Book Reviews

‘Reframation – Seeing God, people, and mission through reenchanted frames.’

Alan Hirsch and Mark Nelson – 100 Movements Publishing 2019

While many pray for revival and long for reformation, Hirsch and Nelson offer an alternative, urging us to ‘look again’, to rethink, and reframe our deeply embedded ways of ‘doing church’ and being on mission. This book will perform a deep tissue remedial massage on your mind. It is thought-provoking and often confronting, but it is equally inspirational and compelling. From the first section entitled ‘A Reduction’, which offers an honest appraisal of the current state of the western church, our procrustean methods, and the ways we have reduced the gospel; to the fourth section entitled ‘A Re/Learning’ which offers a reorientation guide to new pathways of presenting the gospel; this book will lure you in page after page.

Like a new release movie with red tomato reviews, when you open the book, you are immediately persuaded to read the 33 commendations from some of the best missional thinkers and practitioners in the world. Paul Harcourt, form New Wine England, described this book as ‘poetic, provocative and profound’. I agree, Hirsch and Nelson have written this book with creativity, intelligence, and prophetic insight. There are four sections to the book, aptly named; ‘A Reduction’, ‘A Longing’, ‘A Re/Enchanting’ and ‘A Re/Learning’, which serve as a constant guide while you navigate the ten creatively named chapters. The book ends with bonuses; a powerful Afterword by Michael Frost, three Appendices and a stack of notes for those of us who enjoy doing more research and reading.

‘Metanoia – How God radically transforms people, churches, and organisations from the inside out’

Alan Hirsch with Rob Kelly – 100 Movements Publishing 2023

Commencing with 44 commendations and an acknowledgement to women in leadership, there is the immediate sense this is a highly regarded paradigm-shifting book. Peyton Jones, from NewBreed Training, audaciously declares it ‘will rank among the books that changed things in the twenty-first century’. True to its name, Metanoia is exactly that; paradigm-shifting. Chapter by chapter, Hirsch and Kelly take you on a journey of repentance, rethinking, unlearning, and relearning. If you are tired of the status quo and ready to embrace change, this book is for you. If you desire change but don’t know where to start, this book is for you.

Loaded with great examples, illustrations and concepts from the ancient world, social science, and pop culture, each chapter is also deeply rooted in theological concepts and biblical concepts. The Venn-style infograms on Wholehearted Metanoia and the Metanoia Journey, are pure gold. They are pinned on my office wall and have served as reference point for the reframation of our local church. The book ends with more than 30 pages of notes and a QR code which links to a free Appendices e-book.

‘Leadership, God’s Agency, and Disruptions – Confronting Modernity’s Wager’

Mark L. Branson and Alan J. Roxburgh – Cascade Books 2020

Branson and Roxburgh claim modernity, a narrative which espouses God is not necessary for life, wisdom and teaching, has influenced most of the church’s practices. With an over-reliance on human agency, churches have adopted many of their principles, beliefs and practices from psychology, science, and management theories. They insist church leaders have negated God’s agency amid a world that is unravelling, marked by uncertainty and ambiguity. Using a wide range of biblical and cultural scholarship they advocate for Christian leaders to redefine and reshape their leadership practices based on God’s agency i.e. the scriptures and the leading of Holy Spirit.

This is one of the most helpful books I have read in the last 5 years. Although it is only 216 pages long, it is content laden. This is evidenced by the elaborate Contents section which spans four pages, outlining three major sections simply titled ‘Framing’, ‘Bible and Leadership’, and ‘Images and Practices.’ The Contents reveal there are nine chapters and each one is outlined with subheadings and page numbers for future reference. This is one of those books you reread and refer back to you as you lead in your context. Interestingly there are also two Intermezzos. These are interludes strategically positioned in the book to encourage the leader to consider the implications and applications of the material in their given context.

Leading in a VUCA World: Integrating Leadership, Discernment and Spirituality

Jakobus Kok and Steven C. van den Heuvel, Springer 2019

Kok and van den Heuvel have edited and compiled the contributions of a diverse group of peer-reviewed research on subjects pertaining to how leaders discern and respond to a world that is described as VUCA; volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous. As the title suggests, the research explores the relationship and interconnectivity between leadership, discernment, and spirituality. Considering the times in which we live, this is an important book.

