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Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church Paperback – April 30, 2015
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“I would recommend any book Collin Hansen writes because he’s one of the most thoughtful and devout men I know. But when it’s a book about what full-orbed and united ministry looks like in a post-Christian culture, I enthusiastically recommend it. The church has a big job in this era, and Hansen’s book helps us face into it with courage, compassion, and conviction.”
—Mark Galli, Editor in Chief, Christianity Today
“Collin Hansen is one of the best younger writers and thinkers in the Lord’s church today. Here he calls on followers of Jesus to manifest three marks, each of which is essential for full-orbed discipleship: holy boldness, loving kindness, and a gospel witness that crosses all bounds.”
—Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; General Editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture
“Courage to speak the truth, compassion to care for the broken and the oppressed, commissioned to evangelize and plant churches—but how often do all three of these commitments meld together, surfacing as unified Christian maturity in our churches? The simple thesis of this book is that eager submission to the Lord Jesus requires such a unified vision. To opt for only one of these commitments while dismissing those who opt for others is to turn aside from Scripture while flirting with sterility and ugliness.”
—D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition
“This book is Collin at his best—with humility and wit, he examines our moment in history and asks, ‘What is wrong with the church?’ Collin’s answer: I am. From that vantage point we begin to understand the beautiful thing God is doing in our generation, encompassing the various gifts he has placed in different Christian traditions. Collin is confident enough in his convictions to write with clarity and authority, yet humble enough to learn from others. This book not only provides insight, it models how to learn from others.”
—J. D. Greear, Pastor, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; author, Not God Enough and Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart
“Collin Hansen provides a valuable framework to the evangelical community to assess our witness and examine our weaknesses in light of Christ’s strengths. This book provides timely, helpful, winsome and wise counsel for believers seeking to encourage others and effectively expand their witness to a watching world.”
—Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism, Wheaton College
“This is a little book that goes to war against all of the right enemies: self-righteousness, pomposity, and anger misplaced. Let’s face it. We've heard enough of our ‘heroes’ thunder from the mountaintops. We’ve planted accusatory fingers into the chests of our fellow believers. We’ve lamented a culture in decline. The truth be told, we’re sick of our own Twitter and Facebook feeds. In response to all of these, Collin Hansen knows the source of the problem. It’s you. It’s me. And in the spirit of Carl F. H. Henry’s ‘sober optimism,’ he points us back to the compassion of Christ for a remedy.”
—Gregory Alan Thornbury, President, The King's College; author, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism
“Collin Hansen is a thoughtful, convictional, and wise leader. This book will help equip all of us to ask what we’re not seeing in the mission field around us, and in our own lives. You will find this book both convicting and rejuvenating at the same time.”
—Russell D. Moore, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
“With this timely and challenging publication, Collin Hansen has provided churches with a scripturally based and balanced look at congregational life and ministry. Based on his discerning reflections and an open acknowledgment of his own imbalance and previous blind spots, Hansen offers us an invitation to join him on this important journey toward mature, healthy, and gospel-advancing congregational life. Carefully and thoughtfully written, the descriptors in the subtitle, ‘Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned,’ point us toward the need for collaborative service involving head, heart, hands, and feet. I am most pleased to recommend this important book.”
—David S. Dockery, President, Trinity International University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
“Collin Hansen offers the multifaceted evangelical church an incisive, sympathetic approach to self-diagnosis. Here is a hopeful vision in which our differences are not ultimately obstacles but opportunities for greater unity in courage, compassion, and commissioning. My hope is that this brief book will win a broad hearing.”
—Stephen T. Um, Senior Minister, Citylife Presbyterian Church, Boston, Massachusetts; coauthor, Why Cities Matter
“What I most appreciate about Collin Hansen’s Blind Spots is the call to be generous with one another. Hansen’s three paradigmatic Christian camps will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with church culture. But he reframes these differences as opportunities for mutual instruction and learning rather than divisions to be reinforced. The result is a work that is at once refreshing and edifying and that will hopefully contribute to a more holistic Christlikeness throughout the body of the church.”
—Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, Chair, Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons, World Evangelical Alliance; author, The World Is Not Ours to Save
“In this insightful and challenging book, Collin Hansen charts a path for principled Christian collaboration in the midst of our post-Christian culture. Comparing ourselves to Christ more than to others, we will humbly work with fellow Christians and their multitude of gifts to further the purposes of God’s kingdom.”
—Thomas S. Kidd, distinguished professor of history, Baylor University; author, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America
About the Author
Collin Hansen is editorial director for The Gospel Coalition and was previously an associate editor for Christianity Today. He has written for Books & Culture, Leadership, and Christian History & Biography, and is the author of Young, Restless, and Reformed.
TIMOTHY KELLER is founder and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. He is the best-selling author of The Prodigal God and The Reason for God.
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Many Christians share Hansen's experience: "Because I'd understood my experience as normative for everyone, I couldn't see how God blessed other Christians with different stories and strengths." Courageous Christians are sometimes "single-issue Christians," with a passionate interest in a particular social cause. They become dangerous when they become "only-issue Christians." They might become intolerant, demanding that "you fall in line behind their agenda." Their courage in the face of evil and sin is admirable and Christlike, until they forget that "courage is not measured by how many people you can offend."
