Category Archives: Book Reviews

Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus by M. Scott Boren (A Book Review)

M. Scott Boren has written another helpful, thought provoking book on disciple making. I appreciate his simple, though meaningful, approach to small group life.

LEADING SMALL GROUPS IN THE WAY OF JESUS is a next-steps book for current small group participants. It answers, “What’s supposed to happen with groups?” and, “How do we actually share a meaningful life together, listening to and practicing the Way of Jesus?” Boren writes several insights and practices, things I resonate with and have even practiced a little. It feels great to read and resonate with something he’s been practicing.

I most resonated with Boren’s words about great questions and how curiosity (more my word than his) leads to nurturing disciples of Jesus. He writes:

“[We must] develop eyes to see and ears to hear. For that, leaders need to ask questions and foster conversations. When we ask good questions, we provide opportunities for people to discover for themselves the radical nature of the kingdom of God” (p.54).

“We do not [really] “make” disciples. We are formed as disciples in community together as the Spirit works in us” (p.61).

“We cannot force people to enter the way of Jesus. Many of them may agree with the vision, but that doesn’t mean they actually ‘hear’ it. This is where the questions are so important. Listen to how people respond. Who is already asking questions like these? Who is expressing frustration with the status quo? Who wants to talk about distinct ways of following Jesus? Who is willing to put some extra thought and time into answering these questions?

“The goal is to work with people who already have a sense of urgency to experience a different kind of group life. One way to determine this is to lead people through a short-term experience…” (p.62-63).

Boren would then add that by focusing on people who are already hungry and thirsty for the kingdom of God, nurturing their desire, kindling their flame within, will in turn bring life to others. This idea reminds me of Thomas Merton’s analogy of the Desert Fathers and Mothers who upon fleeing to the desert were not fleeing people but recognizing that society and the “christianity” present was a sinking ship. Someone needed to get a foot to shore in order to reach a hand out for rescuing. I think this continues to be the largest need in the western church today. Many who are faithful to Jesus wonder how the religiosity they see relates to Jesus and Jesus’ Way. It just isn’t connecting. Some say it’s a sinking ship and they’ve swam out to get a foot to shore, and then they’ll toss a rope our way.

If this is how you see it too, I think Boren’s book will make you happy.

Disciple Formation and *Raw Spirituality* by Tom Smith (a Book Review)

Raw Spirituality is written by Tom Smith, a South African minister whose heart has been formed to truly care about discipleship in the Christian community. He’s seen “discipleship” used as a sales pitch and drives us away from that in his book. He’s given us a good story on discipleship here and the end-of-chapter questions set us into a conversation with the author.

The book is Continue reading

Seasons and Ted Kooser’s *The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book* (A Book Review)

The Wheeling Year has been a study in writing the seasons. But, before writing comes noticing and with noticing comes a metaphor. This is Kooser’s gift and it’s a gift he’s sharing with me in these pages.

The gift doesn’t transfer exactly. I don’t see things like Kooser and may never see them his way. But I feel my eyes opening. Mr. Kooser is showing me how to see. He’s teaching me by sight how to become alive and call out the life that flourishes right where I am.

This is profound spirituality and Kooser is a gentle, soft-spoken prophet of God. “If you have ears, listen. If you have eyes, see.”

Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard (Book Reaction)

(Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God)

Whose voice can help us pay better attention to Jesus and the restoration that Jesus brings? I think Dallas Willard sits well on the list.

I’ve been an appreciative reader of Willard for a few years now and had the privilege to meet him at an event in Wichita, KS. There in passing, he held the door for me and in slight hallway conversation I saw a thin glimpse of this man being in his core what his writings try to bring about in others.

As others have said, there is something about Dallas Willard that is truly alive and there’s something about his writing that connects the words of Jesus even more firmly to the disciple.

Living In Christ’s Presence is an overview book, a glimpse of Continue reading

Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen (A Book Reaction)

I read Nouwen like I listened to the stories of my grandparents: I want to carry the family likeness. I want to receive these stories, these words, into the depths of my being and live from that source.

Each day’s reading in *Bread for the Journey* is a short letter of sorts, a little note to live by. They’re small reminders that say, “Don’t forget who you are and the family who is with you.”

The daily sections are short and easy to read; they’re a wonderful way to start the day. In my case, I read them beside Scripture and prayer and let Henri’s words weave the life of Scripture and prayer together. For me, it’s like I’m watching my grandfather live the spiritual life and speak about it right beside me, every morning. I read Scripture and then hear his voice, his thoughts before dawn.

A Year with Thomas Merton (A Book Reaction)

I’ve been reading this day book off and on for a couple months now, enjoying each 4-5 paragraph reading. My hope in reading has been to see what made Merton who he was in the ordinary. I’ve read and been captivated by several of Merton’s books now and each book has a handful of sentences that extend beyond a normal person’s spiritual experience. As I read, I feel myself pulled into something new, something living.

In A Year with Thomas Merton I have the privelge to see the “normal” Thomas Merton. The days are journal entries, small pictures and captured moments of an ordinary, lived spiritual life.

Of course, where else it is supposed to be lived? …and that’s the point, that’s the gift this book offers. It pulls us down from the esoteric spirituality philosopies and into the back yard garden soil. As I read these daily journal entries (compiled into this day book many years later by some other person), there’s a permission that’s given to re-enter the ordinary and there discover the Presence of Christ.