The title of this book alone is compelling. Rare is the Christian who has not at times questioned his faith. Mike McKinley has done the Church a great service in writing this small volume. He has accomplished two significant things in the process. First, he has forced the professing-but-not-possessing believer to take a long, hard look at the reasons he thinks he is saved and fires off seven objections why that may not actually be the case. And secondly, toward the end of the book, he encourages sincere believers to confidently and regularly lay hold of the grace that has come to them through their faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. McKinley's purpose is not to create doubt, but to answer it with biblical objectivity. His bullet points include that one is not a Christian 1) just because he says he is, 2) if he hasn't been born again, 3) just because he likes Jesus, 4) if he enjoys sin, 5) if he does not endure to the end, 6) if he doesn't love other people, and 7) if he loves his stuff. Arminian readers will take exception to some of his arguments, but those of a more reformed bent will be encouraged to find a book that encourages them to examine their walk with Christ in terms of its fruit-bearing quality. Throughout the book, McKinley points to the local church as the essential place where one's faith is declared and matured. As our own church enters a period of renewal and reformation, I believe this book will help our members to consider what a Christian really is and cause them to evaluate themselves in light of Scripture. I also plan to order a quantity to share with family and friends whose faith is more presumptuous than practical.
A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a conference where Mike McKinley was one of the speakers. I enjoyed his presentations and sermons immensely and was fortunate enough to meet him and trade a few emails. I committed at that conference to buy both the books he has written and review them for you. Am I Really a Christian? is really the second of his books. I will post a review of the other in a few weeks.
I am more conflicted over this book than I have been over a book in a long time. First let me say, it is a really good book. Further, it addresses a real issue in the church: people who think they are Christians but are not. But how do you know who is and who is not really a Christian? It is less important for me or you to identify who is or is not; it is vitally important for me to be able to identify whether I am or not. and that is what McKinley tries to help us answer.
This book does not seem to be a direct reply to the doctrines of "easy believism" or "cheap grace" - inasmuch as it does not directly reference those belief systems or their proponents. Instead, it is a prophetic voice to a Christian subculture that often elevates professions and image above a genuine relationship with the God of the universe through the salvation that comes only in Jesus Christ.
In Am I Really a Christian?, McKinley identifies seven traits or characteristics which he thinks out to help an individual determine whether or not he is a Christian; he then writes a chapter based on each of these characteristics from the negative perspective. The chapter titles all begin: "You Are Not a Christian ...":
* Just Because You Say That You Are
* If You Haven't Been Born Again
* Just Because You Like Jesus
* If You Enjoy Sin
* If You Do Not Endure to the End
* If You Don't Love Other People
* If You Love Your Stuff
McKinley's writing is conversational and easy to follow. Most importantly, it is rooted in the scripture. And this is a good place to address why I am conflicted over this book. I appreciate that it uses the truth of the Gospel as the foundation. The problem is that I disagree with some of his interpretation. Don't get me wrong; most of it is spot-on. He could not be more right. The problem is where I think he gets it wrong, he gets it very wrong. This is most true of Chapter 5: "You Are Not a Christian If You Do Not Endure to the End".
When I ordered the book, I was fully aware of McKinley's Calvinist or Reformed beliefs; and I have an appreciation for them. The chapter about enduring did not surprise me. It is the depth of my reaction that surprised me.
The other surprise was my response to the scriptures he used to support his Calvinst position. I would use pretty much the same passages to support my Reformation Arminian position. It really is a matter of interpretation!
I don't want to be uncharitable. I count Mike McKinley as a bother and co-laborer in ministry. He desires to desires to associate and work alongside brothers and sisters who do not share his Calvinist soteriology, as do I.
He closes the book with a chapter where he asks then tries to answer the question: Can I ever really know if I am a Christian? followed by a chapter stressing the importance of membership in the local church. The chapter on church membership is perhaps the best in the book. My hope is that he will soon write an entire book on that topic.
