Tag Archives: book review

Are You Making a Difference?

Difference Makers: An Action Guide For Jesus Followers (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2013) by M. Scott Boren, Foreword by Scot McKnight

Scott Boren writes, “Most difference makers have more in common with George Bailey than the heroes of The Avengers.” Just ask the folks in good ole Bedford Falls. One ordinary life can make an extraordinary difference!

If you’ve ever felt like you’re not making a difference where you live, or you’re just not real sure how to engage your neighborhood and community for Christ, then I believe that Difference Makers can help you and your church.

Difference Makers is written in forty short chapters that can be read as a 40-day study or in larger sections. Each section concludes with a suggested activity. There is even a study guide at the end that includes an icebreaker, focus Scripture, and discussion questions. It’s ideal for small groups.

Difference Makers offers practical ways for making a Kingdom difference in your local neighborhood and community.

Do you struggle to know how you can bring change around you? Does it seem like you don’t have any extra time in your schedule? Do you feel like you’re all alone and the task is too daunting? Get this book!

One of my favorite chapters in Difference Makers is ch. 16 on Paying Attention to the Spirit.  God is always at work around us.

“The Spirit moves, but reading what the Spirit is doing requires that we pay attention to the whispers and nonverbal cues. By simply being attentive to the mystery of what God is up to in those around us, we discover the hidden ways that redemption is being woven into the fabric of life” (p.88).

Difference Makers challenges us to look beyond the surface in order to think in a “deeper” way when it comes to our neighborhood.

  1. What is positive and therefore calls for a response of support (e.g., a local battered-women’s home)?
  2. What is a natural part of life and therefore calls for redemption and use for God’s kingdom (e.g., vacant buildings that resulted from a recession)?
  3. What is unacceptable and therefore calls for subversion (e.g., hungry, undocumented families)?
  4. What is negative and therefore calls for active resistance (e.g., sex slavery)?

And in ch. 20, Paying Attention to the Routines, Scott writes:

“While books, sermons, and concepts about God’s love can be helpful, we become difference makers as we listen to God and pay attention to where he is at work in the routines of life. And as we pay attention to these routines, the life of making a difference gets inside of us. It becomes more and more who we are” (p104-105).

Scott reminds us all that what we do really counts for the Kingdom, more than we know. His book will encourage you to seek out ways to make a difference as Jesus followers motivated by a sincere love for others. This is a book you will want to read and discuss with others in community.

M. Scott Boren has been working with churches to help them develop effective community through small groups for more than twenty years. He is a trainer, consultant, and founder of The Center for Community and Mission.

Scott has authored Introducing Missional Church, Missional Small Groups, and The Relational Way. He shares life with his wife, Shawna, and their four children. They currently serve at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN.

Scott can be reached at www.mscottboren.com.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


The Community Life of God (Book Review)

The God Who Is Relationship

A Book Review of “The Community Life of God: Seeing the Godhead As the Model for All Relationships” by Milt Rodriguez

“God is not an individual” says Milt Rodriguez.  “He is a fellowship of three Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (p.14).

In The Community Life of God, Milt Rodriguez weaves together the story of God’s desire to plant himself in His people.  God’s image is a “communal” image.  The Lord created man in His image of community.  And taking from the Tree of Life (i.e. Christ) is to take from the relational God.

It was in the Garden of Eden that the serpent sought to keep God’s image from becoming a reality in the hearts of men.  The enemy of God presented man with individual living out of his own soul-life (i.e. will, emotions, intellect).  Instead of man pursuing spiritual living after taking from the communal life of God, he experiences separation from God and other men.

Rodriguez proposes that much of Christian activity today is spent furthering the individualistic mindset that is so popular in our culture.  Even when believers come together corporately there is not an understanding of God’s image among us.  Church life ought to be more than socializing and individual Christian ministries.

