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Missional Reading | Part 2

June 8, 2010

Mike: Continuing my list of 10 books I think every Missional Leader should read.

You can read books 1-3 here.

Book 4| Pilgrim’s Progress by  John Bunyan

Mike:
Obviously this is a Christian classic. What I really like about this book is that it combines the two dominant metaphors used to describe the Christian life: a Journey and a Battle. Obviously from my theological work this combines perfectly with Covenant (this goes with the journey) and Kingdom (this goes with the battle). I think this book gives an excellent depiction of what this life will take to win the battle God is asking us to engage with, but receiving all the intimacy of Jesus as we walk with Him and the adventures that wait for us.

Amazon Review: I was originally going to title this review, “I Can’t Believe I Liked This Book!” I started reading The Pilgrim’s Progress as part of a quest to read history’s great novels. After making my way through Cervantes’s Don Quixote (which took me 82 days), I began reading The Pilgrim’s Progress in small chunks, and got through the first 100 pages or so in about two weeks… And then I stopped.

Four months later, I resumed my quest. This time, I committed myself to reading in longer blocks of time. After all, The Pilgrim’s Progress consists of two ~130-page Parts, neither of which is broken down into smaller chapter units, so stopping and starting seriously disrupts the flow. Still, I was having difficulty. The language is so archaic and the allegories are particularly hard to follow for someone (such as myself) with virtually no background in Biblical studies. But then a funny thing happened: in attempting to demonstrate the difficulty of the language to my wife, I began reading aloud… And then everything started to sink in, for me! I offer this as a tip to anyone else who at first has trouble getting into the book.

Prior to my experiment with reading aloud, I would often find myself needing to go back and re-read a paragraph or even a half-page. This is not a book that you can read casually — you must be in deep concentration while reading. The payoff, however, is definitely worth it. This is a tale, after all, that has stood the test of time: the most influential English-language book in all of Christendom.

Book 5 | The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille

Mike: This book has been very formative in my understandings of how people see and view the world and how it translates into action for reading a missional context. For instance…obviously the French and American view sex differently. But why? And how do they view it? What are their assumptions of it? How do they engage with it? What are the problems with it? If you want to really understand an American mission context, this book is a must read. It’ll go into money, love, sex, power, work, eating, houses, etc.  Just outstanding.

Amazon Review: This is one of the more fascinating books I’ve read in quite a while. The author claims that subconscious links created socially” and nationally dictate the meanings of various things. For example, French people form an early Association with alcohol which links drinking with a social family atmosphere, because French children are often given a small amount of wine to drink by their parents at an early age. Americans on the other hand, are not allowed to drink until age 21, and therefore the association that they create is often one of danger and recklessness, because they learn to drink at a much later age and in an underground fashion. For the rest of their lives, they think of alcohol as dangerous, risky, and forbidden. The French view is social and familial. The book is full of examples such as this. For example, Americans link or form code for automobiles as being about freedom, whereas the Germans have a code for automobile which is engineering. This is why for example, American and German auto executives and marketing people cannot see eye to eye.

I found new insights on almost every page of this book. The book is actually quite profound. Many authors try to create the type of insights contained in this book, but they do not have the insight or the knowledge to do so. This book will be of interest to students of anthropology, psychology, international affairs, and marketing of course.

Book 6 | Power Evangelism by John Wimber

Mike: Before John Wimber founded the Vineyard, he was a seminary professor at Fuller Theological. This book is an amazing look at how someone who didn’t really get or accept the supernatural began to see it happen in his life and his community. It’s littered with stories, but also some really skillful theological insight into what it means to be “naturally supernatural.” If you are at all wanting your church to be encountering God’s Spirit in new and more natural ways, pick this book up. Obviously John Wimber had a large impact on my life and this book explains some of his best thoughts. It also made Christianity Today’s 50 most influential Christian books of the 20th Century.

Amazon Review: Wow! What a book. Love Wimber or hate him, you got to read this book. It is a life-changing book written with a scholars insight into the philosophical and biblical underpinnings of our faith. There are four premises that Wimber argues: First the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan are in conflict and Christians have been drafted into Christs army to do battle against Satan. The church does not exist to minister to the saints, nor does it exist to provides programs, it exists to set the captives free. Every Christian is a solider. Second, evangelism is meant to go forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. Wimber argues that in the West, we have intellectualize the gospel to such an extent that we tend to rely solely on reason to persuade people to come to Christ. The Bible, however, tells another story. We are to go out into the world with the power of the Holy Spirit. Third, our worldviews affect how we understand Scripture, including passages about signs and wonders- most evangelicals tend relegate to New Testament days anything that cannot be arrived at empirically or proved by reason.

If you are a fan of R.C. Sproul, you will appreciate Wimbers analysis of the Western World view. He argues that most westerners are incapable of attaching cultural significance to spiritual ideas and events. It is not that they are hostile to spiritual things, but it is as if they have a filter that removes religion form the public consciousness. They just cannot see how religion can have an impact on economics or politics. Wimber calls this the excluded middle. Because of the secular western worldview, even most Christians have difficulty believing in the ability of God to intervene in the physical universe. Case in point- Healing. Most evangelical Christians will acknowledge that God can heal disease, but in their heart of hearts they find it difficult if not impossible to accept either spiritual causation or healing of diseases.

Wimber also points out how our Western World view affects Christian discipleship. We have abandoned the apprenticeship model used by Jesus for the classroom model of modern education. Evangelical discipleship concentrates on what one knows.. We are taught church doctrine (the authority of Scripture, the deity of Christ, etc.) and very little time is spent molding a life. The New Testament model of discipleship emphasized who one is, rather than what one knows. It focused on building a life, rather than gaining knowledge.

I would make this required reading in every seminary and Bible College. It is that good. You may not agree with everything Wimber taught, but if you do not read this book, you will be missing truth that will transform your life.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2010 11:54 am

    Great list, Mike. And great comments.

    I bought culture code on your recommendation and thought some insights were quieet interesting. Overall, I find it a bit superficial or anecdotal (not a lot of real psychology in there).

    good review on wimber’s book!

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