The Father Glorified by Patrick Robertson & David Watson – This book blew my mind. It is the story of the movement of God in Islamic regions of Africa. The book reminds me a lot of the Peter and Cornelius story in Acts where the two men are brought together in a dream in order for a major movement of God to take place. This story highlights the lives of multiple individuals and how God used Christians, persecution and even dreams and visions to bring people together to plant churches and teach the Gospel. This book will stretch your faith. Their is another book that goes along with this called Miraculous Movements which I haven’t yet read. Both books come out of the ministry of CityTeam International.
To Dream Again by Robert Dale – This was written in 1981 and is an leadership/organizational masterpiece. Dale does a superb job laying out the typical cycle of congregational transition from the growth phase: Dream/Birth—–Beliefs—–Goals—–Structure—–Ministry to the death phase: Nostalgia—–Questioning—–Polarization—–Dropout. Dale talks through these phases, gives relevant questions that need to be asked at each phase and addresses churches that have passed their prime and need to be re-envisioned so that nostalgia and questioning get turned back to dreaming instead of death. This is a must read book for anyone in ministry or church leadership.
Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes by Randolph Richads & Brandon O’Brien – I kept hearing people talk about this book a few months back and I just had to read it. It left me with mixed feeling, probably as mixed as any book I have read in quite some time. In this book you have Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien help us Westerners understand our cultural biases when reading scripture. In other words, they help us to realize that we have been wearing glasses the whole time we have been reading our Bibles all the way back to Sunday school as kids. That wasn’t news to me but I thought they did that part very well. People who aren’t aware of just how much their culture affects their reading of scripture should read this book.
The biggest problem I had with the book was that it didn’t really line up with its stated purpose, “Our goal in this book is not, first and foremost, to argue which interpretation of a biblical story…is correct. Our goal is to raise this question: if our cultural context and assumptions can cause us to overlook a famine, what else do we fail to notice” (p. 15). They wrote this in regard to varying current culture’s interpretation of the story of the prodigal son and how more famine sensitive culture tend to emphasize the famine whereas we tend to emphasize the sin and repentance. If they executed on that well, I wouldn’t have any issue with this book. The problem is they don’t follow through on this purpose in any consistent way. Instead, they do insist on what they believe are correct interpretations that rely very heavily on assumption after assumption based on 21st century Indonesian culture (where Randolph was a missionary)…it feels at times like they are making Jesus or King David or Paul into a 21st century person from Malaysia and miss entire historical backgrounds on things like head coverings. Now, I get that they are trying to show me just how skewed my view can be but it is one thing to open the door of possibility on a text that we are probably reading it wrong due to living in the 21st century in a Western culture and another to insist that the right answers are based on another set of glasses that most likely don’t overlap 100% of 1st century Palestine much less 1000 BC Palestine.
If you want a book that raises awareness on cultural impact on interpretation…this is your book, hands down. Just be aware that there are a few bumps along the way…and I will be the first to admit, it is entirely possible that some of the bumps I experienced were due to me being a 21st century Western Christian.