Milt writes, “Personhood and identity can only be defined by relating to others. You will never truly “find yourself” until you are living in the community life of God” (p.62)

What is the sort of fellowship the Lord desires among his ekklesia?

“This fellowship is the place where there is nothing to hide. Complete truthfulness and complete honesty rule here.  The Father, Son, and Spirit do not hold back anything from one another… there is no fear of loss” (p. 116).

As Christian Smith has written, “Community means more than having lots of meetings. It means jointly building a way of life, a group memory, and a common anticipated future.” (Going to the Root: Nine Proposals for Radical Church Renewal, p.2)

In order for us to experience the community life of God, we must embrace the cross.  Rodriguez says there “will be one brother or sister who rubs you the wrong way.”  It is there we embrace the cross and learn “they are part of the same body as you. You belong to them and they belong to you” (p.152).

Finally, this community life of God cannot work in meeting once a week.  We all know this to be true, but still we place other things before God’s heart.  We sacrifice the church on the altar of family, jobs, and personal ministries.

Milt says, “He (God) wants you and me and every other believer to be actively involved on a daily basis. This is why we were born.  This is why we live on this planet” (p.170).

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to participate in God’s eternal purpose, we must be intentional about our relationships within the local ekklesia of Christ.  We must give and receive sacrificially in order that we might know the God who is within Himself, relationship.

There have been many books written on the church being rooted in the Triune image of God, but this one delivers in a simple and easy-to-read presentation.  I recommend this book to all of those who are longing to discover that the church is born out of the very heart of the relational God.

What others are saying?

“This little book provides a clear window into the ultimate source of authentic body life. Delve into its pages and meet the God who is beyond what most of us have imagined, the God in whose collective voice all genuine churches echo.” –Frank Viola, author of Pagan Christianity, From Eternity to Here, and Finding Organic Church, www.frankviola.com

“I was deeply blessed, refreshed and challenged by this book. The author casts the spotlight on the reality and wonder that “God” is really the community life of three persons – a fact virtually untouched in traditional theology. Milt shows from various angles how the community life of God is the foundation of our organic ekklesia life together in Christ.”–Jon Zens, Editor, Searching Together; author of A Church Building Every ½ Mile and “What’s With Paul & Women? www.searchingtogether.org

Milt Rodriguez

Milt Rodriguez has been living in and planting organic expressions of church since 1990. He has also authored several books including The Butterfly in You and The Temple Within.  He currently lives with his wife Mary in Gainesville, Flordia.  He is a dear brother in the Lord and I am happy to call him my friend.


What’s With Paul & Women? (Book Review)

1 Timothy 2:11-12 has been used as a “clear” mandate to silence women in the church for over 1500 years. And enough is enough!

In What’s With Paul & Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2, Jon Zens, author of A Church Building Every ½ Mile, exposes the fallacies of this interpretation, and opens up the meaning of 1 Tim.2:9-15 using insights gleaned from the Artemis-saturated Ephesian culture where Timothy was left to stand against false teaching (1:3).

Going beyond 1 Tim.2, this book covers the major issues in gender inequality with three Appendices: one on the Ephesian social world in which 1 Timothy was written, another on 1 Corinthians14:34-36 and an extensive review of John Piper’s What’s the Difference? Manhood & Womanhood Defined According to the Bible.

If 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 have puzzled you, What’s With Paul & Women? will help in your quest to discern the mind of the Lord as the gender debate lingers.  For those who believe that women should keep their mouths shut and tend to the children… I challenge you to read one of the strongest presentations that early Christianity was a faith of  “women and widows.”

I have had the privilege of getting to know Jon over the last year.  And I have recently read What’s With Paul & Women? I firmly believe that…

“Jon is one of the church’s best kept secrets today.  This little book presents a colossal challenge to years of subjugating women in the name of Christ.  It is a theological bulwark against those who would use the New Testament to teach a second-class citizenship in the kingdom of God.”

