Review by Joel Toews
What is the subject?
This book is an honest evaluation of the health of the church in North America and a call to true discipleship. It challenges the reader to a life of faithfully and radically following Jesus as upside-down Kingdom people.
Who is the author?
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Paul D. Kroeker for many years, going back to some of my most formative years at Winkler Bible Institute, where he was principal. He now serves as national intercultural mobilizer for the C2C Network. The words of this book flow naturally from who I know him to be as a person.
What appealed to you about this book?
This books speaks to my personal conviction that the church needs to step outside the comfort of the walls of the building and engage in a life-on-life discipleship that is rarely found today in North America. I often wonder if it’s too late for the church in North America to have any relevance in the larger culture. However, this book sets a direction which, if leaders were to take seriously and risk commonly held views of “success”, could have a significant impact in this generation.
Comment on the book’s theological perspective in light of the MB Confession of Faith.
For many years as youth pastor at Fort Garry MB Church, I would participate in the baptism/membership classes. Much of our time was spent reading the Confession of Faith together. Each time we read through it, I was reminded how much I resonate with it, particularly on the subjects of community, love and non-resistance, stewardship of money, resources, time, discipleship and the simple call to make disciples of all nations. These themes run through Paul’s book, not only touching on the significance of loving community, but discipleship and stewardship of our environment.
“Start by following Jesus. Leave your seat in the stadium and get in the game. Become a disciple and find community where they believe every follower of Jesus is being called to a life of great purpose.”
“Jesus invited ordinary people to follow him. He wanted followers who, under his leadership, would turn the world upside-down. He wanted followers who would build his Kingdom, not their own. He saw the harvest, and he asked us to pray for more workers who would work in the harvest field, not in the home office.”
What is lacking?
Not that it’s a downside of the book, but I wonder if anything can really change? It seems like there is a deeply held belief that everything is fine, and maybe it is, which makes this book irrelevant. I wonder if the church too invested in its staffing and buildings to step out and risk following Jesus. As missiologist Alan Hirsch writes: “The safety obsessed church lacks the inner dynamic to foster profound missional impact in our time.”
However, it’s also true that the Spirit is at work, and there is hope in that.
Who should read it?
This is a great book. Everyone should read it. The church needs to be “reJesused” (a term from Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost).
This book will challenge your thinking and it will encourage you to love people deeply, which is where I’ve been convicted most in my reading.
Church leaders should read this book, and consider what taking risks to follow Jesus could look like from an organizational perspective. In fact, I would consider making this required reading for baptism/membership classes, and for involvement on any church board/leadership position.
This quote most impacted me in my personal context:
“God is eager to spend time with you. This is where you will find rest and renewal. Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). Don’t rush into the formation of a new Kingdom community while you are experiencing exhaustion. Decisions made on the rebound are often short-lived.
“Allow God’s grace to wash over you. It is not about achievement or overloading yourself with more burdens to add to your over stressed life. You will know when you are ready for the next step, because the Spirit will give you clarity about what to do.”
[Joel Toews is a former pastor at Fort Garry MB Church, Winnipeg, who is currently wrestling with God about faith and ministry. He enjoys running and cycling long distances, and having adventures with friends and family.