Three Micro Book Reviews

Three Micro Book Reviews January 13, 2010

I get sent a lot of books to read, and most of them are, to put it bluntly, skubalon.  Some I endorse, some I do not.  And, to this point, I have not reviewed many on my blog.  However, I’d like to make a point to start reviewing some here.  But I’m only going to post positive reviews, and that’s primarily because I’m not a book reviewer by trade.  Those people, like restaurant critics, need to maintain a certain distance from their subjects in order to maintain some objectivity.  I, on the other hand, have lots of friends who are authors and others in the publishing industry, and I have no desire to say hurtful things about them here.  So, I will start writing micro-reviews of the books I like and will continue to stay silent about the ones I don’t.

The Boundary-Breaking God: An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise by Danielle Shroyer.

Danielle, pastor of Journey Church in Dallas, has been a huge fan and proponent of Jürgen Moltmann‘s theology for many years, and this book is the outgrowth of that love.  And yet, the book doesn’t read that way.  In fact, if you didn’t know Moltmann, or skipped the preface, you wouldn’t know Danielle’s indebtedness to him.  I say this because this book, while deeply theological, is one that could easily be given to laypersons and small groups for study.

The book traces the entire arc of the biblical narrative through the lens of hope and promise (Moltmanniacs will here recognize Danielle’s nod to Jürgen even in her method).  What this means is that Danielle works through the story of God’s interaction with creation as told by the biblical authors and finds the points of hope and promise throughout.  And, on top of it being a book with great theologically insight, it’s wonderfully written.

Thy Kingdom Connected: What the Church Can Learn from Facebook, the Internet, and Other Networks by Dwight Friesen

Dwight is a theology professor at Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, and the co-founder of Quest – A Christ Commons, a network of micro-churches in that city that lived from 1996-2007.  In this book, he has made a study of the development of scale-free networks — that is, networks that thrive, not on a center or on boundaries, but on the many connections between different hubs and nodes (think the Internet) — and he suggests that this is the best model for understanding the church, both in the distant past and in the future.

I’ve made no secret of my feelings that denominations, while they once served an important purpose, are now archaic remnants of the 20th century and should be largely dismantled.  Thy Kingdom Connected could be a handbook for that process, though I’m doubtful that denominational types will pay this book much heed.  However, this is the book that church planters should use when thinking (as they all do), “How am I going to do this alone, without a denomination to support me?”  The answer is in these pages, for Dwight’s book is a harbinger of the future organization of ecclesial networks.

Formational Children’s Ministry: Shaping Children Using Story, Ritual, and Relationship by Ivy Beckwith

I often hear people bemoan the fact that there’s a dearth of literature available on children’s ministry and formation in the church that is emerging.  I think that can no longer be said.

This book, a sequel to Ivy’s Postmodern Children’s Ministry (2004), is Ivy’s attempt to answer the question, “With so many people in this country pouring their lives and hearts into the spiritual formation of children, why are we not seeing miraculous results, and why are we not capturing the imaginations of our children for the kingdom of God?”  Her answer to this question combines pediatric development theory, various learning styles, theology, and practical advice to propose nothing short of a new model of children’s ministry, in which children’s pastors and Sunday school teachers are nothing less than shepherds who care for and feed the emerging spiritual imaginations of children.  Not too long, and readable by professionals and laypersons, the book winds up with examples of rituals in children’s lives that will ground their imaginations in the biblical narrative.

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