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Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review: "Change Agent"

TITLE: Change Agent: Engaging your passion to be the one who makes a difference
AUTHOR: Os Hillman
PUBLISHER: Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2011.

Os Hillman is most famously known for his daily devotionals, TGIF (Today God is First). Since the early years, he has moved from simply marketplace ministry and work-faith integration to a larger domain. This new domain is a call to believers in the marketplace to engage not only business but to reclaim 7 mountains of cultural influences. They are business, government, media, arts & entertainment, education, the family, and religion. The 7-mountain idea is adapted from his own pastor, Johnny Enlow's series of sermons entitled: "The Seven Mountain Strategy." Basically, the key idea is:

"The more liberal and ungodly the change agents at the top, the more liberal and ungodly the culture. The more godly the change agent at the top, the more righteous the culture will be. It doesn't matter if the majority of the culture is made up of Christians. It only matters who has the greatest influence over that cultural mountain. And the mountain of family must undergird all other cultural mountains."  (9)

The book begins with biblical foundations. The author uses a six stage framework from his own experience and equates them to Old Testament characters like Moses, David, Joseph, Daniel and Esther. The six stages of a change agent are as follows:
  1. Divine circumstances: Sudden call
  2. Character development: Solidify person's faith
  3. Isolation period: Separation from worldliness
  4. Personal cross: suffering
  5. Problem solvers: solving real needs
  6. Networks: spreading
After describing the process of development of a change agent, Hillman dives right into the 7-mountain strategy. Each mountain begins with a definition of what it is, followed by a diagnosis of why the mountain is worldly and needs to be recaptured. With many illustrations and testimonies of well-known names of corporations, groups, and individuals, he shows the way to tip the balance in favour of Christians for the Kingdom of God. He ends each mountain category with an exhortation to claim the mountain in God's name, with practical steps. At the same time, he lists down in vivid detail how a successfully claimed mountain looks like.

My Comments

I read this book with mixed emotions. Hillman starts off well by sharing about how various individuals have been talking about conquering several spheres of culture. Francis Schaeffer, Billy Graham, and many prominent names were mentioned to raise interest. There are many familiar names, powerful figures, and intriguing stories to keep the reader interested. His concern is genuine, and the message is filled with a conviction that the world can be won, and that there is a good chance for change agents to bring about the kingdom of God through conquering the seven mountains. He also acknowledges that these seven mountains are not the only mountains, sharing about Loren Cunningham who suggests a seventh (science) and eighth mountain (technology). The practical applications are easy to follow. The stages described are appealing. The examples given are indeed very captivating.

My biggest problem with the book is its weak ecclesiology (Theology of the Church). For all its wonderful convictions and knowledge of the culture, the theology of the church is sadly lacking. This runs contrary to Jesus's words to Simon Peter about God using the Church to build his kingdom (Matt 16:18). Granted that the church is a community of believers gathered in Jesus' Name, a called out people (ekklesia),  the role of the church is unfortunately relegated to the last chapter, instead of 'undergirding' every attempt to conquer any mountain. Even if I were to give Hillman the benefit of the doubt, that he meant the people of God to be the church, it is not clearly emphasized. It is true that one needs passion to become a change agent to make a difference. It is also true that one needs to be convicted about conquering the mountains in society. However, it needs to be done through the church and in the Power of the Holy Spirit. Another concern is the overwhelming focus on the 'top.' What about the rest? Mind you, God can choose to use anyone, anywhere. 

In summary, this book has a noble purpose. It shines in giving examples even though some of the names given are not as credible over time. It also excels in terms of engaging readers through sections of easy to read stages and illustrations. Ultimately, it disappoints because of a weak theology of the church. It is a para-church implementation of the 7-Mountain strategy that is unsettling.

Rating: 3 stars of 5.

This book is supplied to me, courtesy of Charisma Publishing House without any obligation for a positive review. The comments made are freely mine.

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