What others are saying…

“This is an important book. It provides new insight into a topic which has sadly divided the Church for much too long. I have been greatly enlightened by the work Jon has done in this book and I strongly recommend it to everyone who takes God’s Word seriously.” ~Keith Giles, Orange, CA
author of The Gospel:For Here Or To Go?

“This passionate, well-researched work is not only a fair treatment of the subject, but one that is biblically sound, drawing from the entirety of the Word of God. Intelligent, captivating, covering new ground — a must read!” ~Stephanie Bennett, Ph.D.
Palm Beach Atlantic University 
W. Palm Beach, FL

“In this engaging and careful study, Jon Zens provides a thoughtful and unique examination of the thorny passage in 1 Timothy 2 that deals with a woman’s ministry in the church. A hugely insightful read.” ~Frank Viola, author of From Eternity to Here, Reimagining Church, Pagan Christianity, and Finding Organic Church

Jon Zens

Jon earned his B.A. from Covenant College (1968), an M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary (1972), and a D.Min. from the California Graduate School of Theology (1983). He became the editor of Searching Together in 1978.  Since 1979, he and his wife, Dotty, have traveled world-wide sharing with assemblies their insights about living under grace and extending grace to others.

What’s With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 by Jon Zens will be released in paperback by Ekklesia Press during the first week of April, 2010.

The book is now available for preorder at www.jonzens.com!


The Torch of the Testimony (Book Review)

thetorchofthetestimonyThe Struggle for the Centrality of Christ—Book Review of “The Torch of the Testimony” by John W. Kennedy—Reviewed by David D. Flowers

John W. Kennedy has given us a great gift that has gone largely unnoticed in the western world. “The Torch of the Testimony” uncovers the 2,000-year history of those believing Christians and churches that stood outside the Protestant and Catholic traditions.

“The history of the working of the Spirit of God is not the history of any organization, and what usually goes by the name ‘Church History’ is only too often a sorry tale of bigoted quarrels and selfish intrigue. Yet the history of the two, the spiritual movement, and the earthly institution, are sometimes so closely intermingled that it is impossible to give an account of one without referring to the other.” p. 56

Kennedy gives us a concise narrative of church history while distinguishing between the “spiritual church” and the organized church of man.

He is gracious and honest to point out the good that was achieved within the organized church, but is consistent in his critique of both movements of the church.

He very powerfully exposes the shortcomings of the institutional church and how past saints concluded that it can never be reformed. What is needed is a return to New Testament church practice.

“The life of Christ and the Lordship of Christ through His Word are, therefore, two things which mark out the church of the New Testament. When these are supplanted by anything else, the result is a departure from the principle of Scripture and ultimate confusion.” p. 177

He wonderfully weaves together the disjointed stories of the church to paint a clear picture of the challenges that still face us today. The reader can’t help but be awakened to the reality that we are a part of the unfolding story of Christ’s church.

In this book, you will learn about how the the church began to drift from apostolic teachings through Greco-Roman influence and opened the door for the Constantinian State in the fourth century.

You will discover the enduring testimony of the remnant that existed apart from the organized church up to the Protestant Reformation and onward. You will learn how a break from the State Church into independent movements produced denominations built upon doctrines instead of the rock of Christ.

How did we get to where we are today? Where are we in the story of God’s people? Will we learn from the mistakes of the past? What will be written about us?

Will our relationship to Christ be the unifying bond that births our church practice or will we be distracted by power and cling to weapons of the world in an attempt to advance the Gospel?

I can’t stress enough how important this book is to the study of the development of Christianity. This book is a “must read” for every serious student of church history.

If you are involved in organic church life and gatherings outside of the institutional church, this book should be required reading before you can say, “I am part of a house church.”

If this account of church history doesn’t move you… I would recommend you check your spiritual pulse.

Suggested Reading:
The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament
Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Revised Edition
Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices
The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Dissent and Nonconformity)


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