Category Archives: Books

The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, Author: Phyllis Tickle. If you are at all interested in the social/political/economic/intellectual/cultural shift that we have been going through, and its impact on Christianity: I whole-heartedly recommend this book to you.

I have read many books on post-modern Christianity, the emerging/emergent church, and church history… this book is the best one I have read. It is simultaneously comprehensive and concise. As a result of reading this book I understand this subject at a deeper level; and this is a subject I have spent a lot of time thinking about over the last 20 years of my life. In fact before I read this book I thought I had a fairly comprehensive understanding of the subject. It turns out that I was only familiar with part of it. As a Christian and as a Pastor I am simultaneously alarmed, more than a little nervous, excited, and hopeful for the implications for our culture and for both the Holy Catholic Church and for my denomination.

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The Right Book at the Right Time

As I was packing up my house in Fort Smith, preparing to move my family to TrentonMissouri, I had a delightful interruption.  The doorbell rang, it was Tom Cutting, a retired pastor and member of the church I had just severed my Call as their Associate Pastor.  Tom wanted to say goodbye, he shared with me some wonderful words of encouragement, and gave me a present.  He handed me a book written by Eugene Peterson called The Pastor: a Memoir.  He told me that he found it very relevant and on point for anyone in the ministry (and so did his wife).  I took the weeks between the ending of my first Call and the beginning of my second to read the book.  It was a very enlightening read; it gave me many things to think about as I begin my new ministry inTrenton. 

In this book Eugene tells of a time that he was told by a Scottish church member that his pastor was: “Invisible six days a week, and incomprehensible on the seventh”!  Though I did laugh at that, as a Pastor it is also a bit sobering.  I do know that I do not want to be the type of Pastor who is either invisible or incomprehensible. 

This book was not necessarily a page turner, but it is a book that provokes the reader to think.  I found that I was shocked by how much I felt I had in common with Peterson the more I wrote.  I found it encouraging reading about his internal distrust of many pastors that he knew, and of the journey he took to get to the heart of his own sense of calling as a pastor. 

To quote an old friend from college, Shane Claiborne (from the back cover endorsements for the book): “A good book for folks who like pastors.  And a good book for folks who don’t.  The Pastor is the disarming tale of one of the unlikely suspects who has helped shape North American Christianity.”  I will add to that endorsement, I think this book should be required reading for any Presbyterian Pastors who are just starting to live into their Callings as Ministers of Word and Sacrament (or is that Teaching Elders now?).