Wednesday, November 4, 2009

City Signals – Brad Smith

© 2008 New Hope Publishers, Birmingham

Brad Smith is an old hat in—some might include him as a pioneer in and leader of—the area of urban ministry. He serves as president of Bakke Graduate University, and his heart for ministry in the urban setting is readily evident.

His book is a study in spiritual formation. Stating up front that the material is designed for those who are struggling with all the ins and outs, ups and downs, starts and stops, of urban ministry, Smith offers some helpful hints that may or may not be readily available to all readers. With nine chapters addressing spiritual formation principles like pain encountered and presence in relationship, and a tenth chapter throne in as a re-cap, the book shows good organization, and even includes group leader helps and formation aids as appendices. Each chapter concludes with personalization questions and challenges useful for individual or group study.

From there the book gets lost from its conceptualization. Certainly some of the principles about building relationship and understanding the different styles of growth experienced by a variety of leaders are helpful, but Smith couches his message in a way that will be ultimately narrowing of his audience. While one would assume unintentional, Smith sends the message that ministry outside any urban setting is not really ministry at all, and this would lose to him some of those he would like to welcome as partners in urban ministry (namely those who live and serve outside major population areas). In Chapter 10 he seems to cast a Bandaid® towards this unfortunate conclusion, but it comes as too little, too late.

The other, more screaming drawback to the book is the disjointed approach to the author’s definition of spiritual formation. While there is not a problem in approaching spiritual formation from a nontraditional angle, the fleshing out of ideas reaches a disconnect in which the reader must scratch his head asking where the writer is going and where he’s come from? Some who are actively engaged in urban ministry will find this book a helpful study, others will have to dig deep between the pages to find principles that do truly cross ministry boundaries—principles about relationship and calling, and still others will do well by avoiding this book at all.

City Signals gets only 2 reading glasses from this reviewer.

—Benjamin Potter, November 4, 2009

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1 comment:

Fiona Robyn said...

Hello Benjie – I’m a British author and a fellow member of Bookblogs, and I wanted to invite you (and your readers) to participate in my Blogsplash – there’s more information at http://www.fionarobyn.com/thawblogsplash.htm. Thanks for listening!

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