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Book Reviews

By Ministry Today Reviewers.

Christology in Cultural Perspective: Marking out the Horizons

Colin Greene

Paternoster, Carlisle 2003; 434pp; £19.95; ISBN 1 84227 015 X

From time to time we need to read substantial books on key topics. Colin Greene, former head of Theology and Public Policy at Bible Society, has written a brave and stimulating book on Christology through the centuries. It focuses, unlike so many of its predecessors, not just on biblical exegesis and historical and doctrinal analysis, but on the interface between successive cultural contexts and the story of Jesus. As he says in his preface, "Nothing pushes Christology back into the centre of theological concerns more than the threat of cultural domination and nothing removes Christology to the margins more than the scourge of cultural accommodation". This book is a journey through history with its presuppositions examined and questioned.

The author starts with a section on the nature of the task, and acutely summarises the search for the historical Jesus. He outlines the Christological trajectories - cosmological, political and anthropological; then the search for cultural paradigms through modernity. His primary thesis is that the crisis of modern Christology is largely due to the way successive forms of Christological reconstruction have become aligned with the social-political myths spawned by the enlightenment - progress, self-transcendence, emancipation and gender. He explores the contributions of Schleiermacher, Tillich, Rahner, amidst a host of others.

The section on post-modernity focuses on Barth and his interpreters, and there are discussions of Moltmann and Pannenburg. As Professor David Ford says in his introduction, "Greene offers not just analysis and descriptions, but also assessments of one theologian after another". The twenty-five pages of bibliography reveal the breadth of his reading. He quotes Niebuhr's typology outlined in Christ and Culture, but argues for a new model - the critical interaction of Christ and culture.

In his final section, after a careful summary of the past, he outlines his own proposals for a "time of vast cultural transition". We need to hold together mysticism, metaphysics and socio-political praxis. The origins of Christology need to be relocated in the apocalyptic and messianic expectations of Second Temple Judaism. This will yield some surprising results. "Apocalyptic remains the torture of history. Under the pressure of cataclysmic events, the earthen vessel of history shatters and the meaning of the past evaporates, ... only the person who stands at the end of history can understand the real meaning of its fragile contingencies" (p.361).

Greene clearly follows Tom Wright's outline of first century Christianity.

For Greene there is a non-negotiable impasse, you either accept post modernity, where there is no relief from the perils and dilemmas of individual freedom, or one seeks an alternative rationality where the individual, and freedom of choice, are not the ultimate values and the inevitable destiny of human life. It is the Christian story, the Christian paradox of freedom perfected in service, that alone will dispense with the "illusory metanarrative of human emancipation". Whether or not you follow Greene in all his conclusions, this is nevertheless a rich and rewarding book.

Julian Reindorp

Rediscovering the Scandal of the Cross

Joel B Green and Mark D Baker

Paternoster Press, Carlisle, 2003; 232pp; £14.99; ISBN 1 84227 246 2

Sub-titled Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts, this book, according to the back-cover blurb, wrestles with the question of "how should we understand the meanings of the cross of Christ in ways that are true to the New Testament witness and also to our contemporary cultural contexts?"

The authors believe that the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement has become the dominant one, to the virtual exclusion of all others, for many American Christians, due in large part to our particular Western view of justice. They suggest that careful study of the New Testament shows Christ's death being understood in terms of "five constellations of images" borrowed from the public life of the Mediterranean world: the laws courts (justification); commerce (redemption); personal relationships (reconciliation); worship (sacrifice); and the battleground (triumph over evil).

Certain ways of understanding the meaning of Christ's death are then critiqued: 'Christus victor' (Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa); satisfaction (Anselm); moral influence model (Abelard); and penal substitution (Hodge). There is a fascinating chapter on how Kraus interpreted the Cross in the shame-based culture of Japan and another that assesses the work of the feminist Darby Kathleen Ray.

All this and more is interesting, and presented in a readable way, but all the while this reviewer was hoping for some help in expressing the meaning of the cross in terms that are relevant to people today. The authors acknowledge that the question "that confronts every preacher every week" is "How can I communicate this message in terms that make sense in this world in which we live while at he same time calling this world into question?" (p.210). Indeed it is! And "the challenge before us is how to articulate the message of the cross in ways that are culturally relevant and that remain faithful to the biblical witness" (p.211). Indeed it is! But if you are looking for specific suggestions you are likely to be disappointed, because the authors "aim to teach readers to think theologically for themselves..." (small print on back cover) rather than offering answers.

This reviewer was left feeling that the authors are better at communicating and critiquing other people's ideas than coming up with original ones of their own - aren't we all? So how helpful ministers will find this book will depend on what they are looking for.

John Matthews

Bible and Mission

Richard Bauckham

Paternoster Press, Carlisle 2003; xiv+112pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 84227 242 X

Sub-titled Christian Witness in a Post-Modern World, this book grew out of a series of lectures given at All Nations College in Ware and the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in Addis Ababa. The four chapters are entitled 'A Hermeneutic for the Kingdom of God', 'From the One to the many', 'Geography - Sacred and Symbolic' and 'Witness to the Truth in a Postmodern and Globalized World'.

According to the author, "The purpose of this book is ... how to read the Bible in a way that takes seriously its missionary direction. I shall try to show how the Bible itself embodies a kind of movement from the particular to the universal, which we as readers need to find ourselves inside" (p.11).

The emphasis on this direction of movement echoes throughout the book as Bauckham expounds his thesis that "God identifies himself with as the God of Abraham, Israel and Jesus in order to be the God of all people and the Lord of all things" (p.13).

There is much food for thought in these pages and many quotable passages. For example: "It may well be that only if Christianity in the west becomes a movement of resistance to such evils as consumerism, excessive individualism and the exploitation of the global periphery, can Christianity in many other parts of the world be credibly distinguished from the west's economic and cultural oppression of other cultures and peoples" (p.97f).

The book is clearly written and well set out with chapter sub-headings and footnotes where they should be (at the bottom of the page). Ministers will find plenty of material here for personal reflection, preaching and discussion groups. And all for £5.99!

John Matthews

Celebrating Children - equipping people working with children and young people living in difficult circumstances around the world

Glenn Miles and Josephine-Joy Wright (Eds)

Paternoster, Carlisle, 2003; 440pp; £29.95; ISBN 1 84227 060 5

This is a ground-breaking book, the first comprehensive book examining child development from a Christian perspective. The fifty contributors range from front-line practitioners to academics of world renown, united by their Christian faith and their commitment to see children reach their full potential. Its editors, one an academic practitioner and the other a Tear Fund 'Children at risk' facilitator in Cambodia, have compiled a highly practical resource which is also used as the textbook for Celebrating Children, a course for those working with children in especially difficult circumstances of loss, trauma and abuse across the world.

Its forty seven chapters are broken into eight sections: Understanding the Child in Context; Key Issues in Listening to Children; Risk and Resilience; Holistic Mission to Children; Working with Children: Practical Issues; Development, Evaluation and Monitoring of Programmes; Development of Self and Staff; Case Studies from around the World: Children and Projects. There is a course syllabus, suggested further reading, as well as a full bibliography and index. Every section has an introduction by one of the editors. All the contributions have clear sub headings, conclusions, exercises and questions to consider. It is well illustrated and extremely reader friendly. It sets out to be a synthesis of secular and Christian insights and research in all the key areas. According to this book, there are some 25,000 Christian-based service-providing projects around the world involving some 20 million children and employing more than 100,000 staff.

