Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson imagine a church that lives up to the teachings of its Lord and Savior, and invite us to dream along—and then do something about it.
The authors, childhood friends in Australia both now pastoring in the States—Whitehead at Willow Creek, Tyson at Trinity Grace Church in New York City—challenge our faith as well as provide some concrete examples of how they’ve seen it lived out in the course of their ministries. If you read these kinds of books often, much of what’s here won’t be new—chances are you have in fact witnessed “the faith you’ve only heard about,” albeit wished you saw it more consistently—but the authors’ enthusiasm is contagious. And I do appreciate that it’s not just another “here’s what’s wrong with the church” book (or worse yet, yet another “here’s why people hate the church and we’d better adapt” book).
As some point of comparison: Think a decidedly more winsome version of David Platt’s Radical—not as in-your-face (which cuts both ways), but not as proscriptive either: Whitehead & Tyson throw out the challenges and the real-life illustrations to go with them, then leave it up to you to figure out how that’s going to work in your situation.
A couple chapters stand out from the pack, “Giving Up Your Rights” and “The Green Room.” Both push us to insist on, and live out, God’s justice and mercy rather our own version of “justice” (which often bears more resemblance to revenge). Key quotes from the latter chapter:
• Regarding The Lord’s Prayer: “Jesus’ prayer was not that souls would be saved so the people could go to heaven. Jesus told us to pray that God’s kingdom would come here, now.”
• And the refrain that closes more than a few paragraphs later in the chapter: “When we steward our privilege, the kingdom comes.” Translation: God has given us the blessings we have for a reason, and the reason isn’t us.
Looking at the book from a small-group perspective: The Reading Group Guide in the back is rather congested—each “question” is more like 4-5 questions all at once (I can hear the entire group saying “Can you repeat that?” as I read it)—but the talking points are relevant and useful. I would have loved to have seen some applicational questions as well, though.
All in all, there’s better books to be had out there, but if you don’t already have them, you could do far worse than to start here. Whitehead and Tyson envision a church that’s far more than what it is right now, and will help you do the same.