By Adam Clarke
First off, Iʼd like to state that although I am extremely positive about this book and the author, I did indeed read other reviews to consider some other perspectives. So, in retrospect, my views are not completely unaffected by outside sources. On that note, my favorite quote comes from Chapter Six where Rob Bell states:
“A church is not an organization that surveys its demographic to find out what the market is demanding at this particular moment and then adjusts its strategy to meet that consumer niche.”
In a time of buzz words and societal conformity, I find this statement refreshing. The honesty in verbalizing the need to let the words and teachings of Jesus, to be the “hook” to bring people into the church, is what will allow people to come to a personal relationship with Him. As for conforming to our culture, I truly believe that the draw for our students, to keep them coming to church and youth programs, is allowing them to experience something that is beyond what they get in their homes, on their computer, or within their
schools. A fresh, honest experience delving into the words of Jesus is what they are yearning for. I think that if they were not looking for a relationship with Jesus, as well as fellowship with other believers, they would not be attending.
“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:22-25 in the Message or page 159-60 in the book.)
As for the writing style of Rob Bell, whether for or against the short passages, my family and I came to think of it as a written account of the spoken word – almost an oral history of sorts. His syntax is very much a mirror of the spoken word used to account the history of the Israelites. This, unfortunately, is disrupted by those who chose to critique his style rather than excepting it as a reinvention of an ancient technique.
Throughout the book, the current state of the church in society is equated with Israel as they were as slaves in Egypt, Israel as they were in exile, and Israel in their post-exilic state. The authors continually talk about a “new exodus” idea where God will rescue his people from slavery and oppression once again. The primary proposition of the book is that Christians need to remember the poor, give thought to the
oppressed, and work toward healing the perception of the church in mainstream society. I would recommend this book in terms of a personal read. I wouldnʼt say this is a necessary tool for youth work, but it is a great social commentary on the culture that surrounds us and, at times, penetrates the church. (See quotes below.) If you are looking for resource material, this book is of the wrong genre, however helpful and insightful.
The new humanity is not a trend. Or when a church is known for attracting one particular kind of demographic, like people of this particular age and education level, or that particular social class or personality type. Thereʼs obviously nothing wrong with the powerful bonds that are shared when you meet up with your own tribe, and hear thins in a language you understand, and cultural references are made that you are familiar with, but when sameness takes over, when everybody shares the same story, when there is no listening to other perspectives, no stretching and expanding and opening up—thatʼs when the new humanity is in trouble (pg.156).
A church is not a center for religious goods and services, where people pay a fee and receive a product in return. A church is not an organization that surveys its demographic to find out what the market is demanding at this particular moment and then adjusts its strategy to meet that consumer niche. The way of Jesus is the path of descent. Itʼs about our death. Itʼs our willingness to join the world in its suffering, itʼs our participation in the new humanity, itʼs our weakness calling out to others in their weakness (pg. 158).