Compassionate Christians want to give, but may emphasize giving at the expense of the gospel itself. They have to recognize that our "compassion won't always be appreciated or even received by a world that rejects the source of our compassion." No matter how much we give, do, or love, many still "reject us and the gospel Jesus preached." The third characteristic, commissioned, sets evangelicals apart: "Belief that the Great Commission still applies to us today separates evangelicals from churches that have sued for peace with our pluralistic age." But even commissioned churches have a tendency to be homogenous, even elitist.
Each of the three kinds of Christians or churches easily develops blind spots to their own weaknesses as well as to the strengths of the other groups. Hansen calls for us to look to one another's strengths and seek unity in Christ. As we abide in Christ, he will develop our character to reflect his own. We can recall his lengthy prayer, as he was awaiting his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying for unity in the church. Our goal should be "the kind of biblical fulness that . . . expects opposition from the world and seeks unity among believers for the sake of the world."
I think most Christians will see themselves in the three categories Hansen describes. We need someone like Hansen to point out our blind spots from time to time, and prayerfully seek a more balanced Christian walk. As we become more Christlike, we can become courageous, compassionate, and commissioned Christians and churches.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
Hansen identifies 3 kinds of Christian responses to the world: the compassionate, the courageous, and the commissioned. He argues that the church needs all 3 kinds in order to function well: the compassionate, who see the need and injustice of the world and rush to help; the courageous, who guard against doctrinal corruption and boldly stand for truth; and the commissioned, who seek new ways of presenting and proclaiming the gospel so that lost people will hear and believe. The problem Hansen goes on to describe is that each group has its own blind spots and weaknesses: “The compassionate struggle to empathize with their critics. The courageous don’t like truth that makes them look bad. And commissioned Christians don’t always enjoy the mission when it jeopardizes their lifestyle and preconceptions about the way of the world” (p. 34).
Rather than addressing our own issues, Hansen says, we can sometimes turn and blame each other for not being more like us. Throughout the book, he addresses each group’s self-blindness and points us back to Jesus our Lord’s example.
This book was incisive and direct. There’s no fluff here. I really appreciated that.
Further, I really liked Hansen’ s repeated affirmation of Scripture as our rule of life and practice. Every single chapter, he called each group to hold onto Biblical truth. And he didn’t shy away from stepping on toes and pointing out errors. To the compassionate, he says that our mercy must flow from our message of the crucified Christ, and that the world may well reject our compassion because of its source. To the courageous, he warns against short-sighted nostalgia for the doctrinal “good old days,” and says that pessimism about the church should not be confused with heroism. To the creative and commissioned, Hansen warns that pragmatism in the name of outreach waters down and destroys the message and turns pastors into feel-good pitch men selling empty phrases that don’t do any good.
There are lots of quotes I want to put in here, but I fear I’ll just be stealing the book’s thunder. Suffice it to say, there are several tweetable bits, and lots of food for thought.
However, there were also a few places where I had real trouble with Hansen’ s recommendations. The biggest issue I had was in regard to “coalition-building.” On page 77, Hansen urges building “diverse coalitions” to address social ills. “Real courage,” he says, “values making a difference over merely appearing courageous in defeat.” This has become a rampant attitude in evangelicalism, and Southern Baptist thinking in particular. I think it’s problematic primarily because it leads Christians to join with non-Christians to address what are essentially sin issues. How can someone in spiritual darkness truly partner with a believer to address a sin issue, unless the agreed-upon solution is built on something other than the Gospel? Yet Hansen (and others) trumpet the importance of coalitions in addressing societal ills. I agree that I can work together with my Hindu and atheist neighbors on community improvement–but in areas of moral right and wrong, what positions would we really share, and how strong would those bonds be? Rather than seeking wide-ranging coalitions with non-believers, perhaps we should be so grounded on the truth of Scripture that we are unified within ourselves first. The more we link arms with people of other faiths (on things like marriage, for example), the fuzzier our Gospel distinctiveness becomes.
There were some other things in the book that hit me wrong. But this was the big one.
I think Blind Spots was a beneficial book for me. It challenged me to consider not only my own blind spots, but also the contributions of my more compassionate and commissioned brothers and sisters to the Kingdom of God. For that, I am immensely grateful. I always need a little dose of humility to keep me focused on what matters most. That said, I have concerns about some of Hansen’s arguments, and his eagerness to reach outside of the Church to partner with non-believers in fighting moral battles. I worry that the more we make these kind of pragmatic gestures in the name of results, the more we will find our message being lost in a vague haze of “morality.” That would lead to another and more menacing form of blindness. The distinctions we draw as followers of Jesus need to be much cleaner and more clear than that–as different as light and dark, in fact.
Please Note: I was provided a physical copy of the book for review through Crossway’s “Beyond the Page” review program. My personal comments above are unbiased and freely offered.
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7/13/2015 0 Comments
Blind spots are something that every person has.Read more