Reviews: October 2012

It has been a quiet month for finishing books, perhaps because I was too busy writing three sermons, some SU devotionals, a seminar outline with bibliography and what turned out to be another 7000 (currently not-very-good) research words.  I have felt like a word-producing machine and have really missed reading!  However, what I have read for review purposes has tended to be quite interesting so have a look below…

Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus: Life and ministry as a human being

OK, so I’m a book junkie and when there are new books available for free on in return for a fair review, I tend not to be super-fussy.  In fact, I didn’t even know what I was getting with this offering from Eswine, whom I have never read before.  But all I can say is, ‘what a treat!’

Now those of you who follow me regularly know that I am passionate about leadership in the church, to the point that I am prepared to dedicate large chunks of my time to doctoral research in the area.  But I have to confess to being bored of most popular-level literature on the subject of ecclesial leadership, ministry and pastoring.  It all sounds the same and it’s DULL.

But not Sensing Jesus.  The freshness of the writing, the unashamed straight-talking style, this is the work of a man who has lived, a man who has pastored and who is still living as faithfully as he knows how.  In particular, I love Eswine’s celebration of the ordinary in ministry: ‘being human’, he says in a statement which sings with truth, ‘does not mar greatness; it informs it and sets its noble boundaries’.  Chapters 1-3, which reflect deeply up on this thought, a thought about the rootedness of Christ and therefore humans in a ‘place’, are brilliant – in my opinion, they justify the whole price of the book.  Yet there is much else in the chapters which follow to be celebrated, and again and again I have highlighted chunks of text in my Kindle version of this book.

If you are bored of books on ministry but are still filled with a longing to learn how to live more faithfully as a leader amongst God’s people, this one is worth a look.  But don’t get it on Kindle; buy a hard copy instead so that you can mark the pages properly, so that you can easily return to it for your own encouragement and even quote from it to others.

Stephen Mansfield, Where Has Oprah Taken Us?: The religious influence of the world’s most famous woman

In all honesty, I only selected this book for review from Thomas Nelson because I didn’t fancy the look of anything else on the list.  Oprah, I figured, might at least turn out to be interesting and I needed a light read!  Some of the other reviews I read were not always complimentary about this book though, so I was not sure if I was making a mistake.  But, then again, how much of a mistake can you make with free books?!

But this book was fascinating!  Well-written and informative, it probes Oprah’s worldview, assessing the formative influences of her childhood as well as her history as a media professional.  Of immense value are the chapter entitled ‘The Age of Oprah’, which scans the spiritual currents of her generation (especially the New Age influences), and the chapter which provides background on those who have been her spiritual mentors, namely Marianne Wilson, Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra.  In fact, I will be referencing these very chapters in a Masters seminar I am due to teach early next year where we will be comparing the Biblical wisdom endeavour with contemporary self-help philosophies: this book is a gift indeed!

Mansfield writes from the perspective of a Christian worldview and subjects Oprah’s worldview and practices to a healthy but also sensitive critique.  These are not the self-righteous rantings of a man convinced that his calling is to ridicule the woman who has so entranced millions; rather, it is written with humility and tenderness towards a woman whom Mansfield hopes may yet turn to discover the true nobility of her story as it might be found in Christ.

Whether you feel any affinity with the story of Oprah or not, this one is worth a read if you are interested in understanding the religious influence of one of the world’s most famous women as well as the influences which have been formative upon her experience.

I received a free copy of this book in return for a fair review from

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