Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

51NWFZNKQNL._SL500_AA300_This question seemed to be one of the premises behind a book I read recently, although I am uncertain as to the author’s final answer.

Because I haven’t done a book review for a while I thought I would review this one which has been sat in my drafts box for a few months. In the course of researching housing scheme development and history in the UK somebody recommended this book to me and so I thought that I would give it a bash. The title seemed interesting enough and held out the promise of some practical insights into our (post) modern culture.

To be honest I am not sure what I really think of it. I wanted to be excited and stimulated but in reality it seemed like a pale version of (any) work by Francis Schaeffer. In fact, for anybody who has studied missiology at a basic level this is standard fare. I am still not sure what the author was trying to achieve when he wrote the book. It is a sort of historical (ish), philosophical and prophetic statement on his view (intellectual and middle class) of Christendom in the UK. He made very basic applications in parts such as the need to learn from Carey about his sensitivity to communicate Christ contextually (p13). Sadly, that is about as practical as the book got (in my opinion). However, there is a great chapter about Scotland as a case study for the decline of Christianity in Europe.

Hevdoes ask some interesting questions including:

Can traditional preaching survive in an era of multi-channel TV, the global spread of new information technologies, and a shift in public education from texts to images, from books to screens.

I think the answer is yes. But I don’t think he does. The problem is that I am still unsure how he answered the question or even if he did. He then goes on in the book to make other basic points about preachers having to engage with the peculiar pressures faced by people in our culture, particularly in the workplace. Again, it feels like this book was written by an older person because these seem like simple truisms rather than earth shattering insights in 2012. The book was published in 2000 and already feels dated (which partly proves his point above I suppose).

So, is it helpful? It is if you know nothing about history or the basic philosophy of missiology. It is definitely worth a read. It’s just that the book feels depressing, asks lots of questions, doesn’t provide any concrete answers and/or pointers and is lacking any real biblical punch. For a person arguing that we need to move on from old forms to engage with new he spent an awful lot of time engaging with old forms and even some dead philosophers, without making any real positive connection to the Twenty First Century. But maybe that was his clever postmodern point and I am just too thick to have realised it – which seems pretty plausible!

Anybody else remember the days when book launches were sedate things done in coffee houses and maybe a quick plug from the pulpit?  Not these days my friends! Here is the launch video of a book written by Dai Hankey, a friend of mine who is church planting in one of the toughest estates in Wales.  It look suspiciously like a Scene from, ‘Saving Private Ryan’. You can follow his blog, ‘Sanctified Rant’ here. He has written this helpful little book for young men as they face the trials and temptations of modern day life. Enjoy and pick up a copy from the Good Book Company!

I’ve been laid up in bed for a week after an accident and I pulled this book off my bookshelf, largely because I’m due to preach on the theme of God’s love in the coming week. Let me start by saying that this is quite a chunky book, considering the strap line: ‘Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline.’ 350+ pages on the topic of membership and discipline seems a bit on the extreme side!

However, despite initial misgivings, I have to say that this is an absolute gem of a book (from a Baptistic, congregationalist perspective at least). It’s a book that is set out in three parts. The first part looks at how we may have incorrectly defined love in our self obsessed culture. The second invites us to consider a rethink of the definition of God’s love and the final part looks at some considerations for what this means for the local church body, specifically in relation to membership and discipline.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not given to grand statements of praise and back slapping for authors but, for once, I have to say that this is a book that not only deeply challenged me (for many have done that), but helped me to think more clearly in terms of my ecclesiology and practice, gave me a greater understanding of God, His love and an even deeper regard and love for my local church. This book made me want to be a better pastor to my people, and a better colleague to my elders.

