Diana Butler Bass, Christianity after Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. HarperOne, 2012. Church membership continues to plummet in America. Yet interest in the soul is rising. What’s behind this spiritual but not religious trend? Offering fresh research, Bass explores the disillusionment some Christians feel and shows that when they experience an authentic connection to community and the divine, they’re moved to serve others as Jesus commanded.
Ted Turnau, Popologetic: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective. R & R, 2012. Popular culture is all around us and, whether we like it or not, it influences the way we think and see the world. Some people respond by trying to pull away from pop culture altogether, and some accept it without question as a blessing. Turnau offers ways to approach popular culture wisely, separating its gems of grace from its temptations toward idolatry, and practice some “popologetics” to be an influence of your own.
Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World. Multnomah, 2012. Is the end of Christian America on the horizon? How can the church remain relevant to believers who feel Christianity is becoming too packaged? In this provocative look at the future of our faith, Lyons anticipates the next big historical shift and reveals six fundamental qualities that will ensure the church’s best years are still to come.
Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass, ed., Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be. Eerdmans, 2006. The editors draw together a wide range of texts, including fiction, autobiography, and philosophy, and offer challenge and insight to those who are thinking about what to do with their lives. Instead of giving prescriptive advice, Schwehn and Bass approach the subject of vocation as an ongoing conversation. They include in this conversation some of the Western tradition’s best writings on human life, its meaning, purpose, and significance.
Christian Smith, Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. Oxford Press, 2009. The follow-up study to Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers explores the importance of religion, major influences on developing spiritual lives and how beliefs and practices change as young people enter adulthood. Vividly describing the broader cultural world of today’s emerging adults, how that culture shapes their religious outlooks, and what the consequences are for religious faith and practice provides some surprising findings. Parents are the most important influence on the religious outcomes in the lives of young adults and teenage participation in evangelization missions and youth groups does not predict a high level of religiosity a few years later. Moreover, the common wisdom that religiosity declines sharply during the young adult years is shown to be greatly exaggerated.
Christian Smith, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood. Oxford, 2011. Life for emerging adults is vastly different today than it was for their counterparts even a generation ago. They enjoy more freedom, opportunities, and personal growth than ever before. But the transition to adulthood is also more complex, disjointed, and confusing. Smith identifies five major problems facing very many young people today: confused moral reasoning, routine intoxication, materialistic life goals, regrettable sexual experiences, and disengagement from civic and political life with roots in mainstream American culture. Smith suggests the need for what he calls “realistic concern”—and a reconsideration of our cultural priorities and practices–that will help emerging adults more skillfully engage the unique challenges they face.
David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really thinks About Christianity…and Why it Matters. Baker, 2007. Christianity has an image problem. According to the latest report card, something has gone terribly wrong. Using descriptions like “hypocritical,” “insensitive,” and “judgmental,” young Americans share an impression of Christians that’s nothing short of . . . unChristian. Groundbreaking research into the perceptions of people aged 16‒29 reveals that Christians have taken several giant steps backward in one of their most important assignments. The details of the study, commissioned by the Fermi Project and conducted by The Barna Group, are presented with uncompromising honesty. Find out why these negative perceptions exist, learn how to reverse them in a Christlike manner, and discover practical examples of how Christians can positively contribute to culture.
David Kinnaman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith. Baker, 2011. Based on new research conducted by the Barna Group, You Lost Me exposes ways the Christian community has failed to equip young adults to live “in but not of” the world and to follow Christ in the midst of profound cultural change. This study debunks persistent myths about young dropouts and examines the likely consequences for young adults and for the church if we maintain the status quo. Kinnaman, with the help of contributors from across the Christian spectrum, offers ideas for ways to pass on a vibrant, lasting faith, and ideas for young adults to find themselves in wholehearted pursuit of Christ.
