“The King Jesus Gospel” Review

The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight

In the introduction to Scot McKnight’s “The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited”, N.T. Wright speaks of John Stott saying, “Who wants an irreducible minimum gospel?”[Stott] asked.  “I want the full, biblical gospel.”

McKnight sets out to do that with this book; to unpack the “full, biblical gospel.”  His main reason for doing this, as he argues throughout the book, is two-fold.  First, it is to stem the tide of current church culture where “the gospel” is focused solely on a personal decision at salvation.  McKnight writes, “What has happened is that we have created a ‘salvation culture’ and mistakenly assumed it is a ‘gospel culture'” (p. 29).

Second, it is to know, discuss, preach, teach, and proclaim the full gospel that Jesus taught, that Paul taught, that Peter taught, and that was handed down through the apostolic tradition.  McKnight says the best representation of this is found in 1 Corinthians 15.

McKnight takes his time getting to what the gospel should be.  Instead of diving into what the solution is, he spends the few first chapters outlining the problem the Church currently is facing.  He begins with his own experience in coming up through the church and the focus, no “obsession” we have with getting people to make a decision.  He holds that this is not producing the results we would hope.

One particularly startling example is found in statistics from Barna Group’s David Kinnaman, demonstrating the lack of correlation between making a decision and becoming a disciple of Christ.  It goes something like this:

  • Percentage of teenagers (13-17) who have made a “commitment to Jesus”
    • General population: 60%
    • Protestants: 80%
    • Nonmainline Protestants: 90%
  • Percentage of young adults (18-35) who would be considered disciples
    • General population: 6%
    • Protestants: <20%
    • Nonmainline Protestants: 20%

Based on this, McKnight says, “We cannot help but conclude that making a decision is not the vital element that leads to a life of discipleship” (p. 19).  He continues with that line of thinking, “I would contend there is a minimal difference in correlation between evangelical children and teenagers who make a decision for Christ and who later become genuine disciples, and Roman Catholics who are baptized as infants and who as adults become faithful and devout Catholic disciples” (p. 20).

This challenges the way many in church think and behave.  Often when we say the gospel, we mean salvation.  The “Good News of Jesus Christ” for most of us, is that Jesus lived, died, and resurrected so we don’t have to pay for our sin and we get to go to heaven.  Even if we wouldn’t articulate it that way, that’s what most in the Christian church believe, discuss, teach, and live.  McKnight, however, would and does echo what Dallas Willard called this, which was the “gospel of sin management” (p.27).  He contends, “If the gospel isn’t about transformation, it isn’t the gospel of the Bible” (p.27).

The main resulting problem, McKnight contends, is that a focus only on salvation creates a culture that “does not require The Members or The Decided to become The Discipled for salvation.  Why not?  Because it’s gospel is a gospel shaped entirely with the “in and out” issue of salvation.  Because it’s about making a decision” (p.33).

Scot McKnight 4 Gospel Categories

Moving on then, to make his case for a fuller gospel, McKnight lays out his four main categories.  These are The Story of Israel, The Story of Jesus, The Plan of Salvation, and The Method of Persuasion.  If you stopped to consider, which of these categories you would apply the word Gospel, as McKnight suggests (p.33) then most of us would apply it to the “Plan of Salvation.”  It is McKnight’s contention, however, that all of these comprise the Gospel and each “layer” flows from the previous category as it is connected to the foundation below it.

The King Jesus Gospel never leaves this imagery far behind, either.  It most often finds it way multiple times into each chapter with some variation of the phrase we read in Chapter 3.  There, McKnight writes, “The Story of Jesus, though, is first and foremost a resolution of Israel’s Story and because the Jesus Story completes Israel’s Story, it saves” (p.37).