Relax everybody! I’ve not turned all gooey and this is not a complete love in, nor do I receive any payment for this review! This book is simply outstanding as far as I am concerned. Why am I even reviewing a book on this topic on a church planting blog? For a couple of reasons:

  1. This book will seek to tweak and correct your understanding of who God is and how great His love is for himself. Yes, read that sentence again. ‘How great is God’s love for God. The fire of God’s love must burn over something. In God’s love for God, his love burns for nothing other than the most exquisite beauty; for nothing other than matchless moral rectitude; for nothing other than universe creating and sustaining power; for nothing other than a perfectly careful justice; for nothing other than his all-encompassing wisdom of his Son, a Son who images back to Him his own self. When the father beholds the Son, the fires of his love burns for all this – with infinite delight and pleasure in the good of this perfect Son. That’s how great this love is.’ (p106). Church planters and/or gospel workers in schemes (Christians everywhere) often make the mistake of doing this ministry motivated by the wrong sort of ‘love’. They can do it to show how much God loves poor and desperate people etc. You’ve heard the chat. But God’s love is offensive because it doesn’t burn for us first and foremost. It doesn’t burn for the lost in our schemes first and foremost. It burns for his own glory. Let that settle in to your soul! That’s a thought so alien, so offensive to many of us that our first instinct is to fight it. I loved this part of the book so much and was so incredibly moved by it that I actually wrote the author an email! I spent a long time reflecting on this and what it means in my ministry and what it means to my congregation.
  2. Church planters need to think carefully before they start about what type of church they want to plant. In the angst to gather a core or attract people, particularly in places like ours, we can rush in and just accept any old fruit bat off the streets. We can get sucked into the thought that church is just about relationships and community. Whilst superficially true, churches are about much more than that. Churches need structure, boundaries, statement of faith and, dare I say it, codes of practice. Of course, churches in schemes are going to be messy, but we need to be sure about how we are going to work through that mess by having a clear polity regardless of our ecclesiological convictions. Leeman reminds us by stating: ‘I would encourage church plants and house churches to have deliberate conversations from the outset that mimic the structure of a membership class, asking: What’s our statement of faith? How will decisions be made? How will we hold one another accountable? With whom will we affiliate?’ (p295)
  3. This book reminds us to love our local churches. This seems an odd thing to say to those who love and want to plant churches. But, sometimes we can give the idea that we’re going to do it differently. Like our church won’t make the mistakes of the past. But, if we’re seeking to build gospel centred, biblically faithful churches then we can’t ignore our rich historical heritage. It’s the one thing that constantly amazes me as a planter and a trainer. So many young men today turn up on my doorstep wanting to be a church planter and yet they hate the local church. They hate authority. They hate the idea of submission. They hate the idea of discipline. This book reminds us that for any church (or planting movement) to thrive these are the essential elements that should mark out any faith community seeking to preach Christ and proclaim God’s good news of love and reconciliation.

If you’re a planter buy this book. If you’re an elder buy this book for you and your team. Stuff it, if you’re a believer in Jesus who claims to know and love God and His people in a deeper way go out and buy this book and take a long, hard look in the mirror. ‘Is there anything wrong with it’, I hear you say? Probably. I was too busy being challenged by the good bits to notice.

I loved it, in case you’re still wondering!

So, I am just back from my summer holidays and I had a bit of a 9marks love fest when it came to holiday reading. I have just picked this one off the top of my pile and I shall be reviewing each book, in no particular order, over the coming weeks. For the uninitiated to this site, this is how I review books at Niddrie Pastor.

1. Content. Is it biblical?

2. Application. Is it relevant?

3. Is it helpful for our type ministry in housing schemes?

The book comes in three distinct parts:

I. What does the Bible say? This is broken down into eight chapters which are suspiciously similar to 9 Marks of a healthy Church (in itself a great book, albeit missing prayer).

II. What has the church believed? This is a history lesson on the church, its ordinances and it’s organisation (spelled with a ‘Z’ in the book).

