Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review: The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

I heard Gabe Lyons speak at a youth ministry conference several years ago right around the time that “UnChristian” came out, and he began outlining what he saw as the solutions to the problem of Christianity’s negative branding. From what I can tell, this book contains much of what he had to say then in more detail.

Lyons obviously knows what he’s talking about as he recounts his experiences with Christianity and his observations of the kind of Christian people that he terms the “next Christians.” He makes a great case for the incomplete gospel that is often communicated by Christianity in America. The Bible outlines the redemptive story in four stages: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. However, most Christians focus only on Fall and Redemption by telling people that they’re evil and need Jesus to save them. This is incomplete because people need to understand the Creation and Restoration aspects. People weren’t created evil. God created everything perfect and humanity in his image. It was all very good. But something very bad happened in the Fall. Jesus died to redeem us, but the Restoration part of the story is the hope that Christians are supposed to strive for. The complete gospel tells people that God created them, loves them, wants to rescue them, and wants to make everything perfect again. The incomplete gospel gives an incomplete picture of God.

Lyons observes that when it comes to culture Christians typically either become separatists or they try to blend into the culture. Neither is what the Scriptures call Christians to. Instead, Lyons describes a third response to culture, that of the Restorers. These are the next Christians who understand that in order to truly change culture you must create culture. These people are dedicated to making the world a better place and creating a culture that points people in the direction of God.

The Restorers’ responses to culture are contrasted with the typical Christian responses. Restorers are:
• Provoked, not Offended
• Creators, not Critics
• Called, not Employed
• Grounded, not Distracted
• In Community, Not Alone
• Countercultural, Not “Relevant”

The book gives some solid biblical advice on how Christians can and should respond to the culture they find themselves a part of. The only critique I would have is that Lyons often sounded like he was downgrading the purpose of God to influence people into a relationship with God, though I don’t think that’s what he intended. He was merely pointing out that evangelism isn’t the only thing that Christians are called to do.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book Review: The Chasm by Randy Alcorn

"The Chasm" is a parable about humanity's separation from and desperate need for God. The story takes place in a world where spiritual realities take the form of physical manifestations. The main character Nick Seagrave has been plunged into this world after a broken past as a result of his betrayal of the people he loves most. In this world he knows he's on a journey, and there are many guides offering suggestions about what he's searching for most. But he soon discovers what he wants most is a city in the distance called Charis where a great King lives. But on his journey there he finds a deep and haunting Chasm that no man can cross.

The Chasm is a perfect illustration for what it means to be "dead in our transgressions and sins" (Eph 2:1)." Humanity has betrayed God, and there's nothing we can do to fix it. It's created a chasm between us and God that will only destroy us in our attempts to cross it by our own efforts. A deep longing for God and for his dwelling place exists in everyone, but, as Alcorn has illustrated, we can do nothing to undo what we've created.

Alcorn's story captures the need of every person for the One we've betrayed to create a way back to him. And that way comes at great sacrifice to him because someone has to pay for what we've done if he's not going to make us do it.

Alcorn did a great job of showing the antagonism the human heart often feels against God for "blaming" us for the chasm, as well as the dissatisfaction people feel in their pursuit of everything but God.

Several incredible drawings were included throughout the story to give us a visual of what the main character is experiencing.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to really understand what our sin has done, but even more what Christ has done to undo what we've done.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review