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This review is part of the Picking Dandelions blog tour. Welcome, tour guests! To find out where the tour stops next, visit sarahcunningham.org.

Picking DandelionsSarah Cunningham almost made me believe I was right there with her, on her “search for Eden among life’s weeds.” Cunningham has a gift for detail and for storytelling, which makes this book a joy to read.

Picking Dandelions is a memoir of conversion, not just as a one-time event, but as a growth process throughout life. Much of Cunningham’s story was familiar to me. I grew up Catholic, and she grew up a Baptist, but as people who grew up inside the Christian faith, we did have similar experiences, like attending Backyard Bible Clubs where some of the kids would raise their hands every day when asked if they wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts!

Cunningham describes her near-idyllic childhood, briefly covers her high school and college years, and moves on to her twenties, when she became outreach director of a megachurch and led a ministry team to New York immediately after 9-11. And then she writes about change.

It took me at least twenty-eight years to realize that faith should involved ongoing change. And another year to get around to changing.

Cunningham comes across as a real and likable person, with human flaws (which she discusses at length, because one of her flaws is over-thinking things. ;-)).

I’d recommend this book for anyone who enjoys spiritual memoirs, but also anyone who’s interested in a relational, missional Christianity.

Sarah Raymond Cunningham is a high school teacher, part-time college prof, and chief servant to the nine month emperor Justus. She is a popular church and conference speaker, the author of Dear Church, and a contributor to several books, including unChristian. Sarah, her husband, Chuck, and their son live with their manic Jack Russell terrier in Jackson, Michigan. They attend a church plant called Rivertree. Find out more at www.sarahcunningham.org.

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Disclosures: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for this review. Thank you, Sarah! And I do receive a small commission if you purchase through any of the Amazon links above. Thanks for supporting this site.

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Despite the subtitle (What the Church Can Learn from Facebook, the Internet, and Other Networks), this is thankfully NOT a book on how to use social media to promote your church. Instead, it’s about relationships, and how the church can use its networks more effectively. Again, NOT social media networks — just the relationships between people and groups in the church and in the world.

So as far as language goes, it’s a very geeky book — lots of networking vocabulary and metaphors. That will be pleasing for people with technical knowledge, but it’s not too much for non-technical types, either.

Instead of trying to explain the book, I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes:

Once, while teaching a class, Friesen “invited the learners to collaborate in the creation of a network map of our collective journeys to the school.”

“By the time the whole class had finished, we discovered a clear hubbing pattern, and it was not what I’d expected to find … One of the most connective hubbing nodes was http://www.mhgs.edu (the school’s website), and the other was Brian McLaren.”

On connective leadership:

“The goal of connective leadership is not to gain more links to increase the scale of your own influence, but to help those connected to you make meaningful connections that will help them find fullness of life.”

I can’t categorize this, but I like it (emphasis mine):

“We exist to connect people with God, one another, and with creation in continuity with the capacious narrative of Scripture … Sometimes this may even mean helping people who are a vital part of your church connect to a different faith community or ministry even at great cost to your own ministry … The church doesn’t exist simply to propagate the church, rather the local church exists as a local expression of the reality of God’s networked kingdom.

And there’s more. I bookmarked several other sections which are too long to include here, like the story of how an aging, traditional congregation welcomed and eventually transferred their entire facility to a young church plant, for the sake of God’s networked kingdom.

I recommend this book especially for Christian techies, but anyone who is interested in relational aspects of the church, and in getting beyond traditional church structures and routines, will enjoy it.

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Disclosures: I received a free copy of the book through The Ooze Viral Bloggers in exchange for this review. I do receive a small commission for any purchases made through Amazon.com links above. Thanks!

A few months ago, I enthusiastically reviewed and highly recommended Sara Miles’ book Take This Bread.  So when I read “An Interview With Sara Miles” by Jarrod McKenna on Jesus Manifesto, I was pleased to see that she does have another book out now — Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead. And McKenna included this amazing video of the food pantry Miles founded at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

I’m adding Jesus Freak to my Goodreads list, and I’ll be sure to review it here when I get a chance to read it.

