Review: Maier recalling The Apocalypse

A review of Harry O. Maier, Apocalypse Recalled: The Book of Revelation after Christendom, Fortress, 2002.

Available here from and and direct from Alban Books.

Reading Apocalypse Recalled was a bit of rollercoaster for me. I picked it up with low expectations. Then at times reading the first chapter I thought it might become my top recommendation on the book of Revelation. But the rest of the book never quite delivered. It ends up being a good introduction to the secondary literature on Revelation, but not the book itself. We dip in and out without ever grappling with the central message of the book. Maier’s treatment of temporal references in Revelation promised much, but in the end it was not clear how it was supposed to change the way we understand Revelation or apply it today. The best chapters – on the visual and oral dimensions of Revelation – are those which most engage with the text. The chapter on listening to Revelation alone makes the book worth buying for if you’re doing some in-depth study of Revelation.

Maier believes, as I do, that Revelation is as much written to challenge comfortable Christians who are compromised by participation in empire as it is to comfort afflicted Christians who are persecuted by empire. As Maier puts it, we read as if we are Philadelphians when we are actually Laodiceans. What this analysis perhaps highlights is that Philadelphians, that is those Christians who are marginalized, can legitimately read it as a word of comfort while Laodiceans, those Christians who have comprised by the culture, should read it has a word of challenge.

A potentially strong aspect of the book is Maier’s reflections on reading Revelation in the context to his family’s history as Germans refugees from modern day Poland who fled to Canada after the Second World War to escape the advancing Red Army. But this feature of the book never quite delivers either. The links between Maier’s story and what he was saying about Revelation don’t turn out to be strong enough. Also the ‘after Christendom’ element of the subtitle is never really explored.

Well my top recommendation on the book of Revelation remains Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation (available here from and But Maier does enter somewhere in the top ten. It’s a good orientation to reading Revelation today and a useful summary of a lot of the secondary literature.

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Review: Brueggemann on an unsettling God

A review of Walter Brueggemann, An Unsettling God: The Heart of the Hebrew Bible, Fortress, 2009.

Available here from and and direct from the distributors Alban Books.

This book is drawn from Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament (available here from and An Unsettling God seems to be Part III of Theology of the Old Testament with few changes except for a different introduction.

Brueggemann highlights the relational nature of God. God enters into dialogue in which he shapes and is shaped. Brueggemann describes how this works in relation to four dialogue partners: Israel, humanity, the nations and creation. So far so good. But Brueggemann privileges the mutuality of the dialogue. The result is in effect the god of open theism. Though Brueggemann does not use this label, he disavows the God of classical theism. The result is not so much the unsettling God of the title as an unsettled god! Brueggemann assumes a relational God and an immutable God are incompatible. But the grace of God allows us to affirm that God chooses freely in his grace to be influenced by the prayers and actions of people.

Brueggemann presents a catalogue – almost an inventory – of Israelite faith. As a result there is much of value and much to learn from this book. It reflects the work of a man who has spent many hours deep in the text. When Brueggemann is engaging with the text of the Old Testament he is always worth reading. His commentaries are always worth consulting.

But when Brueggemann moves to implications his theological presuppositions become problematic. In An Unsettling God he rejects synthesis, believing this would impose a system on the text. Instead he highlights its multivocal nature. A variety of voices are heard in the text whose differing perspectives ‘cannot be harmonized’ (34). The result is a thoroughly postmodern approach to the Old Testament (though modernity is assumed with Brueggemann cutting up the text and reordering the chronology with all the assurance of someone who was there).

Perhaps the most striking feature of the book is an absence. For all Brueggemann’s emphasis on the many voices of the Old Testament, one is silenced – the voice of atonement through sacrifice. There are no references in the Bible index to Leviticus 1-10, nor to Leviticus 16. This is an account of what the subtitle calls the ‘heart of the Hebrew Bible’ that excludes the Day of Atonement! As a result Israelite faith is reduced to ethics with some scope for failure. In Brueggemann’s hands this looks remarkably like the ethics of Enlightenment liberalism. His marshalling  of what he calls the ‘data’ of Old Testament faith promises much, but in the end reveals more about Brueggemann than about God.