Picking out resources that I will pass on to our Junior Church leaders, the section on spiritual development in children stands out for its insight that, by the time a child is ten in Western Society, spiritual awareness has been edged out. Young children all have a spirituality, and "faith is the framework we put around our spirituality". Then there is the section on "what the Bible says about children" and the 'maps' illustrating the three cords - who children are, what they need from the world, and what they give to the world. I am also impressed by: "listening to children and enabling their development", outlining the basic needs of children for security, significance, boundaries, continuity and creativity; and the survey about the qualities of a good listener.

There is a clear outline of the nature versus nurture debate with an integrated understanding suggested; an exposition of '4/14' window (85% of people who make a decision for Christ do so between the ages of four and fourteen); and creative articles on "supporting parents who care for children who are difficult to care for" and "sharing your faith with a child".

An illustration of this book's scope comes in a typical question at the end of a chapter. "Christians are often accused of over disciplining or under disciplining their children. How would you answer such assertions? What does God require of us? Use biblical references, national and international policy documents to support your answer". This is a resource for us as ministers and for members of our churches.

Julian Reindorp

Being and Communion

John D Ziziloulas

Darton, Longman and Todd 1985, reissued 2004; 269pp; £19.95; ISBN 0 232 52531 5

Several years ago, I was recommended to read Miroslav Volf's After our Likeness - the church as the image of the Trinity (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1998) which, among other things, contains a summary and a critique, from an evangelical Protestant perspective, of the thought of the Greek Orthodox theologian, John Zizioulas, particularly as it is found in this present reprint. I wish now that I had read Zizioulas' book first, because it is (just a little) less opaque and easier to read! However, do not let such a comment put you off Zizioulas, for the effort of reading is well worth while and stimulates much thought, especially as you work out where and how you disagree.

This is predominantly a book about ecclesiology, which is why it is relevant to readers of Ministry Today who strive for excellence, not only in their ministries but also in the churches in which they minister. Zizioulas begins with the doctrine of God. He believes that the three-ness is more foundational to the being of God than the one-ness. God is fundamentally a communion of persons. From this follows a concept of the church as a communion of persons, constituted above all by and in the Eucharist.

As a Baptist, I find Zizioulas' emphasis on the local church welcome. However, because the church is formed in the image of the Trinity, there must be in the church a balance between the one and the many. This, I suspect, is where congregationally governed churches have not got it quite right, for, although we have a plurality of local churches, we struggle when it comes to a doctrine of the church beyond the local. I speculate whether we would not have so many casualties in ministry if we had a different ecclesiology. There is much I personally find quite attractive in Eastern Orthodox spirituality and ecclesiology.

For Zizioulas, of course, the focus of unity is the Bishop (much more of a local minister in Orthodoxy than in the Catholic West). I do have questions here, although I would want to affirm that I, as a local pastor, do have a role in representing the congregation to the wider church and representing that wider church to the congregation. Things that I do welcome in Zizioulas' thought are his insistence that the primary ordination is baptism, that the laity has a distinct and as valid a ministry as those who are ordained, and that ordination must always be related to the actual local church where that ministry is to be exercised. So far as apostolic succession is concerned, Zizioulas rejects both the Catholic version of historic succession, and the Protestant version in terms of faithfulness to apostolic doctrine, in favour of a succession of communion and fellowship.

I have one quibble about the production of this book. It is, as stated above, a reprint of a work that was first published in 1985 when printing technology was rather less advanced than it is today. However, the reprint appears to be no more than a photographic reproduction of the original under a new cover. This not only means that the typeface looks old fashioned, but also that the original typographic errors (of which there are not a few) have also been reproduced. More positively, the extensive footnotes have been retained at the bottom of the page which makes them easier to access if required. But there is only an author index, and it is a pity that an opportunity has not been taken in this reprint to provide additional indices, especially a subject one. However, do not let such minor reservations put you off the challenge of reading this stimulating book.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Hope for the Future - Theological Voices from the Pastorate

William H Lazareth (ed)

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids/Cambridge, 2002; xvii+223pp; £11.99; ISBN 0 8028 4961 X

This is a companion volume to Reading the Bible in Faith, also edited by William H Lazareth. It explores the questions surrounding the issue of hope. What can Christians hope for? How do signs of God's reign shape the church's faith and life today? Where can we find the kind of hope that will sustain us in the present and strengthen us for the future?

This collection of 28 short papers, all by working pastors and ministers, seeks to address these and many other questions. Having said that, a few of the papers seem to be on some other subject than 'hope' and only refer to the theme of the book in passing. For example, Douglas Vaughan's excellent 'A (Natural) Theology of Music' offers a way of linking the aesthetic experience of music with music in worship, something entirely valid in this reviewer's opinion, but only directly related to the theme of the book in its last sentence, where he speaks of the aesthetic experience as that "through which we gain certain knowledge of our eschatological hope".

Generally, however, this is an excellent volume with much thought-provoking reminders that, in a world which feels at times as though the cultural, political, sociological and every other kind of wheels have come off, we as Christian ministers are still in a position to offer that supreme gift to a nihilistic world - hope. The 28 authors of these papers find hope in the Bible, art, drama, music, medicine, science, people, the Eucharist, the past, the future - even in the melancholia which pervades so much of our public life.

Definitely a book of which to read a chapter a day while drinking your morning coffee. It will inspire and challenge you and perhaps rekindle the fire of ministry in your soul.

Alun Brookfield

Christianity and Mission in an Age of Globalization

David W Smith

Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, 2003; 154pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 85111 793 7

The author is lecturer in Urban Mission and World Christianity at the International Christian College in Glasgow, and also lectures around the world on the very themes of this book. In fact, the book is a collection of lectures given in a variety of contexts during the last few years - Keswick Convention, Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference, Theological college of Northern Nigeria, and the International Council of SIM International in North Carolina. Needless to say, then, the various chapters, although full of excellent, thought-provoking material, do not 'hang together' as well as one might wish.

The eight chapters are: Global Christianity and the Healing of the Nations; The Shape of Holiness in the Twenty-First Century; The Theology of Revival in Global Perspective; Islam, Christianity and Western Values; Fundamentalism and the Christian Mission; Mission Africa - Then and Now; Mission Beneath the Cross of Christ; and Preaching Christ in a World of Clashing Civilizations.

David W Smith clearly has a fine global perspective on the relationship of Christianity (and particularly Christian mission activity) to a world in which we are much more aware, post 9/11, of the strength of other ideologies. It is no longer possible to assume that the westernized Christian worldview is the only possible basis on which to order our world. So the author has some sharp things to say to the West, quoting, for example, the American political scientist, Samuel Huntingdon, as saying that it is "sheer hubris to think that because Soviet communism has collapsed, the West has won the world for all time and the Muslims, Chinese and others are going to rush to embrace Western liberalism as the only alternative" (p.13-14).

His main thrust, however, is to examine how the whole missionary (home, as well as overseas) needs to be rethought for a totally new environment generated by the rise of globalized cultural pressures which many, Muslims and Chinese Communists especially, regard as an economic and idealistic imperialism on the part of the West. Therefore it is to be resisted at every turn and in every possible ligitimate and non-legitimate way. And the question we have to face is whether we as Christians side with the imperialism or with those resisting it. If we choose the latter, it will mean living much more counter-culturally within our Western culture.

This is a challenging book and well-worth its price of £7.99 for anyone with a heart for mission and evangelism. Its challenges are no less for the parish priest or local pastor, surrounded as we all are by a host of mini-cultures over which the globalized culture looms like a thunder-cloud. If I have one quibble it is that David W Smith is long on questions, analysis and challenge, but short on answers. But perhaps that's because the answers will be different in every community.

