Looking to learn more about some of the things that are close to our heart as a ministry. The following is a curated list of books and articles from different thinkers and authors throughout the church that we think helps speak to the vision of compassionate, self-giving Christian service to which Jesus calls his church.
The Cost of Discipleship
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
One of the most important theologians of the twentieth century illuminates the relationship between ourselves and the teachings of Jesus
What can the call to discipleship, the adherence to the word of Jesus, mean today to the businessman, the soldier, the laborer, or the aristocrat? What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us today? Drawing on the Sermon on the Mount, Dietrich Bonhoeffer answers these timeless questions by providing a seminal reading of the dichotomy between “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” “Cheap grace,” Bonhoeffer wrote, “is the grace we bestow on ourselves…grace without discipleship….Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the girl which must be asked for, the door at which a man must know….It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. Simon and Schuster, 2012.
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Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire
by William T. Cavanaugh
Should Christians be for or against the free market? For or against globalization? How are we to live in a world of scarcity? William Cavanaugh uses Christian resources to incisively address basic economic matters – the free market, consumer culture, globalization, and scarcity – arguing that we should not just accept these as givens but should instead change the terms of the debate. Among other things, Cavanaugh discusses how God, in the Eucharist, forms us to consume and be consumed rightly. Examining pathologies of desire in contemporary “free market” economies, Being Consumed puts forth a positive and inspiring vision of how the body of Christ can engage in economic alternatives. At every turn, Cavanaugh illustrates his theological analysis with concrete examples of Christian economic practices.
A Meal With Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission around the Table
by Tim Chester
The meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook.
Tim Chester brings to light God’s purposes in the seemingly ordinary act of sharing a meal; how this everyday experience is really an opportunity for grace, community, and mission. Chester challenges contemporary understandings of hospitality as he urges us to evaluate whyand who we invite to our table. Learn how you can foster grace and bless others through the rich fare being served in A Meal with Jesus.
Chester, Tim. A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, & Mission around the Table. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011.
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Irresistible Revolution: Living As An Ordinary Radical
by Shane Claiborne
From dressing the wounds of lepers in Calcutta to living among the homeless in Philadelphia to visiting families in Iraq, social activist Claiborne strives to live an authentic Christian life. In his view, he is a radical in the truest sense of the word, returning to the roots of Christianity by living as Jesus did and doing “small things with great love.” A partner-founder of the Philadelphia-based faith community Simple Way, he presents an evangelical Christianity gentler and more inclusive than is usually seen, especially in the mass media. He describes Simple Way as a new culture that relies on radical interdependence and consists of grassroots organizations, intentional communities, and hospitality houses. Although the book isn’t an autobiography, in it Claiborne reports much about his life: growing up in the Bible Belt, becoming a Jesus freak, moving to Philadelphia despite his family’s misgivings, and helping the homeless there. Then he boldly requested an internship with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. She simply responded, “Come.” Besides illuminating his own faith journey, Claiborne is insightful on the huge U.S. cultural and economic divide: the problem isn’t that wealthy Christians don’t care about the poor, he says, it’s that they simply don’t know the poor. A moving, often humorous account of a life of faith lived to the fullest.
June Sawyers. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006.
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Disunity In Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart
by Christena Cleveland
Despite Jesus’ prayer that all Christians “be one,” divisions have been epidemic in the body of Christ. Though we may think we know why this happens, Christena Cleveland says we probably don’t. Learn the hidden reasons behind conflict and divisions, the unseen dynamics at work that tend to separate us from others. Here are the tools we need to build bridges.
Cleveland, Christena, Disunity In Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart. Downers Grove IL: IVP, 2013
Friendship at the Margins
by Christopher L. Hertz & Christine D. Pohl
In our anonymous and dehumanized world, the simple practice of friendship is radically countercultural. But sometimes Christians inadvertently marginalize and objectify the very ones they most want to serve.
Heuertz, Christopher L., and Christine D. Pohl. Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2010.
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Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness
by Stanley Hauerwas and JeanVanier
How are Christians to live in a violent and wounded world? Rather than contending for privilege by wielding power and authority, we can witness prophetically from a position of weakness. The church has much to learn from an often overlooked community–those with disabilities.
In this fascinating book, theologian Stanley Hauerwas collaborates with Jean Vanier, founder of the worldwide L’Arche communities. For many years, Hauerwas has reflected on the lives of people with disability, the political significance of community, and how the experience of disability addresses the weaknesses and failures of liberal society. And L’Arche provides a unique model of inclusive community that is underpinned by a deep spirituality and theology. Together, Vanier and Hauerwas carefully explore the contours of a countercultural community that embodies a different way of being and witnesses to a new order–one marked by radical forms of gentleness, peacemaking and faithfulness.
The authors’ explorations shed light on what it means to be human and how we are to live. The robust voice of Hauerwas and the gentle words of Vanier offer a synergy of ideas that, if listened to carefully, will lead the church to a fresh practicing of peace, love and friendship.
This invigorating conversation is for everyday Christians who desire to live faithfully in a world that is violent and broken.
Hauerwas, Stanley, and Jean Vanier. Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2008.
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Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith
by Henri JM Nouwen
When beloved author Henri Nouwen set out to record this daybook of totally new reflections, he suddenly found himself on “a true spiritual adventure.” For in these 366 original, interlocking morsels of daily wisdom, Nouwen provides both sustenance and a trail for us to follow, as he unveils, to his own surprise, his personal map of faith. From the delicate interplay of human experience to the surrender to Christ and the embrace of Christian community, that journey of Christian spirituality is explored and celebrated here in each eloquent, thought–provoking passage.
