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Review – Latest Spirituality Titles: 10 to Watch – Spring 2015

January 11, 2015 2 comments

Whoever said that Christian books are boring? Not so . … here is a personal selection of my ‘Ten to Note’ Christian titles from the many hundreds published in the current period:

40 Days, 40 Bites: A Family Guide to Pray for the World

Simply superb! If you missed this, you’ve missed a treat. This is Operation World Lite for all the family. Colourful and informative, a really outstanding package which deserves to do well. The maps, charts and prayer points enable adults and children to learn together whilst praying for the world.

Footsteps of Jesus: Pilgrim Traveller’s Guide to the Holy Land

Despite the perceived and sometimes real dangers, people still travel to Israel. I went there last year and I’m sure I would have benefited from this new BRF guide. The truth is that, alongside a Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet, you need to take a spiritual guidebook as well. This should be the one.

10 to Note 40 days 40 bites10 to Note Footsteps of Jesus

In God’s Hands – Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2015

At the heart of Archbishop’s Tutu’s faith is an unshakeable belief in the infinite value of every individual. This, coupled with his unwavering declaration of the love of God for everyone regardless of colour or faith, makes this paperback a profound reflection for the forthcoming season of Lent.

Love so Amazing: 40 Reflections on my Favourite Hymns

I love hymns. I collect books of hymn stories. Hymns are in danger of being lost to our culture. BBC TV’s ‘Songs of Praise’ has probably done more than most churches in keeping hymns alive in the national consciousness. Presenter Pam Rhodes selects her personal choices in this small hardback.

10 to Note In Gods hands10 to Note Love so amazing

Miracles

Sub-titled, ‘What they are, why they happen and how they can change your life’. Is this rather hefty hardback the definitive work on the subject of Miracles? You must judge for yourself, but it comes with some weighty endorsements, and attempts to navigate the middle ground between the extremes of enthusiasm and scepticism.

The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating

I heard Andy Stanley preach at his mega-church in Atlanta last year. He is the son of the better-known Charles Stanley. Above all, Andy Stanley came across as sensible, realistic and down-to-earth, with none of the usual trappings of American superstar preachers. This book deserves to do well.

10 to Note Miracles10 to Note New Rules

On Rock or Sand: Firm Foundations for Britain’s Future

The Archbishop of York always seems such a joyful, solid character, and a far better role model for this country than so many of our politicians. In this book, John Sentamu edits various contributions looking at the essential values required to build a just, sustainable and compassionate society for the Britain of the future.

Presence and Encounter

I met David Benner at a counselling conference in Singapore. He had the most extraordinary impact on my life, introducing me to the constancy and beauty of God’s presence. I view that moment as a clear spiritual turning point. Anything written by Dr Benner is well worth reading – very slowly!

10 to Note On rock or sand10 to Note Presence encounter

When God Breaks In

Yes, it’s the same Michael Green – back again with a fascinating book of how Christianity is thriving and growing around the world. For me, the interest lay in his chapter of how spiritual renewal came to Singapore. Sub-titled ‘Revival can happen again’, this is truly a faith-building and timely book.

The Wisdom House

Hodder Faith do produce attractive books. This title is elegantly packaged and makes a lovely gift. I enjoyed this book of ‘life-lessons’. As a grandparent, so much of what Rob Parsons writes resonated with me. This is vintage Parsons: thought provoking, faith-full and wise. This really is a significant book.

10 to Note When God breals in10 to Note Wisdom House

This article was written in November 2014 for publication in Together Magazine (January to February 2015).

These titles can be purchased via any good Bookshop or from clcbookshops.com.

Bibliographic Metadata        
Title Author Publisher ISBN
40 Days 40 Bites: A Family Guide to Pray for the World Trudi Parkes Christian Focus 9781781914014
Footsteps of Jesus: Pilgrim Traveller’s Guide to the Holy Land Perry Buck BRF 9780857463456
In God’s Hands (ABC Lent Book 2015) Desmond Tutu Bloomsbury 9781472908377
Love so Amazing: 40 Reflections on my Favourite Hymns Pam Rhodes Lion Hudson 9780857215703
Miracles Eric Metaxas Hodder Faith 9781473604766
The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating Andy Stanley Thomas Nelson 9780310342199
On Rock or Sand: Firm Foundations for Britain’s Future Editor: John Sentamu SPCK 9780281071746
Presence and Encounter David Benner Brazos Press 9781587433610
When God Breaks In Michael Green Hodder Faith 9781444787962
The Wisdom House Rob Parsons Hodder Faith 9781444745665
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Review – The Future of the Global Church : Patrick Johnstone

