A Place At The Table

Chris Seay 
Baker Books

Inclusion is about making room for others, but sometimes that requires making a space in your head and heart first. Chris Seay helps us remember those Jesus never forgot: the poor and the hungry. This 40-day devotional guide is a path to renewed vision, empathy, compassion, and purposeful action. Seay’s challenge to fast and eat like the poor is not about food; rather, it’s about relationship with God and his people. When we make a place at the table for the poor, we’re really making room for God. An accompanying DVD encourages and supports the journey of discovery and grace, inviting small groups and churches along. 


Want to learn more about the book? Watch this video
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The Fire of the Word

The Fire of the Word
Chris Webb
InterVarsity Press

Chris Webb knows firsthand the transforming power of the Bible. A friend gave the devout Buddhist a collection of Jesus’ sayings and parables, and Webb’s life found new meaning as he dug into the Gospels. Webb explains that many Christians read the Bible with indifference instead of expecting an encounter with God as he reveals himself in all of his fascinating dimensions. He believes that the Bible is too often viewed as a lifeless book containing old stories, boring historical data, or irrelevant rules and regulations. Webb pleads for Christians to approach scripture reading as a time to contemplate and meditate on God’s love and develop a deeper intimacy with Him. He stresses discovering Jesus in every chapter, because “Jesus is the central character from the first page to the last.” Pastors can easily recommend The Fire of the Word as an excellent starting point for congregants to rekindle their passion for the Word of God.

–Jeff Friend


The Greatest Story Never Told

The Greatest Story Never Told
Leonard Sweet
Abingdon Press 

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.
– John Wesley 

Leonard Sweet is on a mission, with the indomitable spirit and unrelenting purpose of a Methodist circuit rider and the persuasive storytelling of a tent revivalist, he’s lighting a fire and calling his tribe to consider where they’ve come from, where they are, and where they are headed, but in the process even those who aren’t Methodist may be warmed by the flames of renewal and revival. With a book loaded with Sweet’s dichotomizing and aphorizing—Cervantes and Mark Twain have nothing on Sweet—we catch more than a glimpse of history and remember from where we have fallen. Of course, futurist and philosopher Sweet draws a picture of the present realities as well (hierarchies vs. sharing, Google vs. Gutenberg), but his message is more to join in God’s song than tune into technology (although tuning may be required). This book—filled with word pictures, cultural stats, LOL humorous anecdotes, serious preaching, theological musing, and lots of history—uses song as a central metaphor for our faith and interaction both with God and his world. Sweet also looks at music and song literally and how they form and express our relationships, perceptions, and actions. While Sweet levels tough analysis and confrontational criticism, he extends a hopeful invitation, quite like an Old Testament Prophet. And whatever your faith tradition or theological perspective, there’s plenty to pause and consider, and stir you to sing a new song, even if the song happens to be very, very old.

–Andrea Hunter

Hearing God

Dallas Willard

Only our communion with God provides the appropriate context for communications between us and him …. People who understand and warmly desire to hear God’s voice will want to hear it when life is uneventful just as much as when they are facing trouble or big decisions.

This classic book first published in 1984—now expanded and updated—has the potential of transforming the way we see God and relate to him, and also, the way we as a community of believers relate and interact with each other. A discipleship essential, it is an ideal center for a home group, Sunday School class or Bible Study to gather around and implement in their away-time, coming back to discuss questions and explore content in the context of community and fellowship. Of course, it may serve as a deepening, life altering personal study as well. New believers’ lives could be simplified and enriched with a gift of this book. Hearing God corrects a number of false concepts about God and our theological understanding around hearing from him (for example God as a controlling and harsh taskmaster, an answer slot machine, or fortune cookie). Throughout, Willard feeds our understanding about engaging with God—both in Scripture and in an ongoing conversation. There is also wisdom regarding leaders and those who leverage their “superior” knowledge of what God is saying to control. Although the book points out pitfalls and misconceptions about God speaking, the book is not defined by the “negatives” avoided, but all the life-giving, relational truth it shares and cultivates. Having a “personal relationship” with God loses its hollow ring and becomes reality. Interspersed are exercises in reading Scripture (lectio), reflecting on it (meditation), responding to it (prayer), and rest (contemplation) as an exercise in growing in the ability to hear God’s still small voice. Hearing God features an appendix that helps you find the answers to your most nagging Godspeak questions: “How can I know God is speaking to me?” “What am I to think when someone tells me that God told them something about me? Can I count on that?” “What Sort of Bible reading helps us become the kind of people who are better able to hear God?” And conversely, “What sort of use of the Bible does not help us hear God?” These questions among many others are addressed with clarity and pastoral care.  Willard leaves us with the thought: “Spiritual people are not those who engage in certain spiritual practices; they are those who draw their life from a conversational relationship with God.”

Great conversation entails great listening and the knowledge that you are heard and loved. Gratefully God still speaks and he always listens. The question is, do we?

–Andrea Hunter

Messy Church

Ross Parsley
David C. Cook

Church is almost always messy … and it should be according to Pastor Ross Parsley in his book Messy Church. Parsley shares his vision that the church should operate like a family, relating the love, hurt, miracles, and mistakes of his church to his family dynamic. Speaking out against the consumer mindset of many church shoppers, Parsley urges people to see the church as “first and foremost a spiritual family and not a corporation or nonprofit organization.” If the church family is built on love, acceptance, care, and gentle discipline, then the church will grow together as a body of real, authentic people living as God intended. Communicating with raw honesty and conviction, Ross Parsley shares his own messy church story of his time as the interim senior pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs and God’s healing power to heal and restore his church family. In an age where it seems everyone is looking for the perfect church experience, Messy Church is a great resource and encouragement for both young pastors starting churches and seasoned leaders who have pastored their church family for many years.

 –Andy Toy