Tuesday, August 11

Some Summer Reading

August is here and I'm back to work after a couple of months off for a "sabbatical." I put that in quotes because it wasn't a typical sabbatical - a time given for spiritual renewal and reflection. There was definitely an element of that, but with both daughters getting married this summer, there was also a lot of wedding preparations, moving children, etc. So, though the time off was much needed and much appreciated, it was also pretty busy! But now that I'm back at the Rockhouse on a regular basis, my blog posts will pick up. You are warned.

One of my goals during those couple of months was to read at least two hours a day. Though I didn't accomplish that every day, I did get through quite a few books. I wanted to just mention four that I found interesting and worthy of your consideration. These are listed in the order I completed them:

"The Contemplative Pastor" by Eugene Peterson - Anything by Peterson is valuable and worthy of your time. In this book, he challenges the role of most in ministry - running a church or a ministry. He calls us to replace the role of "religious executive" with something different: to be one whose "job is not to solve people's problems or make them happy, but to help them see the grace operating in their lives." In order to that, we must learn to be unbusy, subversive, and apocalyptic. And I love this quote:

"If I, even for a moment, accept my culture's definition of me, I am rendered harmless." (p. 15)

That is the reason why I rarely volunteer the fact that I am in ministry when I first meet someone. As soon as those words come out of my mouth (or someone else's), stereotypes set in and barriers go up. People assume they know what I'm like or what I think because of the title they give me. I prefer to let people discover that I'm a minister as our relationship grows. It often freaks them out.

"The Great Emergence" by Phyllis Tickle - In this short, readable book Tickle describes the transition taking place in Christianity, the forces that have brought it about over the past 150 years, and her idea of what the future looks like. She also traces us back over the past 2,000 years of history to demonstrate that this type of transition isn't really anything new. As she puts it, "Every five hundred years, the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale." That may not be completely accurate, but you get the picture. Tickle gives a general overview of church history. She then zeroes in on the last 150 years and highlights factors that she feels has led us to post-modernism, the emerging church, etc. Her liberal biases do poke through on occasion, but I think her insight on history and cultural area valuable. Here is one of my favorite passages:

"The question of 'Where now is our authority?' is the fundamental or foundational question of all human existence and/or endeavor, be it individual or that of a larger, social unit. Without an answer to it, the individual personality or the personality of the group at large alike will fall into disarray and ultimate chaos. It is Hell where there is no answer to that question." p. 72

"Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell - This is Gladwell's study of those who lie outside the usual human scope of ability and accomplishment. It is an examination of genius and success. He points out that in the US, we think of success as being the result of hard work and ability. We like the stories of the self-made men and women who overcome great obstacles to build their successes and their fortunes. But as Gladwell makes his case, there are some interesting factors in success:

* Ability - Though some natural ability is needed to be successful in any endeavor, greater ability doesn't necessarily equal greater success. In studying the IQ's of those who are successful, Gladwell says that you have to be "smart enough" but that, after a certain point, a higher IQ doesn't guarantee greater success. Someone with an IQ of 140 is just as likely to be successful as a person with an IQ of 195 and people from "good" schools but now "elite" schools are just as likely to win Nobel prizes. His point: there are other factors that come into play.

* Opportunity - This is where it starts to get really interesting. Often, success can be influenced simply by your birth date. If you were one of the oldest starting school (or playing in little league), that often translates into greater success. Those who have been the biggest names in the computing revolution (such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Bill Joy) were born within six months of one another.

* Perseverance - But ability and opportunity aren't enough. There is a certain level of practice and perseverance that is needed to rise above others. In fact, Gladwell tells us what that level is: 10,000 hours. That is the amount of practice time needed for one to really excel and rise above their contemporaries.

* Cultural Legacy - The final component is what you inherit from your cultural and your family. This includes attitudes and habits and values and opportunities that are passed down from generation to generation.

Of course, statistics can be made to say about anything and Gladwell's book is more anecdotal than based on solid objective research. But it is fascinating and easy to read. And it may make you spend a little more time practicing.

"The Shack" by William P. Young - I have put off reading this book for a long time. It has been on the best sellers' lists for a long time and I have heard many people talk about it. It just never sounded like the kind of book that I would be interested in. I was wrong. Once I started reading it, I had a hard time putting it down. I found the book interesting and challenging and thought-provoking. It is not solid, biblical theology and it doesn't attempt to answer all of the questions we have about God and how he operates. But that isn't its purpose. It is a work of fiction that causes us to look at our beliefs and preconceptions from different angles.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am not only impressed but m encouraged to go to bookstores n start reading.Mike, u r really an inspiration to us as the young generation to introspect ourselves n to seek for the truth in believing that Jesus Christ is our Lord n Saviour.This is really a challenge to me as a Christian.May God bless u n keep on sharing with us these wonderful news.God b with u.I pray that God will keep on guiding u to help those in need.Praise b to God all our lives.Haleluya