On the contrary, McKnight holds that stripped of its proper place in the larger picture of the four categories, the Plan of Salvation “isn’t discipleship or justice or obedience” and “leads to one thing and one thing only: salvation” (p.40).  He further states how this is disjointed from the rest of the story of the Bible with the following observation; “One reason why so many Christians today don’t know the Old Testament is because their ‘gospel’ doesn’t even need it” (p.43).

McKnight continually challenges us to consider the gospel to those in the time of Jesus, Peter, and Paul.  Not to understand it in our context, but in the context of those hearing about it.  Also, as already stated, understand it through the lens of people who had the Torah memorized, who had only the Old Testament as their Scriptures instead of readers of today who have the New Testament.  Think of the excitement that would be induced at the realization of who Jesus was – namely the Messiah who would rescue Israel and establish His Kingdom.  How can understand those things without the Old Testament and the Story of Israel?

ChristTheKing2013McKnight focuses on 1 Corinthians 15 as a blue print for the outlining of the whole Gospel by Paul.  He also I’ve only touched on what McKnight writes about but these are the things that stirred me to read on.  Why do we have such a hard time making disciples today?  Is it simply that we get it wrong by obsessing only with salvation?  I’m sure, as McKnight contends, the culture it creates allows for an underlying secret that the rest is optional in many of the subconscious thoughts of those sitting in the pews.  Is that the only problem facing the church? Of course not.  

I really liked this book.  It challenged me and my thinking about what the “gospel” is and what that word implies.  I began thinking recently about our focus on a decision and how heaven is often what everyone is sitting around waiting on.  This book came and smacked that point right out of the park for me.

I did come away from the book feeling as though there were holes in what was being put forth as the solution.  I don’t know why, honestly, but there was a nagging feeling that his thrust wasn’t as full as I expected.

I also didn’t agree with his contention that God had wanted Abraham, then Israel, then David to be what Adam and Eve originally were, and that God ultimately sent Jesus when they failed.  The reason is that I kept coming back to what God said in Genesis 3:15 or the protoevangelium.  His point seems to be at odds with that.

I also wasn’t a fan of the way McKnight lumped on a bunch of stuff at the end.  He adds in suggestions about the creeds, spiritual formation, and the Christian calendar.  It was almost like “Hey, if you made it this far, let me go ahead and lop on some of this other stuff, while you’re buying.”  That doesn’t diminish those things suggested, but the manor seemed odd.

But, overall I would recommend this to anyone who wants a challenging read about the theology of the gospel.  A lot of what he said connected with me and stirred my mind.  A lot of what he said will have to be parsed as I come to understand it more over time.  A little of what he said didn’t sit with me, but that’s ok; it doesn’t undermine the body of work.

Many tutors, not many fathers…

“For though you have countless (ten thousand) guides in Christ,
you do not have many fathers.” –
 1 Cor. 15 ESV

I realized on Saturday, that I stand in some pretty large shadows.  I have been the benefactor of men who have encouraged me, poured what they had into me, and were an endless fountain of love to me (and others). They were advocates on my behalf to others, they prayed for and with me, and they went (and continue to go) out of their way, countless times,  to serve me in many different ways.  These men have been fathers to me in Christ and that is rare.

What’s not as rare are the teachers of information, about Christ.  Go to any church, christian school, or conversation with many people and they’ll tell you something about Jesus.  Some of it is good, some of it is bad, some of it is knowledge without wisdom, and some times it is even great.  They may even help you out for a time to understand some concepts.  These would be the “guides in Christ” that Paul writes about in the above referenced verse.  There generally is no shortage of these, as the literal Greek points to with its use of “ten thousand.”

This idea of a teacher or guide is based on the Greek word paidagōgos. This word is defined by Blue Letter Bible as “a tutor i.e. a guardian and guide of boys. Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class.”

There is no shame in this role.  I don’t want to disparage our teachers, instructors, or guides at all.  In fact, I have been and will continue to live portions of relationships in this role.  You most likely are this to some one or many people right now.

