Two friends have published good books that I wanted to do a quick review, and then a film promo from another friend. Both of the books train us in the way of mission, how we can get out of our safe church circles and enter the wonderful, wild world God has placed us, loving it for the sake of Jesus.
The Day Metallica Came to Church (TDMCTC) is written by John Van Sloten, all round good guy, sharp pastoral theologian and someone who loves Jesus. I had a front row seat watching this book come to life, being part of original Lilly endowed research group and one of the contributors to a few sermon series our Western Canadian group of pastors worked on (which are part of the book – e.g. Lord of the Rings, World Cup). But John has taken this further and deeper than any one of the original group and it’s his tenacity and vision that is driving the good work this is.
The seminal truth that TDMCTC shines a spotlight on is common grace and general revelation – that God’s revelation is not bound by Scripture but is witnessed throughout creation, even in and through the works of non-Christians. Nothing revolutionary here; these teachings are a well established part of a rich Christian theology. But what John does well is track out the implications of these Christian teachings within the framework of popular culture, often in ways that makes not a few Christians squeemish. In a nice review here, blogger Paul Vander Klay aptly notes that John is “calling our bluff on this doctrine many of us subscribe to.” Do we really believe that God can be found everywhere in this world he created? Do we really think this world belongs to God? It’s a lovely idea to dwell on and a life-changing teaching to let mess with your mind and your posture in this world.
What John does so well, before anything else, is to see the God-goodness in people, cultural works, etc. We’re so quick to name what’s wrong or distorted in the world but through the lens of common grace John is on the hunt for God’s glory wherever it shines throughout the world. More than anything, its a beautiful book that restores a sense of wonder to our Christian and theological imagination. TDMCTC reminds me of the story in Exodus 3 where Moses comes across the burning bush. At first blush, all he sees is desert brush on fire – no big deal. But Moses pays attention; he needed to simply watch the fire for a few minutes to then figure out that the bush was, indeed, not being consumed. TDMCTC teaches us to patiently, lovingly pay attention to everything in our world because any ordinary thing can flame out with the holiness of God
Some say that John isn’t critical enough, too embracing of culture. There is a time and place for a prophetic critique of what’s bent and broken in our world, but that’s not what John seeks to do. As Christians we already do this all too well; what we often lack is a gracious capacity to spot the presence of God already at work in wonderfully common ways. Read TDMCTC to help you learn how to better see God’s good hand at work in the most unexpected places.
The second book has one of the best titles: Don’t invite them to Church by Karen Wilk – pastor, great missional leader and fine teacher (she loves Jesus too, just in case the title led you to another conclusion). Karen’s book is such a helpful resource for anyone looking for practical ways to begin to live out their faith in their neighbourhood. And she’s an authority to speak to this – Karen has been faithfully living out what she speaks of in the book.
It’s more a hands on manual for living out your faith in Jesus than an in-depth ecclesiology; but you will be challenged in your understanding of church. And so it’s a book that you shouldn’t read quickly, and probably not alone – read it with a group of friends or a circle of Christians that live in your community. Karen will help you rethink your ideas of church and you’ll need time to let go of assumptions and ideas of how church should be, giving yourself the space and time to begin to conceive of how church might be. In our age, we’re fairly locked into what is termed the “attractional” model of church: we’re oriented around inviting people to a place or an event (“come and see.”) Karen wants to move the church towards a missional mode of existence where we “go and be the church,” living out the Kingdom in our neighbourhoods and workplaces.
Don’t invite them to Church is divided up into eight weekly chapters that includes stories from people living out a “go and be” church, daily devotions for these eight weeks, and really helpful practices and postures, street ready ways to incarnate the life of Jesus in our daily living right away. You can’t read and work through her book without getting involved – if you do manage to read through the book and your life hasn’t changed, you’ve not really read the book. Pick it up and put it into practice – you’ll be quickly following the way of Jesus right into the world he loves.
And then there’s a movie, Reparando – you can view a trailer for the film here. My friend and Calgary photographer Stephanie Jager-Corbel was involved in the creation of the film (she is a fabulous photographer; check her work out here). The documentary film follows Shorty, a pastor and former gang member, and Tita, who started a school in Guatemala’s most notorious slum, as they join forces to invoke positive change and repair the country and its people.
It’s being screened in Calgary at a one night engagement on April 14 at 7:00 p.m. at the Uptown Theater (612 8 Avenue SW, Calgary, AB). If you’re anywhere near Calgary on the fourteenth, get yourself to the Uptown.