Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I am very grateful for Nicholas Denysenko and Adam DeVille for their kind words about the book which are noted below.
Buy a copy for yourself, for your pastor, and for a friend!
"Walking with God reminds me of something the recent Nobel laureate Alice Munro once said: most of us lead lives that are "dull, simple, amazing, and unfathomable – deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum." Mills gracefully helps us peel back the seemingly dull linoleum of our lives to see the amazing depth and unfathomable mystery of God--the good news--in places we least expect it but most need it."
Adam DeVille, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology
University of Saint Francis
"Mills reads the New Testament and shows how the God we read about in the Bible is present in our daily lives. Drawing from an array of sources, including his own experiences, Mills offers pearls of spiritual wisdom for growth in Christ. I highly recommend this book for everyone."
Nicholas Denysenko, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology
Loyola Marymount University
To order a copy of Walking With God click here
To view a preview of the book click here
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
When reading the New Testament it’s easy to think that most Christians lived in small quaint hamlets and villages, after all the gospels often talk about Jesus traveling from village to village across the Galilee. Yet when digging deeper we see that Jesus spent a lot of time in urban areas such as Jerusalem, Caesarea Philippi, and Caesarea Maritima. Jesus’ hometown village of Nazareth was just a stones throw away from the vast Roman city of Sepphoris, which was still undergoing construction when Jesus was preaching and teaching. Paul too preached and ministered in major cities and urban areas such as Corinth, Athens, Ephesus, and Damascus where he encountered people from diverse cultures, religions, languages, and backgrounds. Just read the Book of Acts and you will clearly see the urban nature of early Christianity.
We are reminded of the urban roots of Christianity in Sara Miles’ new book City of God: Faith in the Streets (NY: Jericho Books, 2014). City of God is literally a day in the life of her experience bringing ashes to her local community on Ash Wednesday 2012. Several years I recall reading an article about several Catholic and Episcopal parishes that decided to distribute ashes to people where they are rather than make them come to Church; some call it “ashes on the run” or “ashes to go.” People may think this is odd, but quite frankly the majority of our congregants spend a lot of time commuting to and from work, in carpool at school, or transporting their children to soccer practice or ballet lessons do not have time to stop in at their local parish and get ashes. Our lives and schedules do not often coincide with service times. Rather than turn their heads and shrub their shoulders, Sara and her friends at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, have literally gone to the streets to bring Christ’s healing hand to those who are broken, hurt, and who are in need of forgiveness. What a novel idea, rather than have people come to the parish, let the parish come to them!
This fast paced memoir can be read in one long sitting. Miles weaves her story like a natural story teller cycling back and forth between Ash Wednesday 2012 and the various chores and errands that had to be done that day, filling in her readers with background information about parish ministry, the people in her parish and neighborhood, as well as a bit of sociological and religious commentary. City of God reads very much like her other two books Jesus Freak and Take This Bread, which are also well written and inspiring. I have used several of her stories in my sermons and adult education classes.
Sara certainly has her finger on the pulse of her local parish as well as her surrounding community. She is concerned with both good liturgy and serving her neighbor. She discusses some of the crazies and crackpots in her life, not as people to be avoided, but as sources of grace and forgiveness. I found myself laughing at times, especially when she put on her cassock and asked herself, “Do I look ok? Is it too hot outside for this? What will people think?” Questions that have gone through my own head many times!
Toward the end of the book Sara confesses that the Church has left the building. I agree. This is not to say that we don’t need parish buildings anymore, because we do need places for regular worship. This of course begs the question whether or not we need multi-million dollar buildings when we could build simple and aesthetically pleasing buildings that are both functional and prayerful, but that is not her argument. When Sara says that the Church has left the building she means that when we look at the gospels we see Jesus literally leaving the religious communities, the synagogue, and literally traveling from place to place, preaching, teaching, healing, and raising the dead. While Jesus had a home base in Capernaum he was not bound by that place, he went around to where the people lived; in their homes like he did with Zachaeus the chief tax collector or Jairus whose daughter was dying, or in the streets like he did while healing the ten lepers or the blind man lying on the side of the road. Jesus was not bound by geography and neither should we. City of God reminds us that ministry takes place in a variety of places; home, school; work, on the metro and subway, over a cup of coffee in a café or in a bookstore. Looking back through my ministry I have probably heard more confessions in Starbucks than I have in Church that should tell us something! I laud Sara for writing a radically honest, and very funny book, but which has a serious strain throughout. I encourage you to take up and read City of God. Make it your Lenten reading this year. Make it your next read for your parish book club selection. You too, like Sara, might be inspired to take to the streets and bring the good news of Jesus with you!
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Charles Stone is the head pastor of the West Park Church in London, Ontario and is the founder of Stonewall Ministries where he serves as a pastoral coach. He is also the author of 5 Ministry Killers and how to Defeat Them.
People-Pleasing Pastors is a topic that is essential for all pastors. The pastor's life is complicated and complex, which is usually comprised of a meandering web of relationships including his or her family as well as those in leadership positions and regular parishioners. People often project thoughts and feelings onto the pastor which then encourages the pastor to have strained and sometimes strange relationships with him or her. Stone has served as a longtime pastor and his experience combined with good sound research makes for an excellent resource for pastors and those who are in ministerial formation.
The book is divided into three sections: The Problem of People Pleasing in the Church Today, The Solution, and the Leader's Toolbox. Each section is then sub-divided into smaller chapters. Stone weaves in personal stories as well as some medical research about brain development and the Biblical stories that are appropriate for the narrative. Stone's basic thesis is that nearly three quarters of pastors try to appease or please parishioners in order to keep the peace in the parish. By doing this the pastor then often feels shame, guilt, and sometimes anger and resentment, sometimes even lashing out at people.
What is so important about this book is not just the information that he provides but the fact that they includes many types of questions for the reader to think about as well as some short little "do it yourself quizzes" about your family of origin, about your thoughts about leadership and so forth. I found myself stopping along the way reading and re-reading certain passages.
People Pleasing Pastors is a great book for small group study as well as for journaling. I will certainly go back and use this book in my journaling time thinking about my style of leadership and the gaps in it.
I highly recommend People Pleasing Pastors, do yourself and favor and buy a copy today!
For more information about this book click here
For more information about Charles Stone click here
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Check back for updates!
Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful 2014!
Thursday, November 28, 2013
If you are a pastor and need inspiration for preaching than look no further. Cornelius Plantinga Jr has just written an excellent easy to read book about "reading" for preaching, hence its name Reading for Preaching: The Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets, and Journalists (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013)
This book is a must read for preachers. It is not really a how to manual but a series of thoughtful reflections on reading and literature. Basically Plantinga encourages preachers to read wide and deeply and to read all the time. Too often pastors are very busy, we have meetings, reports to write, sermons to prepare, parishioners to visit, and meetings to attend. Then of course they have their families to attend to as well as their own personal time. Many pastors complain that there is no time to read. However Plantinga says that even if you read five or six good books a year is better than nothing.
For more information about Reading for Preaching click here
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Most folks can't take 30 days away at a retreat hour or cabin in the woods, so why not take a retreat with you. Each chapter has a series of "Food for Thought" questions for you to contemplate and think about.
Click here to order the Kindle version of A 30 Day Retreat