Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Briarpatch Gospel: A Book Review

About The Book:

Hasn’t Jesus called us into the thorns and thistles with Him to love what we find there? What if we had the courage to follow him into the briarpatch and discover life as we were always meant to live it? In The Briarpatch Gospel, dynamic young pastor Shayne Wheeler presents a radical message of grace, one that won’t allow you to remain comfortable merely sitting in a church pew. He shares his own heartbreaking personal journey through the briarpatch, and his church’s remarkable experience of creating a community in which people walk through life’s issues—even the darkest, most painful problems and questions—together. Unafraid. Like Jesus did.

Think about it: What is your (or your church’s) briarpatch—the area where you’re afraid to go, or feel unequipped to address? Is it sharing what you really think on controversial issues? Becoming friends with someone who’s different from you? Confronting and overcoming your own pain, doubts, or fears? Bold and challenging, The Briarpatch Gospel provides a new vernacular for Christians to have open, honest conversations about what loving each other in Christ’s name might look like in the briarpatches of their own communities.

About The Author:

Shayne Wheeler is the founding pastor of All Souls Fellowship in Decatur, Georgia, an eclectic and funky church about five miles east of downtown Atlanta. Prior to starting All Souls, Shayne served churches in Missouri, Virginia, and the suburbs of Atlanta. Before he became a professional Christian, he was a shoe salesman, mattress mover, warehouse worker, and waiter in a few different restaurants. He met his wife, Carrie, at Western Kentucky University, and she quickly became his best friend. They married in 1992 and now share a very noisy home with their three busy kids and two very articulate but mostly illiterate dogs. In his free time, Shayne enjoys exercising, traveling with his family, riding motorcycles, and reading quietly on his awesome front porch. He holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy and religion from Western Kentucky University, and an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary.

Here is a video clip of the author speaking about chapter eight and nine.

My Review:

I grew up in a Christian home, with Christian friends, going to youth group and attending a private, Mennonite Brethern school for my teen years. If I honest, I have never really been pushed to go outside my personal comfort zone and have often avoided reaching out to those outside of that zone. Some of my reasons are found in fear, not having the resources or the know-how, and honestly I just haven't felt equip or comfortable to reach out to those that are in the briarpatch of life (messy lives, those "outcasts" of society, etc). 

I know that as a Christian I am called to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people, not just those in my own social circles. This book was definitely one that hit between the eyes with a two by four. Seriously. It was a call to all Christians to stop and look outside our life and reach out to those that society, and sadly oft-times the Church, has written off. 

While I am not sure I am ready to embrace all the author has said to do, I know that my attitude has definitely been altered. And as I seek out God's plan for me to reach out, I will pray for His guidance to give me strength, peace, love and grace to others, just as it's been given to me. I did feel though that the author was a little harsh on those who do not get down and dirty and feel that was not quite fair on his part. I am not sure that my gifts lead me to work with those on the streets or in messy situations per say, but that does not mean I cannot support the wonderful people and organizations that do the nitty-gritty work in the briarpatch. Overall, I was happy about book's overall premise: it is not about labelling sin, but loving on those who sin, and that is all of us!

It's not about judging because we are all sinners but loving on people as Jesus loved. On ALL. While I liked the style of writing, and all the personal stories and encouragement, I was disappointed that there was not as much scripture to back up much of the thoughts presented.

 I was also disappointed, and disagreed, with several points in the book on a theological basis. I don't agree with having non-Christians as part of leadership within a church, as he does (and did, with a member of his worship team) and I also disagree that practicing homosexuals should be allowed to be a part of leadership (in any capacity) in a church. While I agree that a person with same sex attraction can be a Christian, I would disagree with the fact that it is okay to live out a homosexual lifestyle and call yourself a Christian. I am disappointed that he seems to be okay with one continuously sinning without repentance or trying to avoid that sin all together. 

While the overall theme of loving those whom society deems "unlovable" or worth forgiveness is wonderful, there were too many things I disagreed with. The book did challenge me but not enough to honestly be able to recommend this book.

BUY IT: You can purchase The Briarpatch Gospel online through Amazon. It is also available through your local favorite bookseller from Tyndale House Publishers. 

***I received a complimentary copy of this book, courtesy of the Tyndale Blog Network, for the purpose of review on this blog. All opinions expressed are my own, and I have not been compensated in any other manner***

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