Saturday, September 18, 2010

another review: transforming church in rural america

I meant to have more than just book reviews on this blog, I did. But i burned through my latest booksneeze book (wherein Thomas Nelson sends me free books covered in mucous if I write about them), and want to get my next one in the mail.

“Transforming Church in Rural America” is Shannon O’dell’s new book about his escapades in viewing the sticks as a mission field. In it, he basically says that We should not have to settle for mediochre, dying churches in Rural America.

He begins by describing common myths of rural churches, which is a fantastic essay in and of itself. Next, he talks about his church and how they have gone from being a small church to a multi-site megachurch using a clever acronym. This, primary part of the book is so-so. Finally, he encourages pastors to not settle for mediocrity.

Overall, the book is a decent enough read. it has moments of literary brilliance when he brings humorous personal examples into the story. Otherwise, the writing itself is okay. Conversational in tone, easy to understand, vanilla in style. Not unlike this review, the book is a straightforward read.


1) Lists- There are a huge number of bulleted lists, acronyms, pneumonic devices, etc. It’s like a giant sermon with dozens of memorable action points. The problem is that so many lists make any of them hard to remember.

B) Literature- Like i said, just okay writing. Decent enough content, but not memorable

iii. multi-site mixups- The big problem with this book is that the solution is the same as everywhere else: grow a bigger church. I appreciate his love for the rurals, but that does not mean a giant rural- based megachurch is the answer.

IV) the book tries to be too cute. hard to explain it any other way. Also, i disagree with much of the biblical interpretation that occurs in it.

While I don’t disagree with the premise, and loved parts, this book is just an “okay” overall score. Full disclosure: I received the book for free in exchange for this review

Quikbooks review

Ironically, this is not a review about a piece of software called quickbooks. I was just thinking of my bald friend, Pete, who seems to be smitten with the software. I guess you’d have to be if you wanted to be an accountant. No, my friends (bald and otherwise), this is a quick review of multiple books.

You are not a gadget: Jaron Lanier. 3/5 stars, probably 4 if I understood it all

What it is: a manifesto about the potential future of the internet and how we must change it for the better

What it is not: a quick or easy read, in spite of the meagre 195 pages.

Who it’s for: nerds with a lot of time and energy on their hands.

In the book, an apparent pioneer of all things virtual reality (from video games to surgical tools) describes the problem with web 2.0. This book will really only be appreciated by various technophile/philosopher mixes. I thought I was one, but it turns out the philosophy of technology is incredibly complicated and, well, boring. The guy has a major beef with the anonymity so many websites allow, and how it devalues human life. While many technologists believe an ever expanding web will create a massive singular consciousness, Lanier questions whether this is a) possible or b) a good idea.

A very intriguing read, at least the parts an average person can understand (and I don’t say that lightly); most people will probably prefer almost any other book. Sometimes this work makes Kierkegaard look positively elementary. If you pick it up, prepare to snooze off a few times while reading. Also, have a dictionary on hand, and your english-klingon lexicon won’t help. It is nice to see, though, that at least some people in the industry care about more than the capitalist possibilities of technology.

Me, Myself, & Bob: Phil Vischer 5/5 stars

What it is: an incredibly entertaining and emotionally evocative account of the rise and fall of the Veggie Tales empire.

What it is not: boring, difficult to read, or fascist (aka the opposite of the above book)

Who it’s for: everyone

If you missed my previous post, scroll down. If you still don’t want to read it, I will sum up. Phil Vischer is as good a writer as you would expect, considering he inventended the Veggie Tales platform. Not only did he invent and run Big Idea, but he wrote most of the early movies. In other words, it’s incredibly well-written. Engaging, free of cliches, brutally honest, and based in reality, Vischer explains how he tried to create the Christian version of Disney.

The middle part is a little slow, but full of necessary details and woes. The beginning is absolutely hilarious. The end, poignant. The moral of the story: “WIthout vision, people perish”. However, it’s a correct interpretation of this proverb, unlike what most of the church teaches. A better translation is: “without a message from God, people run amuck”.

Vischer takes on the idea that Christians are meant to create an idea and run with it. Vision here isn’t about inspiring people, but hearing from God. Perishing is not dying of boredom or stagnation, but dying because of sin. The entire book is a parodied parable of this principle (uh oh, here comes the alliteration again).

The Heavens Proclaim His Glory: Thomas Nelson Publishers 3/5 stars (5/5 pictures, 2/5 quotes)

What it is: a great picture book with some inspirational quotes that often times get in the way of the great pictures from Hubble. An attempt at pro-Intelligent Design subtlety. A tribute to the Hubble Telescope as the sun sets on it’s luminescent lens.

What it isn’t: a book with a plot. an unbiased look at the stars and how they proclaim God’s glory. a high-gloss, high resolution amazing coffee table book (many images are grainy). Considering the subject matter would take many months of driving to reach, I’ll let it slide.

Who it’s for: people who want to look and not read. or those who once dreamt of becoming an astrophysicist as a child

This book was given to me as a part of the booksneeze program. Basically, I get a free copy of the book if I read and review it within a month. I received the book about 3 weeks ago, and due to the nature of it took about 10 sittings to burn through. Each page has at least 1 picture, and most of them are absolutely stunning. They are pictures taken of various stars, nebulae, galaxies, etc from the Hubble Space Telescope. On top of the pictures is an inspirational quote, bible verse, or excerpt from another work.

While the pictures were remarkable, the layout was often times awkward, with the words covering the most exciting part of the picture. Some of the pictures were awfully small. A few were uninteresting. Many would have been better with an explanation of what was going on rather than just an explanation of the star/galaxy/nebula’s title. Don’t get me wrong, I love characters in a book to have unique names like “XC-0098A nebula” as much as the next guy. I would have preferred to learn a little more.

The quotes are pretty mediochre. Most of them have nothing to do with the picture behind them (as far as I could tell). One quarter is a reference to God’s greatness/size. One quarter a reference to how He reveals himself in nature, and one Half about how this picture magically disproves evolution. Part of the problem is that few of the contributors are scientists. Another part is that an otherwise inspiring book becomes more ammo in the dung-slinging culture war of evolution vs early earth creationism, a fight I prefer to stay away from.

I enjoyed it, but would not buy it for myself. I am, however, looking forward to sharing the book with my son Malachi as he grows due to the wonderful color pictures.

Favorite part: a moving tribute to the Hubble space program that has helped us better understand the cosmos near the end of the book.