Am I Really a Christian? is really quite a good book. That being said, as a reader you must go in with your eyes wide open. McKinley definitely approaches the subject through the lens of his deeply held Reformed theology, as he should.
This is a book I would recommend to pastors and teachers, along with those who are confident enough in their understanding of scripture to prevent being unduly influenced by the areas where I think McKinley just gets it wrong. I am hesitant to recommend it to individuals who struggle with assurance because the chapter on perseverance breeds the very false assurance McKinley tries to guard against. The book would also make a great general outline for a preaching or teaching series.
I always approach books on this topic with a bit of anxiety - wondering if I will walk away with more questions than when I begun. However, this book ranks first in the several I have read on this topic because it not only answered all my questions, but did so with great clarity. McKinley does not beat around the bush and present pages of lengthy explanation, rather he takes you back to Scripture for the answers. This book is a 140 page handbook for those who are willing to ask themselves the hard question of: "Am I really a Christian?".
Despite the sober subject and deep content, Mike helps ease the tension with his sprinkling of humor throughout the book. At first this may seem out of place, but as you read you feel as if you are having a personal conversation with a trusted mentor. He also provides great word pictures that take some difficult concepts and make them so much easier to understand. The book is also hands-on and interactive due to the "How To Respond" section at the end of each chapter. It is a good blend of book and Bible study combined into one cover and is suitable for individual or group use as well as appropriate for both teens and adults.
I was convicted and encouraged by this book. It helped me see some weak areas of my life and direct me to passages in the Bible that helped me determine my answer to the question: Am I Really a Christian? Whether you can answer that question without thinking about it or not, I highly recommend this book. Anyone who reads it will walk away benefiting from it...it's just that they may not benefit from it as they first expected. It's short, it's easy to read, founded on the Bible, and Christ centered. It is a great stand-alone read or a fabulous follow-up read to Because He Loves my, or Living the Cross Centered Life, or books of like kind.
Am I Really a Christian? is more than what meets the eye at first glance. This is a "really should read" book that packs quite a punch.
Wheaton ILÂ¬â€”Some stats indicate that nearly 80% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Mike McKinley has noticed a concerning trend: There are far too many people who think that they are Christians, but aren't actually in Christ. He likens it to people who claim to be "huge Yankees fans" but don't watch games, don't know the lineup, or the stats, and only ride the team's glory around playoff time for the exciting World Series victory.
In Am I Really a Christian?, McKinley argues that there is much at stake in the decision to follow Christ, and it is crucial to know where you stand and what it means for your life.
McKinley writes with a genuine love and concern for those in the church. He asks tough questions in order to plead with readers who may not be running the race marked out in God's Word to change course. Emphasizing the importance that Jesus and Paul placed on this issue, McKinley guides readers through Scripture to show what the Bible says about genuine faith.
Throughout my ministry has developed a growing frustration. I have a feeling that many other pastors share the same frustration, but it is rarely discussed. Too often our churches have fewer 'members' attending actively than is recorded (and reported) on the church roll. Where are all these 'ghost members'?
As I think about this I get frustrated. Are they now attending other churches? Did they simply move away, forever to be forgotten? Have they died? Were they even saved to begin with? Why are they still on the roll?
Enter Mike McKinley's excellent book Am I Really a Christian?. This book looks at seven areas for individuals to being the process of reviewing their lives. Each chapter begins with "You are not a Christian" and then has a different topic it covers. For example, "You are not a Christian just because you say that you are" and You are not a Christian if you enjoy sin". Two other personal favorites of mine include, "You are not a Christian if you don't love other people" and "You are not a Christian if you love your stuff".
This is a very thought provoking book and clearly presents a biblical understanding of salvation. These chapters allow the reader to evaluate whether they are indeed a follower of Christ or not. Maybe every person who joins a church should be required to read this book first? Or better yet, maybe every person on a church's roll, whether active or a 'ghost member' should read the book. This book is a call to understand the biblical meaning of salvation and will serve the church well! It might not relieve all the frustration pastors experience, but it will shed light on an important issue facing the church today.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."