Review: Eyes Wide Open

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Eyes Wide Open by William D. Romanowski

Eyes Wide Open was written by William D. Romanowski the Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences at Calvin College. It was initially published in 2001 and was revised and expanded in 2007. As a Christ-follower seeking to engage culture and to make culture I have found that this little book is remarkably helpful.  Romanowski’s style is engaging and accessible.  He is writing from the Reformed perspective and is seeking to see Christians engage the world around them in such a way as to transform culture.

The book opens with a solid discussion of the state of Christian engagement within the culture.  The first eye opening discussion is on the apparent double talk by the Christian world regarding popular culture.  Out of one side of our mouths we decry the debasement of the culture around us and yet we consume pop culture as quickly as anyone else. Why is this? It’s because we are members of the culture within which we live and it is through the voice of pop culture that we find a road map for understanding the world around us. While this is not inherently bad we as believers must come to the place where we can evaluate and transform this road map to point people to Christ and the redemption that he offers.

From here we come to a discussion regarding the re-imagining of pop culture. This section points toward the competing and yet similar aspects of the vision of pop culture and the church.  With the core question being: how do we reconcile this reality?

Next, Romanowski evaluates “Christian” art and points out that much of it is missing the point of pop art because it does not communicate to a fallen world. The closing chapters of the text give a framework for how a follower of Christ might be able to engage the arts and culture.

I think that Eyes Wide Open  is must reading for any Christ-follower that is serious about engaging the culture. Along with gaining a vision for how the Church can engage the lost world Romanowski also provides in his Appendix a matrix that is helpful in discerning the good and bad of pop culture offerings.  He also applies his matrix to the film, Titanic.  In conclusion, I think this can be a useful tool for helping train this generation of believers to think about the culture and engage it, as opposed to them waiting to be told what to think.

Review: Compelled By Love

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Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living was written by Ed Stetzer and Phillip Nation and published by New Hope Publishers.  Stetzer is the director of LifeWay Christian Resources and Nation is a church planting missionary in north Metro Atlanta.

Compelled is broken up into three parts. The first, “Death by Love: God and Mission” looks at how the three persons of the Trinity love and how their love applies to our relationships and ministry. The second part, “Identifying Love: The Church in the World” looks at how we are shaped by love.  This section really highlights the way that love works itself out in the context of the Christian community.  I would say that this is the central argument of the text. The third part, “Formed by Love: Believers and the World” looks at how the church is to interact with the non-Christian world within which it finds itself.  This section I think is the most important as it challenges the presumptions of the status quo.

There were two chapters that stood out among the rest. The first was Chapter 9 where Stetzer and Nation push back on the popularity of bashing the Church.  They argued  quiet well that if you say that you love Jesus then you will love his church.  The vision cast for the necessity and centrality of the local church is fantastic.  It might be one of the most simple and clearly stated arguments for the local church that I have read. The quote from James Emery White has really stuck in my mind over the last few days, “The church is not simply the vanguard of kingdom advance; it is the entire assault force (145)”. When we pick on the church we are picking on the very bride of Christ.  We must love what Christ loves, and Christ died for his church.

The second chapter that really stood out was Chapter 12, “Called to Love: Living a Missionary Passion for the Lost”. Here Stetzer and Nation challenge the deep rooted selfishness that is inherent in the Christian community by walking through the Jonah narrative.  They are calling the church to a renewed sense of contextualized service.  I was reminded again that I am a Jonah, as most of us are, willing to serve God on my terms in my ways.  How many times do we miss the God-sized redemptive opportunities around us because we are pouting in a corner as a result of not getting our way?

In conclusion, I can’t really find too many weaknesses with this text. I think in future printings (yes, it’s that good) it would be helpful to see an appendix with some best practices for individuals and churches to be able to look to as a model.  By no means a claim of a “magic bullet” or a “recipe for missional ministry” but just some jumping off points.  I think some of the people in my life will read this and wonder, “OK, now what?  How do I DO this?”

Review: Trolls and Truth

So, I have this awesome opportunity to read and review books from New Hope Publishers.  It’s a great way to score some free books and have some accountability to read! Anyway, here is review number one (review number two will come today or tomorrow).

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Trolls and Truth: 14 Realities About Today’s Church That We Don’t Want to See is written by Jimmy Dorrell.  He is the lead pastor of Church Under the Bridge and also the Executive Director of Mission Waco in Waco, TX. This is a little book and quick read.  It hits on 14 key issues that Dorrell has found to be truths that the first world American church needs to hear.  He argues that most of the American church ignores the poor and broken in their communities.  He is writing from his own experiences as a pastor to those very people.  He tells the stories of 14 different people.  Those stories each function as a parable for a particular truth that he believes the contemporary church can learn from those people who live on the fringe of society. He covers a wide range of issues including appearance, actions, societal barriers, giving, communication, and music.