But when you understand what a true father is, you understand the deep relationship and investment of time and resources, that is being referred.  These are the people that live life with you.  These are people that give you access to everything they have.  These are the people that are interested in you reaching your potential.  These are people that do not consider you beneath them, but consider it a privilege and an honor to be entrusted with your life, and in this case, your soul.

The two best representations of this in my own life are my biological father (directly) and my uncle Phil Batten (both directly and indirectly).

These men cast enormous shadows in their love for others.  They cast enormous shadows with their willingness to serve others.  They case big shadows with their love of Jesus and dedication to surrender everything and go all out for Him.

My uncle Phil passed away last week.  As I reflected on this man of God, I was struck by his humility and love.  I remembered fondly staying with him during District Assembly on multiple occasions.  He would sit and talk with me and inundate the conversation with encouragement, love, and experiences that he thought might be helpful.  He drove over 6 hours to come and do a revival at a church with barely 40 people as a personal favor to me, even with deteriorating health.   I always felt he was always advocating for and using his connections to help me out in the world of ministry.  He offered to let me preach on Heaventrain.  He was always offering what he had, if it would some how help.

Both Phil’s sons, Jamey and Andy, have often been the face of a lot of other things that flow from who Phil was.  Jamey was the best man at my wedding and at some darker times, felt like my only friend.   It was Jamey who let me hang out at Circleville Bible College with his friends when I wasn’t a Christian.  It was Jamey who opened doors for me in getting my degree from Ohio Christian University and beginning the journey towards ordination in the Church of the Nazarene.  Andy has introduced me to more friends and pastors in and around Cleveland than I can possibly count.  Andy has spoken to people on my behalf and is in large part, responsible for the relationship I have that brought me to my assignment in Painesville.  Andy and his wife, Kristen, opened their house and lives to my wife for 2 weeks so she could experience Lighthouse, Inc. and Heaventrain.

I could go on and on… My point is though, these men were fathered well and they shared their father with me and countless others.

Seeing my uncle a few days before he passed and hearing him say how proud he was of me, will be a memory I keep forever.  Not because of the feeling that sprang up in my heart, but because even as this man was passing from this world to the next, he poured out, building up and giving love to everyone else.

And it didn’t stop at his passing.  I always thought that if I ever were ordained in the Church of the Nazarene it would be such an honor and privilege to ask Phil to pray the ordination prayer over me at the ceremony.   That won’t happen now as his passing comes before that part of my journey is accomplished.  What did happen though was that Phil requested a Pastor’s Choir at his funeral to sing “And Can it Be?” and “It Is Well.”  Usually at denominational gatherings, this is reserved for ordained elders.  However, Phil simply requested, that if enough pastors were there, that they would assemble them in a choir.  I had the honor and privilege to join the many ordained ministers in attendance in singing in that choir at Phil’s funeral.

I’m not a narcissist so I don’t believe that Phil requested that for me, specifically.  But what a joy it was, to stand with others, in honoring the wish of someone who was a father to me.  He afforded me that chance and I’ll never forget that, either.

Everything he did and said was all for the glory of God.  The Kingdom impact of Phil Batten will be reverberating for years, because he laid down his life to be used by God.  He was humbled to be used and loved because he got to (not because he was supposed to), all because of Jesus Christ.  He was a father to many and he will be missed.

Who are you fathering?  Who are you pouring your life out to?  Who are you loving unconditionally?  Who are you giving access to your life?  Who are you advocating for?  Who are you building up?  Who is God bringing into your life to move beyond a guide and tutor to?

Demonstrating God through the BHAG

I heard the acronym BHAG (pronounced BEE-hag) for the first time almost a month ago.  It was first coined by James Collins in the context of business and leadership and stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal (read more about that here)

I love words that sound funny but also strike a chord in me.  Words like spikenard, pistikos, and BHAG.  What I love about BHAG is just the picture it evokes in the imagination and the purpose it has.  To be a rallying point that ultimately has the power to change an organization forever.

