Friday, August 16, 2013

Some sabbatical reading....

I've been reading lots of fiction and catching up on periodicals but a couple books have really stood out.  Both of these books have stuck with me past reading them:

Rich Church, Poor Church
by J. Clif Christopher:  So, what's a book about church stewardship have to do with decision making?  Pretty much, everything it turns out.  This book could have been as easily titled Thriving Church, Sick Church.  The author's theology is more conservative than mine and his understanding of church leadership is sometimes too pastor-centered but his basic points are compelling and thought provoking.  Its worth the work of theological translation in order to get the wealth this book shares.  Its intended as a study book with questions at the end of each chapter.  A couple key quotes?  
  • "In the Poor Church, you will hear of discipleship, but in reality the domination decision-making factor is appeasement."  
  • "Do al of your people understand what the mission of your church is?  Is this mission a unifying factor in your church?"
  • "Bad decisions regarding debt will cripple a church faster than just about anything... Debt can be forever and it is unforgiving."
  • "There is a humbleness of attitude in the Rich Church and a pervasive arrogance of attitude in the Poor Church."
  • "The Rich Church will almost always mandate classes for anyone seeking to join the church."
  • "Persons joining the Rich Church are constantly reminded that they are just getting started in Christian life...  In the Poor Church, the attitude is that once a person joins, he or she is finished with his or her obligations."
  • "The Rich Church has systems in place to ensure that leaders are indeed leading."
That's really just a start.  I found this book but thoughtful and thought provoking.

The Anatomy of Revolution by Crane Brinton:  This is an older book (first published in 1938) that was part of that pile of books I've been planning to read for a long time.  It's a study of four different revolutionary movements build on more of a biological model.  Although bone dry at some points and annoyingly academic at others there's still a richness in the text.  I found myself relating many of its points about the unfolding of revolutions to church conflict.  Here are some quotes related to church conflict and religion that jumped out.
  • "Our revolutions, then, clearly were not born in societies economically retrograde; on the contrary, they took place in societies economically progressive."  Otherwise, the revolutions studied in this book did not come when things were at their worse but when things had started to get better.
  • "In each revolution there is a point, or several points, where constituted authority is challenged by the illegal acts of revolutionists.  In such instances, the routine response is to have recourse to force, police or military.  Our authorities made such a response, but in each case with a striking lack of success."
  • "The moderates, then, do not really believe in the big words they use.  They do not believe a heavenly perfection is suddenly coming to men on earth.  They are all for compromise, common sense, toleration, comfort.  In a normal society, these desires are part of their strength and give them hold over their fellows, who share at least their desire for comfort.  But in these three revolutions large numbers of men were for the moment lifted by desire and emotion to a point where they seemed to despise even comfort.  The moderates could not deal politically with such men; they could not take the first steps which are necessary if such men are to be understood... For we are here in a land fabulous but real, where the wisdom and common sense of the moderate are not wisdom and common sense, but folly."
  • "What separates these revolutionaries from traditional Christianity is most obviously their insistence on having their heaven here, now, on earth, their impatient intent to conquer evil once and for all.  Christianity in its traditional forms has long since, not by any means given up the moral struggle, but given up its chiliastic hopes - the hopes it had when it was young and revolutionary, the hopes of the immediate Second Coming of Christ.  By distinguishing between this world and the next world, the natural and the supernatural or divine, Christianity can bridge the gap between what men are and have and what man want to be and want to have.  This gap your revolutionary knows well enough.  He proposed, however, not to bridge it, but to fill it in or leap over it.  He often ends, where the mystic begins, by persuading himself the gap isn't really there."
  • "As Ferrero has put it, when the 'silken threads' of habit, tradition, legality are broken, men must be held together in society by the 'iron chains' of dictatorship." Dictatorship in a church can make it a cult of personality but it does bring up the need for strong leadership and commitment when bringing systemic change.