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Category: Book Review

Missionaries and Beer

Missionaries and Beer

Stephen Mansfield has written a very fun book on the history of Guinness beer called God and Guinness.  He calls it a book on the Guinness beer, but it's really a book on the Guinness family.  What is often unknown about the Guinness family (yes, I am talking about guys like Os Guinness) is that they were very much influenced by their faith.  In a world of Irish Catholicism, these Protestants were respected, in fact, revered, for their generosity and love toward others.

What does Guinness beer have to do with missions?  Pioneers and Arab World Ministries (AWM) are merging.  AWM was founded by a Guinness!  It was with that bit of background that I went looking for this book.

I give Mansfield's book a hearty recommendation for your summer reading list.  It is very entertaining and, while sitting on the beach under a hot sun, you just might want to wash it down with a stout glass of Guinness.

Deporting the Son of Hamas?

Deporting the Son of Hamas?

Back in April, I blogged about the book Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef.  You can check out the post by clicking here.

He evidently is in the cross-hairs of the US Homeland Security Department and has written about a potential deportation on his blog.

This poses lots of good questions.  As an evangelical, I am sympathetic to him and hope he gets to stay in the US.  He was, of course, an Israeli spy and therefore I think it's only appropriate that the US government show some concern about his presence in the US.  I would think, though, that an automatic deportation seems rather blunt.  What about treating him as a source of information?  What about the ramifications of sending him back to his own personal well-being?

The life story of Yousef is an exciting one (as evidenced by his book – which I highly recommend) and there are yet chapters to be written.

I encourage you to read his blog and take whatever action you deem appropriate.

Son of Hamas

Son of Hamas

I recently finished reading Mosab Hassan Yousef's book, Son of Hamas.

Based on a true story first recounted in the Jerusalem Post, I highly recommend it.

This book is written by the son of Hamas founder Hassan Yousef.  Hassan Yousef was one of a handful of Muslim leaders who founded Hamas as a means to achieve what the PLO had failed to do: end Israel's nationhood and restore the Palestinians to the land they consider occupied by Israel.  Mosab grew up in an environment of Intifada amidst the growing violence that would ultimately lead to a whole new era of terror: the suicide bomber.

It's value is not only the personal story of Mosab Yousef (which is quite riveting) but the historical account from an insider.  I learned a great deal about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict reading this book.

Life in the Israeli prison system led, in part, to Mosab Yousef's disillusionment.  The Israeli's allowed competing Islamic groups to run the prisons and it was brutal.  The leaders used their positions to torture and kill, often in the name of Islam.  This story is a microcosm of the larger disillusionment with Islam that is currently happening on a global scale.

It is worth noting that Mosab Yousef's love for his father comes through in the text of the book.  Mosab became a spy for the Israelis and uses his position to protect his father.  He then becomes a Christian.  Consider the divide between father and son.

The missiological implications of this story are plentiful.  First introduced to Christ by Western missionaries, Mosab Yousef has paid a price for his conversion that makes it impossible for him to continue in his cultural context (of course, his spying has a little to do with it as well).  Like so many in his situation, his view of Islam is that it is completely incompatible with Christianity.  Talk of insider movements and contextualized forms of witness fall on deaf ears.

I highly recommend this book to you.  You can see a video by Yousef and download the first chapter by clicking here.

Top 10 Books on Cross Cultural Mission

Top 10 Books on Cross Cultural Mission

A week or two ago I posted an article entitled Simple Steps for Eternal Consequences. This was something I wrote some years ago. It includes a list of books to read on cross-cultural mission. The list is old and outdated, referring to a previous generation’s stories.

What books would be on list for today’s cross-cultural worker? Help me develop a new list! I would assume that these titles would be Islamic oriented (as opposed to tribal), urban (instead of rural), etc.

Here is a start… pulling from my top recommendations that I have made over the past few years. None of these are similar to the original list, though.

  1. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  2. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours by Roland Allen
  3. Transforming Mission by Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission by David Bosch (or, cut to the cliff notes version and get A Reader’s Guide to Transforming Mission by Stan Nussbaum

That’s a start… please use the comments to add to this list.

Who Really Cares?

Who Really Cares?


I have a special interest in charitable giving because the food on my table is provided by generous givers. When I saw that Arthur Brooks had written a book on who gives in our society I obviously wanted to read it. When it arrived I was a bit surprised to find out that it was, in fact, a comparison on liberal versus conservative giving.

Missions mostly happens when people are generous givers. Oh sure, there are some models that are based on business structures but most of these are incubated or staffed by workers who have learned language and culture as support-based missionaries. So, let’s see what Brooks says about who in our society are charitable donors.

Brooks notes that there are four lifestyle and worldview differences between givers and non-givers. These are really somewhat intuitive, although they will make those with left leaning political views mad. The factors are:

1. Faith
He notes on pages 31 and 32 that both the citizens of San Francisco and South Dakota give roughly the same amount each year to charities, about $1,300. The big difference is that San Franciscans make about 78% more annually than their counterpart in South Dakota. The average South Dakotan gives away 75% more of their income than the average San Franciscan. He draws a correlation to religious practice. 50% of South Dakotans attend weekly church services while only 14% of San Franciscans are weekly worshippers. 49% of San Fran’s residents never attend church, while only 10% of the South Dakotans are church teetotalers. This is just one of many data points given in the book (yes, yes, he does look at the cost of living index and all sorts of possible counter-arguments – you’ll have to read it yourself for the whole scoop).

