THREE BOOKS THAT YOU MIGHT FIND INTERESTING AND RELEVANT
There are three books that I have read recently which, as a Christian serving the Lord outside the usual organised-church system, I found particularly stimulating.
(Before I go any further, I should point out only the first of the three books has been written by an “outsider” like myself! The other two have been written by people who are very much part of the mainline church scene. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the story each of them tells could be a huge inspiration to readers of this website. At the same time, I am also convinced that the first book has something valuable to say to all serious-minded Christians.)
The first book is “FLATLINING” by JOHN HAMPTON. I now realise that I have already written almost all that I need to say about this book in the previous article on this website – the one entitled “SOMEONE HAS SUGGESTED A ‘WAY AHEAD’ FOR US OUTSIDERS”. if you read (or re-read) the first five short paragraphs after the row of asterisks in the middle of that article, you will get a clear picture of what struck me as the main features of this book, and why it might be of great interest to those who are reading this. (Of course, if you clearly remember the enthusiasm for this particular book that I expressed in that previous article, you won’t need to re-read those paragraphs, but it might prove well worth your while to get your memory jogged!)
I believe that the conclusion this writer comes to is a top priority for us in the future.
All I am doing now, with regard to this particular book, is to give you it’s actual title and the name of its author. I should probably have done that last time, when I wrote so fully about it, but I had already read other two books which had also ‘grabbed’ me, and I felt sure that, before too long I was meant to write something under the heading of “Books I Recommend”.) Let me just add that “Flatlining” is published by Amazon, and sold by them at £12.99. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON AMAZON UK (ISBN: 9781519389497)
Now to the other two books, which I am mentioning for the first time. The second book is “THE INVISIBLE CHURCH” by STEVE AISTHORPE. The writer is a “Mission Development Worker” for the Church of Scotland (the Christian denomination in which my wife and I were brought up, and in which we served the Lord in our early days). He had previously worked abroad for a number of years, and when he returned to Scotland, and to the Highlands where he had originally lived, he was shocked to discover that quite a few people whom he had known as keen Christians in days gone by, were no longer “going to Church”! He decided to investigate, and found that most of them had not given up the Faith, or the Lord. In many cases their faith and devotion had deepened! As time passed, he became aware that this was a national and international phenomenon, rather than merely a local one, and he began to summarise the features that these folk had found wanting in organised church life.
You will already be familiar with some (or all) of the topics he mentions. However, what greatly interested me about this book is that he goes on to suggest to his fellow church-members, that they should not dismiss us outsiders as backsliders, or heretics, or second-class citizens of the Kingdom of God. Rather, he exhorts all Christians or pay considerable heed to the problems highlighted by those who have left the official Church, but remained in the Kingdom. At the same time, there are helpful hints that should warn us ‘outsiders’ that we will not be immune to the temptations that can lead any Christian group into ossification!
I must admit that there is an aspect of this book that might put some people off. The writer made his investigations of what he calls “The Invisible Church” into a PhD thesis. Several of the supportive comments that accompany the book claim that (as one writer puts it) “in spite of the rigorous academic research, the book is still eminently accessible”. I am not myself convinced that everyone will find it a straightforward read! I found parts of it rather hard going, though other parts were very riveting. All in all, however, I felt that the extra concentration needed was well worth it, in order to hear a deeply-committed Christian academic telling the Church, as a whole, to give respect to the ways in which so many of us have been led.
“The Invisible Church” is published by the Saint Andrew Press, at £14.99, and should be obtainable through most Christian bookshops. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON AMAZON UK (ISBN: 978-0-86153-916-1)
The final book is “THE NIGHT THE ANGELS CAME” by CHRISSIE CHAPMAN. In the late 80s and early 90s Chrissie was a member of the same Fellowship in South London as Mavis and I. (Though she lives and works abroad, I think she still is a member there, whereas in 1994 we moved out of the Institutional Church altogether). She was a trained nurse and midwife, and in 1990 she went to Burundi to open a Maternity Clinic. When the country was embroiled in civil war and genocide, she opened a home for abandoned babies. For twenty-five years she has cared for such children, right up till they reached adulthood, through many challenging and scary situations – with the help of other Christians from Burundi and all over the world, and (Chrissie would emphasize) with amazing and very real help from the Lord). She saw that they were fed, educated, kept safe and healthy, and given the opportunity to turn to Jesus, and to go on walking with Him – an opportunity which a very great many of them seem to have embraced.
The main reason for my recommending this book to the readers of this website is that the whole thing is a story of someone who fully allowed herself to be LED BY THE SPIRIT. In situation after situation (many of them seemingly hopeless) she simply asked the Lord to show her the next step – and He always did, even though she often had to wait for His answer to come through. As the old hymn says, she didn’t “ask to see the distant scene – one step enough for me.” She doesn’t come across as a prominent and talented leader. She comes across as a persevering and trusting listener – a listener for the Lord’s guidance at every turn, and a firm believer that, somehow or other, He will deliver the goods!
I am convinced that this is exactly the quality that Jesus is looking for in those of us who are outside the usual church structures. On this website, I have already told several stories of ‘outsiders’ who operated along similar lines, with amazing results. Of course, like Chrissie, we shouldn’t be bothered about whether our listening and obeying leads to something ‘amazing’, or just to something ‘good’, or even if we are never aware of the outcome. Let Walking in the Spirit – yoked to Jesus – be our constant purpose.
“The Night the Angels Came” is published by Monarch Books, and is available through Amazon and Christian bookshops at £8.99. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON AMAZON UK (ISBN:978-0-85721-722-6)