Reading for the Common Good
We have been created to live and work in community. But all too often we see ourselves primarily as individuals and run the risk of working at cross-purposes with the organizations we serve. Living faithfully in a neighborhood involves two interwoven threads: learning and action.
In this book C. Christopher Smith, coauthor of Slow Church, looks at the local church as an organization in which both learning and action lie at the heart of its identity. He explores the practice of reading and, in his words, "how we can read together in ways that drive us deeper into action."
Smith continues, "Church can no longer simply be an experience to be passively consumed; rather, we are called into the participatory life of a community. Reading is a vital practice for helping our churches navigate this shift."
Discover how books can help your churches and neighborhoods bring flourishing to the world.
"There are many books on the common good, but C. Christopher Smith's new book on reading for the common good is one of the most intriguing and compelling to come out in a long time. Reading for the Common Good weaves personal enrichment, ethics and education into a beautiful and simple unity. It is a paradigm-altering book and one that is sure to enrich and inspire as we seek to find meaningful ways to think about and engage our communities, cities and the world."
"C. Christopher Smith offers a fresh, rich and quite unfamiliar proposal concerning human renewal and church regeneration. He exposits the cruciality of reading, thinking and conversing in the community as a bedrock practice for a sustainable missional community. His project serves to awaken us from our numbing 'electronic slumbers' into a slow engagement with imaginative words. I suggest that this book can be a valuable reference for pastoral nurture and education in the church."
"In a world of constant noise and chatter, slowing down to listen as faith communities becomes a subversive act. In this great new book, Chris Smith invites us to truly listen to wisdom and stories shared through the written page. I highly recommend it."
"Opening up Reading for the Common Good is like sitting down for a chat with the best kind of friend. C. Christopher Smith's references will provide layers of meaning and inspiration while his heartening and hopeful words will expand your soul."
"Reading isn't a technique. It's about cultivating the practice of discernment through dialogue with others. I urge you to read this little volume if you are, like me, hungry for direction in a world that continually claims to know the right answers and the right techniques. To be still with others, to wait in reading 'texts' is an invitation to hear God together."
"In this hectic age, with its flood of electronic scraps aimed at five-second attention spans, how refreshing it is to meet a champion of slow, sustained and meditative reading of books. And not just any books, but ones that nurture compassion and community. Chris Smith illustrates in his own work and in his account of the work of his church what it means to love one's neighbor. It means more than kindly feelings. It means kindly actions. It means caring for others, beginning with those who share the place where we live, and above all those who are most in need. The wealth Smith celebrates is not to be found in stock markets or bank accounts, but between the covers of books, between person and person, and in the loving heart."
"Having devoted the entirety of my personal and professional life to the vision and practices laid out in Reading for the Common Good, I offer a hearty 'Hear! Hear!' This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
"Let this book stoke the flames for rich communal life by doing something strange in our society: teaching us to read together. Chris sets a different pace with Reading for the Common Good, a pace that allows for a new flourishing in your neighborhood and mine by, yes, reading together! I couldn't be more taken by a book."
"Reading well together is a distinctive kingdom practice that can deepen our discipleship and cause the world to be blessed. As Chris Smith convincingly shows, reading widely not only expands our personal horizons but enables us to serve our neighborhoods and bring renewal to the culture in ways that only bookish people can. Reading for the Common Good invites us into this holy adventure with the printed page. Put this book about books on the top of your list."
"In an era of partisan soundbites and Facebook memes, C. Christopher Smith's invitation to intentional, communal reading is a balm to the harried soul. With wisdom and compassion, Reading for the Common Good envisions reading and dialogue as disciplines toward cultivating and transforming communities, 'an essential part of a journey into a knowledge that is rooted in love.' As an author and active participant in the local church, I appreciate not only Smith's exhortation to learn from a variety of genres and subjects, from theology to social criticism to poetry, but also his practical applications for integrating these texts into community life. I recommend this book to all who care about making disciples of all nations—one page and person at a time."
"Chris Smith doesn't only demonstrate how books build communities, he shows how reading can be a virtue. In its diagnoses, social ecology and ability to make an impact on private and public life, this might just be the Habits of the Heart for a new generation."
"The co-author of the bestselling Slow Church returns with this call to churches to wake up from being passively consumed and engage the world with words and creativity. Smith calls the church to be an organization that values learning as deeply as doing. The book includes suggestions for how to become a reading congregation as well as reading lists."
"Anyone who likes to read knows that feeling of connectedness when an author expresses an idea or a thought that resonates with us. It makes us feel less alone in the universe to know that someone else has wrestled with concepts or problems that concern us. Connection, church, community: Smith encourages us to read all about it."
"Reading for the Common Good encourages the reader to pursue Truth and Beauty outside of what is traditionally considered as the Christian realm. It invites us to pursue those virtues everywhere, to develop and cultivate deeper understandings of the world we live in. It calls us to be informed, thoughtful, and engaged with those around us, to push for flourishing and the common good."
Foreward by Scot McKnight
Introduction: The Local Church as Learning Organization
1. Slow Reading in Accelerating Times
2. Shaping the Social Imagination
3. Reading and Our Congregational Identity
4. Discerning our Call
5. Reading with Our Neighbors
6. Deepening Our Roots in Our Neighborhoods
7. Hope for Our Interconnected Creation
8. Toward Faithful Engagement in Economics and Politics
9. Becoming a Reading Congregation
Epilogue: Revive Us Again
List 1: Recommended Reading for Going Deeper
List 2: Englewood Christian Church Reading List