Alun Brookfield

Pioneering the Third Age - the Church in an ageing population

Rob Merchant

Paternoster Press, Carlisle, 2003; 177pp; £8.99; ISBN 1 8422 1277 6

Growing Old in Christ

Stanley Hauerwas and others (editors)

Wm B Eerdmans, Cambridge, 2003; 310pp; £17.99; ISBN 0 8028 4607 6

The fastest growing age group in the UK is the over 80s, and we are moving very quickly to the point where there will be more people over 65 than under 16. Advances in medicine, rising post war prosperity, and social provision, have combined to bring about a sustained shift in society. More important than birth rates has been the huge increase in life expectancy. Churches made considerable efforts to meet the challenge of a rising younger population, but have done very little to respond to the boom at the other end of the age scale. However, there are signs that this is beginning to change.

Rob Merchant's excellent book sets out the scene, describing the current situation and exploring the implications. His analysis has a healthy dose of facts and figures without ever allowing them to blur the overall picture. He includes two helpful chapters on ageing in the Old and New Testaments and has chapters on ageing in the early church and reflections on the spirituality of older people. The final chapter centres on an understanding of life in which longevity is to be valued and affirmed as a sign of God's blessing, but is also a stage on a journey which continues. Merchant was a gerontologist before embarking on theological studies and combines his professional insights with pastoral experience and theological reflection. He is a curate at St John's, Harborne in Birmingham and is undertaking part-time PhD research into the interaction of religion and health in the life of older people.

The book begins and ends with a helpful quote from a speaker at a clergy consultation on ageing, which seems to articulate what many church leaders will feel about this rising challenge: "The situation is that my generation is a pioneering generation. My mother and father didn't live as long as I will, and I've no one to show me how to grow old - we are breaking new ground as older people. Who will show us the way?" This book is a great way to get a grasp of the territory around us and the direction in which we need to go.

Growing Old in Christ addresses similar issues, but in more depth and breadth. The editors have brought together a group of fourteen essays by North American scholars. Part 1 sets out biblical and historical perspectives, and includes an essay by David Aers on 'Growing Old in the Middle Ages'. Part 2 deals with critical perspectives on modern problems of ageing. They include essays on the 'Social Construction of Ageing', 'Growing Old in a Therapeutic Culture', and 'The Last Gift: the Elderly, the Church, and the Gift of a Good Death'. It seeks to uncover the dangers of therapeutic optimism fed by the powers of modern medicine, and argues for the reclamation of hope grounded in the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, a narrative which does not see ageing as an evil we should fight.

Part 3 outlines the 'Christian Practice of Growing Old'. Hauerwas and Yordy contribute a helpful and sensitive essay on 'Friendship and Ageing'. It explores the importance of friendships both among the elderly and between them and the young. Charles Pinches writes on the 'Virtues of Ageing'. In the final essay, M Therese Lysaught writes very helpfully on 'Memory, Funerals, and the Communion of Saints: Growing Old and Practices of Remembering'. The essay by David Cloutier on the 'Pressure to Die: Reconceiving the Shape of Christian Life in the Face of Physician-Assisted Suicide' touches on a major contemporary ethical, pastoral and theological issue.

As with many works of this kind, the content and quality vary a little. But it journeys way beyond an introduction and sheds light on what it means to grow old, particularly as a Christian in the contemporary world. Well worth the money, to scholars, pastors and students alike!

David Grainger

Anglican Identities

Rowan Williams

Darton, Longman and Todd, 2004; 149pp; £7.95; ISBN 0 232 52527 7

If you are a fan of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and I am, your one complaint is that he can be heavy going at times. Here he is at his best, and clearest.

Is there an 'Anglican identity? Williams seeks to answer this question by drawing together studies of seven people, and through them, explores approaches to Scripture, tradition and authority that are different, yet at the same time distinctly Anglican.

The subjects of Williams' examination are: William Tyndale - The Christian Society; Richard Hooker - Contemplative Pragmatism; Richard Hooker - Philosopher, Anglican and Contemporary; George Herbert - Inside Herbert's Afflictions; B.F.Westcott- the Fate of Liberal Anglicanism; Michael Ramsey - Theology and the Churches; John A T Robinson - Honest to God and the 1960s; B F Westcott, E C Hoskyns, William Temple and John A T Robinson - Anglican Approaches to St John's Gospel. These studies, with an introduction, provide plenty of meat for reflection.

As so often with Williams, a phrase or a sentence opens up new ways of thinking. In his introduction he suggests a "passionate patience" as perhaps the Anglican vocation for today and he finds it in some of the studies here. The Honest to God debate, and much of the theology of the 60s and 70s, not only became detached from doctrinal tradition, but also forgot that "the language of classical doctrine originated in the sense of a gift of transformation or conversion". "Our selfhood is made real in the face of the other - a divine other whose divine otherness is identical in this world with the historical, material givenness of a particular life and death." A book for the mind and the heart and I warmly recommend it.

Julian Reindorp

Against Establishment

Theo Hobson

Darton, Longman and Todd, 2003; xiv+146pp; £7.95; ISBN 0 232 52508 0

The title accurately describes the subject matter and the sub-title - "An Anglican Polemic" - equally accurately describes how it is approached. A cool, dispassionate approach to establishment and disestablishment it isn't, nor is it intended to be. The Preface states that "This book is intended as a provocative essay rather than an authoritative study. Its treatment of a hugely complex issue is manifestly incomplete and sometimes rather cavalier". You have been warned!

Hobson's basic thesis is that the Church of England is locked into a terminal dilemma: it has always depended on establishment for its unity, even its identity, but this same establishment is draining it of vitality and credibility.

The first chapter, which deals with establishment since 1953, is followed by one giving a partial history of the previous four hundred years of Anglican history, and another devoted to eleven recent apologists for establishment, ranging (chronologically) from T S Eliot, through C S Lewis, Alec Vidler, Robert Runcie, John Habgood, Martin Percy, Roger Scruton, Peter Hitchens, David Holloway and Paul Avis to Ian Bradley, concluding with an examination of Rowan Williams' varying utterances on the subject.

Finally, Hobson declares himself to be a 'post-Anglican', one of those "who know that their church is dying, but believe that its death will give life to Christianity, in crazy abundance" (p.133).

If you want to read an entertaining rant on the subject, you may well enjoy this one. Does the author not lose considerable credibility when he confesses "my theological sympathies are largely liberal" (p.xiv), having previously said that "liberal Anglicans lack all conviction" (p.x)? All the more pity then that he opted to leave for another time the intended final chapter sketching out the positive theological basis for his position.

John Matthews

The Healthy Churches Handbook

Robert Warren

Church House Publishing, London, 2004; 168pp; £10.99; ISBN 0 7151 4017 5

Anything written by Robert Warren, formerly Rector of St Thomas, Crookes in Sheffield, Springboard Missioner, Church of England National Officer for Evangelism and co-author of Emmaus - the Way of Faith, is usually worth reading, simply because he has a knack of communicating quite complex mission-focused issues in language that the average 'coal face' Christian leader can not only understand, but also adapt for local application. The Healthy Churches Handbook is no exception.

Although written for an Anglican audience, there is plenty here for non-Anglicans to get their teeth into. Subtitled A Process for Revitalizing Your Church, this is essentially an exposition of the "Seven Marks of a Healthy Church" which the author has developed from some of the ideas in Natural Church Development by Christian A Shwarz.

Chapter 1 explains how the seven marks were identified. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 expound the meanings of the marks. Then chapters 5-12 are the instructions as to how to analyse your own church and how to move beyond the analysis into the revitalization process.

