Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Books I'm (Still) Digesting

After You Believe (N.T. Wright): Wright's follow-up to his phenomenal treatise on the hope of resurrection, Surprised by Hope, is about Christian character and virtue. Looking for a third way beyond a legalistic "just follow the rules" and a humanistic "just follow your heart," Wright proposes that we live in anticipation of the future kingdom of God by living out those values here. Highlighting virtue and character as central to the task, the book is both practical and profound, accessible yet intellectual. Wright uses a great deal of Biblical concepts--a royal priesthood, fruit of the Spirit, etc.--to unpack the full scope of Christian sanctification. Highly recommended.

The Homiletical Plot (Eugene Lowry): I purchased this after reading a brief summary on Scot McKnight's blog, and I'm glad I did. The book's subtitle is "the sermon as narrative art form," and Lowry's ideas are very compelling. Rejecting the overused "tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em" and traditional three-point sermons, the book reveals that all sermons can be narratives, stories in themselves. Turns out I've been teaching/preaching this way all along, I just never had language or clarity to explain how I preached. People are transformed by stories, so why not structure a sermon as a narrative with the Gospel as the climax? I think my preaching with students has improved a great deal since reading and applying the concepts in this book.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball (Gordon MacKenzie): The last required reading we had for the San Diego YMCP was this book on unleashing creativity in the a corporate context. A corporate hairball, according to MacKenzie, is the tangled mess of bureaucracy inherent in any organization. It's the sacred cows, the policies and procedures, the "we've always done it this ways." It all stifles creativity, yet we can't help but be attached to hairballs at some level. MacKenzie introduces the brilliant idea of orbit--we live in a moving tension between the traditional stability of the hairball and complete organizational abandonment. It's in this tension that creativity can thrive. Months later, I'm still thinking of the implications this has for the church. A light-hearted and empowering read, and a book that fully embodies its message via its medium.

A Whole New Mind (Daniel Pink): Also related to creativity, Pink's premise is that the left brain-directed thinking of the past 100 years is moving into the passenger seat while right brain-directed thinking is taking the wheel. A fairly quick read, the best part of the book is found in part two where Pink unpacks six aptitudes found in right brain-directed thinking: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. After each chapter, he offers a practical list of resources and exercises in order to expand your own creativity and develop right-brain directed thinking. Pink does paint culture in broad brushstrokes at times, but I'm still a right-brain kind of guy, so I'm probably more inclined to enjoy books like this.

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