Book Review: More Ready Than You Realize

Good evening friends, and welcome to another installment of "J knows how to read."

Actually, the review for this book couldn't come at a better time. Two weeks ago I started a series on reaching out at the Bridge. We talked about Twitter and how sometimes our connections aren't worth much if there's no power behind them. Then I talked about evangelism, and why it is so many Presbyterians feel so afraid of sharing their faith with others.

Then today at staff meeting, we learned through a survey conducted at our church almost a year ago that we rank in the 9th percentile in regards to evangelism. In a collection of 100 churches, only 8 are worse than Westminster at reaching out.

But before I discovered all of that, I read Brian McLaren's book. I'll be honest, the real reason I started reading some of McLaren's stuff a few years back was because I thought I was completely against the theology of Emergent, and he seemed to be in charge of it. I really wanted to start reading stuff by people I disagreed with theologically, and so I grabbed Brian's books. It turned out, the emergent theology (which needs to be differentiated from the Emergent group) strikes a deep chord with me, and Brian McLaren does a really good job of holding my attention and making me understand where his theology is coming from. Like any good denomination or group of theologians, the emergent movement has it's share of whack-jobs who are to be cautioned against. But they shouldn't all be be painted with the same brush, and in fact Brian is a brilliant and orthodox brother. He really reminds me of a slightly older (would he appreciate that? I doubt it) and more experienced Rob Bell, and we all know how I feel about Rob.

The book itself follows a nearly two year relationship between McLaren and April, a non-Christian harpist with some serious questions about our religion. April comes across as an honest seeker, someone who sees all the church's faults, but still wants the hope and peace the church can provide. She loves the vision of a Christ-centered relationship that some people have described, but fear that they're just "trying to make Christianity sound good." With the exception of the fact that for some reason I picture April looking like the chick from Confessions of a Shopoholic for some reason, she seems to me to be an exceptional example of a seeker.

McLaren outlines how he approaches evangelism, a process he sees with a better name of "spiritual friendship." He does a brilliant job of presenting April's questions via e-mail to the readers, complete with bad spelling and grammar (something you never get on this blog, right?)

Perhaps the best part of this book is how vague it is. There is no list of suggested techniques. There is no guide to the four spiritual laws. There is no "evangelism for dummies." McLaren makes the brilliant point that there are as many different techniques to reaching out to a non-believer as there are non-believers. The way McLaren relates to April is way different from the way I would relate to my next door neighbor. I mean, this becomes a daunting task when we remember that Abraham's descendants will be as many as the stars in the sky.

Another very subtle point that comes across through the book is that evangelism springs forth best from acts of service. I think part of what scares Presbyterians (and other mainline denominations for that matter) about sharing their faith is that they see other people sharing it with random strangers on the street with megaphones and signs, usually accompanied with a sense of arrogance. What if spiritual friendships arranged because people though we were legitimately interested in them!

All in all it's a great book. I highly recommend it for youth pastors who are interested in teaching their kids about sharing faith. Plus, it's a pretty easy read. I got through it in about a week.