As someone who has been through the 'Mission Audit' and 'Parish Audit' processes in the past, I found Robert's approach very straightforward and refreshing. Instead of a mass of data on the condition of the local church, the leaders and people end up with a simple analysis which identifies immediately where the strengths and weaknesses are, and also offers a simple way of addressing the weaknesses and maximising the strengths.

Alun Brookfield

Mission-Shaped Church - Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context

Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Council

Church House Publishing, London 2004; 175pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 7151 4013 2

Reports by working groups are rarely the most stimulating of reading! This is an exception. If you want to get a broad overview of the wide variety of ecclesiastical experiments - Anglican and otherwise - this is a book worth getting and reading.

Chaired by Bishop Graham Cray (perhaps best known outside Anglican circles for his pungent comment on the present-day 'shopping' culture: "Tesco, ergo sum"), the group comprised some of the most influential people in the Church of England, including George Lings of the Church Army, a pioneer in radical church planting.

Chapter 1 gives a brief analytical sketch of the way life in the UK has changed during the latter half of the last century. The next chapter then explores what has happened in church planting since 1994, when the report Breaking New Ground was published. It concludes that church planting is still a valid way of doing church, but that it will need to be continually re-evaluated.

Chapter 3 begins with a definition of what Anglicans mean by 'church planting': "...creating new communities of Christian faith as part of the Mission of God, to express his Kingdom in every geographic and cultural context" (Bob Hopkins). The report believes that this definition is still valid both theologically and pragmatically, then moves on in chapter 4 to explore some of the 'new expressions of church' which have become part of the Christian scene in the last new years.

Chapter 5 offers an outline of a theology for a missionary church and chapter 6 examines some of the possible methodologies for becoming such a church. Finally, the report argues for changes to the framework of the church to make it easier to adapt to changing circumstances, then offers a chapter of recommendations which the working group believes are necessary if the Church is to move forward with any degree of optimism for the future.

This is an excellent report, with many challenges for Christians who are serious about being part of the mission of God in today's changed and changing culture. I commend it to all, including non-Anglicans, not least because, as the Church of England adapts itself to this new world, the rest of the Christians in the UK will find it helpful to their ministry to have some understanding of the missionary agenda which is driving the changes.

Alun Brookfield

Christian Zionists on the road to Armageddon

Stephen R Sizer

(Available only from) Christ Church Publications, Virginia Water, Surrey, GU25 4LD; 84pp; £5.00; no ISBN

Stephen Sizer is vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, and this short book is based on his recent PhD thesis, but it is no dry, academic volume. The full text is available on CD, and there is a six part DVD teaching series including PowerPoint.

Christian Zionism, according to the author, is the most powerful and destructive force at work in America today. Despite its origins in 19th century Brethrenism in the UK, most Christians in this country are unaware of its theology, whereas in the US it has a pervasive influence among evangelicals, including Billy Graham and his son Franklin, and most of the well-known tele-evangelists. This caucus has considerable influence in the political sphere, and therefore in the Middle East situation as well.

The book covers the historical roots, the theological basis and the political consequences of Christian Zionism, with arguments refuting its position, in a clear and informative manner. It would be useful (I would say essential) for all, especially church leaders. It should enable people to understand events in Palestine and Israel more clearly - vital, surely, for all of us, if we are to pray intelligently for peace and justice in our world?

Pat Price-Tomes

Building for the Future

Paul Beasley Murray

42pp; £2.50 including p&p; available from the author at Central Baptist Church, Victoria Rd South, Chelmsford, CMI ILN

This is the story of how one town centre Baptist Church planned for, and executed, a massive building project costing nearly £2million. It is an honest, practical and inspiring ten-year story of faith, prayer, and costly activity, warts and all. Knowing the author as I do, I suggest you get a copy quickly before he has the energy to turn it into a book!

There are six chapters covering the various stages - Casting the Vision; Grasping the Vision; Developing the Detailed Design; Building; Moving Back; Living out the Dream of a Seven-Day-a-Week Church. Paul describes the cost in both human and financial terms - the people who left, the crises they went through. This is no smooth success story. It is packed with practical advice, biblical material, and the relief and excitement that the change has brought renewal and growth in the life of the church in a whole variety of ways.

This is not a rich church and its leaders are down to earth people, but when you go into its completely renovated premises, now on two floors, you feel this is a new building for a new century - the black and white photos give you some idea of the changes. Anyone reading this would be challenged about the state of their buildings, and what kind of vision they have for the future of their local church. Do read this 'story to inspire'.

Julian Reindorp

Encountering the Sacred in Psychotherapy

James L Griffith and Melissa Elliott Griffith

The Guilford Press, New York, 2003; xiv+320pp; £28.95; ISBN 1 57230 701 3

The authors are respectively Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at The George Washington University Medical Center in Virginia, and a psychotherapist working on the psychiatry clinical faculty at the same institution and in private practice. The subtitle 'How to talk with people about their spiritual lives' gives a helpful insight into the purpose of the book.

Despite the backgrounds of the authors, this book is readily accessible and does not require in-depth knowledge of psychiatric or psychotherapeutic theory. Chapter topics include Metaphor and Spirituality, Stories of Spiritual Experience, Conversations with God, Beliefs, Rituals and Spiritual Practices, Destructive Spirituality. The many 'true stories' and anecdotes lighten the reading, but do not necessarily add to the book's usefulness.

I sometimes experienced a dissonance between the authors' open and inclusive attitude to the spiritualities of all faiths and none, expressed particularly at the beginning of the book, and the preponderance of case histories from what came across as an evangelical Christian background in later chapters. Sometimes I warmed very much to the concepts expressed, only to feel mired down in prosaic and uninspiring material in the next chapter.

My own feeling is that many therapists (depending on their orientation) would find the approaches advocated inappropriate to use in a clinical setting, even given the opening up in recent years of society in general and the psychiatric and psychotherapeutic worlds in particular. This applies especially to the suggested questions offered at various stages, which the therapist might use to open up spiritual areas with a client.

Does this expensive volume merit a place on the shelves of the busy church leader? Surely they need no help in speaking with people about their spiritual lives? Not according to the experience of many lay people. It seems that many church leaders are inclined to be either embarrassed at the mention of anything spiritual, or simply insensitive in their approaches. This book could be very useful for such people, and it should be possible to pick up some helpful ideas without necessarily wading through the text in great detail. But the cost might prompt a visit to the library.

Pat Price-Tomes

Angels On Your Doorstep

Paddy Beresford

Kingsway 2004; 160pp; ISBN 1 84291 142 2)

This is a challenging book to read, not because of its depth or complex theological arguments, but rather due to its content. Hospitality is good; in fact, it is an essential part of the Christian's life within the church. This seems so simple and obvious that one could be forgiven for wondering why this book has even been written, but in recent months I have come to understand why, not only is this book necessary, but also why it is challenging to all those who take the time to read it. Time and time again, I have heard stories of people visiting, or seeking to settle in, churches and not being made to feel welcome or given opportunities to build meaningful friendships - what is going on?

This book is about building open and friendly churches and being open and friendly people. It is about the importance of the welcome that we give to people, and the impact that something as simple as inviting people into our homes and eating together can have for Christ and His Kingdom

The author reflects on this issue biblically, historically and, most important of all, practically. He encourages the reader to consider who their neighbour is, and then how prayerfully to build a friendship with them. He also looks very practically at how we sensitively welcome those people from cultures different to own into our homes and churches.

This is one to read, and then pass on to those in your church who already are involved in the ministry of hospitality, and then pass on those who you think need to be involved in the ministry of hospitality.