Even though it is normally a 10 to 30 year vision of what can be, I really have been rolling it around in my mind for what BHAGs I have in my life and the ministry God has called me to.   What Big Hair Audacious Goal am I running alongside others towards, leading others towards, encouraging others towards?   It’s ultimately and primarily God through the Way of Jesus Christ but what does that look like for us right now?

Then it hit me.  I have a Big Hairy Audacious GOD that is so much bigger and audaciouser than any thing I can possibly imagine.  He is faithful and abundantly never ending in resources; things like power, grace, peace, holiness, joy, righteousness, and love.

The implications of this in any BHAG I may feel led to, are astounding and laughable.  I have two big things I am in the process of laying out, planning, and starting very soon that have already been knocked by others.

One is so small right now but has the potential to change the very heart of a people, the focus of an organization, and accomplish more for the Kingdom in the long run than I have personally seen before.  It’s already been minimized and dismissed.  It just makes me smile.  Please, underestimate my BIg Hairy Audacious God and allow Him to demonstrate Himself on such a grand scale that you and I both can be awed by Him.

The other is small too, but the goal is something that I’ve already heard was nearly impossible and probably unrealistic.  This was discouraging at first, but now it’s growing excitement within me.  It has quickly become a BHAG that I can easily see it stretching and growing people in their faith as God, the Father and Creator of all, demonstrates His faithfulness.  They say “impossible” and He says “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

I am excited, I am thrilled, I am smiling like an idiot.  These BHAGs that started as dreams are being stepped into with faith.  Oh God, won’t your demonstrate the Big Hairy Audaciousness of who you are on the stage of our lives?!

In what ways does God want to demonstrate Himself in your life?  In what areas does He still need access to in your life to do big things?

(I don’t know that God is hairy, but I imagine our heavenly father with hairy arms and chest.  Please don’t get hung up on this if you don’t imagine God as hairy)

“Follow Me” review

Follow Me by David Platt – Ever since I read David Platt’s book Radical, I have been a fan of his work.  What Platt did in Radical was challenge the American Dream version of Christianity with a Biblical litmus test.  He talked about the spread of the Gospel and the believer’s responsibility to such per the Bible.

Follow Me isn’t too far from this vein but looks to clear out some of the clutter of our christian culture in America.  Platt takes on well intentioned, but harmful work today and in the past with regards to bringing people to a decision to be saved.

Without fully understanding what they are doing, without counting the cost, people are asked if they want to go to hell.  Once they say no, we give them a “sinners prayer” that all too often is formulaic rather than heartfelt and genuine.  We use phrases created as tools that aren’t found in the bible, we tell people to “ask Jesus into your heart” and for Him to be “your personal Lord and Savior.”

I’ll let you read it to see what you think of Platt’s take on these things, but he does a good job of addressing the deception that many have that they are followers of Christ when in reality they haven’t demonstrated fruit of a Spirit filled life in years.  He even leads you to think that there may be people out there that think they’ll be in heaven but will hear “I never knew you.  Away from me, evildoers!”  (It seems he is debunking the “once saved, always saved” crowd that rests on that more than a transforming work of Christ.)

There are many challenging things that Platt works throughout this book that take some thoughtful consideration and prayer.  One is the idea that Jesus called the disciples to follow him and learn to disciple others.  This is contrasted with the idea that many in the church get saved and then sit in a church and wait for death or Christ’s return without disciplining anyone.

Another is whether our way of “doing church” is Biblical.  I found this to be similar to things talked about in Radical, but definitely call to attention where your focus is.  This is brought out especially in the following:

“So if you had nothing but people – no buildings, no programs, no staff, and no activities – and you were charged with spreading the gospel to the world, where would you begin?  Would you start by pooling together your money so that you could spend millions of dollars on a building to meet in?  Would you get the best speaker, the greatest musicians, and the most talented staff in order to organize presentations and programs that appeal to your families and your children?  Would you devote your resources to what is most comfortable, most entertaining, and most pleasing to you?”