III. How does it all fit together? This is working how it all comes together in Baptist polity.

I greatly appreciated this book for a number of fundamental reasons. Firstly, it is a great clarion call to any church planter in any context to get to grips with what the scriptures teach us concerning the doctrine of the church. I am constantly amazed by how many church planters I meet who disregard ecclesiology and treat it almost like a harsh case of piles. They’ll deal with it if they have to but they certainly don’t want to think about, never mind talk about it. Dever helps us to grapple with the question in the opening chapter. Secondly, Dever is committed to the absolute inerrancy and all-sufficiency of the Bible when it comes to matters of faith and practice and, in this case, polity. It forces us to go to the Bible and justify the kind of church we want to plant. If we’re not planting churches and developing polity founded on the scriptures, what are they being founded upon? We don’t even have to agree with his conclusions to find that helpful. If I was to give one piece of advice to young men who want to get involved in church planting and, indeed, any pastoral ministry, it would be: ‘What is your doctrine of the church?’ Or, more specifically, ‘What kind of church are your trying to establish?’ Key questions that this book forces us to question.

I have many friends across all theological and ecclesiological persuasions and I hear many debates on ‘expressions’ of church or ‘new ways’ of doing community. Go to almost any meeting of young, eager church planters and you will find that they are almost dribbling into their Chai Tea lattes about ‘being community in a broken world’ or whatever. The bottom line, and Dever helps us to get to it quickly, is that ‘God’s eternal plan has always been to display his glory not just through individuals but through a corporate body.’ (p4) In the OT it was Israel and in the NT is it the church of God throughout the world (that’ll raise a few eyebrows in certain eschatalogical circles but not mine!). He describes the church as, ‘the koinonia or “fellowship” of people who have accepted and entered into the reign of God.’ (p13). Furthermore, it is, ‘one, holy, universal, and apostolic as a reflection of God’s unity, holiness, immensity, eternality and truthfulness.’ (p15)

So, what should a biblical church look like? Again, Dever is clear.

‘The church is generated by the right preaching of the Word. The church is distinguished and contained by the right administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.’ (p21)

We then get to the polity of the church and it is at this point that I find myself uncertain, not by the idea of congregationalism, but by its practice in the real world. We have the usual texts and arguments about establishing church leadership – church officers and the like. There is a short discussion on the term, ‘senior pastor’ with scant evidence to support it at best. This section may have been helped by citing some examples of what decisions the elders take and bring to the members and what decisions they leave up to the congregation. I found myself in agreement with large parts of this chapter but just uncertain as how to carry some of it out. I did find the following quote helpful, although it sounds suspiciously close to elder led rule to me.

‘The congregation is not in competition with the elders. The congregation’s authority is more like an emergency brake than a steering wheel. The congregation normally recognises than creates, responds rather than initiates, confirms rather than proposes.’ (p143)

I found the same problem in the area of church discipline. In an area like our it is such a big problem. We have practiced church discipline (successfully) in the past. At the moment in Niddrie I have been very slow (perhaps overly so) in baptising people and bringing them into church membership. This is for a whole host of reasons. People have messed up personal lives, still living with partners, still on prescribed medication etc. There are a whole host of reasons for caution. However, these people still profess Christ as Lord and sit under the authority of our teaching every week and, therefore, I feel, we have to counsel and discipline/exhort/encourage them. The only other option is to ignore them as not being church members. It is a bit of a quandary which the elders have not yet fully resolved. Again, this chapter could have been much more helpful in offering some examples (although I appreciate the danger of that). Life isn’t (ever) black and white for us here on the scheme and I am sure we take in members that other churches would never dream of. However, I am equally sure that we treat many pastoral cases that other churches do not.

I found the rest of the book to be pretty standard fare. The debate on closed or open communion was helpful. This has been an issue at NCC and I have blogged about it previously. His conclusion, entitled, ‘Why does it matter?’ was very strong and tied together a few loose ends.

