Feature

Book Reviews

By Anonymous

[Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed in books reviewed on this Web site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Alliance. Occasionally, books chosen for review may have editorial standards that differ from those used by Alliance Life. This should not detract from the general value of the books to alife readers.]

Samaria:
The Great Omission

By David Beidel (Baxter Press)

When author Dave Beidel and his wife, Rebecca, planted a church in the New York City borough of Staten Island, Dave, fresh out of Alliance Theological Seminary, quickly learned that there were a few crucial courses ATS never offered. “How to Keep Your Neighbor from Assaulting a Police Officer” would have been helpful, along with “What to Do When Your Youth Group Robs Your House.” Most heartbreaking of all, however, was the need for a course called “When Kids You Know Die Violently.” After several teens who had been close to the Beidels were murdered, the fledgling house church fasted and prayed against the senseless crimes that plagued the community, and the crime rate since 1999 has dropped 95 percent.

That is what redeeming Samaria is like—heartbreaking, bathed in prayer and ongoing—a participle, “redeeming,” not the past tense verb “redeemed.” And its foreign landscape of drug abuse, crime and poverty put it just beyond the radar of many North American churches. “Where there is the power of the resurrection,” Beidel writes, “there will always be the fellowship of His sufferings.”

Samaria: The Great Omission takes up where all the pastoral seminary courses left off. Beidel does more than chronicle his family’s experiences in “Samaria”—the inner-city neighborhood of West Brighton. Woven throughout stories of frustration, persecution, perseverance and victory marking the spiritual journey of a church and its pastor is thoughtful commentary on Jesus’s relationships with society’s outcasts—especially the woman at the well of Sychar (John 4).

Beidel is very open about the pitfalls of idolatry, putting love for neighbor higher than love for God. Even in Samaria, with all its deprivations, there is a chance to get the message wrong. Samaria: The Great Omission is the story of correction and change, of the daily commitment to “be a worship-driven church as opposed to a mission-driven church.” Words of wisdom for any pastor, no matter the community.

Pilgrims of the Alley:
Living Out Faith in Displacement

by Dave Arnold (Urban Loft Publishers)

Have you ever been a stranger, alienated from those who love you most and feeling lost and alone? In Pilgrims of the Alley: Living Out Faith in Displacement, Dave Arnold, an ordained C&MA minister, draws on his experience with recent immigrants to remind us that we all were once aliens—not necessarily in a new land but far from God’s Kingdom.

Pilgrims of the Alley . . . is a series of essays on aspects of spiritual displacement and Kingdom assimilation, each followed by one or two questions that encourage the readers to dig a little deeper into the meaning of the previous chapter (and also make the book a natural resource for small groups or adult Sunday school classes).

Arnold knows what it’s like to feel disconnected from the larger group; as a teen raised in Washington, D.C., he became a follower of Jesus and attended a Christian college in the Midwest. There, he encountered an evangelical subculture he was not familiar with and felt “a bit intimidated” and “a bit jealous” that all his new friends had grown up in Christian homes. Soon, however, he discovered God’s purpose in walking him through a valley of alienation to get to his place of service: ministry among teens who were feeling the same way he did in college.

Being a Christian does not inoculate one against feelings of abandonment and isolation. In addition to his own experience, Arnold’s book is filled with examples designed to pull the reader into the heart of the immigrant, on a journey just as personal and scary and guided by the Spirit, if we let Him.

Pilgrims of the Alley is an invitation to hospitality—one pilgrim providing another pilgrim a place to rest.

—alife Staff

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