March 19, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m delighted to review this rather striking and solid A4-size Hardback. Well produced, it’s quite simply magnificent; a Magnus Opus. It’s visually stunning and highly significant for the whole Christian community; a broad sweep of Christian endeavour through the centuries culminating in a ‘pause point’ of where the worldwide church finds itself today.  In some ways its underlying thesis harks back to an earlier era and gives the impression – perhaps correctly – that the Church in the West has largely lost its mission imperative. Consequently much of the book is devoted to the unfinished task of world mission.

Patrick Johnstone has done the Christian world a very particular service both with this new title and also previously as the main compiler and editor behind six previous editions of the indispensable prayer guide, Operation World, now in its 7th edition (2010) under Jason Mandryk. OW has been translated from English into 16 languages and has sold over 3m copies worldwide.

Johnstone’s latest book attempts to make sense of our world, its history and religions through the lens of evangelical Christianity. There is an element of futurology here. Its stated aim is ‘to better prepare Christians for ministry in the 21st century’.

You will learn much. The scope of the book is immense but its structure is cleverly thought through, making it straightforward and compelling. Every page is packed full of maps, charts and statistics – all food for meditation, prayer and discussion. This is a colourful, colour-coded visual interpretation of masses of otherwise impenetrable data distilled into clear chapter and subject headings making the book a delight to browse. Throughout, shaded boxes contain ‘Food for Thought’ items and a ‘Burning Question for Today’.

As Christians, we can so often trot out ‘facts’ which are no longer true or worse still are ‘half-truths’. We become lazy because it takes effort to update our knowledge. This book means we no longer have any excuse to not understand the complexities, needs and opportunities of the planet which we call home and its people whom God created and loves. All praying individuals should purchase a copy and keep it alongside their Bible and newspaper. In my view, this is a ‘must read’ for all Christians but especially for those with any kind of responsibility in Church leadership.

‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15)

Here is a brief tour of the main sections of the book:

1. Demography – the Nine Global Challenges and Trends

  • Population – by 2050, growth will be mainly in countries that are Muslim or African
  • Urbanisation – the top 10 mega-cities will soon all be in Asia and Africa
  • Migration – people of European origin are shrinking and the Muslim population is spreading
  • Health – looks at disease hotspots, healthcare and the ongoing challenge of HIV/Aids
  • Climate change – the impact of weather patterns, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis’
  • Economy – considers the global distribution of wealth and the impact of corruption
  • Energy resources – shortages can only increase as the gap between demand and supply grows
  • Politics – issues of freedom, conflicts, civil liberties and human rights
  • Water resources – access could prove the most critical factor leading possibly to ‘water wars’

2. History – 20 Centuries AD

  • 2,000 years of Church and secular history displayed graphically over 42 pages – awesome!
  • Significant dates, progress and setbacks for each century – all noted on one-double page spread

3. Religion – the Major Streams

  • Christian 32.5%, Muslim 21%, Atheist or agnostic 15.5%, Hindu 13.5%, Buddhist 6.6%, Eastern, animist or other 10% 

4. Christianity – Six Megablocs

  • Catholics (48%), Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, Independents and Marginal’s
  • The USA and Brazil are the countries with the largest Christian majorities

5. Christianity – Renewal and revival

  • Need for renewal is due to (1) nominalism and (2) attitude to the centrality of the Bible
  • Seven trans-confessional systems: Traditional Churches – Sacramental, Formal, Liberal and Syncretic.  Renewal movements: Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal
  • Six major ‘awakenings’ are documented from the Moravians in 1728 onwards. Pentecostal growth started at turn of 1900’s and Charismatic renewal developed from 1960 onwards
  • Dangers of renewal: (1) withdrawal from politics and (2) emphasis on prosperity and healing

6. Christianity – Evangelical explosion

  • Explicitly, for Johnstone, this growth provides the needed thrust for world evangelisation
  • Note – there are more than 70 adjectives used to describe the broad term ‘Evangelical’
  • Evangelical growth globally has shifted from the North and West to the South and East
  • Massive growth is forecast across Asia but ongoing heavy decline in Europe
  • The Top 4 countries (2000) for Evangelical growth are: USA, China, Nigeria and India
  • China is fast becoming the Evangelical giant – with numbers soon likely to exceed the USA
  • Interestingly, the previous Catholic countries of South America have become Evangelical