This fatal omission of atonement through sacrifice is due no doubt to the modern distaste for God’s wrath and atonement through blood. But it also results from another common problem in modern theology, one that is less often remarked upon, but no less fatal, namely the tendency to disconnect sin and death in the way that Genesis 3 and Romans 5 connects them. Brueggemann says, for example, ‘the dependence [of humanity upon God’s life-giving breathe] raises the acute problematic of mortality, which is not in itself related to sin.’ (60). ‘The power of the Nihil is not to be reduced to or explained by human sin and guilt.’ (146) Brueggemann speaks of Yahweh being in conflict with the ‘power of the Nihil’ in what he calls (with at least more honesty than most) ‘dualism’ (143). Brueggemann cites passages that speak of God’s primordial defeat of Leviathan and the dragon, but without explanation interprets them as implying on-going conflict. When the Bible does speak of the chaos of Genesis 1 returning it is not the result of God’s weakness, but his judgment against sin. So Jeremiah 4:23, for example, speaks of the earth again being formless and empty. But this is because God himself as acted (Jeremiah 4:28) in judgment against the sin of his people (Jeremiah 4:14). The God who created in grace can uncreate in judgment.

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Review: Bill Hybels on The Power of a Whisper

A review of Bill Hybels, The Power of a Whisper, book, DVD and workbook (Zondervan, 2010).

The book is available here from and The curriculum set including the DVD is available here from and

‘God prompted me.’ ‘The Spirit led me.’ ‘I received a word of knowledge.’ ‘God called me.’ ‘As the preacher spoke I felt God speaking to me.’ ‘God brought a verse to mind.’ ‘I felt it laid on my heart’, ‘I was given a prophecy.’ My suspicion is that different traditions have different terms for what is often the same phenomena – the Spirit of God speaking to the people of God.

The Power of a Whisper, the latest resource from Bill Hybels, comes in the form of a book, a DVD and a workbook. Its message is clear: God speaks to us today through whispers, and we should be listen for these and be ready to obey. Hybels acknowledges that we can confuse God’s voice with our own desires so he suggests five filters by which we should judge whether a whisper is from God.

  • Is this promoting truly from God? (i.e. true to his character)
  • Is it Scriptural?
  • Is it wise?
  • Is it in tune with your own character?
  • What do the people you most trust think about it?

(I think I would prefer to phrase the last in terms of your church community because we can easily be selective in whom we ask about these issues, going to the people who will tell us what we want to hear.)

There is much that is good in this book. It certainly encourages Christians to listen to God and does so without the drift towards mysticism that so often accompanies such calls.

The book, though, does lack theological depth. Instead what we get is a fairly relentless series of anecdotes. This is not in itself a problem. Hybels is not writing for theologians. But the book lacks depth where it needs depth. There is a chapter on the biblical basis for ‘whispers’ (‘Our Communicating God’). But in reality this is a series of references to God speaking without any engagement with the questions of whether God speaks now the canon is closed or how his contemporary communication relates to the completed Scriptures. Given the importance of these questions, this is frustrating omission. It also throws up some difficult moments. Hybels recounts receiving a whisper from God confirming his church’s decision to allow women in leadership (151). Now, while I believe women should have leadership roles, I am persuaded that the Scriptures teach that they should not be elders. So what am I to make of Hybels’ ‘whisper’? Does it means I should now reject my interpretation of Scripture? Or was Hybels’ ‘whisper’ not from God? My point is not to damn the book because it is egalitarian, but to highlight the lack of engagement on how whispers relate to Scripture. (It would also have been good to have some discussion on the role of conscience and how this relates to the ‘whispers’ of God.)

I would have liked more emphasis on the Bible as the normative means by which God speaks to his people. The Bible is God’s word, his communication, his ‘whisper’ to his people. I realize there is a way of saying this that portrays the Bible simply as a set of objective propositions from which we learn information in a detached manner. I don’t want to go to the other extreme. Instead I want to bring the word and the Spirit together. The Spirit of God spoke through the Scriptures and the Spirit of God speaks (present tense) through the Scriptures. The Spirit that inspired the Bible then is the same Spirit that now speaks through the Spirit-inspired word to individuals and communities today. Nor do I want to limit the Spirit’s communication to the recollection of Bible verses. Acts 16:6-10 implies more than this. But I do want to affirm the Bible’s normative role, both normative in the sense of being the standard by which we judge ‘whispers’ (which Hybels also emphasizes) and normative in the sense of being the normal means by which God communicates today. It is not Hybels denies any of this. Indeed, encouraging us to memorize Scripture, he says: ‘The most predictable way to hear from heaven is to read and apply God’s Word. When you increase your biblical engagement, you increase the odds that you’ll hear from God – that’s as complicated as it gets.’ (117). Or elsewhere he says, ‘You simply must fill your head with Scripture … Most of the promptings we receive at critical point sin life come as the Holy Spirit reminds us of Scriptures we already now.’ (108) This is great, but notice that the assumption is that promptings are spontaneous recollections of Scripture (which is great), but not God speaking in a personal and applied way through the private reading, group study or public exposition of his word. Maybe Hybels can assume much of this in his context. But this is what I felt I would want to add in conversation with anyone reading the book. So there, I’ve added it. Now you can read the book for yourself!

