Since Christians often talk about community as one of their highest ideals it is shocking when they realize that, as Henri Nouwen insightfully noted, "Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives." Fortunately, John Ortberg shares our passion for community and is able to teach us how to live with and love one another. With the insight of a counselor and the heart of a pastor, Ortberg has written one of the best contemporary considerations of community.
Normal? Whos Normal? Not you, thats for sure! No one youve ever met, either. None of us are normal according to Gods definition, and the closer we get to each other, the plainer that becomes. Yet for all our quirks, sins, and jagged edges, we need each other. Community is more than just a wordit is one of our most fundamental requirements. So how do flawed, abnormal people such as ourselves master the forces that can drive us apart and come together in the life-changing relationships God designed us for? In Everybodys Normal Till You Get to Know Them, teacher and best-selling author John Ortberg zooms in on the things that make community tick. Youll get a thought-provoking look at Gods heart, at others, and at yourself. Even better, youll gain wisdom and tools for drawing closer to others in powerful, impactful ways. With humor, insight, and a gift for storytelling, Ortberg shows how community pays tremendous dividends in happiness, health, support, and growth. Its where all of us weird, unwieldy people encounter Gods love in tangible ways and discover the transforming power of being loved, accepted, and valued just the way we are. The need for community is woven into the very fabric of our being. Nothing else can substitute for the life-giving benefits of connecting with othersnot even God. He wont preempt the way he himself has designed us to reflect his own intensely relational nature. But theres a hitch in our experience of community, says John Ortberg: Were all weird. Folks around us may seem normal enough, but just wait till we get to know themand they get to know us. The unhealthy, sinful ways we respond to life in a fallen world are hardly Gods idea of normal, and they can make us as unhuggable as porcupines. We face the porcupine dilemma, says Ortberg: We need each other, but how do we get close without getting hurt? How do we get past all those quills and grow together in Christ? In Everybodys Normal Till You Get to Know Them, Ortberg once again reveals his gift for sharing profound insights using a lighten-up approach. With winsome humor and a fondness for well-spun stories, he pops the myth of normalcy and hands us the keys to creating and sustaining relationships. Gods dream for community encompasses the redemption of all spheres of life, he says. Who doesnt want like to be liked, to be wanted, to have solid, satisfying friendships! Ortberg shows what such relationships are made of. He reveals the benefits of authenticitywhat it means to live with an unveiled face, as the Bible puts it. He encourages us to trade the stones its so easy to cast at others for acceptance. He opens our eyes and heart to empathy, the art of reading people. And he takes us through the ins and outs of conflict, forgiveness, confrontation, inclusion, and gratitude. The principles and discussion questions in this book are down-to-earth. Theyre for real people living in a real world, and are intended to help us count the practical cost of relationship and then pay itbecause in all the rewards and struggles of community, were investing in something beyond our comprehension. You could call it heaven. You could call it home. Its the place where all of us are headed, all of us belong, and all of us will be normal at last.
John Ortberg is the senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC) in the San Francisco Bay Area. His bestselling books include Soul Keeping, Who Is This Man?, and If You Want to Walk on Water, Youve Got to Get out of the Boat. John teaches around the world at conferences and churches, writes articles for Christianity Today and Leadership Journal, and is on the board of the Dallas Willard Center and Fuller Seminary. He has preached sermons on Abraham Lincoln, The LEGO Movie, and The Gospel According to Les Miserables. John and his wife Nancy enjoy spending time with their three adult children, dog Baxter, and surfing the Pacific. You can follow John on twitter @johnortberg or check out the latest news/blogs on his website at www.johnortberg.com.
There are no normal people, asserts prolific author and pastor Ortberg (If You
Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat; The Life You've
Always Wanted), and the sooner Christians accept this disquieting truth, the
healthier they and their churches will be. In this mediocre treatise on
Christian community, Ortberg implicates Christians who are constantly on the
run and on the most superficial terms with their fellows. Citing numerous
biblical stories where Jesus turned the tables on foes and drew in unlovable
and undesirable people, Ortberg nicely communicates his passion for seeing
past external appearances and delving deeply into people's hearts and souls.
Christians, he says, must learn to communicate on Jesus' terms; they should
practice unconditional love, strive for authenticity and build mutual trust.
While Ortberg warns readers to be circumspect with personal disclosure, he
contends that the modern Christian church has failed miserably in biblical
communication, especially in loving confrontation. Still, the overall message
of this book is upbeat, as Ortberg reminds readers of the positive aspects
found in solid relationships, which he names as genuine forgiveness,
deliberate inclusion and heartfelt gratitude. While this message is ageless,
it is certainly not new; "Christian living" bookshelves are crowded with
volumes on spiritual formation, congregational life, group prayer and
communication. Among these, Ortberg's offering loses its impact quickly
because of poor organization, various tangents and over-long chapters. (Mar.)
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