Cross Cultural, Part 6: Recommended Reading

14 November 2009

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Thank you for reading this series, and thanks again to Curtis Miller and ONE Worship for so kindly allowing me to share.

Having completed our series, I wanted to offer a list of resources that will help you and further guide your thinking.  Some of the following books are intended to serve as introductory material; others are designed for those in leadership positions who wish to see their missional communities advance to the next level.  Click the titles to purchase any of these resources from Amazon.com.

RESOURCES ON COLOSSIANS

Since we have spent such extensive time in Paul’s letter to Colosse, I thought I’d tip my hand and allow readers to become better acquainted with the specific resources I draw from.  All three commentaries listed reflect excellent, conservative scholarship.  I list them in order of difficulty.

Colossians and Philemon: An Introduction and Commentary, N. T. Wright.  Wright has received heavy criticism for his “new perspective on Paul,” however this commentary does not reflect this.  This is an excellent, introductory level commentary whose greatest strength is in its brevity.  Wright lucidly and succinctly evaluates the argument of Paul’s letter in a format that – unlike the lengthier commentaries below – most will find highly readable and easy to follow.

 The Epistles to Colossians, Philemon and to the Ephesians, F.F. Bruce.  Whenever you find anything by F. F. Bruce, you can be assured of good Biblical scholarship.  This commentary is a more technical commentary than Wright’s, making it an excellent resource.  Bruce analyzes the Greek text well, but the more technical comments are in the footnotes (a trademark of this particular commentary series), accessible to those with a background in the original language, without being an obstacle for those who do not.

The Letters to Colossians and Philemon, Douglas J. Moo.  This is the most recent commentary on Colossians (and therefore the most expensive!).  Though less “devotional” than the other two commentaries, it is the most thorough of the three.  This is an excellent resource especially for pastors or lay teachers who wish to more fully explore the text.  Like Bruce, Moo deals with the original language, but it does not interfere with the readability of this commentary.

RESOURCES ON MISSIONAL LIVING

These resources are excellent examples of thought on living Christ’s mission in daily practice.

Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out, Mark Driscoll.  Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle.  This book focuses on how a missional model has influenced the character of that church, and it is full of stories, testimonies and statistics regarding the intersection of the gospel and culture.  While written from the point of view of a lead pastor, it is a book for anyone with a desire to live their faith in an outwardly focused way, and is therefore the book I recommend first.

Revolution, George Barna.  Barna draws from his extensive research in creating a book encouraging young people to move beyond the walls of the church and to “embody” the church instead.  The strength of Barna’s work is in its fidelity to the current state of culture and the church, though admittedly his work may seem to minimize the significance of the local church.  With a study guide available online, this may be an excellent tool for personal study or even a small group discussion.

Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, Darrell L. Guder.  This is the most thorough of the three resources.  Guder meticulously analyzes the changing character of the North American church and describes the powerful influence of a missional ministry model on the ministry of the local church.  This is an excellent starting point for those wishing to delve even deeper into the principles of an outwardly-focused church.  Those wishing to read further could do no better than to consult The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church by Allen Hirsch.

RESOURCES ON CULTURAL ANALYSIS

Many wish to better understand our culture but are unsure of where to start.  These resources offer an excellent starting point for a lifestyle (and lifetime) of cultural engagement.

Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why It Matters, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.  This book is the resource for understanding our non-Christian neighbors – specifically of rising generations.  Each chapter focuses on one of the major negative perceptions of Christians (e.g., “too sheltered,” “too political,” etc.), featuring both testimonies and carefully gathered statistics.  This is an excellent portrait of the growing population of unbelievers in America today.  Those who appreciate this book will also appreciate Thom Rainer’s Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them

The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity Lite, Dick Staub.  Staub’s work offers a convicting, incisive critique of just how shallow contemporary culture – including the church – has become.  This is not a work that advocates being “culturally relevant” for the sake of being “trendy,” but rather offers a powerful, encouraging message of why Christians must reengage the world around them through culture and the arts in order to most fully realize our God-given humanity.

Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, Kevin Vanhoozer et al, eds.  Vanhoozer’s opening chapter lays out a detailed method for analyzing culture – a chapter well worth the price of admission.  The remainder of the book is a series of essays on various cultural issues (film, the blogosphere, funerals, etc.), applying Vanhoozer’s method to each.  This is one book in a larger series (those interested in film should consult Robert K. Johnson’s Reel Spirituality: Faith and Film in Dialogue), with other works on modern art, music and environmentalism.

RESOURCES ON APOLOGETICS

As we seek to “season our speech with salt,” it will often become necessary to give “a reason for the hope” we possess (1 Pe 3:15).  I generally dislike apologetics resources as they often oversimplify issues to the point of obscurity (and only add fuel to the “culture war”).  However, these resources keenly and fairly address the issues we currently face as we navigate a culture of spiritual confusion.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller.  Any time an author is compared to C.S. Lewis, the expectations are high.  Keller meets and exceeds them with a book designed to both answer common objections to the Christian worldview as well as offer a well-reasoned defense of the Christian worldview.  Packed with illustrations, this is a great resource to read for yourself, or even to give to (and discuss with) your skeptical friends and neighbors.

Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept, James W. Sire.  Sire starts at the very beginning by addressing the fundamental question of worldview.  This treatment allows readers to better understand the philosophical underpinnings that give shape to the ideas and values expressed in our culture.  This analysis is continued in The Universe Next Door: Basic Worldviews Catalog, which outlines the basic belief systems of common worldviews (i.e., religions and philosophies).

Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ, Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace.  Recent years have seen many attacks on the nature of the Biblical Christ (e.g., The Da Vinci Code, Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus, the infamous “Jesus tomb,” etc.), so much so that many Christians and non-Christians find themselves doubting the words of the Biblical text.  This book answers these concerns in a thorough and timely manner, challenging readers to rediscover that Jesus existed in history in the same way he existed in scripture.

AND THE REST

And of course, there are a whole host of other great resources to improve both our minds and our character.  Glancing briefly at my shelf, I recommend the following books that have so greatly influenced my faith and life: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ and Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel.  I’ll even plug my own creation, Dearly Beloved – contact me to order a copy.

And this is to say absolutely nothing of the wellspring of scripture itself.  St. Augustine, while wrestling with his decision to accept Christ, heard a young child singing the words tolle lege over and over.  Tolle lege!  Tolle lege!  Tolle lege!  The words meant, “pick up and read.”  And as he read Paul’s words in Romans 13, it was then that he decided to give his life to Christ and live in service to His gospel.

It is in that spirit that I close, inviting you into a lifetyle of learning, reflection and humble service, joining in the saints who have gone before – that “great cloud of witnesses” – through our devotion to God’s word.

Tolle lege.  God bless.

14 November 2009

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Chris is a writer and speaker from the Charlottesville area. He regularly serves as a research writer for Docent Research Group in addition to doing some guest speaking.

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