7. The Unevangelised

  • Johnstone classifies the world into 7,000 languages, 15 ‘affinity blocks’ and 250 ‘people clusters’
  • ‘Preach the Gospel to all Nations’: possibly 2 Billion out of 7 Billion have never heard the gospel?
  • The least evangelised countries are sub-Saharan, the Arab world and the Horn of Africa (Somalia)

 8. The Future of Christian Mission

  • Sending Countries: USA 95,000, India 83,000, S. Korea 21,500
  • Receiving Countries: India 42,000, USA 20,000, Brazil 7,000
  • UK (2010) – sent out 6,400 and received 4,100 missionaries
  • There are approx. 16,300 missionaries working in Muslim countries
  • Main Mission Agencies: Campus Crusade 9,900 (128 nations), Gospel for Asia 9,500 (9 nations)

Some interesting observations by Johnstone along the way:

‘The Reformation was strong on Biblical truth but light on prayer, revival and evangelisation. It had an undeveloped missiology’

‘European empires acted as a bridge for the Gospel but the full flowering and growth of indigenous biblical Christianity came only after Colonialism ended’

‘The grim legacy of the Crusades impacts Christian witness even today’

‘Muslims can view Christians in the west as pork-eating, fornicating drunkards’

‘Nearly all the unreached countries have Muslim majorities’

‘Islam will be one of the formative ideologies of the 21st century and will not just fade away’

‘The decline of Christianity throughout Europe is a great concern’

‘In the 1950’s the term ‘missionary’ was a title of honour. Now it’s a badge of embarrassment associated with imperialism and intolerance’

‘In 2011, the world population reached 7 billion. In 2006, there were 6 billion mobile phones in the world!’

 ‘No doctoral programmes, techniques, strategies, management styles or fundraising expertise can replace a humble godliness and dependence on the Holy Spirit’

The Future of the Global Church

Patrick Johnstone

2011     240pp

Authentic Media Ltd

Hardback ISBN 978-1-85078-966-6

Christian Bookshops – Use them or (probably) lose them

November 22, 2010 5 comments

It’s not only pubs that are going out of business in the UK – recent figures show that the quintessential English Public House is closing down at the rate of 30 per week (source: BBPA/MT).  Retailing is now hard graft for many professions. Shopping habits are changing fast and there is much less time available for those trips to the High Street. When time is found, then competition for both time and money is increasingly fierce.

Christian bookshops are not immune – and many are having a difficult time. There have been some major shake-ups in the past couple of years, with a lot of shops going and, thankfully, a few coming. Accurate figures are hard to come by but there have been many closures in recent months. I doubt that there are more than 250 shops across the whole of the UK now capable of a viable future?

The IBS-STL debacle at the end of 2009 and the SPCK meltdown in 2008 badly destabilised Christian retail in this country. Any recovery – if it even proves possible – remains uncertain. There are shops that some would say deserve to go under (those that are poorly run, badly stocked and outdated) but there are many fine shops that would be a massive loss to their communities if they were to disappear. Good examples are GLO Motherwell;Scotland’s Leading Independent Christian Resource Centre’ and Faith Mission Portadown, which jointly won the Industry award this year for ‘Large Christian Retailer 2010’.

This Christmas is the time, for those of us who care about the future, mission and ministry of Christian retailers, to ensure that we go out of our way to support these shops. The final quarter of the year is THE time when retailers look to achieve a financial surplus to help them make it through the following year.

It seems to me that we have a choice – to help keep these shops on the High Street or by our often passive inaction push more of them out of business year-by-year. For me it’s more than just a trade; it’s about maintaining a Christian presence on our High Streets. Time is running out – fewer and fewer specialist Christian shops remain as each year goes by.

Demographics also conspire against these specialist shops. Church attendance in the traditional denominations is largely declining and newer Churches with their younger audiences, such as Hillsong and 3C, tend to be pretty self-contained in terms of their resource requirements.

As I listen to people, I am increasingly of the opinion that many simply do not understand that if these shops go, then they will almost certainly not re-appear. The economics of Christian bookselling do not stack up without a high degree of subsidy or self-sacrifice. These shops are in danger of becoming a cultural and religious anachronism. Their future lies in the hands of us, the customer; but we are increasingly voting with our feet and our keyboards.