‘The church is not only an institution founded by Christ; it is also His body. In it is reflected God’s own glory. How will theology, the Bible, and even God Himself be known apart from the church? What community will understand and explain God’s creation and providence to the world? How will the ravages of sin be explained, the person and work of Christ extolled, the Spirit’s saving work seen, and the return of Christ proclaimed to coming generations if not by the church?’ (p149)

This book should be read by prospective ( particularly baptistic) church planters. If for no other reason than to give them some clarity on this oft neglected doctrine. Too many entering into church planting think that they will get there through the gift of evangelism. The history of Scottish housing schemes is littered with mission halls that brought people Jesus but, in too many places, did not build on that sure foundation by building healthy, biblical churches. Too many of our schemes are being left in the hands of para church organisations that cannot fulfill the function of the local church in a community. Some of these organisations do great work but, as Dever so rightly reminds us,

The parachurch neither has the same commitment to systematically proclaiming the whole counsel of God, nor does it have the mechanisms of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and church discipline for drawing a clear, bright line that says to the world, “Here are the people of God.” (p152)

Schemes need the church. Schemes need solid, biblical, healthy churches. Schemes need to see the gospel embodied in their midst. That embodiment is a community of God’s people engaged in gospel preaching and gospel living. This book is definitely worth a read. Buy a copy.

I have had this book on the shelf for some time and recently got around to completing it. I was in NY when Tim and Kathy Keller were doing the promo work for the book. A certain Mark Driscoll was gaining headlines at the same time for his book on marriage but for altogether different reasons!

The first thing I would say about any book on marriage is that I feel a sense of conviction and belief about what is being written when I know the couple are mature and have been in “the fight” for many decades. It’s why I body swerved Driscoll’s book in favour of this. Let’s see what the old man (and his wife) has to say to us on this topic.

Firstly, and I say this with great respect, there is nothing new or groundbreaking in this book that you won’t find in many other Christian books on the market. He hasn’t found a key secret or some deep, new truth that is gong to blow you away. There are only eight chapters, although it does feel longer and somewhat repetitive in places. That being said, there is great truth it be found within its pages and needy reminders for our age which is currently lobbying to redefine the institution of marriage completely. It’s good to be reminded, for instance, that God ‘established marriage for the welfare and happiness of humankind.’ Tim is spot on when he reminds his readers that, ‘if God invented marriage, then those who enter it should make every effort to understand and submit to his purpose for it.’

There are some excellent insights, particularly concerning the nature of love, lust and attraction. Tom reminds us that, ‘when the Bible speaks of love, it measures it primarily not by how much you want to receive but by how much you are willing to give of yourself to someone.’ His whole chapter on the essence of marriage is a timely riposte to many in our culture who, guided by the media, have an overly subjective view of love. In the same vein, we read:

‘Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now – than can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstance.’

It’s a book that has been written (I suspect) with a largely skeptical audience in mind. It is a bit wordy for me to recommend to some of my people, although I have encouraged my wife to read it and I will recommend it wholeheartedly in a selective manner. The insights for single people, for instance, stand out as particularly good and the challenge to ‘rethink singleness’ is timely in an age when many are marrying much later in life than their forebears.

A good, solid read if you have not read much on the topic. Worth a punt.

I picked this book up a while ago and recently got around to reading it. The subheading is: “With illustrations from the sermons of Thomas Watson”. The book was so good that instead of reading it in my customary speedy fashion I forced myself to read a chapter and then slowly digest it over a couple of days. Hence, the length of time it has taken me to read it!

For those of you not in the know, Thomas Watson was one of the great Puritan preachers and was famed for being something of a wordsmith in the pulpit. 8 Chapters long (and an extensive appendix) it is choc full of helpful wisdom and insight for any budding and/or experienced preacher. I challenge any serious Christian not to be blessed by the Godly insights of the contents of this book. Consider this as an example:

‘..the preacher’s first duty is to be sure that the Word he is to proclaim is with God, and is drawn from the heart of Deity; and his second duty is to see that the Word becomes flesh and dwells amongst us.’