Doug Gay, Remixing the Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiology. SCM Press, 2011. The Emerging Church movement continues to generate a significant amount of critical discussion. The term emerging church is used both by those who participate in new worship communities and by those who are suspicious of the claim that the emerging church presents something radically new. Gay attempts to look beyond such polarization and to articulate a hermeneutical process of audit, retrieval, unbundling and remixing of key elements of traditional Christian practice.
Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne, So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. Ballantine Books, 2009. Popular culture and technology inundate our boys and girls with an onslaught of graphic sexual messages at earlier ages than ever before. Without the emotional sophistication to understand what they are doing and seeing, kids are getting into trouble emotionally and socially. Parents are left shaking their heads, wondering: How did this happen? What can we do? This book provides parents the information, skills, and confidence they need to discuss sensitive topics openly and effectively so their kids can just be kids.
Phil Snider, ed., The Hypenateds: How Emergence Christianity is Re-traditioning Mainline Practices. Chalice Press, 2011. Can emergence Christianity help established denominations understand that radical transformation means more than a new worship service? When hearing complaints that church is irrelevant, can mainliners understand that reclaiming relevancy means more than changing meeting locations from church buildings to coffee shops? Yes, say the writers of The Hyphenateds, and they show you how they’ve done it.
Michael Jinkins, The Church Transforming: What’s Next for the Reformed Project. WJK, 2012. Theologian Jinkins probes the present state and future of the Reformed faith. Addressing increasing division over scriptural authority, ordination and marriage of gay and lesbian people, and other social issues, Jinkins looks at some of the hallmarks of the Reformed faith and discusses how they can be viewed anew. Topics covered include scriptural interpretation, the place of Christ, living in community, the life of the mind, unity versus schism, and spirituality and mystery. He concludes by showing how the Reformed faith is not a castle to be defended but a living treasure of great gifts.
Brian K. Blount and Leonara Tubbs Tisdale, ed., Making Room at the Table: An Invitation to Multicultural Worship. WJK, 2001. This collection of articles by members of the faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary explores the multicultural challenges facing the contemporary church. Contributors seek ways to make worship more relevant to, and inclusive of, groups that have often been excluded, either overtly or unconsciously—youth, ethnic minorities, and other marginalized people.
Bill Carter, Jazz Belongs In Church, DVD. Presbybop.com, 2012. Through stirring musical performances and insightful commentary, Jazz Belongs in Church offers first-hand evidence of how jazz can bring people’s spirits alive, how it can energize worship services, and how well it is suited for expressing biblical themes. Jazz, says Carter, is an opportunity for human beings, created in God’s creative image, to offer something creative in return. This DVD explores how this swinging musical tradition can energize and deepen religious experience. Study guide available on line.
Gary Neal Hansen, Kneeling With Giants: Learning to Pray With History’s Best Teachers. IVP, 2012. This guide to prayer is rooted in centuries of Christian tradition. In each chapter you meet a figure from church history, such as Benedict, Luther, Calvin, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila and Andrew Murray and learn how each of these spiritual giants connected to God through prayer.
Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith and Joy W Goldsmith, Speaking of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death. Brazos Press, 2012. This book offers a critical analysis of the church’s failure to communicate constructively about dying. The authors, who have all been personally and professionally involved in end-of-life issues, suggest practical, theological bases for speaking about dying, communicating with those facing death, and preaching about dying. They explore how dying in baptism begins and informs the Christian’s life story. In addition, they present current best practices from health professionals for communication among caregivers and those facing death.
Jesse Rice, The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community. Cook, 2009. With hundreds of millions of users, social networks are changing how we form relationships, perceive others, and shape our identity. Yet at its core, this movement reflects our need for community. Our longing for intimacy, connection, and a place to belong has never been a secret, but social networking offers us a new perspective on the way we engage our community. How do these networks impact our relationships? In what ways are they shaping the way we think of ourselves? And how might this phenomenon subtly reflect a God who longs to connect with each one of us?
http://www.qideas.org According to their Web site, “Q educates church and cultural leaders on their role and opportunity to embody the gospel in public life. We believe that exposure to old and new ideas is the best way to stimulate imagination for ways the Gospel can be expressed within our cultural context.” A recent topic was: Is the Bully Epidemic in Our Churches?
