I met Byron Borger, the proprietor of Hearts and Minds Books, several years ago when I was a speaker at a Jonathan Edwards conference in Annapolis, Maryland. He ran the book table for that event. Byron is my favorite book seller in America! He knows the industry very well but more importantly he knows good books. He is fair-minded, thinks deeply and offers a fantastic service to those who want to keep up with new books by reading solid reviews and comments before they decide to buy. You might pay slightly more to buy books from Hearts and Minds but you could not buy them from a more reputable source who deserves your support in every way possible. Go to Hearts and Minds and sign up for Byron’s reviews as emails. You will thank me if you buy new books and desire good counsel on them because this is a great source. If you can get to the small Pennsylvania village called Dallastown you can even stop in and visit Bryon and his wife in person.
Byron wrote a brief review of my book last summer after he presented it to a gathering of ELCA leaders in Gettysburg, PA. I just became aware of this short review when he sent it to me a few days ago. Here is Byron’s take on my book.
Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ's Mission is Vital for the Future of the Church, John Armstrong, (Zondervan) $19.99 I have been taking this book with a misleading title around to church leadership events, telling everyone I can that I think it is important (and pointing out the very clear and properly urgent sub-title.) I've been working on a longer review that will appear here soon, although it is not an easy book to describe well. The short version is this: Armstrong was once a very strict and separatist Baptist, a gifted communicator with several books, including some on publishers that do mostly Puritan theology. Yet, his natural good-natured personality and intellectual curiosity kept him reading widely and relating to others outside his own circle.
This new book is partly John's own story of growing into a heart-felt ecumenicity and a Biblical and theological call to a rich, evangelical view of the Body of Christ. With a moving and solid foreword by evangelical Anglican J. I. Packer, John has given us a large gift, born of his own pain and struggles, friendships lost and friendships gained, as he explores the meaning of the "missional church" in these postmodern times. Mainline denominations have had a consistent, if thin, vision of ecumenical work, so leaders and readers in mainline circles may not feel they need to read a book like this. For reasons I'll explain in my longer review later, I think they are sadly mistaken, and need, more than ever, to root their ecumenical views (and practices, such as they are) in a robust Biblical ecclesiology. As groups like the ECLA are torn at their seams by recent controversial positions, we all need a reminder of what we are called to be as God’s people, how we can find solidarity beyond denominational boundaries, even amidst tensions; it is understandable in hard times to focus on our own issues and concerns. Still, as Your Church Is Too Small reminds us, too often, our view of the church is too small. We must rediscover and live into an active expression of being a global and faithful Body of Christ, ambassadors for His reign of shalom, witnessing to the reconciliation He has wrought. A book on the church, on being ecumenical, told by a recovering separatist? With blurbs by a Roman Catholic, an Orthodox priest, and an evangelical on the back, this is a ground-breaking book! I wish I could have told my new Lutheran friends about it. It is a book we all need. We hope it is widely discussed.