The movies lack many of the faults of the book. Together with the workbook, this presents the material in four sessions. There the use of anecdote works better as a number are recounted directly by those involved. The occasional less helpful statements in the book are missing. And it is also beautifully shot.

I think whether you use the movies might depend on your church’s culture. Most people in our church come from a more conservative background. They are strong on the objectivity of the word. I think the movies would help them by calling them to a more relational and direct encounter with God through his word and through his Spirit. Instead of talking about what the text meant then, it would encourage people to think about the Spirit is saying to them today. For other traditions, however, it might confirm an unbalanced subjectivity.

One more comment: The ‘whisper’ motif does start to wear thin after a while. Is it really helpful to describe Paul’s Damascus road encounter with Christ as a whisper – a ‘sound’ we are told that knocks Paul to the ground and renders his companions speechless?

Here’s video introduction  …

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Review: The Reason for God DVD and Workbook

A review of Tim Keller, The Reason for God DVD and Workbook, Zondervan, 2010.

The DVD is available here from The accompanying workbook is available here from and The DVD is not yet available from though when it is, it should be available here.

Tim Keller’s The Reason for God is a great introduction to the Christian faith that begins by tackling the common objections that people have to faith in Christ. It made top ten in the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list.

You’ve read the book, now you can watch the DVD. A DVD and workbook have just been released by Zondervan.

Except that this is not quite the book in DVD form. Keller has take a more creative approach. The six sessions are not monologues in which Keller presents the idea in the book. Instead he takes six common objections to Christianity and debates them with a group of unbelievers. Each session in about 18-20 minutes long. Keller gets perhaps a quarter of the air time. So these videos do not attempt to deliver knock-down arguments. The participants are not persuaded by the end of each session. Instead, each movie opens a discussion which includes a positive and engaging Christian perspective, but without this perspective dominating the debate. Keller does finish each session with a closing thought. This usually follows – as do many of his interventions – a presuppositional apologetic line. In other words, he turns the discussion back on the doubters to reveal the nature of their ‘faith’ and show the assumptions in their presuppositions.

So the movies are not designed to give to an unbelieving friend to watch on their own. I would suggest they can be used in two ways. First, with groups of Christians to give them the confidence to discuss the questions of their friends in a generous manner. Second, with groups of unbelievers as a way of opening up a discussion on their objections to Christianity. The introduction to the workbook says, ‘The guide and DVD are not about getting armed with arguments and answers so that they can be used as generic responses whenever anyone asks you about your faith. Rather you should start to become conversant with ways to sensitively, gently, humbly, and respectfully talk about the objections.’

The videos are beautifully produced. Each sessions is a 20-minute selection from a series of unscripted longer discussions supplemented by personal interviews with the participants. Sometimes the discussion is a little highbrow with terminology like ‘semantics,’ ‘reductionistic’ and ‘pluralism’ (though Keller’s contributions are always accessible). But I would not think this would get in the way unless someone has a chip about inaccessible vocabulary. Highly recommended.

Here is a trailer and the session titles …

1. Isn’t the Bible a Myth?
2. How Can You Say There Is Only One Way to God?
3. What Gives You the Right to Tell Me How to Live My Life?
4. Why Does God Allow Suffering?
5. Why Is the Church Responsible for So Much Injustice?
6. How Can God Be Full of Love and Wrath at the Same Time?

Here are my reviews of Keller’s The Prodigal God DVD and workbook and Gospel In Life DVD and Workbook – both also highly recommended.

Thursday Review: A Reader’s Greek NT

A review of A Reader’s Greek New Testament, eds. Richard J. Goodrich and Albert L. Lukaszewski, 2nd Edition, Zondervan, 2007.