He goes on to challenge us as preachers that our, ‘effectiveness as a herald is not determined by your ability to know what you are saying, but your ability to get the people to whom you are preaching to know and understand what you are saying.’ There are just countless nuggets like this peppered throughout the book which should cause us to pause and give careful thought to how we are communicating God’s Holy Word to those whom he has entrusted into our care. It is not very often that I would 100% recommend a book but this is one of those rare occasions. I suggest you go out and buy it right now if you are preaching and considering entering into teaching ministry of any sort. This will absolutely improve your preaching and help you to be more understandable to your congregation.

Let me leave you with some words from the great man himself regarding preaching: ‘St. Paul’s preaching was not with enticing words of wisdom but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power (1 Cor. 2:4). Plainness is ever best in beating down sin. When a wound festers, it is fitter to lance it than to embroider it with silk or lay vermilion upon it.’

Five stars for this bad boy!

“The atheist’s argument goes like this: you want there to be a God.  So you invent him.  Your religious views are invented to correspond to what you want.  But this line of argument works just as well against atheism.  Imagine an extermination camp commandant during the Second World War.  Would there not be excellent reasons for supposing that he might hope that God does not exist, given what might await him on the day of judgment?  And might not his atheism itself be a wish-fulfillment? This is a devastating point.  As cultural historians have pointed out for many years…people often reject the idea of God because they long for autonomy – the right to do what they please, without any interference from God.  They don’t need to worry about divine judgment; they reject belief in God because it suits them.  That’s what they want, but that doesn’t mean that this is the way things really are.”

“This point was made superbly by the Polish philosopher and writer Czeslaw Milosz, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980.  Parodying the old Marxist idea that religion was the ‘opium of the people,’ he remarks in “The Discreet Charm of Nihilism” that a new opium has taken its place: rejection of belief in God on account of its implications for our ultimate accountability.  ‘A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death – the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, [and] murders we are not going to be judged.”

“Atheism thus depends on a core belief that it cannot verify [namely, that there is no God].  Do you see the importance of this point?  Atheists live out their lives on the basis of the belief that there is no God, believing that this is right but not being able to prove it conclusively” (p. 37-38).

Touche!

I bought this book with no little excitement given the list of theological luminaries that have recently been recommending it as a must read. Ron Sider, for instance, calls it: “probably the best book on how to do holistic community development.”

There is no doubt that it is certainly comprehensive in its treatment of the issues, certainly far more than any other book I have read to date on the issue. It’s chapters on ‘Poverty & The Poor’ (Pp115-148) are particularly detailed and helpful as they help us to discover who the poor are, who they are not, what poverty is, the cases of poverty and even the poverty of the non poor.

Ultimately, this is a book about (1) ‘Transformational Development’ which Myers describes as, “positive change in the whole of human life materially, socially, psychologically and spiritually.” (p3) It is also about (2) ‘Christian Witness’ which he describes as, “my being compelled by to share the good news that God has, through His Son, made it possible for every human being to be in covenant relationship with God.” (p4)

Obviously, this is too vast a book to justice on one meaningless little blog in cyberspace but I will try to at least engage with the parts that I remember most both positively and negatively. This is a book replete with real pearls of wisdom. For example, when speaking of many people’s desire to try to solve poverty by increasing material wealth, Myers is scathing: “research shows that when the poor receive additional income, the extra money is spent on festivals, TV’s, medical emergencies, alcohol, tobacco, and better tasting but not more nutritious food.” (p39) I would say that this is often a charge levelled at our benefits culture here on the scheme (something not tackled in the book). The more benefits they get the more they spend it on rubbish (or so the argument goes). However, it is not just the poor or the benefits ‘scrounger’ that make these errors but, according to Myers, it is a Western cultural problem. “We in the west often make unexpected and seemingly irrational choices when it comes to how we spend money on food and other things. Our spending choices are not always consistent with what we know is best for us; why should we expect the poor to be any different.” (p39) Or even the benefits class for that matter. Although I am sure an argument can be made for those of us who ‘waste’ money are at least wasting it having earned it in the first place!