Matt Noble

SHORT NOTES - by Paul Beasley-Murray and Alun Brookfield

If you are looking for some user-friendly maps of Bible geography and history, the Bible Mapbook by Simon Jenkins (Lion, Oxford 2003; 128pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 7459 5125 2) is the best I've seen of its kind. There is a map for most of the major events of the Bible, in canonical order, all very clear, some in 3D. One grumble: please can we have these maps available on CD? I would have been willing to pay double for that extra facility.

Almost equally good, but with a more traditional style of Bible maps, is the Candle Atlas of the Bible (Candles Books 2003; 96pp; £6.99; ISBN 1 85985 329 3). Lots of excellent background material, some nice colour photos, all good value for the price, but still no CD!

Your Point Being by Graham Twelftree (Monarch, 2003; 352pp; £9.99; ISBN 1 85424 592 9) is a book of 300 illustrative stories for "preachers, speakers and teachers". It's well indexed and excellent value at £9.99, but the strange image on the cover will have over-imaginative male readers wincing with vicarious pain!

Glimpsing the Face of God (Lion, Oxford 2002; 95pp; £4.99; ISBN 0 7459 5142 2) by Alister McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology at Wycliff Hall, Oxford, reminds one of a textual version of a Fact and Faith film. Clearly aimed at thinking non-Christians, it feels oddly anachronistic in some ways (how many of your congregation came to faith through reading a book?), it is nevertheless a very accessible (and sensibly priced) approach to finding faith via a study of astronomy, philosophy and the sciences.

Jill Briscoe is clearly a fluent and gifted writer, but her latest offering, God's Front Door (Lion 2004; 140pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 85424 641 0) feels rather like intruding on someone's privacy. It's a beautifully produced 'coffee-table book' of conversations with God, and it will appeal to a certain type of spirituality, but I confess, it's not mine.

David Adam has established himself as a gifted composer of prayers in the Celtic tradition. His latest collection, Music of the Heart: New Psalms in the Celtic Tradition (SPCK, London 2004; 155pp; ISBN 0 281 05220 4) will be welcomed by many. Divided into several sections - Singing, Seeking, Sorrowing, Straying, Saved and Seasonal - here are prayers for personal, but also for congregational use.

'Behind' The Text: History and Biblical Tradition (Authentic/Paternoster 2003; 553pp; hardback; ISBN 1 84227 068 0) edited by Craig Bartholomew, Stephen Evans, Mary Healy and Murray Rae, is the latest edition to the Scripture and Hermeneutics Series. This heavy-weight contribution to the ongoing hermeneutical debate consists of twenty demanding essays by Biblical scholars and philosophers. Hopefully at some stage the fruit of this scholarly debate can be mediated to the ordinary pastor!

Releasing Your Church To Grow (Kingsway, Eastbourne 2004; 157pp; £7.99; ISBN 1 84291 140 6) by David Beer is essentially a church growth primer drawing upon the insights developed by Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church, California, popularised in his book A Purpose-Driven Church as also upon the author's experience as senior minister of Frinton Free Church. Much of the material first saw the light of day in David Beer's earlier book, 50 Ways To Help Your Church Grow (Kingsway 2000). Written in a warm popular style, this is the sort of book to lend to lay-leaders.

Those still exercised by questions of gender in the church (and there are many such in the USA) may well be attracted to Does Christianity Teach Male Headship? The Equal-Regard Marriage and Its Critics (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2004; 141pp; £10.99; ISBN 0 8028 2171 5 - available in the UK from Alban Books, Edinburgh EH4 3BL), a collection of essays edited by David Blankenhorn, Don Browning and Mary Stewart Van Leeuven. However, worthy as these essays are, for many of us in the UK they will have little relevance.

Today less than 1% of people marrying are virgins. Furthermore, the vast majority of people getting married are already living together - at least eight in ten couples, if not more. This is the background to Just Cohabiting? The Church, Sex and Getting Married (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2004; 136pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52484 X) by Duncan Dormor, Dean of St John's College, Cambridge, who specialises in the sociology of religion. The author traces the way in which cohabitation has become the main route to marriage, and in so doing has become a modern form of the ancient custom of betrothal. Rather than opposing couples living together, he suggests that the Church of England: (1) abandons an undiscriminating opposition to premarital sex; (2) acknowledges a role for cohabitation as part of the process of becoming married; and (3) broadens the Church's engagement from the wedding to the marriage! An informative and well written book, this would form the basis for a lively discussion by ministers' groups.

Family Fortunes: Faith-full Caring For Today's Families (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2004; 213pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 232 52542 0) by John Drane and Olive M Fleming Drane does not live up to the description of the cover-blurb as a "ground-breaking book", but rather is a helpful re-statement of the way in which the institution of the family has developed in recent years, together with suggestions as to how churches might rise to meet the needs of families today. This is a book with 'answers' given by two competent academics who have for many years taught courses on families and spirituality. To my mind the book would have been more attractive if it had reflected something of the struggle which many of us ministers experience in this area.

The Bible Speaks Today series of expositions has a threefold aim: (1) to expound the biblical text with accuracy; (2) to relate it to contemporary life, and (3) to be readable. In this respect The Message of Samuel (IVP, Leicester 2004; 286pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 85111 295 1) by Mary Evans of the London Bible College well and truly fulfils its aim. This book deserves to be on the shelf of every preacher; for it will prove a great resource when sermons have to be preached on such characters as Hannah and Samuel, Saul and David.

Of the plethora of books on the Holy Spirit to emerge from the charismatic stable, one of the very best is surely that by Anglican theologian Michael Green, I Believe In the Holy Spirit (Hodder and Stoughton, London 1975; revised edition, Kingsway, Eastbourne 2004; 350pp; £9.99; ISBN 1 84291 145 7). Here we have a sane and scholarly overview of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Written in a lively and accessible style, this is a truly pastoral book which even many non-charismatics will find of great help. Although much of the Biblical material remains the same, this book has indeed been substantially revised, not least by the addition of a final chapter, 'The Holy Spirit and the Future of the Church', which among other things includes a sympathetic review of the Toronto Blessing and an unsympathetic account of the desire of many charismatics to be baptised as believers. Another welcome book by the same author is Who Is This Jesus? (Kingsway, Eastbourne 2004; 158pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 84291 182 1). First published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1990, it looks at such questions as 'What was he like?', 'What did he do?', 'Why did he die?' and 'Was death the end'. Easy-to-read, this is a book to give away to enquirers.

For those wanting to put on an Alpha course, How To Run The Alpha Course: Telling Others (Kingsway, Eastbourne; First published in 1994 as Telling Others; this new edition 2004; 236pp; £6.99; ISBN 1 84291 172 4) by Nicky Gumbel is a book to buy. I noticed with interest that the author recommends using a live speaker in preference to one of his videos!

Prayers from the East: Traditions of Eastern Christianity (SPCK, London 2004; 145pp; ISBN 0 281 05417 7) compiled by Richard Marsh, consists of a wide ranging collection of prayers and liturgies, together with a brief commentary, from churches such as the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. It is a fascinating collection for dipping into, but, sadly, I'm not convinced that the material it contains could not easily be incorporated into the worshipping life of the ordinary church.

When there are so many other good commentaries on Paul's Letter to the Romans, one may well wonder whether there is room for another. However, Romans (IVP, Leicester 2004; 447pp; £12.99 hardback; ISBN 0 85111 691 4) by Grant R Osborne, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, aims to fill a particular niche. Published as part of the IVP New Testament Commentary Series, it seeks to make accessible the insights of previous critical commentaries to readers without technical training, and then to go on to show how these truths can be applied to modern life. To my mind Grant Osborne manages to succeed in his aim, and in so doing offers a good solid commentary for the average pastor, as also a helpful guide to the theological student.