Available here from and

Maybe like me you studied NT Greek at college, but never really kept it up. Now when you pick up your Greek NT your progress is so slow it hardly seems worth it. Or you need something to help you refresh your lost knowledge. Enter A Reader’s Greek New Testament. I’m excited to get my hands on this great resource. The key thing about it in my mind is this: Every word used fewer that 30 times in the NT is translated in footnotes below the text while every word used more than 30 times is in a glossary at the end. This means you can read the NT without having constantly to look up words in a Greek lexicon. It’s not the same as an interlinear which inevitably discourages you from reading the Greek itself, but you are never far from the information you lack. It’s one of those simple ideas that when you meet it, you wonder why no-one else has ever done it.

A Reader’s Greek New Testament uses the Greek text behind the TNIV with footnotes comparing it with UBS4. It also claims to use a new Greek font that is easier to read. It comes in Italian duo-tone (i.e. fake leather) finished off with gold leaf and a marker ribbon. One key test that it passes is that it lies flat when open on a table – an important feature of any reference book.

My one small complaint is this. I would have gone for thicker paper. It’s not too bad, not as bad as most study Bibles whose pages are so hard to turn I usually give up. It seems to be designed (with its duo-tone cover) to be carried around, possibly to church gatherings. Please don’t take your Greek NT to church gatherings. Why would you do that? To critique the exegesis of the preacher? You should be trembling before God’s word. No, this should sit on your desk. In which case it does not need to be so thin. So instead let’s have pages which are easier to turn so we can look up cross-references quickly.

But this is a small quibble. Overall this is a great resources for those of us who’ve forgotten much of their Greek and for learners who want to learn by doing, i.e. by reading the text itself.

You can look at a sample here.

Kindle Reader launched in the UK

Good news for the UK readers …

Amazon’s Kindle reader will be released in the UK on 27 August and can already be pre-ordered. It comes in two versions:

A version with Wi-Fi and free global G3 connection for £149.00.

A version with Wi-Fi (but without the G3 connection) for £109.00.

This follows the cut in price of Kindle Readers in the US to $189.00 (no doubt responding to the launch of the iPad).

I should say that I don’t have either a Kindle Reader or an iPad, but I’m considering a Kindle Reader. Why a Kindle when the iPad is out with all its bells and whistles? For two reasons. First, the Kindle has an anti-glare screen because it is designed for reading books and reading books only. Second, I can’t afford an iPad. If I could, then it would be a close call. As it is, £149 is still lot of money.

UPDATE: I’m just back from a conference with Jeff Vanderstelt who used delivered his talks using an iPad. So maybe an iPad is the better choice for travelling …

Thursday Review: Soul DVD and CY evangelistic courses

A review of Soul DVD and the CY and CY Nano evangelistic courses.

Soul is a seven-session evangelistic presentation. It’s designed for young people. That said, although there is a youth slant (references to image, peer pressure and following the crowd), it would be perfectly acceptable for an adult audience.

Trailers and session titles are below.

Soul is basically Christianity Explored for young people. Rico Tice has been replaced by Nate Morgan Locke, but the basic content is similar. That means it’s cross-centred and grace-centred. There’s a clear explanation of sin, judgment and atonement while the cost of following Christ is plainly spelt out (using Mark 8:34-38). The tone is serious to the point of being sombre (go on, Nate, give us a smile). Extracts from Mark’s Gospel are read with the words appearing on the screen so that much of the time the format is Bible reading followed by exposition. There’s no compromise on the truth of the gospel for the sake of relevance. Instead, relevance is established by establishing our need of a saviour. The distinctions from other religions are highlighted which is important in our increasingly pluralistic context.

Rico Tice is a more natural presenter, but Soul is more visually creative. There’s plenty of moody lighting and overhead panning shots as well as strong visual images. The stilling of the storm is told with water beating down on a hooded narrator and the resurrection is narrated in an underground car park climaxing in a motorbike riding up a ramp into the light. Think of the production values of Nooma videos combined with the content of Christianity Explored.

CY is an accompanying course for teenagers and young adults while CY Nano is aimed at 11-14 year-olds. The material in both courses is very similar with just a few tweaks and a different visual feel. The courses are designed to be used alongside Soul. Each session begins with a short Bible study from Mark’s Gospel. Then you show the Soul episode followed by discussion questions. That said, both Soul and CY can be used independently. There’s a leaders manual that covers both versions of the course.