There were some startling statistics with regard to global income. for instance:

“The good news is that the percentage of people living on less than $2 a day has dropped from 95% in 1820 to 43% in 2008 (World bank 2008). In the almost 25 years between 1981 and 2005, the absolute number of people living in absolute poverty has dropped from 1.9B to 1.4B (25%) with the largest declines in China, India and, more recently, Brazil and Indonesia (World bank 2010). The good news is that development assistance is at its highest in history. The number of non-poor in the world is also at its highest in history. the not so good news is that they are struggling with obesity, consumerism, and a deteriorating natural environment.” (Pp44-45)

In His chapter on ‘Theology, poverty and development’ (pp47-103), Myers revisits familiar ground concerning the ‘evangelism v social action’ debate. Still, it makes for interesting reading, particularly the section that deals with the importance of the Trinity in our understanding of human need. “If human beings are made in the image of this triune community, then our understanding of the individual must be very different from the autonomous, self-determining individual of Western culture.” (p60) In another place he appeals to the creation mandate and the principle of stewardship as proof that “the right to use is prior to the right to own.”

So far so good. Then I run into some problems. “On the cross, in addition to cancelling our sin, Paul tells us that Christ disarmed the powers and authorities, making a public spectacle of them (Col. 2:20). In Christ, we no longer have to accept the rule of oppressive structures or of deceiving and dominating social systems. Their transformation is also included in Christ’s finished work.” (p75) A couple of points here. Firstly, it is Colossians 2:15 not v20 that talks of Christ defeating the principalities and powers. Secondly, the text is referring to the rebellious satanic horde, making the last sentence in Myer’s quote something of an exegetical stretch. Paul, who lived worked and suffered under one of the most oppressive regimes in history and yet did not utter one word about resisting human authorities, powers and oppressive systems.

His discussion on the role of the church and transformational development is an interesting one. Positively, Myers is clear:

“God brings the kingdom (of God); it is neither our task nor that of our transformational development. We must not put the weight of kingdom building on our shoulders; we cannot carry it nor are we expected to. Development workers as Christians need to embrace the fact that their local community of faith is the local church wherever they work among the poor.” (p77)

He goes on to warn, rightly I think, of the dangers of para-church organisations who have separated themselves from the local church. However, he does not really go on to explain and/or investigate how these two can be brought closer together or how we practically address the ongoing debate in this area.

In his chapter on poverty and the poor (Pp105ff) he reminds us that we must fight against our tendencies in the West to look down upon them and even attempt to play God in their lives. He also challenges the assumption, again, that just providing materially for the poor will somehow not make them poor anymore. He helpfully looks at the various ‘clusters of disadvantage’ that poor have to face, including; material poverty, physical weakness, isolation, vulnerability, powerlessness and spiritual poverty (p115). All of these are helpful in trying to find a more comprehensive diagnosis of the problem of poverty. He is spot on when he says on page 133 that how we view the cause of poverty will affect how we respond to it. So, for example, if we see poverty as a sin issue then our response will be evangelism and uplift. However, if we see it as a problem with social structures then we will work to change them.

I will leave the last word on affirming the role of the church in transformational development. “At the end of the day, the work of holistic mission belongs to the church, not the development agency or the development professional per se.” (p191) He goes on to quote Newbiggin:

“It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind him was not a book or a creed, not a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community…He committed the entire work of salvation to that community…The church does not depend for its existence upon our understanding of it or faith in it.” (Pp191-192)

In my humble opinion, the local church is the key to any real, lasting societal transformation. More than that, church planting in housing schemes has to be the strategy for reaching the poor and vulnerable in the UK. Not for the aim of social transformation but for glorifying God through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and living as a redeemed community in the midst of broken and lost people. I would recommend that you buy the book if you are thinking about working in poorer areas (or even if you are not). It is a long read, and sometimes complex, but it is worthwhile engaging with the issues. Yes, there are some frustrations and weaknesses, but there is very little like it on the market right now that is seeking to engage with these issues from an evangelical perspective.

