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Doug puts systems thinking to sanctified use
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Book Review

by Rev. Eldin Villafañe, PhD

We live in a complex urban world. This complexity of our cities is a given reality that a novice or a veteran of urban ministry must confess. If the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is to make a significant and faithful impact in our cities, it will require Christians who “do the Bible in the city.”

This outstanding book by my amigos, Doug and Judy Hall, is unique on many fronts. But above all, it is the story of two “urban prophets” who have committed themselves humbly to “doing the Bible in the city.” Going beyond theoretical biblical knowledge, they have struggled to discern and align themselves and their ministry to the Word and Spirit in the city, its people, and its systems. They have generously shared with clarity and simplicity, even when unpacking complex matters, the wisdom gained from the Bible and through a lifetime of urban living and ministry.

The Cat and the Toaster is a distillation of long and, at times, painful learnings by the Halls. It challenges all of us to go beyond simplistic assumptions, thinking, and practices in urban ministry. It calls us to “do the Bible in the city” by correlating the rich teaching of Scripture with the discipline of systems thinking. To do this, Doug provides a creative biblical template and an ongoing insightful exposition of Jesus’ letter to the Laodiceans in Revelation chapter 3.

The contributions of this book to urban discipleship and ministry are many. Foremost, Doug puts systems thinking to sanctified use. You will learn from a sound biblical and theological perspective how the language and tools of systems thinking can strengthen your ability to discern and grasp complexity in city living and ministry.

Doug shares many stories—not only his, but those of other folks who have walked the inner city streets with him. For the novice urban worker, this is an indispensable urban manual, helping one to understand and navigate the challenging road ahead. For the veteran systems actor, it is a new learning experience. At the very least, you’ll respond as Rev. Hurshel Langham did to Doug’s classroom teaching: “Doug, you gave me handles; places to hang all the stuff I already knew, but didn’t know that I knew.”

It is a profound honor to have been asked to write the foreword to this book. It is a book for which many of us have been waiting for many years. This is so not only for the promise of its coming, but more, for the wealth of insight and knowledge provided by this much-needed, “for such a time as this” book.

Rev. Eldin Villafañe, PhD, is founding director of the Center for Urban
Ministerial Education (CUME), the Boston campus of Gordon-Conwell
Theological Seminary (1976–1990); and Professor of Christian Social
Ethics, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (1976–present).

(This review is an excerpt from The Cat and the Toaster, Foreword, p. ix)

     
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