I like CY and CY Nano. It’s a great gospel presentation based on a Gospel (surely that’s the obvious place to start) with a clear explanation of sin and grace as well as the cost of following Christ. Plus they’re a bit easier to use than Christianity Explored. Again, I would be happy to use CY with any adult. Indeed my problem with Soul and CY is that now I’m not sure whether to use the Christianity Explored course material or the Soul and CY combination!

Soul DVD is available here in the US and here in the UK.

The CY Sample Pack is available here in the US and here in the UK.

The CY Starter Pack is available here in the US and here in the UK.

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Thursday review: Becoming a Contagious Christian

A review of Becoming a Contagious Christian course with DVD, CD, workbook and leader’s guide by Mark Mittelberg, Lee Strobel and Bill Hybels, Zondervan, 2007.

Available here from and

The Becoming a Contagious Christian course is an updated version of a previous course based on the book Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg. The core of the course are six DVD sessions with Mark Mittelberg and Lee Strobel speaking to an studio audience interspersed with dramas and vox pops. I feared the dramas would be too cringey, but they are well done (though I’m still not convinced how they would go down with a British audience). This material is supplemented by a participant’s workbook as well as an extensive leader’s guide, a CD with further resources  and the original book. The CD includes sample text for six sermons that can be delivered alongside the course with a view to creating a ‘contagious campaign’ in your church.

It’s great material, especially for people who are nervous about evangelism. It covers much that you would expect in personal evangelism training – motivation, building relationships, beginning a gospel conversation, presenting the gospel.

The real added value is its recognition that people have different styles of evangelism. There’s a 36-question questionnaire that enables people to identify their personal style. You might quibble with the six categories, but the idea that people do evangelism in different ways is important. Too often people are made to feel guilty about not doing evangelism in the way that others do. It would be worth working through this session alone with a missional community. It may mean some people start to recognize the role they can play while others learn to esteem the role of others even when this does not look like what they do. Ironically the course does not really follow through this insight with something of a one-size-fits-all approach in the rest of the material.

The session on sharing your story is very helpful. The gospel presentation taught in session five, though, is somewhat too individual-centred for my liking. The centrality of the people of God in the story of salvation is neglected and the presentation is fairly man-centred rather than God-centred. It’s focus is getting to heaven rather than the renewal of all things or the glory of God. That said, all gospel frameworks are reductionistic. They are at best a training tool.

There is much that is helpful in this material. But some of it is not appropriate to the deeply secular culture of Europe. In our context the chance to run through a gospel framework is a rare opportunity. Even if people were interested (which they’re not), they lack the background knowledge to make sense of an abbreviated gospel framework. Nor would you get away with ‘turning’ a conversation, as suggested, by moving from a discussion of ‘physical fitness’ to raising the issue of ‘spiritual fitness’. Sharing the gospel is inevitably fragmentary with interest and understanding growing over an extended period. That said, I could see us using the second session on evangelism styles.

The course kit is available here from and

The book is available here from and

The DVD is available here from and

The participant’s guide is available here from and

The leader’s guide is available here from and

Thursday Review: Tom Wright on hope

A review of N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope DVD and Workbook, Zondervan, 2010

The DVD is available here from and

The Participant’s Guide is available here from and

This review is by Dan, a church planter with The Crowded House.

In Surprised by Hope NT Wright gives a clear and engaging explanation of why the church can be hopeful and what we can be hopeful for.  This DVD and workbook is based on his excellent book with the same title (available here from and

The bulk of teaching comes in the form of six 20-minute sessions on (1) hope for the world, (2) the church, (3) heaven, (4) the second coming, (5) salvation, and ( 6) resurrection.  Each session is well introduced and is followed up by good optional bonus material.  A study guide helpfully leads you through the sometimes quite dense material.

Wright’s central idea is that our hope is for the renewal of this world rather than some other ethereal world and hope in a renewed world should cause us to be agents of renewal now.  We are ambassadors of hope.  Through our hopeful lives people experience God’s kingdom and receive an insight into the world to come.  I particularly enjoyed Wright’s exegesis of, for example , the first century concept of heaven and the ‘rapture’ imagery in 1 Thessalonians 4.