I recently got hold of a copy of this book by Tim Chester and have just finished it. Firstly, let me start by saying that at 170+ pages long it is a short, sharp read on what can be quite an involved topic. For those of us who have read anything written by Ron Sider, particularly, it is not going to add anything new to our armoury, but it is British!.

In Chapter 1 Tim makes the argument for social involvement from a biblical perspective. As he reminds us:

The Mosaic Law was given to the redeemed, covenant community, but it made specific provision in its social legislation for the care of those outside the covenant community – ‘the alien’. (p22)

In summary, his first chapter challenges us to care for the poor because it is line with God’s character, reign and grace. The great strength of the book lies in Tim’s reminder that the Christian should be concerned for both the soul and the body when thinking about this issue. However, the challenge to move beyond ‘felt needs’ is presented to us clearly. As he says,

To engage in social action without evangelism is to fail the people we profess to love. (p55)

His chapter on social involvement and proclamation is clear, concise and helpful. He is bang on when he discusses the fact that social action can either precede, follow or accompany evangelism and shouldn’t be seen as exclusive to.

Evangelism and social action should be seen as distinct, but inseparable activities in our mission to the poor in which proclamation is central. (p67)

Chapter 5 is pivotal in terms of discussing Christ and kingdom issues, particularly given current debate in church planting circles (about which I have blogged previously). It is a strong, and to my mind convincing, chapter that reminds us that we should not tie any social change to the biblical concept of the coming kingdom. That kingdom only comes about through confession of Christ as Lord. Instead, we should be seeking to talk of “reforming” society rather than “redeeming” it.

I found the second half of the book less engaging than the first. That might be down to my personal dislike (and distrust) of so-called facts and figures! I much preferred his chapter on, “strengthening the powerless” which warns against doing for the poor what they can do for themselves. Again, I have blogged extensively on this and Bob Lupton is something of a practitioning expert in this regard. Tim does makes the distinction between Welfare and Development as follows:

Welfare is an approach that involves giving something to the poor, like food, clothing, or skills. Development involves working with the poor to help them define their own problems and find their own solutions to them.

This is where the book also slightly frustrated me. The whole issue of development and helping the poor to help themselves sounds neat and tidy on paper. Although, there were lots of Two Third Wold illustrations where this might be true, it just doesn’t wash in UK housing schemes. We have inherited a generation entrenched in the Welfare system of this country and they are not interested in solutions to their problems. They expect the state to sort them out. They come with an attitude of dependency. I think in his rush to defend the poor (and so he should) he forgets that a huge majority are manipulative and lazy and we need a theology and a way of doing church that deals with this. People in my scheme don’t want to participate in building community or making life better. They want to screw the system as hard as they can and get away with it. They live within a culture of entitlement. That sounds harsh but it is the reality for those of us who actually live in these places and engage in this work. It affects our evangelism and our discipleship in profound ways. It really is a glaring weakness in this book.

Having said all that, I loved the book. It is definitely one to read for the UK scheme worker. Even if the book is not one in terms of resourcing for our type of ministry, it offers a great section for recommended reading at the back.

Extremely helpful. Definitely worth a read.

I am always on the hunt for good resources when it comes to church planting. The problem we have in the UK is the lack of quality material on the topic, relevant to our context. The problem we have in housing schemes is contextualising material written for a largely middle class demographic. However, if you can think on your feet and are able to work hard at this, contextualising good material for scheme work is a nice skill to have. I recently came across the mother of all church planting websites. It is overtly American, with some links completely irrelevant to work here, but it is still worth having a hunt about to pick up any gems and helpful links and/or articles. Click here.