Since reading Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, I can’t stop thinking about Ubuntu.

The geeky me really wants to say that McLaren thinks we should all use Linux, because in Chapter 20 he advocates Ubuntu.

But I have to admit that he’s not talking about computers. He’s actually throwing ubuntu into the rainbow.

In this chapter, McLaren attempts to explain different kinds of Christianity through a color metaphor, moving from red to violet in stages, and calling the violet stage “ubuntu”

…from Africa, a word meaning one-another-ness, interconnectedness, joined-in-the-common-good-ness, and profound commitment to the well-being of all.

McLaren puts most of us who are asking the questions into the indigo category, where we seek honesty. However,

…those of us in the indigo zone commonly look down on red-, orange-, yellow-, green- and blue-zone people and groups, calling them primitive, backward, immature, conservative, fundamentalist, and so on…no wonder indigo people see others as obstructionists, and the others see them as terrorists or nihilists.

But if we are to be ubuntu/violet people, we have to lovingly accept the people who are in the other color levels.

Even if they won’t return that acceptance?

I’m sure Jesus would say “Even so. Seventy times seven times.”

That’s one thing that gets me. I’m not very tolerant of intolerance.

But really, is it too much to ask?  I considered this as I read and digested McLaren’s ideas. And I realized that for the most part (if not all the time), people I know personally whose beliefs differ from mine do not pressure me at all. They do not tell me that my beliefs are wrong, or that I am a heretic.  I may be aware that their church would say this, or that certain public figures they admire might say this, but the people I know? They don’t call me names.

So yes, I need to quit worrying about whether others are doing it wrong. There are still instances in which I think it’s important to stand against what a church is doing. I do think it’s just plain wrong for churches to advocate against civil same-sex marriage laws.  Religious institutions should not be allowed to perpetrate civil injustice.

But otherwise? Take a deep breath. Let it go. Love God and love your neighbor. Ubuntu.

A New Kind of ChristianityIn A New Kind of Christianity, Brian McLaren finally comes to the point. He’s no longer trying to express his beliefs and remain acceptable to fundamentalists (which wasn’t really working anyway). He comes right out and says that it doesn’t make sense for God to condemn the majority of people who have lived on Earth to eternal conscious torment. He says that homosexuality itself isn’t evil. And he’s still saying that everything must change.

That was his previous book, Everything Must Change, which I thought was terrific as well. But McLaren explains in this book that a lot of Christians still aren’t ready to address the issues in Everything Must Change (crises of prosperity, equity, security, and spirituality), and that that’s why he wrote this book. Here’s a description of what happened on his Everything Must Change book tour:

During the Q & R session, most questioners simply ignored the four crises I had talked about. Instead, they focused on arguing fine points of theology with me – all within their conventional paradigms. It was as if they said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, a billion people live on less than a dollar a day. But you’re decentralizing our preferred theory of atonement!”

And so he wrote a book directly confronting these conventional paradigms.

McLaren discusses ten key questions in this book:

  • What is the overarching storyline of the Bible?
  • How should the Bible be understood?
  • Is God violent?
  • Who is Jesus and why is he important?
  • What is the Gospel?
  • What do we do about the church?
  • Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
  • Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
  • How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
  • How can we translate our quest into action?

As a Christian, I’ve been asking myself these questions for a long time. And I’m actually pretty comfortable with my answers now (although perhaps that means those answers could use confronting, too). But these are also questions that I often hear non-Christians or marginal Christians asking, and maybe those are the people this book will really speak to.

I’m delighted that McLaren has written this book, and that more and more people are asking these questions.

Links

Brian’s personal website
Brian on Facebook
Brian on Twitter
Browse inside A New Kind of Christianity

Disclosures: I received a free copy of the book through The Ooze Viral Bloggers in exchange for this review. I do receive a small commission for any purchases made through Amazon.com links above. Thanks!