The funny thing is that any follower of Christ says that this Great Commission to go and make disciples is our charge today as much as when Jesus gave it 2000+ years ago.  So if you take that to heart, you may see where your own focus may not have been correctly applied.

One final thing that was eye opening was the statistic that American Christians give an average of 2.5% of their annual income to the mission of the church.  That’s $.03 out of every $100 to spreading the gospel.  It doesn’t exactly match up with what you read in Acts or 2 Corinthians.

I really liked this book.  There are some practical discipleship planning things at the back that can give structure if you don’t where to start in your own life, or with others.  Although not perfect (I have to throw that into every review) I definitely think this is another solid work by Platt in this arena.

I am rating this book 5/5.  Pick it up or borrow my copy.

Beholding the cross

(This is part 3 of a 3 part series on the word behold.  Feel free to read Part 1 and Part 2.)

As I’ve previously discussed, when we behold something, we begin to “take it all in” as we experience something in it’s fullness.  Beholding is when we are struck with the awe and reality of something as our senses allow us to experience something, usually extraordinary.

I sat in the Church of the Nazarene‘s North Central Ohio District Assembly last week on the campus of Mount Vernon Nazarene University, with my mind all over the place; a lot of uneasiness was swirling around inside of me.  This came to a head on Wednesday at the “Prayer Encounter.”  As I sat praying a few feet from my wife, I was struck by 3 words that entered my mind as I prayed: BEHOLD THE CROSS.

This captivated and gripped me at my core as my mind raced to the implications of those words. I believe it was a call to focus continually on the Cross.  It was a call to take in both what happened to Jesus on the cross and what was accomplished by Jesus in victory over sin.

What would my life look like if I was in a mindset of beholding the cross?  What could I possibly do or give that would be too much in light of beholding the cross?  What would I let distract or get in the way of my beholding the cross?

The truth is, too many times I let my mind, my heart, and my emotions behold the mess.  I get caught up in what I can do, what I think I need to prepare for, what I need to worry about, what I need to protect my family from.  Too much of my time is being practical, pragmatic, and what seems good with this world in mind.  Too often I then get tied up in distracting myself from the stress of the mess and then spend my time on myself, relaxing, mentally unloading to be entertained.

When all along, when I behold the cross, I begin to understand that my identity can be wrapped up in God.  The God who provided a way for me and everyone to be enveloped in His redemptive grace.  The God who adopts Christians as His children, who gives them His name and His resources, who promises to be there with you through everything, has already won victory at the words of Jesus with “It is finished.”  Oh what peace there is in what was accomplished on the Cross!

How much is too much of “my” time when I behold the cross?  How much is too much of “my” money to give as I behold the cross?  How much do I need to worry as I behold the cross?

The answer is nothing.  Nothing I can give is too much.  No time spent worrying about myself and if I’ll be able to make it tomorrow, no time spent in fear, no time spent thinking about how I will manage on my own ability, is worthwhile; it’s nothing.

Not my sense of fairness.  Not my sense of right.  Not my sense of taking care of myself, because of what others might do to me.  No, none of it.

No time spent with my gaze captivated on anything other than the Heavenly Father that has me in His hand, giving me His presence through the Spirit, is worth beholding.

God has pursued you and me and it came to a head on the cross.  What was intended for evil, God used for His Glory!  Can the same be said about your life?

If you can catch a glimpse of the cross and begin to behold it for what it is, what it meant to Jesus, what it means to the world, what is possible because of it, what sorrow there is at the Crucifixion but more importantly what joy there is in the empty tomb and defeated death, you have more of what it is to be a Christ follower.

If you can take that all in, behold it in all it’s grit and glory, allow the Spirit to testify to your soul the experience of it all, you can’t help but be captivated.  Just like a sunset over the Pacific Ocean has to be beheld for what it is, the same is true about the Cross.

