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Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome Paperback – December 3, 2013
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About the Author
Owen Strachan is associate professor of Christian Theology and director of the Center on Gospel & Culture at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The author of seven books, he is married to Bethany and is the father of three children.
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My experience with this book was highly tainted by my level of expectation. As I consider the merits and faults of this work, I'm finding that many of my frustrations lead back to my expectations.
I read Jonathan Parnell's positive review of this book over at Gospel Coalition. One of Parnell's major claims is that this book "will lead to a lot of building." I also read the exciting subtitle, "Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome." These phrases gave me the sense that this was a Gospel-centered book geared towards leaders or dreamers. The first two chapters propagated that same expectation.
The book started wonderfully. In chapter one entitled, "Weak Christians: Your Stressed Life Now" he speaks into the mediocrity of Christian life.
"There are going to be moments in life, perhaps many, when it is not your circumstances that paralyze you. It is not a physical or mental inability. It is not lack of capacity. No... it will be a lack of boldness. It will be a failure to see the power of God, and risk everything in this world to gain him." (pg 2) He later says, "what we are really afraid of.. is drastic, life-upsetting action." He then mentions good intentions and with a intuitive does of realism perceives "We feel a variety of things, but they boil down to a mixture of fear, uncertainty, and boredom."
Chapter 2 is the best chapter of the book and I found it extremely helpful. Using the parable of the talents he argues "God doesn't want his people to be fearful, but faithful... Yet biblical faith isn't reckless or careless. Its trusting, confident, and fearless because it is grounded in almighty God." (23) From the parable of the talents he points out how harsh the condemnation was on the man who did not invest/risk his talent. "It's OKAY, God wants you to risk" (29). "God's awesomeness should propel our faithfulness" (28.) His main counsel is to "prayerfully, reflectively, and as wisely as you can through scriptural study and counsel from church members and leaders, you forge your strategy for using the life God has given you for his glory. Then you step up... You Risk" (31). Strategize. Plan. Act.
Chapter 3 was good as well. Here he makes what is happily becoming a familiar argument in many Christian Living books... the believer's identity is in Christ. He then makes a strong point that as image-bearers, we take dominion... we build stuff (67).
So far, I find all of this thrilling and helpful. It is extremely practical to understand that because of God's faithfulness, the brevity of time, the importance of the Gospel, I can prayerfully risk failure to build something great for the glory of God. If I don't, then like the steward with one talent, it will be taken from me.
For me, my interest in this book ended here. I hate to say it. The rest of the book can be summarized like this: be faithful. Be faithful as you build a family and a vocation. Be faithful in church, your community, and your Gospel witness. Yes there are some practical helps here. How can you be a faithful witness? Befriend a widow or teach ESL (187).
I disagree with virtually nothing Strachan said. But it is simple. It seems there was a subtle shift in "Build something awesome"... to be faithful wherever you are. Yes we are to be faithful. Yes, we need to be reminded the road of discipleship is hard and narrow. But building something awesome and being faithful are different.
Perhaps this is an unfair criticism. Perhaps other readers interpreted the subtitle and opening chapters with a little less expectation than I did. Nonetheless, I'm a little disappointed.
The first 3 chapters of this book are great. The rest of this book belongs on the shelf alongside hundreds of other books describing how Christians should live faithfully.
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In this book Owen writes about how our Christianity should work like according to him.Read more