I found that his most powerful chapters were regarding the issues of gifts (Dedrick’s Truth) and the fact that the “rich need the poor” (Catfish and Pilgrim Bill’s Truth). Regarding giftedness, Dorrell tells the story of Dedrick and his unique issues and life.  While Dedrick has serious mental limitations he joyfully worshiped God.  Dorrell’s church embraced him and found a place for his infectious excitement and exuberance.  He served the community with how he was made.  This is particularly challenging.  If you look around your congregation you know who “those” people are.  Will you embrace them and find a place for them to serve their God or will you ignore them?

Catfish and Pilgrim Bill’s tale flips the script on the American mindset.  It argues for the fact that the rich need the poor.  The rich need the poor because it is through their engagement with them that they find meaning and purpose.  The poor teach them what it means to love and care for things beyond the almighty dollar. The rich need to get outside themselves and it is through relationships with the poor that they are able to break out of their self-centeredness. Truly powerful.

One area that I find weak in Dorrell’s text is that I wish he would have written from a bit of a more universal application of his principles.  The question that I kept coming to was, “What if you do not have access/proximity to these kinds of people?” For example, our church is located in Farmington Hills, MI. While there are those who struggle and there are certainly a handful of homeless people, it is not a hot-bed for the poor and indigent.  For us to find the people represented in Dorrell’s parables, we would need to relocate the church. I believe that our church is called to where we are and that God has a mission for us.  Dorrell would have provided an even greater tool for the church had he broadened his application a bit to more of a principle level.

All in all this is a wonderful book, especially if you are willing to do the work to take the application to the principle level and apply it to your context.  Well worth the read.

>Down by the Sea

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Posted by Robin Schmidt on September 21st, 2009

Paul wrote a letter to the believers in Rome. In it he says that which is known about God is evident, for God made it evident. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…

I believe that there is much to learn about God from his creation. How could you know the meaning of majestic without mountains? Or could you get as close to comprehending infinite without the grains of sand covering miles and miles and miles of beach?

Traveling to Florida last month, I went, among other reasons, to see what the ocean and sand and shells had to teach me about God, and this is what I learned.

There are several beaches that we walk on the gulf side of Florida. Each has different qualities, different sand or shore, different shells washing up. On the last day of the trip we sat on a beach that had small mounds of shells every couple of yards stretching for miles. It looked as though someone had intentionally dumped piles of shells at regular intervals.

I am always looking for shells. When I looked at these mounds of shells I saw thousands upon thousands of tiny shells all piled together. Each individual shell was one of thousands. Have you ever felt that way? Lost in a crowd? Alone among many?

But when I knelt down to get a closer look, I saw that each shell was unique, different in size, shape, color, texture.

God knows you. You are not lost in the crowd. He can see you, and he can see how you are different from every other person he has made.

When hunting shells, the shell most sought after is the larger, whole shell. One that is intact. They are very difficult to find. Very rare. Most all the shells that wash up on the shore are broken. And most are so broken the very inner parts of the shell are all that remain.

I suspect it is very difficult to make the journey from the depths of the sea to the beach without being broken. The crashing of the waves, tossing shell against shell, and being tossed against the sand wears and chips away at each shell.

Some shells have been worn and chipped away so much that none of the exterior remains, only the swirling inner pattern. Looking at them, their delicate shape, they are quite beautiful. But they are not whole. What a relief to learn that broken things can be beautiful.

Because it is very difficult, if not impossible to get to shore unbroken.

Discipleship…who knew.

So it turns that some of the greatest thinkers in the Christian world are coming to the conclusion that the church has missed something.  It has missed “discipleship”.  We are not training, building, developing, and sending mature believers into the world. 

It seems to me that this is the “cost” of the great “evangelical” movement that has developed over the last fifty-five years. Prior to the fifties the church trained people well.  There was a commitment to “catechism”.  There was an emphasis on education.  However, there was a cost.  The cost was that of evangelism.  We were not inviting people into the community of faith. So, were we really training people well? Probably not.

But, now we get the message out and get people saved but we are not building and sending.  We need now not a pendulum swing but a re-centering on the life and ministry of Jesus.  I think that this is a good article and points us back to where we need to be.  However, it’s still a rehash of Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism. If we could only master the Master Plan.
NextReformation » The Great Omission

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