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Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: "The Privilege of Persecution"

TITLE: The Privilege of Persecution: (And Other Things the Global Church Knows That We Don`t)
AUTHORS: Carl Moeller & David W. Hegg
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2011, (160 pages).

[This book is an advanced reader copy. The final copy released may be subject to change.]

Some books convey ideas. Other books try to convince readers to change. This book goes a step further to convict readers so much so that they will re-consider and re-align their lives back toward what it means to be salt and light of the world. This book does two things well:
  1. It reveals a faith of the persecuted (global) church that grows stronger with determination in the midst of persecution and restriction/control of religious practices;
  2. It admonishes the faith of a comfortable church that grows fatter with complacency in the midst of freedom.

In a hard-hitting rebuke at the modern Western Church, the authors compare and contrast the difference between the free church in the Western hemisphere, to the persecuted Church in the rest of the world. The key thesis of the book is that every church in the world is a persecuted church. The only difference lies in the TYPE of persecution.
"Like the church in the West, it (the global church) is composed of human believers who sin and struggle with their own personal and cultural baggage. It's just that our bags don't look alike." (17)
One then ought to see persecution as a privilege because it helps one affirm one's faith even more.
The authors highlight some lessons for the Western church to learn from the global church. This global church is referred to in this book as one that lacks the typical freedoms of speech, the Western lifestyles of affluence, and the multiplicity of choices the Western church has. Lessons that the Western Church can learn from the global church includes the following.
  • Not trying to be relevant to the world, but reverence to God;
  • Be reverent with the Word of God; 
  • Faith can grow in spite of poverty;
  • Dependent on God, not on buildings, materials or resources;
  • Generosity as one that is not merely an exchange or giving; but of deepening relationships;
  • Worship not of convenience but of conviction;
  • One that is not dependent on resources, but on relationships;
  • One that is not addicted to power, but mindful of the mission of God in spite of weaknesses;
  • One that is not independent but interdependent.
and many more.

Book Saint Comments

Lest you go away thinking that this book is another attempt at Church-bashing, re-consider it in another light. See it as a book that we can learn from the global church, rather than viewing it from the lens of a 'hammer' trying to find fault with the Western church. It convicts the reader without being judgmental. It shows us the ways that we can improve, and to be the salt and light to the world. Most critically, it reminds us that when we are in this world, we cannot escape the clutches of persecution. In the global church, freedoms are controlled, even curtailed. The Western Church possesses freedom that needs to be stewarded wisely. Persecutions can bring out the best in people.

The message of the book seems to be borrowing a leaf from Philip Yancey's and Paul Brand's book entitled: "The Gift of Pain." In that book, Brand and Yancey argues that pain need not be brushed away like a nuisance to be eliminated. Instead, pain can be a gift for it can save lives. Likewise, persecution does bring out the best from the church. The advanced copy that I received was entitled: "The Privilege of Pain." I suppose this title will be changed to "The Privilege of Persecution" as its final release title. That said, I think 'persecution' describes the book far more accurately.

That said, my main critique is that the unintended perception that the global church does not have their flaws. At some points in the book, I find the global church portrayed as more 'angelic' than the Western church. While that I believe is not the intent of the authors, the slant of the book does make it fairly obvious. Both the Western and the global church have their weaknesses as well as strength. Perhaps, the way forward for both is to learn from each other. It will be great if the authors can come up with another book, this time about what the global church can learn from the Western church.

I recommend this book highly, especially for sleepy churches all over the world, not just the West.

Ratings: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley for review purposes only. There is no financial compensation given and all opinions are freely offered under no obligation for a positive review.

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