Sunday, September 03, 2006

August Books

Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, by Thom Rainer, Grade: A+
Excellent research and thoughtful insights. Rainer and his group of researched have interviewed about 350 FORMERLY unchurched people who have become Christians and are now deeply involved in churches. He has focused on congregations who have reached an unusual percentage of lost people (as opposed to churches which have grown off of Christians from other churches) and he has developed some really good insights about what these churches all have in common. First, they were not all the same denomination- some non-denominational, some SBC, some protestant. Some of the surprises are: the lost who will visit a church want clear and solid doctrine, not wishy-washy easy sermons. Also, the pastor himself made a huge difference to these seekers- the relationship he developed with people, the quality of sermons, his focus on giving his congregation authority and power to act on their abilities, instead of carrying everything himself. Something I was not surprised by: They are seeking excellence in the church's appearance, classes, nursery and music. A surprise to me was that there was no consensus of music style- some were predominantly traditional, some contemporary; however, the music was done with excellence and a focus on quality. An excellent read- well written and easy to understand. His last chapter sums up what a church can do to grow and reach the lost around them.
An Hour on Sunday by Nancy Beach, Grade: A+
I found myself alternatively laughing and crying as I read through this excellent book about those who craft Sunday morning services. Beach has been involved at Willocreek since their conception and beginning days. She has been involved with keeping the artists and pastors in communication with each other and in developing the creative elements of their worship services. Instead of giving ideas they've used, she talks about the process they've developed and the things she thinks are very important, such as: the character of the artist, good communication, allowance to fail, trust and relationships in the team. This book came at a time when I was just about ready to quit on church and this strange calling God has placed on my life- She affirmed once again that God really does want me to bring art into the church, that there is a place where it's possible if I can just wait on him to put it in front of me. God, I'm waiting, but it's hard!
Lost & Found, and The Light Years Beneath my Feet by Allen Dean Foster; Grade: B-
The first two in a trilogy of alien abduction. I enjoyed Foster's take on an old sci-fi theme: man stolen by aliens and forced to function in their world. Nothing really new here; I did enjoy the dog, though. He adds humor to the story and it's fun to see Foster's opinion of what dogs think.
Lost in a Good Book, Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde, Grade: A
I have thoroughly enjoyed these fantastical, literary mysteries. My favorite was Lost in a Good Book- Thursday Next is living in a bad detective novel and dealing with mostly literary characters. I do have to say the character of Hamlet in Something Rotten was very fun, and the twist in this latest addition to the series was fun.
Sleeping With Fear by Kay Hooper, Grade: B
Hooper has written nine in this series about paranormally gifted government agents; she continues to develop what these agents are capable of and how they can use their gifts. I have enjoyed others in this series more, but it was a good story. Warning: there is always an element of romance in these books. A lot depended on the main character being put on assignment by herself and it felt highly very contrived to me- the agent would not have been there alone- no way. These last two have seen Hooper really struggling at the end to put into concrete words her completely abstract concepts. Last time (Chill of Fear) the agent could communicate with the dead, and she discovers that the killer is a spirit who has taken over a series of different people and then forced them to kill their kids. The last two chapters are awkward and I had to read them twice to figure out what on earth Hooper was doing. Anyway, a similar thing happens in the final confrontation in this book - awkward and difficult to follow.
Adventures in Sol System, Grade: A
Short stories about the very real possibilities of ending up in space in the solar system. These stories are very good- a couple fall flat, but most are well worth the read. My favorites are a story about a woman space miner and Wen Spencer's space monkeys. I enjoyed the technical additions by engineers and NASA scientists. There are two long NASA articles in this book, plus a couple of short analyses of the science used in the stories- Excellent. These are readable and easily understandable by the non-engineer mind. Trust me, I don't enjoy technical manuals at all. :)

No comments: