind of life. However, this worldview seems so out of touch with the real world - not because any of those things are necessarily wrong but because it misses out on a lot of what else is going on in today's culture. Issues of sexuality, scientific study, congruence with the postmodern society that we live in - these are issues that the secular world has a position on and the church is usually far behind. Christians often seem unable to think for themselves but only seem able to parrot the latest words of the pastor/leader, no matter how unloving it may seem to the modern gay person (for example), let alone often requiring belief in things that really shouldn't matter to be a `real' Christian (such as 7-day creation). Young people are often turned off because they feel the church isn't really connecting with them; others are so `into' the church that they don't actually have any real understanding of life outside it, of culture outside it and of issues that affect people deeply every day that they can blithely categorise as `wrong' or `sin'.

Brian MacLaren's book meets these issues head on. Rather than writing a treatise or theology of what he believes he presents his views in the form of a conversation between two people - a Pastor, Dan, who is beginning to wonder if he should become a school teacher as he can no longer preach with the certainty that he used to, and Neo, a school teacher who used to be a pastor. Within the conversations between these two men we read a sermon by Neo, hear of conversations between the pastor and his wife and get a little bit of an idea what it might be like for that pastor who is worried about his calling. And every page of this book just drips wisdom - I found myself constantly thinking "yes, that's exactly it!" and was generally able to only read a couple of chapters at a time as there was so much in them I had to go away and think about what I had read before consuming more.

Brian MacLaren puts his case for a new kind of Christian very strongly. The first half of the book is setting the groundwork to his idea - that the Church is "modern" but the world is "postmodern". The church's choice of the vital tenets of Christianity are often rather of a response to the world we have lived in since mediaeval times - the church needs to respond to the way that the world has moved on in terms of communication, global perspectives on individuals' lives and a right understanding of what Jesus started in his church. The second part of the book looks more at what "a new kind of Christian" would be like - how they might evangelise, how they might live their lives (with a strong focus on financial giving) and how they might live lives as Jesus commanded rather than living the narrow pharisaism of so many Christians.

I was really struck by a small thing in the middle of this book, where Neo quotes from 1 John 1 about heaven, referring to Jesus and saying "We shall be like him". I had been going around for weeks saying to people "if being a Christian means being like these people" - referring to Christians in the media, Christians I have come across in my daily life, who spout bigoted and unloving opinions at the drop of a hat and come across as very judgemental - "I would rather not be a Christian". I found it shockingly easy to say those words because I have become so horrified by the state of Christianity that I have experienced in the UK and US. And yet I was reminded that in heaven we would be like Jesus and I want that, very much. Jesus is the ultimate model of what a Christian should be like, and the vast difference between the character of Jesus and the character of most Christians has highlighted for me where Christianity has gone wrong - not in the essence of the faith but in its expression by people around me. It doesn't have to be like that, and Brian MacLaren's book shows a way in which we might become more like Jesus in today's postmodern world - this is a brilliant book and I strongly recommend it to anyone who despairs of modern-day Christianity, who fears they may be losing their faith, who finds it difficult to reconcile their God-given intelligence with the strange stuff being fed to them from the pulpit. It gives hope again to the message of Jesus, as relevant today as it has always been.
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on 16 May 2006
This is one of those books that the church will either totally love or passionately hate! It really pushes the bounders of being comfortable in Christendom, it questions assumptions that have been held by the modern church for decades and are so ingrained in our churches and Christian lives that to question them is taboo.

The book is writing as a narrative and therefore is very easy to read. The story is of a burned out minister walking, talking and sharing life with an older ex-minister, now teacher.

I believe that this book with help a lot of people rethink and maybe bring a new spark to their faith. I read this book and thought this it was talking about all the questions and thoughts I had about my faith but were always too scared to say out loud in fear of being branded a liberal!
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on 5 April 2010
This book may make you angry that your very well defined faith may need to be be stretched and remoulded, scared that you are reading something you shouldn't or relieved that you're not alone in how you are thinking. I could not put it down and Im still not sure which emotion is the best fit for me. The book really challenges what it means to be a Christian from a philosophical perspective which allows us to transcend many of the common debates we have in our Christian circles and to accept that not everything is black and white ! I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested and fascinated by the Christian faith or those who feel it difficult to express their faith in a full and frank way.
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on 10 June 2010
As a disillusioned Christian, I wanted to read a book which would not bible bash me into having to think and believed in the 'normal' way about my faith.
This book was exactly what I was looking for. It showed me that I am not on my own about the way I am feeling and thinking today in this ever changing world. The book was easy going and clear, but shows that we can stop and reflect about our faith even when you feel you have lost your way, and during the book know that what ever you have got or had, is not bad or lost.
'No one has got it all right'
Phil
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on 1 July 2003
I cannot begin to say how this book turned further the cogs of my brain and challenged the direction in which my questions had been heading. It made complete sense of my confused discomfort with religion, yet persistence with faith.
"Po-mo for Dummies" would be another good title... fantastically written, observant, insightful... hard to believe the characters are fictional.
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on 14 July 2004
This book really made me breathe a sigh of relief. If you've struggled with the form of Christianity you've inherited and tried to work out how it applies to living in the 21st century, this book is for you.
The author cleverly uses a dialogue format (clearly getting a tip from Plato there!) to discuss difficult concepts and challenging ideas about 'doing church' and being a Christian in the modern world. I got completely absorbed in what was going on in the characters' lives and more than once wanted to shout out loud - 'I've struggled with that too!' or had an 'aha!' moment.
The book outlines how we got to this point in the history of the church and discusses some quite difficult philosophical concepts in laymen's terms.
I can't wait to read it again, this time taking notes, and I've just ordered the sequel 'The story we find ourselves in'.
This book made me re-assess my Christian life and world view and instead of being depressed about how to be a Christian in the modern world, I'm excited!
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on 4 May 2005
As a Christian leader and one who has spent over 20 years living as an Evangelical Christian, this book brought tears of joy and hope into my eyes as I read the opening pages.
Many (especially those within full time ministry) are concerned about the state we find Christianity and the modern church in. We believe passionately in Jesus, the inerrancy of scripture and are trying hard to walk in step with the Spirit. However, for many there is a growing sense that something isn't quite right. It is not about style, relevance or anything as temporary as that, but the inherent nature of our Christian faith and how this is worked out in Christian community.
This book, brings hope, clarity and a way forward and I count it as perhaps one of the most influential books of my ministry so far. Some who read it would think that I am losing both my faith and my mind, neither is the case. What I want to lose is the constraints of not thinking for myself and the desire to be spoon-fed by so-called theologians who think that because the Bible is the inerrant word of God, that they are themselves above contradiction. Allowing others to form your thoughts about the nature of God makes you humble and teachable, not a liberal.
This book is full of hope, life, humour and most of all JESUS. If you have faith and feel like you are losing it, read it. If you are looking for faith in Jesus then this book may well lead you to Him.
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on 10 June 2009
I found the conversations in this non-fiction is amazingly similar to what was going on in my life at the same time. This book encouraged me to step out and share my "changing thinking" with another friend. What I began thinking and wrestling with turns out to be more common than I thought. My wife's concern was similar to that of the wife in the book. I understand now why Rob Bell and his wife started reimagining what a church could be like after wrestling in thinking and conversations like those in this book.

I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 simply because I thought some of the natural conversations with jokes could have been written a bit better. This is not to say I can do a better job, it's just that it felt lame at a two or three points for me. These aside, this book is creatively written to be realistic in characters and thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have already recommended to my wife who is reading it now. Thanks Brian, I'll be reading parts 2 and 3 soon enough.
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