The Lord's Prayer: A Text in Tradition (SCM Press, London 2004; 290pp; £16.99) by Kenneth Stevenson, Bishop of Portsmouth, is a scholarly overview of the way in which the Lord's Prayer has been interpreted down through the centuries. Of great interest to the student and to the scholar, it is of limited interest to the preacher.

The Resurrection of God Incarnate (OUP, Oxford 2003; 224pp; £45 hardback; ISBN 0 19 925745 0) by Richard Swinburne, the former Oxford Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, is an unusual yet nonetheless highly orthodox defence of the resurrection. It is unusual in so far as only the final third of the book deals with the evidence for the resurrection itself. Instead the author begins by looking at the evidence of natural theology for the existence of a God who has some reason so to intervene. He goes on to survey the life of Jesus to discover whether he was indeed the kind of person whom God would have raised. This is no easy read; it is rather a book to lend to a serious searcher for truth. Nonetheless, it is good to have such a book available. Although beautifully printed, it is unfortunate that the book is so expensive.

A welcome reprint in the SCM Classics series is The Christlike God (SCM, London 2004 - first published in 1992; 306pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 334 02936 6) by John V Taylor together with a brief introductory preface by Timothy Yates. The key to this exposition of the nature of God is Michael Ramsey's re-working of 1 John 1.5: 'God is Christlike, and in him is no un-Christlikeness at all'. Taylor's God is not the impassible God of the ancients, but a God who shares with us in our pain. Make no mistake, this is a tough read - but a rewarding read too.

SPCK is to be congratulated on producing a new edition of The Provocative Church (London, 1st edition 2002, 2nd edition 2004; 186pp; ISBN 0 281 05641 2) by Graham Tomlin. The new edition differs from the first edition by the addition of a ten page study guide. Any church wanting to get to grips with evangelism, would do well to study this book.

To the surprise of some, evangelicals are as concerned about green issues as any other section of the Christian church. Proof of this is L is for Lifestyle: Christian living that doesn't cost the earth (IVP, Leicester 2004; 176pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 84474 025 0) by Ruth Valerio. With 26 well-researched and biblically-based articles on such subjects as 'Activists', 'Bananas', 'Creation....', 'HIV', 'Investments...', 'Kippers...', 'Tourism...', and 'Zeitgeists', this amazingly well-written resource book is more than a goldmine of information. It also includes a wealth of ideas as to how Christians might rise to the challenges presented by global injustice. A book for youth leaders - but also for leaders of home groups and indeed for ministers.

One of the most significant publishing houses for preachers is the North American Westminster John Knox Press, which has a British base in Harrow, Middlesex. It is this press, for instance, which publishes Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. As the sub-title indicates, these commentaries are written specifically with the needs of preachers in mind. For this reason the following three most recent volumes in this series are to be warmly welcomed: Joshua (Louisville, 2003; 135pp; £14.99 hardback; ISBN 0 8042 3106 0) by Jerome D Creach; Judges (Louisville, 2002; 146pp; £14.99 hardback; ISBN 0 8042 3107 9) by J Clinton McCann; and Leviticus (Louisville, 2002; 202pp; £17.99 hardback; ISBN 0 8042 3103 6) by Samuel E Balentine. All three authors offer illuminating insights into the relevance of these difficult books. All three books are therefore 'musts' for any preacher.

By contrast, the series of volumes in The Old Testament Library and The New Testament Library offer less help to the preacher. Instead, we have here accessible, albeit solid, scholarship. Three recent volumes in this series are Deuteronomy (Louisville, 2002; 424pp; £35 hardback; ISBN 0 664 21952 7) by Richard D Nelson; II Corinthians (Louisville, 2003; 322pp; £30 hardback; ISBN 0 664 22117 3) by Frank J Matera; and I and II Timothy (Louisville, 2002; 408pp; £30 hardback; ISBN 0 664 22247 1) by Raymond F Collins. These more academic commentaries are clearly a 'must' for any library. If the truth be told, however, they would probably only be appreciated by the more discerning scholar-pastor.

At a very different level is the Westminster Bible Companion, which sets out to assist lay-people in particular in their understanding of Scripture. Two recent volumes in this series are Joshua, Judges and Ruth (Louisville, 2002; 312pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 664 25526 4) by Carolyn Pressler; and Daniel (Louisville, 2003; 198pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 664 25675 9) by C L Seow. Although perhaps not 'deep' enough for a minister's library, they are well-worth buying for a church library. Finally, for busy preachers who follow the lectionary and don't want to do the spade-work for themselves, there is the workmanlike Texts for Preaching, by Walter Brueggemann, Charles B Cousar, Beverly R Gaventa and James D Newsome: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV - Year A (Louisville, 1995; 589pp; £25 hardback; ISBN 0 664 21927 6) and A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV - Year B (Louisville, 1993; 616pp; £25 hardback; ISBN 0 664 21970 5) - there is also a third volume in the series for Year C. Here exegesis is combined with application, and consideration is also given to the way in which the texts inter-relate. Each volume contains a good index, which makes it easier for those not following the lectionary to use.

Abingdon Bible Commentaries have published the second volume of Richard Clifford's commentary on the Psalms. Psalms 73-150 (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2003; 334pp; £?; ISBN 0 687 06468 6) gives each psalm a literary analysis, an exegetical analysis, and a theological and ethical analysis, with the stated aim of "helping readers see the pattern and progression with the psalms, while attending to their complex, evocative nature". This is a thought-provoking commentary for preachers and students.

Preachers looking for inspiration for a sermon series (on a Sunday evening?) would benefit from Just Wives? Stories of Power and Survival in the Old Testament and Today (Westminster John Knox, Louisville 2003; 136pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 664 2260 4) by Katharine Doob Sakenfield. The six chapter headings give an indication of the content: (1) Sarah and Hagar: Power and Privileges; (2) Ruth and Naomi: Economic Surival and Family Values; (3) Vashti and Esther: Models of Resistance; (4) Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba: In the Eye of the Beholder; (5) Gomer: Who Betrayed Whom?; and (6) The Good Wife: Who Is a Worthy Woman? Although one may not agree with the feminism present, one cannot but be stimulated.

Recent additions to the Oxford University Press range of dictionaries and handbooks includes The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion (Oxford 2003; 599pp; £25 hardback; ISBN 0 19 280288 7), edited by Simon Price and Emily Kearns, an unusually wide-ranging reference work with articles not just on Greek and Roman myths, but also on festivals, customs and cults of the ancient world. There are also a number of articles on the Christian faith itself. Every pastor could benefit from browsing in this book!

The fact that the Oxford Dictionary Of Saints (Oxford 2003; £8.99; ISBN 0 19 860629- X), by David Farmer, first published in 1978, is now in its fifth edition, is testimony to its popularity - it is a fascinating book to dip into.

The Oxford Handbook to New Religious Movements (Oxford, 2004; 544pp; £45 hardback; ISBN 0 19 514986 6) edited by the American academic James R Lewis surveys the development of modern religious movements in a magisterial fashion. It consists of 22 essays by distinguished scholars together with an introductory overview by the editor. There are five sections: Part 1 - Modernization and New Religions; Part II - Social Conflict; Part III - Social and Psychological Dimensions; and Part IV - New-Pagans, UFOs and Other Heterodoxies. From the perspective of the ordinary pastor, apart from the helpful overview by James Lewis and the introduction by Gordon Milton, probably the two essays of most interest are on "Conversion and 'Brainwashing' in New Religious Movements" by Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins and on "Leaving the Fold: Disaffiliating from New Religious Movements" by David G Bromiley.