2. Political Viewpoints Regarding Income Distribution
I quote from page 56 in which Brooks discussed a survey: “People in favor of government income redistribution give less to charity, even when survey questions are framed in such a way that they might elicit a response favorable to redistribution.” When people think that the government should be in the business of Robin Hood politics, they give less. Furthermore, argues Brooks, liberal politics directly correlates to less charitable giving. He quotes Ralph Nader as stating, “A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity” (p. 63). Liberal writers have made the case that charitable giving strengthens class distinctions (p. 65).

3. Income Level and Source of Income
While those who are the richest in our society give the most in total dollars, they give a smaller percentage of their income. The lower the overall household income is, the higher the percentage given. But, there is a catch to this one. Low income household are givers if they earn their income. If they are living on welfare, they give less. In fact, low income household living on earned income give 6 times more than their welfare recipient neighbors (p. 82). Welfare depresses giving. Brooks points out that “A further explanation for why political conservatives in America score higher on measures of giving than political liberals is that the unusually charitable working poor are disproportionately politically conservative, but the relatively uncharitable nonworking poor are much more liberal” (p. 92-93).

4. Family Life
Larger households give more. Parents give more than non-parents. This one will be a bit controversial for some, but the author makes the case that there are “Few acts of voluntary beneficence are clear than the unconditional care and love of a child” (p. 99). People on the political right are more likely to exhibit a pro-family lifestyle (p. 109) which is one more indicate of why Brooks says that conservatives are better givers.

The author devotes a chapter to national giving. He notes that charitable giving by American far outweighed charitable giving by Europeans. Europeans response was to give governmentally. He ties European non-charity to their secular worldview.

There is a chapter which argues that giving makes one happier and wealthier. He looks at social theory, religion, and then tries to pull in various data points to suggest that giving and wealth accumulation are correlated.

The final chapter lays out some strategies for increasing charitable giving.

Made to Stick

Made to Stick

Last week I finished a book by Chip and Dan Heath called “Make to Stick.” It is without a doubt one of the best books I have read on basic principles of teaching. I couldn’t let it sit on my shelf without first giving you a quick review.

The authors (utilizing their own approach) use a simple acronym to highlight the things that make ideas stick with people. ‘SUCCESs” stands for Simple, Unexepected, Concreate, Credible, Emotional, Stories. When you put these together the idea that you are trying to communicate will stay with people for the long haul. If you’ve read the book “The Tipping Point” by Gladwell (who is one of my favorite authors) you will recognize the main idea in this book. Even the writing style is similar. They take the concept behind “stickiness” (from Gladwell) and expand on it. I highly recommend this book to anybody involved with teaching.

Lazarus, Mary, and Martha

Lazarus, Mary, and Martha

I am reading a book titled “Lazarus, Mary, and Martha,” by Philip F. Esler and Ronald Piper.  Philip and I are related only in that we are both humans and therefore have common ancestors – I don’t know him and and I don’t know how we would be related.  In any case, John 11 is one of my favorite passages of the Bible and has great ramifications for believers.  When I saw the title, I knew I had to read it.

This book is a up-close look at John 11 uses a method called “social scientific” perspective.  I am just now getting into it, but already appreciate the focus on reading the story from the viewpoint of the original audience.  I will report back what I am finding…

Islam Under Siege by Akbar S. Ahmed

Islam Under Siege by Akbar S. Ahmed

Book Review

I finished Islam Under Siege this weekend. It was an interesting read. I first heard Ahmed on NPR being interviewed about this book and thought it would be worth picking up because of his positive comments about Christian missionaries in Pakistan.

This book is a window into the “moderate” Muslim mind. I put the work moderate in quotes because even the moderate Muslim will seem to be extreme to the average American. BUT – we should understand them and listen closely to what they have to say.

Ahmed poses much of his argument (which I will outline below) around the theme of honor. He states that much of the Islamic world is concerned with honor and therefore we are wrong to ignore issues related to it. In my travels in the Muslim world, I would have to agree with this analysis. I also think those of us who are Christian can see that this is a worldview conflict with what Jesus taught: Jesus was not concerned with honor – in fact, he preached against the elevation of honor. The anecdotes that Ahmed uses to highlight the honor conflict are sometimes downright humorous to me, the American reader (this signals the great divide between “us and them” and is really a sad commentary on me). For example, he notes that Monica Lewinsky was Jewish and that the whole sordid affair between she and Clinton was part of a Jewish plot to destroy Clinton’s honor. Wow! Never considered that angle before…

Through a series of historic events in Pakistan, India, and the world, Ahmed presents his conflict as a moderating voice in the Muslim world. The reader is supposed to see that he is a victim of extremism on all sides and sympathize with him. The book really climaxes with an observation that intellectuals are sorely needed in the Muslim world but their voices are “shouted down” by more vociferous Islamic fundamentalists on one side, and anti-Muslim voices on the other.

This is a book highlights the reasons why Islam and globalism are on a collision course that cannot be avoided. I feel sorry for Ahmed as I read of the hassles he has put up with from his fellow Muslims. That leads me to ask the real question: “Why don’t you get out?”

Islam under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honour World (Themes for the 21st Century)