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Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Review: Renewal for Mission

Recently I finished up a short read in a book called "Renewal for Mission: A Concise History of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ." Actually I finished it up a couple of weeks ago but haven't had a chance to review it.

I had interest in this book for a couple of reasons. First, one of the authors was a professor of mine at Milligan College, Dr. Dennis Helsabeck Jr. When I saw it advertised in the Milligan alumni magazine, I had to pick up a copy of it.

Second, it claims to be a history of the "Christian Churches and Churches of Christ." They are the independent wing of the Restoration Movement alongside the Disciples of Christ and the Churches of Christ Non-instrumental. There aren't too many histories written from the Independent's perspective.

I was pleasantly surprised. (Not that I was hoping to be disappointed.) It was a very quick read (I read it in about 90 minutes) and as very concise in its details. This book would be a great read for someone who is moderately interested in the history behind the Restoration Movement, Christian Churches, or Fox Valley Christian Church.

There are several things about it that I liked:
  • It was very concise and easy to read.
  • It had pictures (which seems odd... but for someone who is unfamiliar with who Robert Milligan is (and his crazy hair, pictures are helpful. For me these weren't necessary, but I could see the helpfulness.).
  • It contained information about the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ... something that many other books don't.
  • There were questions for discussion at the end of each chapter. This little aspect makes it useful in churches were a church might provide a history class about their congregation.
  • The authors included a "further reading" section where they recommended some potential resources... many of which were familiar to me.
While there were several things about this book to like, the dislikes outweighed the likes overall. Here are a couple of things that I didn't like about it:
  • There was very little footnoting. That is frustrating for me, since the authors made a couple of claims that I didn't think they could support. But I was unable to check their sources, since they didn't list them. It also made it difficult for someone to study further if they so desired.
  • The amount of information after the split with the Disciples was minimal. Part of what I was hoping was that the authors would give the basic background and then really give us some meat after the split from the Disciples. Instead we got 3 or 4 chapters of less than 50 pages of the overall 13 chapters and 150 pages. That was disappointing considering it billed itself as a history of "our" movement. Many of these pages were names and dates and occurrences without much development as to the meaning and impact of these events.
This book is part of a 3 book series published by ACU about each of the three branches of the movement. I would like to pick up the others, just to complete my set. And while this book was good and short, it left me wanting more. I wanted more detail about what makes us distinctly "us." And I felt the authors spent a great deal of time covering material that others have already done and done well (mostly here I refer to the details of the movement's founding with Stone and the Campbells through 1906) and left uncovered the information that would have made it stand out (1906 to the present).

I give it a C-. (Who would have ever thought that I would give one of my college professors a grade?)

If you are into Restoration Movement history, it might be worth picking up. Although much of the information can be found in other more developed volumes. If you are a church member wondering where Fox Valley Christian Church and other Christian Churches/Churches of Christ have come from, it may be a good resource for you.

Jim

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