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.
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.
-Jon M. Sweeney
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.
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.
Hearts & Minds Books
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.
BR Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary
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.
-Karen Swallow Prior
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.
-Scott Russell Sanders
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.
The Missional Network
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.
-Carol Howard Merritt,
columnist, The Christian Century
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.
cofounding director, The Parish Collective
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.
professor emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
C. Christopher Smith is editor of The Englewood Review of Books and a member of the Englewood Christian Church community on the urban Near Eastside of Indianapolis. He is the coauthor of Slow Church.
"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."
"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."