Starting Points: What Are You Reading?

10 03 2008

George Wood, through a related thread over at AG Think Tank, has helped me nail down some good opening questions for our conversation.  Let’s start with this one:

“What book(s) would you recommend as a starting point for discussion [about Emergent Pentecostalism]?”

This might be a good place for me to confess that, in the presence of guys like George P. Wood and Tony Jones, I am an intellectual pauper; a gnat.  The only post- high school certification I can lay claim to  is  a ministry diploma following two years  in a non-accredited  AG Bible College (and in my experience was a first-rate education where theopraxis is concerned) and a smattering of junior college classes.  If I can hold my own in a conversation with these or others of like stature, it’s less due to any formal education than to a voracious appetite for reading – and listening.

When I graduated from Bible College, my chief concern was professional success, measured in terms of attendance, tithe dollars, and programming edginess.  Here are a few of the books I’ve read since that time, which the Spirit of God has used in tandem with life experience to re-center my world view, or framing story, to be what I would consider more holistic and Jesus-centered:

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson – Challenged my perception of God in history

The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson –  Challenged me to follow Jesus as devoutly as I believe in him

[The Cost of] Discipleship by Deitrich Bonhoeffer – challenged me to view the church as a sacrament to the world

The Gospel of Matthew – Challenged my perception of the nature of Jesus’ kingdom

The Gospel of John – Challenged my perception of the incarnation

Off-Road Disciplines by Earl Creps – Challenged my perception of ministry in the Assemblies of God

In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen – Challenged my perception of Christian leadership

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning – Challenged my perception of God’s love and grace

Everything Must Change by Brian D. McLaren – Challenged my complicity in the “suicide machine” and my perception of redemption

There are more books, but these are some of the more influential ones.  I realize as I look over the compiled list that I probably did very little to answer the question, it’s such a broad swath of reading.  The scary thing is, there are also plenty of texts I still feel I must read in order to start to get a grasp, not only of Emergent but that holistic, Jesus-centered world view I was talking about earlier.

One book in particular, which might help center this group’s conversation, is Tony Jones’ newest release, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier.  I hope to pick it up in the next several days, and if there are others who would like to read it together through a pentecostal lens it might prove a good first exercise for this budding conversation.  Of course, that’s only my opinion.  I want to hear yours.

So what have you read that has instigated a deep shift in your thinking?  And what book(s) would you recommend as a starting point for this discussion?

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6 responses

10 03 2008
Joel

I like Lesslie Newbigin’s Gospel in a Pluralistic Society. I’m also a fan of Manning and Peterson: good guides for a more palpable spirituality. Still, I get a little concerned with Jones’ desire to accept reader response hermeneutics. And I really like McLaren, but I am not convinced that we can move forward without at least a few points of commitment. He tends to leave things intentionally abstract and undefined. I love his honesty, but see him more as a corrective/prophetic voice instead of a voice of leadership.

10 03 2008
johnohara

Thanks, Joel. I’ll take a look at Newbigin’s book.

I share your affinity for McLaren’s work, and agree that he’s very intentional about abstractions. I imagine he’d suggest on that point that Jesus did too, as an aspect of his own corrective/prophetic ministry among his contemporaries. Have you read McLaren’s latest? It seems to me much more position-oriented than his previous stuff. Maybe he senses the freedom to write more of a polemic now that he’s retired from the pulpit.

11 03 2008
Glen Davis

Three books that wrecked me:

N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus (don’t worry – this isn’t one of his multi-hundred page tomes. It’s short and sweet).

Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines. This guy is bright and pious, a delightful combination. He addresses a fundamental tension in our faith: how can we believe our works matter not before God while also believing that our devotional life matters a great deal to our spiritual health?

Jim Peterson, Living Proof (written in something like ’81, it’s still more relevant than most recent books I read on evangelism. It’s part of a trilogy and the whole thing is worth reading. The other two volumes are Lifestyle Discpleship and Church Without Walls).

11 03 2008
johnohara

Thanks, Glen. Welcome.

I thought of including Willard’s Divine Conspiracy, which I’m halfway through right now. He’s brilliant at majoring on life in Christ over and against mere “sin management.”

There’s a new NT Wright book I’d like to take a look at. Have you seen it?

16 03 2008
Paul Rivas

Shaun Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution is a must read. It took me a year to read, not because it was hard to read, but because I kept getting convicted and I had to give myself time to digest what the implications were.

17 03 2008
Jonathan

Irresistible revolution is great

velvet elvis is a foundational emergent text in my opinion

Tony’s book Sacred Way is a great intro to spiritual disciplines

Emergent Manifesto of Hope gives a good all round feel of the theological pulse of the emergent movement, and it includes a great chapter on “Practicing Pentecost” by my friend Anthony Smith

The rapture exposed by Barbara Rossing will challenge your conception of eschatology

And Deconstructing Jesus by John Caputo is great for you postmodern yo-yos (myself included)

As far as Brian goes, the first thing I read by him was generous orthodoxy, which I thought was excellent, and was formative for me in my emergence, I read an advanced copy of EMC because we hosted the first stop of his tour here in charlotte, but far and away my favorite book by him is The Secret Message of Jesus…it blew me away, and I’ll never be the same. Although I’ve read a few chapters from his forthcoming book (he gave it to our cohort as a thankyou gift) and it’s pretty intense.

but if you want to know what emergent is, just watch the matrix. I know that’s cliche, but you’re only other option is to read derrida or foucault, and I can’t recommend those in good conscience, for fear that the readers head may explode.

peace.
-jonathan

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