Most of the authors are South African, and as an Australian I appreciated their contribution to leadership practices in this period of history. There are 12 chapters in the book covering socio-economic, political, and spiritual matters. Five chapters in particular have really helped me in recent times, these were; ‘Personal Leadership as Form of Spirituality’ by J. Saane, ‘Leading Organisations in Turbulent Times’ by B. Jordaan, ‘How to Integrate Spirituality, Emotions and Rationality in (Group) Decision-Making’ by V.Kessler,  ‘A Well-Played Life: Discernment as the Constitutive Building Block of Selfless Leadership’ by S. Joubert, and ‘From Spirituality to Responsible Leadership: Ignatian Discernment and Theory-U’ by P. Nullens. Each of these authors include principles and concepts on how leaders discern the next course of action during turbulent times.

5Q – Reactivating the original intelligence and capacity of the Body of Christ

Alan Hirsch – 100 Movements Publishing, 2017

I have read this book at least three times and refer to it often. 5Q is a team building manual. It explores ways in which the Ministry of Christ is being restored back to the Body of Christ. In Ephesians 4 Paul outlines the Ministry of Christ as being apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. Some call these the five-fold gifts, others may refer to them as ministry gifts or ascension gifts. APEST is the acronym that emerges from these five gifts. The term 5Q encapsulates five-fold thinking or five-fold intelligence. The premise of the book could be summarized in the following way; the Ministry of Christ has been given to the Body of Christ so that it may attain the Fullness of Christ. When the church is activated by all five expressions of Christ’s ministry then and only then, will it be mature, mobilized, and multiplying. 5Q is a clarion call for the emergence of all five ministries, for diversity in unity, and for the church in all its beautiful forms, to reawaken to its primary mandate.

5Q is not an easy read. If you like novels, comics, 12 font, large diagram type books, 5Q is not for you (even though the book has at least 50 helpful diagrams, pictograms, and tables). However, if you enjoy immersing yourself in a subject, exploring biblical texts, grappling with foundational concepts, and reflecting on cultural and organisation formation, you will love 5Q. The book is divided into two sections ‘Mapping the Genome of the Body of Christ’ and ‘Living the Identities’. In my opinion the four chapters contained in the second section are especially helpful to leaders. If you are serious practitioner, then I would also encourage you to purchase two companion books; “The Permanent Revolution Playbook” written by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim, it is a six-week study guide for the local church. The other book is ‘Activating 5Q – A Users Guide’ written by Alan Hirsch and Jessie Cruickshank, this is a very helpful tool for unpacking the content in 5Q.

Creating a Missional Culture – Equipping the church for the sake of the world

JR Woodward – InterVarsity Press, 2012

Written almost a decade before Hirsch’s ‘Reframation’ and ‘Metanoia’, Woodward adds a valuable perspective to local church innovation, culture creation, missional imagination, and discipleship formation. From the Acknowledgements to the Appendices, you know you are reading the incredible work of a globally connected, well researched, culturally sensitive, and respected practitioner. Each paragraph overflows with insight and experience. Part Three of the book, “The Five Culture Creators” could be printed and sold as a separate handbook on the five-fold Ministry Gifts of Christ. As an advocate for polycentric leadership, you will find this section extremely helpful. Likewise, Part Four “Embodying a Missional Culture” is an effective tool to assist teams with community engagement and planting different models of church.

JR writes with punctuated and descriptive sentences. Some sections read more like a blog, allowing for the post-modern reader to cope with the pace of the information, and for the seasoned bookworm to digest pages quickly. You will find it hard to put down, it’s that good. Michael Frost, Founder of Tinsley Institute, declared this book to be “A Gift to the Missional Conversation”. I agree wholeheartedly, especially if you are called to equip others for ministry and mission. JR is a seasoned practitioner speaking to practitioners. The reflection questions raised throughout Part Three, the practical nature of the Appendices, and the extensive Notes section reveal JR’s intention to equip the reader / leader with tools.

Movements that Change the World – Five keys to spreading the gospel

Steve Addison – InterVarsity Press, 2011 (revised edition)

We misuse and overuse the term ‘movement’. We incorrectly refer to historical denominations, large churches, revival meetings, stadium crusades, and current trends as movements. Why? Because we all desire transformation. To be a part of something that is changing the world! Addison condenses years of research and thinking in one inspirational easy-to-read book on this important subject. He defines and describes what a movement is. He outlines five keys / factors / markers / prerequisites to movement for our consideration and application. That is no small feat.

Steve Addison declares the church to be a missionary movement and then proceeds to explain why. Your heart will be stirred, your interest peaked, your prayers fueled, and your missional imagination ignited with every page. Drawing on century-old wisdom from Roland Allen, or insights from Hawaii’s church planting guru Ralph Moore, the contents will appeal to a wide audience. The section summarizing Wesley Methodism is an amazing insight into what is possible for those who are willing to believe God can do it again! Uniquely, the book concludes with a 45 page study guide (covering nine sessions) for small groups or leadership teams. Wow! What a bonus.