The paperback edition of An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford 2003 - hardback first published in 2002; 452pp; £16.99; ISBN 0 19 926583) edited by the Durham Emeritus Professor of English, J R Watson, together with a brief foreword by Timothy Dudley-Smith, gives the background to 251 well-known hymns, 31 of which date from the second half of the 20th century, including 'By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered', 'I danced in the morning', and 'Christ triumphant, ever reigning'. Although the anthology has been produced to celebrate the literary form of hymns, there is, of course, much here of interest to ministers. However, the limitation of the anthology for the modern worship leader is perhaps illustrated by the fact that names such as Graham Kendrick do not appear at all!

Martin Down's Building a New Church Alongside the Old (Kingsway, Eastbourne, 2003; 188pp; £?; ISBN 1 84291 139 2) is a call to Anglicans (but the challenges have wider application) for renewal of the Church. He argues for new churches operating outside the parish system, but, given that the book contains an appendix entitled 'A Theology of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit', readers will be able to guess where the author is coming from, and may therefore by suspicious of a secondary agenda!

Love's Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness (paperback edition Oxford 2003 - first published as a hardback in 2001; 788pp; £16.99; ISBN 0 19 107058 0), compiled by Geoffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson and Rowan Williams, sets out to be "a handbook for faithful living, a resource for wisdom in leading an intelligent, humble, and grateful life of discipleship". Divided into three parts (1530-1650; 1650-1830; 1830-2001), it consists of extracts from a wide range of Anglican writers, including such 'moderns' as Max Warren, Donald Coggan, John V Taylor, and David Watson. Doubtless this magnificent anthology will whet the appetite of many to read more.

In conjunction with the New York Public Library, Oxford University Press are publishing a series on the seven deadly sins. The first three available are Lust (Oxford, 2004; 151pp; £9.99 hardback; ISBN 0 19 516200 5) by the Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn; Gluttony (Oxford 2004; 108pp; £9.99 hardback; ISBN 0 19 515699 4) by American novelist Francine Prose; and Envy (Oxford, 2004; 109pp; £9.99 hardback; ISBN 0 19 515812 1) by the American academic Joseph Epstein. All three volumes combine wit with learning and would form a basis for a stimulating sermon series!

SCM have re-issued several significant works including The SCM Dictionary Of Spirituality (first published in 1983, 7th paperback impression 2003; 400pp; £25; ISBN 0 334 02955 4) edited by the late Gordon S Wakefield, a magnificent work of reference with helpful suggestions for further reading - surely a 'must' for every minister; a 2nd edition of The Peacable Kingdom: A Primer of Christian Ethics (1st edition 1983; 2nd edition, London 2003; 189pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 334 02933 3) by American theologian Stanley Hauwerwas, whose basic argument is that truth-bearing and non-violence are the two sides of the same coin (a nine page postscript is the only difference between the 2nd and 1st editions); and Christology Revisited (1st published 1998; this impression, London 2003; 123pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 334 02930 9) by Oxford theologian John Macquarrie, who among other things argues that even if we knew vastly more about the historical Jesus, the mystery of his person would still remain.

Anyone looking for sermon illustration or church magazine material might want to get a copy of Kevin Desmond's The Least Likely (Monarch, Oxford, 2004; 172pp; £7.99; ISBN 1 85424 643 7), a book of 172 'micro-biographies' of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things as part of their Christian ministry. Arranged roughly chronologically, the people featured include a number of biblical figures, along with Polycarp, John Bunyan, Anton Bruckner, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, John Wimber and Nicky Gumbel - to name but a few. The choice is inevitably subjective, but interesting nonetheless.

Angels (Monarch, 2003; 285pp; £7.99; ISBN 1 85424 606 2) by Prebendary John Woolmer, is well worth reading, although its subject-matter is perhaps a surprising and unusual one. The author, a Springboard associate and a member of staff of Holy Trinity Church, Leicester, explores the role of angels in scripture, conversion, intervention, opposition, heaven, deception and protection. It is easy to read with lots of anecdotes, all carefully researched, although not everyone will agree with the conclusions drawn by the author.

Inner-city pastors - particularly those with black congregations - would no doubt benefit from God and the Gangs: An Urban Toolkit for Those Who Won't Be Sold Out, Bought Out or Scared Out (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2004; 130pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52518) by Robert Beckford, and by Nobodies to Somebodies: A Practical Theology for Education and Liberation (Epworth Press, Peterborough 2003; 212pp; £10.99) by Anthony G Reddie. The former is a response to the brutal murders of Charlene Ellis and Latisha Shakespeare in Birmingham and argues that the church needs to struggle for peace and justice in the cities if it wishes to end gun crime and negative gang cultures The latter sets out to present a Black Christian education of liberation.

For those wanting a system to read the whole Bible, IVP offer two approaches. On the one hand there is the well-loved Search The Scriptures (Leicester, 6th edition 2003; 512pp; £12.99 hardback; ISBN 0 85111 786 4), first produced by G T Manley in 1934, which over the years has been progressively revised, and has yet again been revised and based on the New International Version. This covers the entire Bible over a three year period and, with the exception of brief introductions to each book, has little 'commentary', but rather seeks to encourage the reader to reflect on the Scripture by a series of questions for each day. The compilers of this book reckon that ideally readers need to be able to set aside 30 minutes a day to use this particular guide. On the other hand, there is the more ambitious For The Love of God: 1 (first British edition, Leicester 1998; 3rd reprint 2003; 365+pp; £14.99 hardback; ISBN 0 085111 589 6) by Don Carson which is based on Robert Murray M'Cheyne's Bible-reading plan, which takes the reader through the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once, and contains a page of comment each day on one or other of the first two of the four readings for the day. For those who are not able to manage all four sets of readings, there is a companion volume, The Love Of God 2 (first British edition Leicester 1998; 2nd reprint 2003; 365+pp; £14.99 hardback; ISBN 0 85111 974 3), where there are dated comments on the last two of the four readings for the day. Either way it is a demanding Bible reading plan!

The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach (3rd edition, Guilford Press, New York, 2004; 671pp; £49.95 hardback; ISBN 1 57230 901 6) by Bernard Spilka, Ralph W Hood Jnr, Bruce Hunsberger and Richard Gorsuch, is a massive work of reference. This fully revised third edition includes a new chapter on religion and biology. This is a fascinating book full of interest to any enquiring mind, with chapters on such issues as religion in childhood; religious socialization and thought in adolescence and young adulthood; the form and content of adult religion; religion and death; religious experience; conversion; and religion and mental disorder. Although the cost of this major reference book may prove prohibitive to most ministers, it deserves a place in every theological library.

A warm welcome to two 'secular' books on grief: Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner (1st published in the UK 1983; 3rd UK edition 2003, Brunner-Routledge, Hove, East Sussex; 232pp; £15.99) by the American psychologist J William Worden, is a straightforward guide to the many complex problems which arise after bereavement - interestingly the subject of 'religious resources' only gets a paragraph; and In The Presence of Grief: Helping Family Members Resolve Death, Dying, and Bereavement Issues (Guilford Press, New York, 1st published 2001, paperback edition 2003; 284pp; £16.50; ISBN 1 57230 937 7) by American family therapist Dorothy S Becvar, combines case studies and theory in a magisterial fashion - an excellent resource for pastors.

