i wanted to recommend a couple of books i read recently. i wish i could make the time to write proper reviews but i would rather be doing other things and my point would be ultimately to just say, "these are great, you should read them!"
The first is Tom Sine's latest offering, "The New Conspirators". Tom does a brilliant job of surveying much of what God is up to in the next generation of church as it shapes up in North America and Western Europe (and those little islands called Australia and New Zealand). I was particularly glad to see the way Tom, at the same time, listens to the people involved in the various 'stream', offers his own opinion about their relative strengths and weaknesses, and unpacks a little of the theological/missional imagination at work across several cultural contexts. Because Tom (and Christine) are such wonderful servants - active in and pastors and wise friends of so many different groups - one gets the impression this is an accessible, inside-take as much as it is a scholarly survey. But that is not to say it is light reading. Tom brings a depth and breadth of practice and reflection to his writing that one is very aware we are just getting the tip of the research-iceberg. this book would be ideal for reading in a cell group or sunday school class (or whatever it is you bright young things call it now days) as it contains discussion questions and items for action. if you are even a little bit interested in the work of God in the (western) world, this is a must-read.
The second book is called, "Free to be Bound" by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. The book is essentially biographical insofar as Jonathan explores the issue of church, race, and justice through his own life and vocation. The first thing i would want to report about this book is that Jonathan writes beautifully. He is a really gifted story-teller and has an almost magical way of dealing with very intense and difficult issues with profound grace and tenderness. If you know Jonathan this will come as no surprise - he is a supremely gracious and kind person. As a stranger in this strange land i found his discourse on race-relations very helpful and i appreciated his accounts about the 'inner life' of his church. With the recent Obama speech on race and the ever-present undertow of racial inequality across this country, now is a perfect time to read this book. be warned, there are no quick-fix answers, yet Jonathan will show a way forward for the careful reader longing for hope across 'the color line'.
ps: if you want to read either/both of these books, let me know and you can borrow our copies.