Just a few thoughts on recent books I've been reading . . .
My first book of the year was Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking, a brilliant and engaging look at how the sub-conscious mind influences judgment calls and decision making. Gladwell may be my favorite secular author.
Less engaging, but very practical was Gary McIntosh's Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church. It is what the title says - a practical how-to book about getting people back to your church for a second visit. Honestly, this is not the kind of book I like to read. I've never been real big into church growth techniques. But I've noticed that too many first-time visitors don't show up again and decided it was time to do something about it. If you attend Fulkerson, you'll probably notice some small changes the new few months - some of which may have had their origins in this book.
I hesitate to recommend any book by Brian MacLaren, one of the primary spokesmen from the more radical side of the emerging church movement, but his book More Ready than You Realize: Evangelism and Dance in the Postmodern Matrix was pretty good. In this sense. MacLaren helped me get inside the skin of an unbeliever and see things from her point of view. This book traces the two year conversation between MacLaren and "Alice" (not her real name) - a young non-Christian woman whom MacLaren befriended and who seems to have come to faith in Christ (although this is not real clear). MacLaren is a good writer and this is an engaging read.
What's not good about this book is MacLaren's theology. He appears to be an open theist and an inclusivist and has a very weak view of the atonement. In answer to a question about the purpose of the death of Christ, MacLaren, basically said that Jesus himself didn't know why he had to die (citing the words of Jesus from Gethsemane) and left it at that. This was neither true, nor helpful. MacLaren's grasp of the gospel seems really weak. So, this book on evangelism, helpful in its own way, needs some serious balancing by a book that is solid on the gospel. So, I don't recommend it after all!
J. I. Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, is almost the perfect opposite to MacLaren's book. Solid theologically, but less in touch with the mindset of today's unbeliever. But Packer's focus is more narrow. His purpose is to explore the relationship between the doctrine of God's sovereignty and the necessity of evangelism. He does that well.
God's Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughan Roberts is a great (and short) book about the metanarrative of Scripture - the story of redemption. Roberts follows Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel and Kingdom pretty closely, but is less technical, aiming at a different audience. I liked this book a lot and think it would make a great study for a Sunday School class or small group.
I'm still working on a few other books, and probably should be reading those right now instead of blogging! So, that's all for now!