Pastors looking for a fresh approach to the evening service would be well advised to get hold of The Big Picture (Authentic, Milton Keynes 2002; 102pp; ISBN 1 86024 279 0) and The Big Picture 2 (Authentic, Milton Keynes 2003; 138pp; ISBN 1 86024 441 6), in which J John and Mark Stibbe look at 'the spiritual message from movies'. Films dealt with include The Godfather Trilogy; Lara Croft, Tomb Raider; Billy Elliott; Saving Private Ryan; Titanic; The Matrix; The Lord of the Rings; Bridget Jones's Diary; Minority Report; and Shrek. With suggested clips to use and what are in effect sermon outlines, life is made easy for the preacher!

Anyone looking for something fresh and creative for Good Friday next year should look at Imagine, if you will, a meditational devotion for choir and congregation on the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It consists of well-known hymns and songs, linked with meditations and prayers by Diane Merchant, and is ideal for a Last Hour at the Cross service on Good Friday. It costs £5.00 and is available direct from the author/compiler at 41 Highdale Avenue, Clevedon, North Somerset BS21 7LU.

The first 13 pages of Creative Church Leadership (Canterbury Press, Norwich 2004; 278pp; £14.99; ISBN 1 85311 502 9) edited by John Adair and John Nelson should be compulsory reading for all ministers, for these 13 pages contain a most stimulating introductory essay by John Adair on leadership. Quotable passages abound: "Change throws up the need for leaders and leaders bring about change"; "Vision without task is a dream... just as task without vision is merely a form of drudgery". The remaining 15 essays, however, failed to set me alight, mainly because for the most part they failed to have the needs of the local church in mind. The final section helpfully lists various leadership resources. In summary, while no doubt this book is a 'must' for those preparing courses on leadership, for actual church leaders this is more a book to borrow, rather than to buy.

Treasure in Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 2004; 172pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 8028 2692 X) edited by Lois Y Barrett and others centres on nine different churches, of varying size, churchmanship and socio-economic background, with eight different 'patterns' of missional faithfulness. The authors define a missional congregation as a church which "lets God's mission permeate everything that the congregation does - from worship to witness to training members for discipleship. It bridges the gap between outreach and congregational life, since, in its life together, the church is to embody God's mission". It is a strange book, in that it is not written by a group of pastors reflecting on their churches, but by a group of mission-specialists who are seeking to give practical support to a theoretical approach to the mission of the church developed in an earlier book, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Eerdmans 1998), edited by Darrell Guder and others. Perhaps because all the examples are understandably rooted in the North American scene, I found the book lacking in inspiration. What would be more helpful here in the UK would be for a group of British pastors to reflect on patterns of missional faithfulness and give some British examples.

Two very different introductions to the Old Testament have come on the market. The Old Testament Story: An Introduction (SCM Press, London; 470pp; £30; ISBN 0 334 02964 3) by Don C Benjamin, who teaches biblical studies and religion at Arizona State University, comes with a fully searchable CD-ROM with all kinds of extra material, and is very much a user-friendly introduction for perhaps the first-year student and the so-called 'intelligent' lay-person. It would be a helpful resource for any minister wishing to give an overview of the Old Testament to his or her congregation. By contrast An Introduction To the Old Testament: the Canon and Christian Imagination by Walter Brueggemann is much more technical and hard-going, and yet is a more helpful resource for the Christian preacher.

50 Dramatic Monologues (Kingsway, Eastbourne, 2004; 252pp; £8.99; ISBN 1 84291 170 8) by David Burt, formerly with the Riding Lights theatre company, offers material for Christmas and Easter, and has sections on the 'seven stages of man', Bible characters, etc. A useful resource book.

The first draft of Good News To the Poor: Sharing The Gospel through Social Involvement (IVP, Leicester 2004; 195pp; £9.99; ISBN 1 84474 019 6) by Tim Chester first saw the light of day at the Spring Harvest Word Alive 2002. It is a passionate plea to evangelicals in particular to see that evangelism and social action are the twin arms of the church's mission. Every minister should read this book before preparing to preach yet again at Harvest!

In his book The Apocalpytic Literature (Abingdon, Nashville 2003; 233pp; £13.99; ISBN 0 687 05196 7 - available in the UK from Alban Books of Edinburgh) American Old Testament Professor Stephen L Cook provides an overview and introduction to the somewhat strange world of apocalyptic literature of both the Old and New Testaments. Part 1 introduces 'issues in apocalypticism' and helps correct a widespread misconception that apocalypticism is a coping mechanism for dealing with persecutions or deprivations; while Part II looks at 'reading the apocalyptc texts of the Bible'. It is a good non-technical introduction to the subject.

Although Preaching for Adult Conversion and Commitment: Invitation To A Life Transformed (Abingdon Press, Nashville 2003; 180pp; £10.99; ISBN 0 687 02314 9 - available in the UK from Alban Books, Edinburgh EH4 3BL) by Lutheran pastor Frank G Honeycutt is naturally very much geared to the American scene, I was particularly challenged by the introductory chapter. Conversion here is seen as on ongoing process, and not just a one-off decision for Christ. Christian spiritual formation, in the words of Sally Brown, "is actually a process of counterformation". The book is laced with a number of sermons Honeycutt has preached. A book perhaps to borrow, rather than to buy.

Brueggemann fans will be delighted with Inscribing the Test: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (Fortress Press, Minneapolis 2004; 222pp; £14.95 hardback; ISBN 0 8806 3646 5 - available in the UK from Alban Books of Edinburgh) edited by Anna Carter Florence. It is a veritable gold-mine for preachers seeking to expound the Old Testament.

Recent booklets from Grove of Cambridge (all at £2.50 unless otherwise stated) include How To Learn Through Conflict: A Handbook for Leaders in Local Churches (Pastoral Series 96, 2003; 28pp; ISBN 1 85174 547 5) in which Colin Patterson provides a very practical introduction to dealing with people in conflict; Is The New Testament Reliable? (Biblical Series 30, 2003; 28pp; ISBN 1 85174 548 3) by Peter Head, which could form the basis of a useful 'apologetic' sermon; Laughing At Unbelief: Is There a Place for Satire in Evangelism? (Evangelism Series 65, 2004; 28pp; £2.75; ISBN 1 85174 555 6) by Simon Foulkes and Gary Jenkins who, among other things, give an interesting two-page listing of Christian satire on the web; Preaching a Sermon Series with Common Worship (Worship Series 178, 2004; 28pp; £2.75; ISBN 1 85174 554 8) in which Philip Tovey seeks to take advantage of the Revised Common Lectionary based on sequential reading from week to week; Augustine and the Journey to the Wilderness (Spirituality Series 88, 2004; 28pp; ISBN 1 85174 556 4) by Robert Innes, who explores Augustine's spirituality and ends up by depicting Alcoholics Anonymous as a contemporary application of that spirituality; Restoring Broken Walls: A Prison Ministry Exposition of Isaiah 61 (Renewal Series 15, 2004; 28pp; ISBN 1 85174 533 X) by prison chaplain Philip Ireson, who is concerned that "the wider church has lost sight of God and his sweeping purposes for the 'poor' and the exiled, the sick and the lame"; and Homosexuality and the Church of England: The position following 'Some Issues in Human Sexuality' (Ethics Series 132, 2004; 32pp; ISBN 1 85174 552 1) by Oxford ethicist Andrew Goddard who flags up the key issues that need to be engaged with by 'traditionalists' and 'revisionists' alike.

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You are reading Book Reviews by Ministry Today Reviewers, part of Issue 31 of Ministry Today, published in June 2004.

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