Nouwen, Henri J. M. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 1997.
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Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta
by Mother Teresa
During her lifelong service to the poorest of the poor, Mother Teresa became an icon of compassion to people of all religions; her extraordinary contributions to the care of the sick, the dying, and thousands of others nobody else was prepared to look after has been recognized and acclaimed throughout the world. Little is known, however, about her own spiritual heights or her struggles. This collection of letters she wrote to her spiritual advisors over decades, almost all of which have never been made public before, sheds light on Mother Teresa’s interior life in a way that reveals the depth and intensity of her holiness for the first time. A moving chronicle of her spiritual journey–including moments, indeed years, of utter desolation–these letters reveal the secrets she shared only with her closest confidants. She emerges as a classic mystic whose inner life burned with the fire of charity and whose heart was tested and purified by an intense trial of faith, a true dark night of the soul.
Teresa, and Brian Kolodiejchuk. Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” New York: Doubleday, 2007.
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God in the Alley: Being and Seeing Jesus in a Broken World
by Greg Paul
Sam has survived physical, sexual, and substance abuse, terrible violence, and life on the streets. Wendy lives for the next high on crack, oblivious to her boyfriend’s love. Neil is dying of AIDS.
These are the people of inner-city Toronto. Look into their distorted, obscure faces, their fractured lives, and catch a glimpse of the sublime. Greg Paul calls them tragic heroes–individuals who can offer a testament to God’s love and mercy.
With emotional depth and spiritual intensity, Greg’s compelling stories reveal that people with desperate lives have precious lessons to teach us about the character of God. God in the Alley offers a profound message of grace and calling that each one of us needs to hear.
Paul, Greg. God in the Alley: Being and Seeing Jesus in a Broken World. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook, 2004.
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Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition
by Chistine D. Pohl
Although hospitality was central to Christian identity and practice in earlier centuries, our generation knows little about its life-giving character. Making Room revisits the Christian foundations of welcoming strangers and explores the necessity, difficulty, and blessing of hospitality today.
Combining rich biblical and historical research with extensive exposure to contemporary Christian communities — the Catholic Worker, LAbri, LArche, and others — this book shows how understanding the key features of hospitality can better equip us to faithfully carry out the practical call of the gospel.
Pohl, Christine D. Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999.
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by Jean Vanier
In this deeply compassionate work, Jean Vanier shares his profoundly human vision for creating a common good that radically changes our communities, our relationships, and ourselves. He proposes that by opening ourselves to others, those we perceive as weak, different, or inferior, we can achieve true personal and societal freedom.
Vanier, Jean. Becoming Human. New York: Paulist, 1998.
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Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation
by Miroslav Volf
Life at the end of the twentieth century presents us with a disturbing reality. Otherness, the simple fact of being different in some way, has come to be defined as in and of itself evil. Miroslav Volf contends that if the healing word of the gospel is to be heard today, Christian theology must find ways of speaking that addresses the hatred of the other. Reaching back to the New Testament metaphor of salvation as reconciliation, Volf proposes the idea of embrace as a theological response to the problem of exclusion. Increasingly we see that exclusion has become the primary sin, skewing our perceptions of reality and causing us to react out of fear and anger to all those who are not within our (ever-narrowing) circle. In light of this, Christians must learn that salvation comes, not only as we are reconciled to God, and not only as we “lear to live with one another” but as we take the dangerous and costly step of opening ourselves to the other, of enfolding him or her in the same embrace with which we have been enfolded by God.
Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.
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Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests
by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
His first followers knew that Jesus could be found with the fatherless, the widows, and the hungry and homeless. He said that he himself was a stranger, and commended those who welcomed him. If he really meant these things, what would happen if you opened your door to every person who came with a need?
Jonathan and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove decided to find out. The author and his wife moved to the Walltown neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina, where they have been answering the door to anyone who knocks. When they began, they had little idea what might happen, but they counted on God to show up.
In Strangers at My Door, Wilson-Hartgrove tells of risks and occasional disappointments. But far more often there is joy, surprise, and excitement as strangers become friends, mentors, and helpers. Immerse yourself in these inspiring, eye-opening accounts of people who arrive with real needs, but ask only for an invitation to come in.
You will never view Jesus and the people he cares about the same way again.
Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan. Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests. Convergent Books, 2013.
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Barth, Karl. (1957). The word of God and the Word of Man. Michigan: Harper. pp. 327.
Barth, Karl. (1960). Humanity of God. J.N. Thomas and T. Wieser, trans Richmond, VA: John Knox Press. Pg, 72.
King, Thomas. (2012). The Inconvenient Indian: A curious account of Native People in North America. Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada.
Lord, Peter. (1988). Hearing God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. pp. 256.
Nouwen, Henri J. M. (1993). In the name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian leadership. New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing. pp. 81
Nouwen, Henri J. M. (1972). The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society (1st ed.). Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
Nouwen, Henri J. M. (1975). Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (1st ed.). Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
Platz, Ben. (2015). The Inconvenient Other. Tyndale University.
Platz, Ben, and Aalders, Julie. (2012). Christ and Culture. Unpublished.
Vanier, Jean. (1998). Becoming Human. CBC Massey Lectures. Audio Podcast
Volf, Miroslav. (2014). The Measure of the Church. (Audio). San Diego. Theological Evangelical Society. November, 2014.
Yun, Brother. (2002). Heavenly Man. (trans. by Paul Hattaway). Jackson, MI: Monarch Publications. (Topic: Character)
Cavey, Bruxy. (2014). Discipleship and Serving. Podcast retrieved from www.themeetinghouse.com
Claiborne, Shane. Another way of doing life. Video retrieved from