When you view everything in life threw the lens of the Cross, God transforms your perspective, your reality, and gives you the many blessings He promises, including hope!  The mess can’t touch that.

Have you beheld the cross?  Has it captivated you at your core?  Have you experienced the peace that He offers; that He brought forth from the Cross in victory over sin and death?  What have you beheld?  What is so awe-inspiring, sensory-engulfing, that it does not leave your mind for long?

Plastic Donuts book giveaway!

Plastic Donuts cover image

A couple of months back, WaterBrook Multnomah publishers gave me the opportunity to read and create a video review the book “Plastic Donuts” by Jeff Anderson.  I wrote a review in this post and a couple of weeks ago, they published a nicely edited version of my video review (seen here).

In exchange, the publisher has given me copies of this great book.  Today, I am giving you a chance to have one for free!

Use this link to rafflecopter to enter and make sure to read the criteria.  (All entries will be verified.  For instance, if it says to follow me on twitter,  you actually have to complete that step on twitter.  Simply just checking the box that you are following me does not count as a valid entry.)

The contest will run for 1 week and I will email the winners!

UPDATE: Congratulations to winners Ken S. and Becky J!  Thanks everyone who entered.

Beholding the mess

My last post talked about the world behold and what it really meant.  Beholding something is taking it all in for what it is, experiencing it with your senses, intellect, and emotions.  Beholding is beginning to grasp and understand something extraordinary.

Something that everyone of us has experienced is the beholding of the “mess” of life.  The bad things happening to good people.  The times when it seems like nothing can go right.  The drought, the poverty, the pain, the suffering, the sickness, the anxiety, the broken relationships, the hurt feelings, the physical and emotional scars, the emptiness, the failure, the cancer, the AIDS, et al… the brokenness of our world.

What’s wrong in this life can be suffocating and overwhelmed when beheld.  When we experience it, at what we perceive, at its worst we can become desperate.  That may be different for every person, but the truth is we have beheld the chaos and wrong that seemingly incessantly swirl around us and can come from every angle.

Many of us have wrestled with the “mess” and decided to shut off or redirect our senses from beholding the enormity of it all.  It’s larger than life at times.  We want to redirect our attention or shut it off.  It’s too much to bear alone.  Many times we make decisions about bringing children into a world with so much mess because we have beheld it and it was almost crushing.

We turn into survivors.  We look to survive the “mess” of the world, of this life, and make it through and hope that some how either it will get better or we accept it and ignore it.

This is why I believe, we as a culture, are infatuated with distractions; entertainment, work, vacations, go-go-go, don’t stop to get sucked into the “mess”.  They distract our senses from the overwhelming “mess”.

It’s a darkness that can engulf, swallowing up hope and any chance of true good.  So we trade off the hope for good for stories that talk about good and make our hearts feel lifted.  We accept mediocre versions good, which are usually just not as bad, and applaud it because we can accept it.  We play games that give us the feeling of being a part of something bigger, of rescuing the human race, but they have no impact on real life.

We survive on comfort and distractions.  The reality of life is often too much to bear because we have beheld the “mess”, experienced its unforgiving nature, and said “I’m going to make the best of a bad situation.”  We are afraid to stop and let reality creep in; we have made boredom the worst scenario, deploring it for causing our mind to wander… making it possible to behold the “mess” again.

What of the “mess” have you beheld?  Is making the best of it really the best?  Feel free to comment

(more on beholding coming later)

Exploring the word “behold”

There are certain words used in literature that we don’t appreciate, fully.  We hear them and because they’re not common, vernacularly speaking, we understand them in our own terms.

Since I’m sort of a word study nerd, I strive to appreciate words for what they are, especially when used in the Bible.  Sure the KJV is poetic and written in the common language of 1611 England, but when certain words show up again and again, regardless of translation, I think it is beneficial to come to terms with why the words that were used, were selected.

The word behold is one of these words.