I fully recognise that not everyone has a Christian retailer close by. In these cases, the immediate temptation is to shop for Christian resources on Amazon, the all-conquering online retailer. I am uneasy with its growing power and supremacy in so many areas of retailing life. Personally, for Christian material, I would suggest using www.eden.co.uk/, the excellent Chester-based online specialist ‘etailer’ with its high standards of customer service and a wide ranging stock selection.

I contend that anyone interested in the survival of the Christian literature ministry should, this Christmas, and whenever possible, buy something at their local Christian bookshop. Where this proves impractical, then by all means use Eden, where some money from each order goes to support children in Malawi via the auspices of the Christian charity, World Vision.  

Don’t know what to buy this Christmas? You could do worse than start with Operation World and give someone a really challenging and inspiring present. Read my review here.

One last thought. Maybe, during 2011, this trade should work together on a wide-ranging PR and marketing initiative; ‘Christian bookshops; use them, don’t not lose them’.

You can locate your local Christian retailer here.

Review – Operation World; 7th Edition (2010)

November 7, 2010 3 comments

This is a BIG book in more ways than one; big in size and huge in vision. For many Christians, myself included, this latest and seventh revision of Operation World – THE definitive Christian prayer and reference guide – represents a major publishing event; one which should be applauded by all those committed to Christian mission and the advancement of the Gospel.

Such a project is either extremely foolhardy or a publishing triumph depending on your point of view, given the demise of reference material across world publishing at present! The Publisher’s blurb describes this book as a ‘must for every Christian’s library’. I think they are right in this assessment as its stated purpose is ‘to inform for prayer and to mobilise for ministry’. 

The genesis of this book lies firmly within the Protestant missionary movement. Work commenced in 1974 through the auspices of the Dorothea Mission, then from 1976 its cause was championed (and still is) by George Verwer of Operation Mobilisation; and throughout it has had strong WEC International involvement. Patrick Johnstone will be forever linked with the project and without him I doubt it would have come to fruition.

I too can personally look back with a sense of privilege in my own small involvement with the distribution of the 1993 and 2001 editions whilst working with Send the Light Ltd. No-one who has been involved with Operation World can fail to have been impressed by the sheer magnitude of the task of producing this book. However, as with all reference works, it is inevitably out-of-date as soon as it is printed!

The endorsements at the front of the completely revised 7th edition read like a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the global Evangelical community.

George Verwer says OW is ‘one of the most important missionary tools in the entire history of missions’. Quite a claim but I guess he should know!

Operation World was born out of the Evangelical view of the strategic importance of prayer in the conversion of nations in order to ‘Hasten the coming of the Day of the Lord’ – a missiological urgency which may not be quite so prevalent in the UK today. This view is described on the very last page of the book, where this important theological perspective – the return of Christ – is noted.

For me, what the book does is to throw into sharp focus the mystery of all such intercessory prayer. If God is all-knowing, why on earth (literally) do we need to rehearse to Him in our prayers all the points from this book concerning the 190+ countries which make up His world? One answer from the book is that every prayer we pray is described as ‘a tiny piece of a great cosmic puzzle’. We are not merely to pray ‘about’ such facts but to pray ‘towards’ something; ‘the ultimate fulfilment of the Father’s purpose’.

I suggest that you keep Operation World next to your Bible. Along with daily devotional materials, these are the primary aids for building our spiritual lives. I’m fully committed to all types of Christian literature but I regard the Bible, Operation World and a Daily Bible Reading Guide as being the irreducible minimum for our spiritual formation.

The design of the overall package is very attractive; the statistics, charts, maps and data-points are all clear and compelling. Young people will also find it practical (if you can prise them away from checking with Google!) and it presents far more realistic information for holiday and business travel than the average travel guide can provide. The sections on ‘Global Hot-spots’ and ‘Global Trends’ are extremely up-to-the-minute and read as well as anything out of The Economist.

This is truly an astonishing book and it deserves to succeed. Buy the hardback (preferably) for yourself – and as a gift for others this Christmas – from your local Christian bookshop. If that’s not possible go online to order it – but try not to use Amazon if you can possibly help it! Why? Because a project of this size, which comes around only periodically, means a great deal in terms of income generation for the struggling Christian retail trade.

‘Maranatha;, even so come Lord Jesus’

For more details, click here for the Operation World website.

Biblica Publishing : 2010 : 978pp

Hardback ISBN 978-1-85078-861-4

Paperback ISBN 978-1-85078-862-1

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