Our next set of “Reading Circles” will be from The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons. One will begin this Sunday morning during “January Jolt” which is an abbreviated Adult Discipleship term. The second offering of it will be during GC@Nite beginning later in February. Our most recent and most engaging Reading Circle thus far was this past fall and when we discussed A Faith of Our Own by Jonathan Merritt who was kind enough to Skype with us for our last session.
In short, the Reading Circle is about conversation to create community. While the book/essay being read is obviously important, our time centers more on the discussion itself. In more academic or classroom settings, the facilitator could keep the focus on the book itself but for our purposes, we are interested in how these ideas can shape us individually and collectively and to get there, we need a stronger intersection between the content and those gathered. I’ve blogged a little more about the subtle distinctions of our Reading Circles versus book clubs here.
Typically I set up the context of the exert I’m about to read aloud which gives a refresher to those that have read and allows entry points for new people or those that didn’t get a chance to read (Again, it’s more about those that have gathered than the actual book). After the reading I ask for reactions and we foster a conversation on the points and themes of the chapter. It’s a good deal of prep work and you have to select books that create different angles of conversation, otherwise we all sit there and I say things, “I really like that” and “I really like that too.”
The Next Christians does a great job at creating conversation which is natural because if you are familiar with Gabe Lyon’s work, creating conversation in the church is what he’s after (see Q Ideas and the Q Conference). Gabe’s main theme is that Christians can build the Kingdom by being “restorers” of the culture which is basically the new subtitle “Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World.” Personally, I really liked the original subtitle, “The Good News About the End of Christian America” but I’m sure the publisher (Multnomah Books) knows what they’re doing. Glad it’s doing well in print.
The book opens with the line “A few years ago, I was twenty-seven and embarrassed to call myself Christian.” In one way or another, most of those gathered will be able to relate, especially since many of us identify ourselves as New Englanders/North-Easterners. Terms like “Christian,” “evangelical”, “Church,” and “gospel” are loaded and carry a lot of baggage especially around here in Greater Boston. The “Evangelical Church” has made a few strategic mistakes, failed to adapt when necessary and so forth but the often neglected truth is there are a lot of great things happening as well on an individual and collective basis. The Next Christians does a great job highlighting these stories while offering principles and insights on being a Christ-follower (or a “restorer”) in the world today and how we can shape the future.
For a good while, too many evangelicals had given up on the future, the world was condemned to hell and Jesus was coming back “… He’s coming back this year, I’m sure of it.” Insert awkward New Year’s celebration here and then say “Well, hold on, it looks like it’s this one now, yeah, yeah…” It’s been people like N.T. Wright, Ron Sider, Shane Claiborne, Rob Bell, the many in the Missional/Emergent conversation, then eventually Tim Keller (and many in the Neo-Reformed crowd) that were using their platforms to say, “We Christians need to do the work of God here and now.”
This seems very, very obvious to some, but I am still surprised by how many are still either slow to this simple truth or know it but unmotivated by the urgency. A lot needs to be done, a lot of good is happening, it will never be enough but it’s part of the faithfulness of the Church – may redemptive and restorative work be the hallmark of the Church today and in these “next” years. Hoping to have a great discussion at these next two Reading Circles as we discuss The Next Christians.
If you’re local, below is our schedule for this “January Jolt” – we’ll be meeting in Room 103 in the AD Building (2 Militia Dr.). Books available for $10 or you can pick one up at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.
January 6: Part 1: The World Is Changing – Ch. 1-4
January 13: Part 2A: The Restorers – Ch. 5-8
January 20: Part 2B: The Restorers – Ch. 9-11
January 27: Part 3: A New Era – Ch. 12, Review, and Imagine Ahead