I am happy to recommend Surprised by Hope. I felt, however, that the application of this good exegesis needed to be taken a step further.  I was disappointed that Wright barely touches on how we share our hope by proclaiming the gospel.  We hear a lot about how hope results in good deeds and creativity (writing books and songs, planting gardens, writing poetry) but little about sharing the gospel message.  Maybe that could be a  point for group discussion.

Ed’s note. If you want to follow up the issue of the relationship between future hope and present action then you might try Tim Chester, The Ordinary Hero: Living the Cross and Resurrection (available here from and or at an academic level Tim Chester, Mission and the Coming of God (available here from and .

Thursday Review: Neil Cole on Church 3.0

A review of Neil Cole, Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church, Jossey-Bass, 2010.

Available here from and

This review is by Dan, a church planter with The Crowded House in Sheffield, UK.

Neil Cole’s Church 3.0 is step on from his Organic Church.  He has set out his vision for organic church and now he describes how churches can become healthy enough to reproduce.  Church 3.0 is helpfully written in the form of answers to questions people often ask about organic church.  Every chapter is entitled, ‘What about…?’  For instance, ‘What about baptism and communion?’ and ‘What about heresy?’

I was inspired by Cole’s heart in this book.  His passion is to see all believers released to be powerful, useful, fully-involved members of the body – fully  involved in the church family, in interacting with God’s word, in evangelism and in church reproduction.

I am part of an organic-type church—The Crowded House—and so although not much of this book was radically new, I found sections helpful.  I valued hearing what Cole had to say on baptism and communion (191-198), how to include children (220), the power of small groups (139-143), and how to guard against the danger of heresy (222-240).

Regarding baptism, I was moved by a story Cole tells (189-190).  One night a lady called Alice decided to follow Jesus while at a coffee house in Long Beach – a place where people from Cole’s church often hang out.  They decided that the best thing to do was baptise her straight away and so told all her friends what was happening and drove to the beach. Alice told everyone why she had chosen to follow Christ, and then followed her ‘disciple maker’ into the ocean to be baptised to hoots and cheers from those on the beach.  They came out of the water, held hands and prayed, and again presented the message of Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection to those around.  Two more people decided to follow Jesus and were baptised.

In the past I’ve thought baptism had to be done after a process of ‘checking’ someone’s faith, and only then by church leadership.  Cole reminds us that 1) baptism is a sign of faith, not a result of works and baptism classes and 2) anyone can do it.  That’s liberating and exciting!

Regarding including children, Cole argues that ‘integration is better than separation’.  His point is that 1) adults can learn from children and vice-versa and 2) combining the presence of both does not need to result in disruption like many assume it does.  One of the things adults can learn from having children around is how to parent effectively.  We learn through watching others interact with their children.  We can also learn from the simple, uncomplicated belief of many children.  He encourages us to plan ahead to include the children, e.g. asking them to draw a picture of something they think is important for the church to understand and encouraging them to share it (220).

Regarding heresy, Cole responds to those who question how organic churches without seminary-trained leaders can ensure good teaching takes place.  Cole goes as far as to say that organic churches can be much better prepared to counter heresy.  His main points are:

1. Empowering individual believers to know their bible well through good training is more powerful than sending the top leaders to seminary,

2. The real threat in most churches is not cognitive, but moral and spiritual – one of obedience rather than heresy. ‘We are all educated beyond our obedience’ (232)

3. People we think of as heretics at the time can turn out to be heroes (e.g. Luther, Wesley, Fox, Hus, Wycliffe, Galileo, Paul, Jesus).

Despite these many positives, there are a few things I question.  The premise of the book is that the organic church movement—‘Church 3.0’—is the biggest ecclesial change since Constantine.  (‘Church 1.0’ being the New Testament church and ‘Church 2.0’ the institutional church from Constantine to now.)  I love the organic church movement but am wary of authors who claim to be involved in the next big thing, especially the biggest thing since AD 313. (1-12)

Also, Cole can come across as believing he has the answer to all the church’s growth problems: simply implement the principles in Church 3.0! ‘If you were to use our principles and processes from the start you would end up with a rapidly multiplying network of simple churches.’ (11)  Cole has good principles and gives good advice, but surely, above all principles, God ultimately chooses where and how He works. And as Eckhard Schnabel notes in Paul the Missionary (available here from and, it’s not models that work; it’s the gospel that works.

In conclusion, although I query Cole’s emphasis, there are good things to take away from his experience in organic-type churches.  I especially learned from part 3, ‘Pragmatic Concerns’.