January 22, 2018

Books I Read or Dipped In to Over Summer

I dip into books over summer.  Some I read right through.  Others get skimmed.  Others I start and look to finish later.  Many I sat and read while sitting in the shade of a tall eucalyptus tree while my son practiced dropping in at the skatepark, the red tailed black cockatoos screeching overhead. Here are four of those books.

1.Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor


We either read Taylor or read people who have read him.  Both is preferable.  This is a handy little book that provides some pastoral conclusions from ministry leaders and how they have applied Taylor’s groundbreaking work on secularism.  It’s a case of admitting that Taylor got it right and owning our secular age for what it is.  With essays ranging from curmudgeonly Carl Trueman’s observation that Taylor misunderstands the Reformation, to creative Mike Kosper’s take on transcendence and Kanye West, it’s engaging, informative. And at 159 pages, its brevity would make Taylor sniffy.


2.Awaiting The King: Reforming Public Theology

My go-to book at the moment. The third of Smith’s trilogy that began with Desiring the Kingdom, a book that shaped me and how I think of ministry in more ways than I can explain.  This latest and last book is timely, given the angst we are experiencing about the role of the church in the public square.  As all of Smith’s writing is, it’s vivid and vibrant and full of verve.  Take away thought: the secular is always religious, and the church is always political.  And when the secular rejects the role of religious transcendence in the public imagination it creates a dark, unhappy version of its own.


3. The Tony Payne Collection: The Best Articles From Three Decades of Christian Writing

Tony’s St Matthias’ writing was the first example of short, sharp essay style Christian writing I engaged with. And it’s been thirty years of writing!  Where did that time go?  How did Tony get so old?  How did I get so old? Another great book to dip in to for half an hour or so at a time on a lazy day.  Got to say I turned first to the “Hot Potatoes” section and read the essay How We Went Gay, – written in 1998 –  primarily to see if Tony had read the times well.  After all that’s twenty long years, and after 2017 things might have changed.  Here’s the takeaway thought from that one:

In popular culture, certain statements or ideas come to have a life of their own. They assume a legitimacy and truthfulness merely by virtue of their being repeated often enough.

Nailed it.  “Thanks Tony”, as we used to say on a lazy summer Test match day.


4. Preaching with Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons.

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 8.05.04 pmThe title is great, but Kim’s book is convoluted and didn’t live up to my expectations.  It suffered from trying to solve too many problems, along with creating some problems that I don’t think are problems.  Its solutions would not lead to clearer preaching.  Slightly harsh?  Read my full review of this on the US’s Gospel Coalition site here. My takeaway is that preaching that connects paints bigger pictures and showcases Jesus, rather than preaching that attempts to find myriad applications for increasing numbers of micro-communities within the church.


Not sure what is on my autumn reading list yet, as I’ve just come back from holidays and feel a bit behind the eight ball.  I usually try to read one sports book or specific running book in the holidays, but didn’t manage to this year.
















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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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