Rediscovering Scriptures Vision for Women – Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts

Lucy Peppiatt – InterVarsity Press, 2019

A great resource for addressing one of the hottest topics in today’s society – women in leadership. This book was a required reading during one of my modules for my Master in Leadership degree. I have referred to it on several occasions since. Scot McKnight, who writes extensively on leadership, adds credibility to this volume by issuing a compelling Foreword – don’t skip past it, like you do with other books! As the title suggests, Peppiat addresses the small handful of long-debated scriptures with intelligent argument, scriptural insight, and compelling conclusions.

This is not a book for women, about women, written by a woman! It is a leadership book. I have read several books on this important subject, and they can be long, arduous, and require a companion dictionary to work through the terminology. Peppiat has made this volume usable and relatable to a broad audience. The book is only 162 pages long and contains just eight chapters. I would encourage you to read this book with an open bible and notebook close by. The Bibliography is a treasure trove of additional books to source for the serious student, and the Scriptural Index demonstrates the author’s desire for the reader to engage more deeply with the scriptures.

The Apostolic Revolution – the restoration of apostles and prophets in the Assemblies of God in Australia.

David Cartledge – Paraclete Institute, 2000

This book was written by my hero. Nikki and I committed our lives to Christ in October 1985, under the ministry of David and Marie Cartledge in Townsville, north Queensland. This book is one of David’s finest works; more than 400 pages of teaching and inspiration, it is a timeless textbook. My original edition carries no commendations, but a Foreword written by church growth proponent Peter C Wagner. Apostolic Revolution is a reference manual for those interested in the growth of the Pentecostal movement in Australia. It is historical, scriptural, informative, pragmatic, spiritual, inspiring, and often prophetic. Apostolic Revolution is written with authority, insight, revelation, and experience, by one of Australia’s foremost apostles.

The book has 57 chapters broken into seven sections, formatted like a textbook, and ends with several appendices, a bibliography, a subject index, a biblical reference list and a recommended resources. This layout bears testimony to Cartledge’s legacy – he was an equipper and multiplier of leaders and church planters. Section Five is committed entirely to the subject of Women in Leadership, no doubt inspired by his wife Marie. While sections Four and Six address the important need for apostles and prophets in the church today.

Microchurches – a smaller way.

Brian Sanders – Underground Media, 2019

Sanders is the Founder and Director of the Underground Network, Tampa, Florida. What I love about the leaders of this movement is their humility, generosity, Christ-centeredness, passion for the lost, and appetite for risk. They are not anti-mega church, small-minded leaders. They are pro-kingdom, mission-focused disciples. This book is not prescriptive, propagating a particular model of church, it is celebrating the truth that God often works in small significant ways. The Tampa team and this book in particular, have helped our local church embrace change, pivot, innovate, and step into the next season with faith and courage.

If you are fed up with doing church the same way, if you are reconsidering your efforts to reach the unchurched, if you are seeking to intensify your efforts to make disciples, and mobilize the majority, and if you are thinking about different models of church, this book is for you. Commendations from practitioners like Ralph Moore, Neil Cole, Rob Wegner, and Linda Bergquist, add tremendous credibility to the book. Brian has packed his time-proven revelations and concepts into 124 pages, condensed into 12 chapters, and divided into two sections. His minimal ecclesiology principle is helpful and definitive for those reexamining church. Section Two is committed to those looking for practical advice on how to start a microchurch movement.

Paul – A Biography

N.T. Wright – HarperOne, 2018

N.T. Wright is quite possibly my favorite theologian in the modern era. Perhaps you agree. Paul – a biography, bears witness to Wright’s humility, insight, research, and commitment to equipping others. My hardcover copy feels, looks, and reads like a novel. Most books containing this level of information read like textbooks and theses. But it’s not…it is conversational apologetics.

If you have heard N.T. Wright preach or lecture, then you will recognize his voice as you read each page of this book. Wright uses language and terms that make this book very accessible. This biography looks like a textbook, but it reads like a novel. He combines storytelling and scholarship in ways only a few can achieve. The book contains 15 chapters within three sections and follows Paul’s missionary journeys. Each chapter places Paul in a different city. Wright explains the historical, cultural, and religious context of each city, then overlays the scriptures, causing Paul’s ministry to come to life. The serious student will love the depth of understanding Wright offers. The casual reader will enjoy the narration and insight into one of history’s most influential people – Paul.