You read behold and you probably think you understand it. You can give me a definition, but I would hazard to guess that the majority of people would give a weak definition.  There’s nothing wrong with that, generally speaking, we are trained to understand words in context and unless we study it, we are making an educated assumption of words meanings by context.

Behold means to most people to see or to look at; to perceive.  Miriam-Webster goes a little deeper by defining it as “to gaze.”   Google says “to observe a person or thing, especially a remarkable or impressive one.”

I think these are leading us in a more correct direction than to simply see.  Behold is not just to see with your sense of sight, but to experience what it stirs as it captures your attention and causes you to focus on it.  To amp it up, it is to begin to grasp, understand, and work through the truth of something for the complexity it entails.  It’s the difference between informational knowledge and firsthand wisdom.

I can tell you about the sunset over the Pacific Ocean and you can have a mental image.  But when you go to the West Coast, sit on the beach, experience the sites, sounds, smells, and radiant beauty, you are beholding it for yourself.  It is extra-ordinary!

Have you dug into any similar words? Leave a comment!

(more on behold coming later this week)

“Firsthand” review

Firsthand by Ryan & Josh Shook – While recently perusing the YouTube channel for publisher WaterBrook Multnomah, I spotted a series of video reviews for this book called Firsthand.  I don’t know that I would’ve paid much attention to it other than the fact that the tagline read, “Ditching secondhand religion for a faith of your own.”  That piqued my interest enough to read some reviews and ultimately order two copies.  One copy was for our Youth Pastor and the other for our Young Adult group.

Although that may seem either optimistic, risky, or both, I placed a bit of confidence that this book could be worthwhile for some if not many.  The issue of carrying your parent’s or friend’s or even your pastor’s religion with you into your formidable years is usually nothing shy of crisis-inducing.  I was hoping this book dealt with this head on.

So was I disappointed?  No!  Is it a perfect book?  No!  Ha ha, seriously though this book may hit some people right between the eyes and be the challenge that they need.  Not only do the authors, who are still fairly young, recount their own struggles to come to terms with their own core beliefs, they include quotes from other young adults who have also been through the fire and come to their own beliefs in God.

The authors take their time working through different areas of Christianity that need examined, ask questions for application at the end of each chapter, as well as give the reader some practical things to try.  In no way do they claim to have “THE formula” for success, but offer some things that they have found helpful.  They address many issues that young adults deal with (guilt, playing Christian, forgiveness, etc) and look to encourage you to seek God to be the source of the answers.  They don’t discount problems or minimize them as inconsequential, rather the Shooks validate many things as common and opportunities for God to direct you to a deeper relationship with Him.

I personally found books that challenge me with questions and when I take time to reflect and answer them, that I am often stretched.  When there are encouragements to do something practical, even if it’s just a handful of times that I do them, that I often gain a perspective I previously had not held.  For these reasons alone, I think this book has the potential to be used by God to open someone’s mind and life to the idea of finding out for themselves what a real relationship with God is like.

I’ll admit, for as much encouragement and pointed questions that are laced throughout this book, you won’t be inundated with theology requiring a life jacket.  I would say if you were to find a fault with this book, then this would be it.  But if that’s a good thing for where you are, then maybe that will attract you to it.

Honestly, this book doesn’t try to be everything to everyone and exhaustively answer all your questions.  Instead, it is an encouragement to join the authors “on a journey to find a faith of your own.”  There is a message of God’s faithfulness, even while you attempt to “start from scratch, question everything, and get a hold of a faith that’s real.”  The Shook’s do a good job of providing a starting point for this and much more.

I’m going to rate it 4 out 5 stars.  I’m going to recommend this book for anyone who grew up in the church and has struggled to find their “own faith”, especially those in the 15 to 28.5 year old range.  I’m going to recommend it to our high school teens and young adults.

At 189 pages, this book won’t take you long to read.  Take a few evenings or a couple of weeks and read this book and see if God isn’t able to use it to grow you in your faith!

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