Centered Set-Church: Discipleship and Community Without Judgementalism
The late missionary anthropologist Paul Hiebert famously drew upon mathematical theory to deploy the concepts of “bounded,” “fuzzy,” and “centered” sets to shed light on the nature of Christian community.
Now, with Centered-Set Church, Mark D. Baker provides a unique manual for understanding and applying Hiebert’s vision. Drawing on his extensive experience in church, mission, parachurch, and higher education settings, along with interviews and stories gleaned from scores of first-hand interviews, Baker delivers practical guidance for any group that seeks to be truly centered on Jesus.
Baker shows how Scripture presents an alternative to either obsessing over boundaries or simply erasing them. Centered churches are able to affirm their beliefs and live out their values without such bitter fruit as gracelessness, shame, and self-righteousness on the one hand, or aimless “whateverism” on the other.
While addressing possible concerns and barriers to the centered approach, Baker invites leaders to imagine centered alternatives in such practical areas of ministry as discipleship, church membership, leadership requirements, and evangelism. Centered-Set Church charts new paths to grow in authentic freedom and dynamic movement toward the true center: Jesus himself.
“A life-giving exposition of a life-transforming concept”
– David Fitch
“An immensely practical book brimming with eloquent theology”
– Debbie Blue
“Completely revolutionized my vision of Christian formation within the local church”
– Kurt Willems
More info at: https://www.centeredsetchurch.com
Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures: Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials
Many a Westerner has had a cross-cultural experience of honor and shame. First there are those stuttering moments in the new social landscape. Then after missed cues and social bruises comes the revelation that this culture—indeed much of the world—runs on an honor-shame operating system. When Western individualism and its introspective conscience fails to engage cultural gears, how can we shift and navigate this alternate code? And might we even learn to see and speak the gospel differently if we did?
In Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures Jayson Georges and Mark Baker help us decode the cultural script of honor and shame. What’s more, they assist us in reading the Bible anew through the lens of honor and shame, often with startling turns. And they offer thoughtful and practical guidance in ministry within honor-shame contexts. Apt stories, illuminating insights and ministry-tested wisdom complete this well-rounded guide to Christian ministry in honor-shame cultures.
“Georges and Baker have taken the seeds of previous work on honor and shame in the environment of the biblical world and in modern cultures and cultivated them into fruitful insights and guidance in the areas of theology, crosscultural engagement and, especially, missions.” – David A. deSilva, distinguished professor, Ashland Theological Seminary
“I was so glad for this book to stretch my heart and mind. Baker and Georges gave me new tools and hope for ministry, not just in a Majority World context, but in Western contexts that are increasingly both secular and globalized.” – Mako Nagasawa, director, New Humanity Institute
“An exceptional book on this timeless worldview and timely topic. The authors interweave real life stories to help us rediscover a biblical worldview and see how to apply the living Word of God today.” – Samuel E. Chiang, president and CEO, Seed Company
“The text is full of examples that help the reader understand how differently honor-shame codes play out in the understanding of salvation and discipleship. …Sherwood and I strongly recommend this book.” – Judith Lingenfelter, professor emerita, Biola University
“Intelligent, informed, and culturally perceptive, this resource will impact the theory and practice of missionaries and local leaders in unprecedented ways.” – Christopher Flanders, professor, Abilene Christian University
The cross is the defining symbol of the Christian faith. Yet the Roman cross was first and foremost an instrument of cruel, shameful and violent execution. Early Christians quickly recognized the atoning significance of the cross of Christ, and it resonated deeply with their experience of salvation. But the cross remained a blessing framed by scandal, an epochal and yet mysterious event, irreducible to a single formulation.
As Green and Baker demonstrate, the New Testament displays a rich array of interpretations of the cross. These were shaped by the church in mission as it rooted the saving story of a scandalous cross in the language of everyday realities and relationships. But for many Christians today, not only has the true scandal of the cross been obscured, the variety of its New Testament interpretations have been reduced to subpoints in a single, controlling view of the atonement. Tragically, the way in which the atonement is frequently and popularly expressed now poses a new scandal, one that is foreign to the New Testament and poses needless obstacles to twenty-first century peoples and cultures.
At the heart of this book is a challenge for us to view afresh the variety of contextual understandings of the death of Christ in the New Testament and to reconsider how we can faithfully communicate with fresh models the atoning significance of the cross for specific contexts today. The authors explore how the atonement has been understood within a variety of contemporary contexts – both Western and non-Western – and show how we can enter into the thoroughly Christian mission of restating the saving scandal of the cross in our multicultural world of the twenty-first century.
