3 Stars Out Of 5
Some good, some aggravating
December 20, 2013
I don't know if it's because I'm older, or if I just had a diverse upbringing, but sometimes the problems that are being addressed in modern evangelical books are problems that I don't see. It's not that they don't exist, but they're being addressed as if nobody else sees it.
I was raised Lutheran (LCMS) and was reminded on a weekly basis that Jesus is Lord of Lords, King of Kings AND Savior. Apparently, this is not the case in many churches.
Why does the book exist?
McKinley believes that modern Christians are more concerned about getting to Heaven than living out the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. It's a valid concern. Anecdotally, I know many Christians who attend church regularly, but know little about what the Bible says, or how it should impact their lives. Studies have been done that show that less than 10% of modern Christians have a Biblical worldview; that is, their beliefs don't seem to match up with what we're taught in the Bible.
McKinley is a pastor and he writes in the first chapter that he hopes the reader will receive this book "not as a theological word on anything, but as a well-intentioned, God-loving invitation to go and grow." I understand the intent; he's just trying to show you something you may not have seen before, or maybe you haven't seen it at all. I get that. At the same time God's word on the topic, any topic, is far more important than our ideas. If you're sitting with a friend, you're just talking. If you're writing a book it needs to unashamedly have Biblical backup.
In chapter 6 he exegetes Tolkein's Silmarillion. He asks the question, "So how does God deal with the painful and often violent notes that His enemy creates and His creatures play along to?" And then he answers it with a quote from Tolkein's book. Illustrations are great for illuminating scripture, but not as a replacement answer.
In chapter 4 there is a simple, but incomplete description of repentance. He talks about repentance as an invitation from God rather than a penalty, which I would applaud. After all the Bible says that it's God's kindness that leads us to repentance so we should look at repentance in terms of a gift. However, McKinley's description of repentance, while including turning away from something we thought was right when we learned it was wrong, never mentions that repentance is turning from sin and to Christ. It's an odd omission.
McKinley makes an excellent point that if we accept Jesus as Savior, but not as King, we are only getting half the picture. When this happens the Gospel is more about you than God. As McKinley writes, "We end up living in a sea of chaos, where Jesus' kingdom people are often chasing after anything that will get Him to work His magic on their behalf. In other words, get the King to serve the bricklayers and barmaids."
"And we've shrunk the good news to a short list of words that will save a soul from hell."
McKinley also makes an excellent point about relevance. He decries the churches that are trying so hard to "look sexy enough" so that the "culture around us would fall in love with it." It's the tragedy of the modern church that tries so hard to be "attractional" they've lost focus of what they're attracting people to. McKinley writes, "We become relevant when we are committed to being that signpost of heaven in some part of our world. When we study Scripture, we find that relevance happens naturally when we choose to be real people caring for other real people."
The redemption of the book comes in Appendix 2. I'll just quote McKinley to show why.
"Attracting people to come to us is not the worst thing, for sure. But Jesus didn't use that model. He went to the people."
"People who were touched by Jesus had very little information on how to share their faith, yet they were effective witnesses. Mostly what they had was a deep desire."
"The gospel clearly indicates that if we change someone's morality without changing his or her heart through faith in Christ, we have not done anything of eternal significance."
The Wrap Up
There are parts of this book that touch the heart and open the eyes and other parts that I simply wanted to rip out. On the whole I would put a cautious approval on this book. There is definitely something we need to learn from it; the Gospel includes Jesus as Savior and King. However, there is a tendency to lean toward one side; the Kingdom side. However, if the author is right, that most evangelicals are familiar with the Savior side and not the Kingdom side, it makes sense that the book would lean that way.
One of McKinley's closing comments is the pay off for the book.
"At some point in the history of the American church, our gospel seems to have become fragmented â€” cut off from the whole person â€” and, not surprisingly, smaller. But in order to enter the kingdom vocation, we must preach the exclusivity of Christ and the life-changing message of Jesus while at the same time putting that love on physical display through, for example, social action."
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. Check out my reviews and you'll see this is often true.