I am way behind on my pace for reading 52 books this year. I just finished book 10 and I should be on book 20. I definitely shot myself in the foot a bit by tackling “The Count of Monte Cristo” so be prepared to see some shorter books being read and reviewed this summer.
Dallas Willard is one of those authors that I feel I must be disciplined to read. He’s authored some amazing Christian works that one might consider classics such as “The Divine Conspiracy” and “Knowing Christ Today” (neither of which I’ve read yet). It was my father who first put me on to Dallas Willard and who actually bought his book “Hearing God” for me to read because of how powerfully the book spoke to him. Admittedly, it has taken me some years to pick it up. I’m glad I finally did.
While it could be said that “Hearing God” is a book that discusses the topic of prayer, that would fall short of the breadth and depth of communication with God that Willard addresses. His systematic and concrete way of discussing a seemingly abstract topic of hearing the messages of the divine is helpful, indeed! Willard writes to the truth I’ve long desired but contemplated little perhaps out of fear that we should not resolve to have a one-way conversation with God but that he indeed desires to speak back and does so in ways we are often not properly attuned to listen for. This is not to say that a physical voice will come to you from God although that can and does happen. Instead, he focuses on the inner voice that comes to us without marring of our own agendas but in harmony with what we know to be true about God in scripture.
Willard readily addresses those who use a false “hearing of God” for their own dishonest gain or pride and gently addresses the righteous and humble who discouragingly feel they’ve heard little to nothing from God. Willard has set me on a path that I believe will change the way I listen for God in my daily life and how I endeavor to hear him in my intentional times with him.
This book was not an easy read. At only just over 200 pages, it wasn’t a long read but it was one I had to take in slowly to appreciate. I have been using Audible regularly to take in many of the books I’ve been reading this year and this one, in particular, I struggled to only listen to because of it’s depth and density. I often listened while having my hardcopy in front of me to follow along with and highlight and I did a fair amount of highlighting in this book. This book requires a prominent place on my bookshelf.
Next time I review the Gothic fiction, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde”.
My first interaction with Francis Chan’s works was, like most people, Crazy Love. I like the uncompromising manner in which he writes and was certainly challenged by some aspects of that book. However, I must admit that now that I’ve had a couple years to digest that book before I got into this book I feel that my overall opinion about his works are starting to wane.
I want to get this out of the way first so I can go on to talk about what I really like about his new book, Letters to the Church. I’ve started to feel that part of why Chan’s works are so well-liked is because he’s good at convicting. He’s particularly adept at pointing at a certain aspect common to the Christian faith and say, “This shouldn’t be this way.” What’s unfortunate about this fact is I don’t think he presents a clear way from “This shouldn’t be this way.” to “This is the way it should be.” He’s certainly good at pointing out the difference between the two but offers few practical ways on how to get from one to the other.
For example, in Letters to the Church, Chan points to the corporate nature of the modern church and challenges it outright. Why should we have professional ministers? Why should we have a big building? Why should we have any type of programmed ministry? He goes on to say that we’ve enabled consumeristic Christianity with our current church model and paints the 1st-century church “small group house church” as the ideal. I take issue with this stance on a couple points.
Firstly (and maybe most controversially), I don’t believe that every aspect of the 1st-century church that we read about in the New Testament represents the ideal for what the church should look like today. I could say more here but suffice to say that the church has progressed in some ways that I think God is pleased with and that the “how” of church should change as culture changes.
Secondly, there are very few who would disagree that any large church can benefit from facilitating small groups but to transfer entirely to this model (which Chan offers no insight into what this type of transfer could look like) is simply not the best move for every church. I don’t think Chan intended this at all but I can’t help feel a sense of arrogance in how he asserts that the current model for church isn’t the best way. It seems just as feasible to me to assert that if every church was a small group it also would not be the best way. The best way will always elude the church because it’s made up of people who are striving to do what’s best but will come up short more often than not. Hence, Jesus.
I really did like a lot of what Chan had to see about some of the inherent problems with the corporate church. Even with his disclaimers, his blanket statements as they apply to all churches seemed to be made in a way that will sell books and will benefit churches as they are very little. That may seem too scathing but it was just my take. Again, I know Chan is doing good things and has done good things for many people. There’s no book he could write that’d say the things every church, ministers, and Christian needed to hear about what’s best. I’m glad he tried anyway. A good read that provoked some good thoughts and discussions in my context.
Next time I review the late Dallas Willard’s Hearing God.
Haven’t written in a while. Mostly because I was trying to finish this monster. 52 hours on audible, 117 chapters. Pro tip, if you want to read a book a week for a year, choose shorter books! Joking aside, I’m trying to make sure that all my reading isn’t relegated to the realm of ministry only. A couple of classics sprinkled in with some fiction and maybe even something specific to my interests is probably a good thing. I’m terribly lacking in the are of literary classics and I chose Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo due to my love for the recent film directed by Kevin Reynolds.
I know this will be blasphemous to some but quite frankly, I preferred the movie. While I’m neither a professional critic for film nor literature, I couldn’t help but appreciate some of the choices Reynolds made in adapting the story to film. The “Hollywooding” of Dumas’ story actually created some cleaner lines to follow in Edmond Dantès’ character arc. Dumas painted beautiful pictures with his words but at times gave a superfluous amount of detail in regards to what everyone wore and the decor of every room. Not my cup of tea.
While I’m thrilled to add this classic work to my stack of read books, I doubt I will be revisiting it in the foreseeable future.
Next time I will review Francis Chan’s Letters to the Church.