Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory

4147As we look to a new year, I thought it would be beneficial if this month’s book helped us to look towards the new without fear. Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger does just that. Originally printed in 2015, the expanded edition (c2018) includes a study guide to help Church leadership discuss with each other, and the congregations they lead, the concepts and potentially scary moves they must make to survive. Bolsinger is currently a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, but uses his experience as a Presbyterian minister and church consultant to write most of this book. His thesis for this book is that Christendom is dead, and most Christian leaders have been trained to lead and work within the world of Christendom. He looks to Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery as a metaphor for how Christian leadership should behave in this brand new world.

For Christian leaders this means that ministry is not only the means to bring the gospel to the world, ministry together is how God makes a congregation into a corps that is ready to continually bring the gospel in new ways to a changing world.

Tod Bolsinger uses the research of Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky to propose the use of adaptive leadership within the Church. This model of leadership would remove the pastor as the “authority” and main decision maker within the local church. Instead, the pastor would be a leader that encourages the congregation to join into the decision making process in order to create actual change. He recognizes that this is not an easy task. Many churches are still in the mindset of the Church being the most influential voice in society. Unfortunately, as Bolsinger argues, this is no longer the case. But like most change, resistance should be expected. However, the main the main advantage for this adaptive style of leadership is that it frees the congregation to reconcile unanticipated issues, and explore new ideas that lead towards innovation.

We are called to take the hill — with grandma.

I found myself particularly excited to read this book, and I think that anyone in a leadership position within their church should read it. I wanted to go out and make wide sweeping changes and attempt to get others excited within my own congregation. However I became frustrated with the content of this book because it still feels like my local congregation will not change. This could be due to the fact that I am not the pastor of my church. However, to overcome this, I purchased a copy for my pastor as a Christmas gift! I am convinced by Bolsinger’s argument that the Church now finds itself in a world that it has been unprepared for. Yet he offers hope in the last chapter by saying, “God is taking us into uncharted territory to transform us.” We do not have to look to the changing landscape with fear. We need to merely trust in God, and take a good strong look at the way we do things. That is what this book does.

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An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich

8737.jpgAn Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich is the second Explorer’s Guide release from InterVarsity Press (the first being for Karl Barth. It is written by Veronica Mary Rolf, who is a self claimed academic of Julian of Norwich for several decades. According to her biography at the end of the books, after a long career as a Broadway actress, she is now a lecturer on “history and theology of Christian mysticism and leads contemplative retreats throughout the San Francisco Bay area.” She is also affiliated with the [World Community for Christian Meditation](https://www.wccm.org), manages a Facebook group for Julian of Norwich, and writes on her own websites: www.juliansvoice.com and www.veronicamaryrolf.com.

“People of all ages and cultural backgrounds feel encouraged to look to Julian for guidance in their daily struggles, consult Julian’s Revelations with their questions and doubts, and seek guidance from Julian in their spiritual crises.”

Rolf chooses to separate her text into two parts. The first part is called Getting to Know Julian of Norwich. In this segment Rolf does the work of putting Julian into her context. Julian is from a world that we do not fully understand today. Julian lived from 1342 till 1430. Her world was before the Reformation, ravaged by plagues, and in a time where women could be no more than wives and mothers. So Rolf seeks to gives us a firm understanding of what this looks like, while also providing some peculiarities to the life and writing of Julian of Norwich.

“all Julian’s references are to common, ordinary things that a merchant-class working woman would be more likely to notice than an aristocratic noblewoman”

The second part of this book focuses solely on Julian of Norwich’s /The Revelations of Divine Love/, with chapter 6 being an overview of the entire text. In this chapter Rolf discusses each of Julian’s revelations and what she learned from them. Rolf also points to ways that Julian’s work is different from others of her time. The reason for this is that Julian was a member of the common laity, not an academic or a cloistered nun. She then finishes the book by discussing the major themes of the text and providing guidelines for how to lead a retreat with Julian’s Revelations.

“But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that I needed, answered by this word and said: ‘Sinne is behovely, but alle shalle be wele, and alle shalle be wele, and alle manner of thing shalle be wele.'”
— Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

The thing that I believe is evident from this book is the amount of knowledge Rolf has of Julian of Norwich’s /The Revelations of Divine Love/. To be a person that is not classically trained in this subject, and yet can still hold her own in writing with people who are, is a testament to her. The way she writes bout Julian makes her very approachable and alive, despite having died almost 600 years ago. Because of this knowledge, she is also able to provide a good understanding of Christian mysticism. This topic seems to be a practice that the Church wants to forget, as I had not heard of it until I started my academic career. Anytime I mention it to others, Christian mysticism is looked upon as something to be skeptical of. I find the mystics interesting and Rolf does a good job explaining Julian’s mystical theology. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to learn about Christian mysticism or any professor seeking to teach spiritual formation.

Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age: Spiritual Growth Through Online Education

5205.jpgThis month’s book is called Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age: Spiritual Growth Through Online Education by Stephen and Mary Lowe. Both authors are involved in furthering online education at Liberty University. The main focus of this book is how the study of ecology can help us to understand spiritual growth, and that this means growth does not only happen within the four walls of an institution. Their goal is not to justify online or residential education as the better alternative, but rather to combat the idea of “students cannot receive the same spiritual development online that they can receive at [our] institution” that seems to be prevalent in many Christian institutions. Continue reading “Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age: Spiritual Growth Through Online Education”

Righteous by Promise: A Biblical Theology of Circumcision

2646As promised, I am going to start doing book reviews. These book reviews are meant to be an introduction to a resource. I cannot guarantee that they are all going to be particularly great, but I will try to provide my honest assessment of these materials.

This month’s book review is Righteous by Promise: A Biblical Theology of Circumcision by Karl Deenick. This book is the 45th volume in addition to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series from InterVarsity Press. This series of books seeks to interact with the contemporary scholarship to help evangelicals to better understand their Bibles. It focuses on a wide variety of topics ranging from examples of preaching in the New Testament to understanding the concept of original sin. Continue reading “Righteous by Promise: A Biblical Theology of Circumcision”