Eliza Eth Drescher, Tweet if You Heart Jesus. Church Publishing, 2011. Churches everywhere are scrambling to get linked with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but are they ready for the digital reformation and the dramatic global shift in the nature of faith, social consciousness and relationship that these digital social media have ushered in? This resource brings the wisdom of ancient and medieval Christianity into conversation with contemporary theories of cultural change and the realities of social media, all to help churches navigate a landscape where faith, leadership and community have taken on new meanings.
Dori Grinenko Baker, The Barefoot Way: A Faith Guide for Youth, Young Adults and the People Who Walk With Them. WJK, 2012. This exceptional and innovative resource invites older youth, college students, and all who care about them, to participate for 21 days in journey and experiences of youth who have encountered God and told their story. Perfect for individual, small group, and workshop use, each day readers step “barefoot” onto the “Holy Ground” of these experiences in order to “L.I.V.E.” the story themselves: To Listen, Immerse, View it Wider, and Explore Actions and “Aha” moments.
Mike Glenn, In Real Time: Authentic Young Adult Ministry As It Happens. B&H Publishing, 2009. Many churches are reaching out to young adults with innovative worship. This is one story of such ministry. Founded in 2004 with 50 participants, this innovative midweek contemporary worship service (Kairos) in Nashville quickly grew to more than 700. Discover how this extraordinary ministry unfolded and meet the passionate, energetic young people who’ve been transformed by it.
Kenda Creasy Dean, Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church. Eerdmans, 2004. Dean argues that if the church is to speak meaningfully to youth and in turn reap the many benefits that young people have to offer, then its ministry must be predicated on the Passion of Christ and the passions of youth. When these two come together, passionate faith results. This book is a vital resource for anyone in youth ministry.
Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. Oxford, 2010. In this stinging indictment of the church, Dean argues that in order to produce ardent young Christians churches must rediscover their sense of mission and model an understanding of being Christian as something that calls you to share God’s love, in word and deed, with others. Dean found that the most committed young Christians shared four important traits: they could tell a personal and powerful story about God; they belonged to a community that did more than simply feed them moral maxims; they exhibited a sense of vocation; and they possessed a profound sense of hope. Based on these findings, Dean proposes an approach to Christian education that places the idea of mission at its core and offers a wealth of concrete suggestions for inspiring teens to live more authentically engaged Christian lives.
Benjamin T. Conner, Amplifying Our Witness: Giving Voice to Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities. Eerdmans, 2013. Nearly twenty percent of adolescents have developmental disabilities, yet far too often they are marginalized within churches. Conner challenges congregations to adopt a new, practice-centered approach to congregational ministry that includes and amplifies the witness of adolescents with developmental disabilities.
Bruce Sanguin, Darwin, Divinity and the Dance of the Cosmos: An Ecological Christianity. Copperhouse, 2007. In March 2005, the United Nations released its Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Among the findings: two-thirds of the world’s ecosystems are seriously degraded; 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks are depleted; and climate change is not just something that might happen, it is here. Sanguin says that we must not delude ourselves into thinking that technology can and will save the day and calls us to step back into the flow of nature from which we have extricated ourselves. Using the latest scientific understandings of the nature of the universe woven with biblical meta-narratives and strands of the Judeo-Christian tradition he creates an ecological and truly evolutionary Christian theology.
Charlene Hosenfeld, Eco-Faith: Creating and Sustaining Green Congregations. Pilgrim Press, 2009. This book is a user-friendly guide for all to facilitate understanding of environmental issues as they relate to caring for the whole of God’s creation, with extensive lists of facts, actions, and resources and inspiring stories from worship communities around the country that have made the decision to go green. Additionally, the book integrates current ecological research, religious thought, and a psychological perspective because, as the author asserts, environmentalists, psychologists, and people of faith are natural allies.
Mary E. Speedy is a retired certified church educator living in Mechanicsburg, PA