July 15, 2013

Love Into Light - Book Review

Easily one of the top books I have read in 2013, Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard addresses a topic that is both highly relevant in our society and yet inadequately (and often inappropriately) taught in our churches.  If you are seeking guidance on how a Biblically grounded, Gospel oriented Christian ought to understand and interact with homosexuality, then this is the book for you.

Near the beginning of the book, Peter Hubbard addresses what I feel can be one of the most challenging problems with how the church has interacted with this topic.  He puts it this way:
I have spoken to scores of men and women who have spent years worshipping in church while battling alone with SSA (Same Sex Attraction). They were terrified to tell anyone, and convinced that if other Christians knew their secret, they would be tagged and discarded. Imagine the trauma of believing that your struggle is unlike any other sin. The preacher makes applications in his sermons to lying, stealing, or marital selfishness. And periodically a man may testify to struggling with heterosexual lust. Or a woman may ask  for prayer regarding anxiety. But these sins seem normal, understandable. And there is hope and help for change. But homosexuality seems different. When it is mentioned in church, it's usually associated with abomination, activism, or antagonism.  Often the pronouns change from "we" to "them." Some sins allow you to be a "we," but other sins require you to be a "them." The "yuck" factor crosses the line of acceptability.
How true that next to last sentence has been.  How often I have heard, and maybe have even maintained myself a "them" mentality regarding homosexuals.

Right after the above statement, he states three goals in this book.  The third of those three goals is:
...that the church, all believers, would shift from reacting to media and political stories, to proactively engaging our homosexual neighbors with the same love and the same truth that Jesus is offering to us.
Even though I thought that the entire book was excellent: again and again dealing with this emotionally charged topic with both grace and truth, I found that the final chapter, addressing outreach, was what truly brought everything together.  Of course to understand that final chapter, I needed to go through the rest of the book, which brought a better understanding to the topic, so that we can go into an outreach mindset with compassion and understanding. Consider this quote near the end:
Paul did not command Titus to preach against "those homosexuals." He commanded Titus to "teach what accords with sound doctrine."  ... According to the letter to Titus, gospel advancement is not to be pursued through hurling insults or lobbing cliches over picket lines. These methods attempt to catapult sound bites over deep trenches rather than living and speaking the story of Jesus before friends and neighbors. Some of us may feel uncomfortable with the New Testament's  method of evangelism. [emphasis mine]
I obviously left some of that quote out.  What does he mean by "teach what accords to sound doctrine"?  What does this look like?  How would one accomplish this?  I've left much out because it would take a book to do this topic justice... So, you should just buy the book!  That final sentence is such a reality for many of us.  We say we want to do evangelism God's way, but when it comes down to it, we can start to get a little uncomfortable and there are too many Christians that eventually default back to that "us" vs. "them" mentality.

I hope that God saves us from this, and more specifically I hope that Edgewood (the church where I pastor) would be a be a place where those struggling with SSA in Danville would come for the truth of the Gospel and the grace of Jesus Christ.

July 11, 2013

Who Stole My Church - Book Review

A couple of weeks ago a lady in my church, who has been at the church since I was about five years old, told me she was reading a book that she thought I might enjoy.  A couple of days later she handed me the book and told me that I could borrow it if I wanted.  The book was called,Who Stole My Church? by Gordon MacDonald.  The subtitle is, What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century.  It was feeling a bit too close to home, needless to say, I was a tad nervous.

But then I started reading the book.

Here is the premise of the book:  Gordon MacDonald, a real-life Pastor and the author of this book, decided to tackle the challenging topic of Church Change and Church Reinvention by writing a story.  He uses himself and his wife as real characters in the book, but the church and the other characters are all fictional.  He then begins to break down the different topics commonly associated with change through the form of dialogue.  He allows you to discover the correct conclusions by watching the characters discover them as they converse and experience the Bible in relation to Christ's Church in the day to day. He also steers you away from harmful and destructive attitudes by giving you a glimpse of what those stubborn attitudes look like in the real world with real people.

I absolutely enjoyed this book.  I made it through the first half of the book in my first sitting. And since then I have been telling people all about it every chance I get. I am looking forward, if this lady in my church won't mind, to loaning it to others in the church.  I am also considering purchasing a couple of other copies to pass out in the church, I would love to just give a few of these away.

My favorite part of this book is near the end when the topic shifts away from music (and other typical change related discussion) to those who might enter our church. What might they experience?  How are they received?  Lets talk beyond the surface and dig into our hearts.  If we are honest, many of us only want those who will make us feel comfortable coming in the doors of our church.

If you get a chance to pick this up, it is worth the read.  Especially if you are in a church that feels like it is being reinvented or if it needs to be reinvented!