“A powerful and persuasive case for freeing the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ from captivity to Western models of the atonement and discovering its relevance for other cultures.” – Roger Olson, Truett Theological Seminary
“I have read many books about the cross of Christ, but few as thought-provoking as this one.” – Stephen Travis, St John’s College, Nottingham
“Here is a fresh look at the cross of Jesus. . . . I highly recommend it to all Christians who . . . seek to understand and articulate with integrity the saving significance of the cross of Jesus in our post-modern world.” – John Driver, Goshen College
Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross explores the need for contextualized atonement theology, offering creative examples of how the cross can be proclaimed today in culturally relevant and transformative ways. Mark Baker brings together presentations of the atonement given in a variety of contexts, from Africa to suburban Los Angeles, from junior high Sunday school classes to coffee shops. The images and metaphors in these presentations have been developed by pastors, writers, and theologians, including Richard B. Hays, C. S. Lewis, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Brian D. McLaren, Luci Shaw, Rowan Williams, and many more, who are actively working out just how to make this life-transforming proclamation. These contributors reveal that Christians should embrace a whole constellation of perspectives on the atonement, all mutually reinforcing, because the language of the atonement must at once be metaphorical, pastoral, and salvific.
Learn from these creative examples to proclaim the scandal of the cross in your own context and profit from the theology of the atonement as it applies across the whole spectrum of human experience.
“Imagine theology of the atonement actually lived out, preached, and debated as an actual part of life! Read Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross and this is what you will find. I couldn’t put it down and will recommend it to my students.”
—William A. Dyrness, professor of theology and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary
“Perhaps all of us shudder to think how narrow our earliest understanding of the atonement was. Mark Baker’s book offers us a treasure chest filled with complementary truths presented in distinct and surprising packages. Each chapter—a gem of poetry, drama, story, or sermon—is a unique gift to enable us to see with fresh perspective and greater fullness what God has done for us in Christ at the cross and empty tomb. This collection is an outstanding contribution to widen our comprehension and deepen our adoration!”
—Marva J. Dawn, author of Talking the Walk and The Sense of the Call; teaching fellow in spiritual theology, Regent College
Religious No More: Building Communities of Grace and Freedom
Too many Christians are “religious”–their faith is more a human endeavor than a response to God’s loving initiative. Such religion assumes that our value comes not from God but from what we do. It absorbs principles and postulates from the surrounding society, leading to further misconceptions about God and our relation to our Creator. All this hinders people from experiencing vibrant Christian community, where they could freely love and be loved.
Mark Baker suggests that just as car companies test automobiles under severe conditions to uncover weaknesses, North American Christians may detect fallacies in their “gospel” by examining how it plays out under the challenges of poverty, injustice and entrenched religiosity. Baker’s test case is drawn from his ten-year
missionary experience in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, at churches born out of North American mission work.
Baker observes Honduran church life, draws parallels to religion in the North American church and mines from Paul’s letter to the Galatians exciting possibilities of robust Christian grace and freedom. The result is a bracing and refreshing approach to Christian community for laypersons, pastors, missionaries and mission strategists.
“This is biblical theology at its best: timely, integrative, liberating.” Richard B. Hays, Professor of New Testament, The Divinity School, Duke University
“Potent for both its prophetic challenge and its pastoral encouragement toward the transformation of evangelical faith and life. Do we have ears to hear?” Joel B. Green, Associate Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary
“Baker’s powerful book explores the complex dynamic between the apostolic message in its original setting, the community that hears and reads it in scriptural form, and the evangelist or preacher who interprets it by word and deed in the present situation. This is no abstract study in hermeneutical theory but rather an engaging instance of a living encounter with the divine Word in all its concreteness.” Geoffrey Wainwright, Cushman Professor of Christian Theology, Duke University
“One of the first significant steps to build upon and weave together liberation concerns, serious biblical exploration and evangelical theology. Baker has written a book that will become seminal for . . . scholars interested in contextual, biblical and theological studies.” Willie James Jennings, Associate Dean of Academic Programs, Research Professor of Systematic Theology and Black Church Studies, The Divinity School, Duke University.
“Mark Baker’s ‘Religious No More’ is a sheer delight. Approachable, easy to read . . . passionately showing us a vision of what the church can be, it is a refreshing sight indeed.” Kevin Taylor, Fair Haven United Methodist Church, Houston TX in “Perspectives in Religious Studies”
Click here to see Spanish books written by Mark Baker