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Friday, April 13, 2012

"Your Church is Too Safe" (Mark Buchanan)

TITLE: Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns the World Upside-Down
AUTHOR: Mark Buchanan
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (240 pages).

This book is based on the idea first espoused in Buchanan's earlier work, "Your God is Too Safe," that we ought to step out of our comfort zone of deceptive safety toward a healthy zone of effective risk-taking for God. In that book, Buchanan talks about one's faith. In this book, Buchanan applies the same idea to faith and discipleship in the Church. Both are similar in terms of stepping out of safety toward risk taking. They are different in terms of the contexts of application.

In this book, the context is the Church. More specifically, it is about people who chooses to be contented as mere believers instead of taking risks as radical disciples of Christ. Beginning with two words, "I'm Bored," the rest of the book raises the bar higher to show readers what the author wants all to do about it. Buchanan makes a strong case to show that things need not remain as boring, apathetic, or as helpless as they seem. One can resolve to go beyond the various barriers.

  • Like not praying enough or dwelling long enough in the presence of God. 
  • Like not learning to sing of heaven's love song that goes far beyond the battle of 'should the church be relevant' or not relevant to the world
  • Like worrying about radical actions that may very well 'shrink' our church base
  • Like learning to love radically
  • Like overcoming evil with good, instead of a tit-for-tat behaviour
  • Like choosing to keep a safe distance when we are called to radical risk taking for Christ
  • Like worrying whether we have enough resources to do the work of the kingdom instead of simply putting what we have to good use
The key idea is that how we view God determines how we live out our faith. This book essentially blends together Buchanan's "Your God is Too Safe" with "Your Church is Too Safe" indicating that one cannot be separated from the other. Buchanan uses many stories from both his personal life as well as his fascination with the story of The Lord of the Rings. One of his best chapters come from the comparison between travelers and tourists. In 'Going to Mordor," Buchanan shows us why all Christians need to be reminded that they are travelers on a journey who take what God gives, and not tourists who pick and choose what they want to do for God. This particular idea is the most helpful point in this book. It calls one to a life of discipleship instead of remaining mere believers. 

With regards to evangelism, the author draws us to the core of his message: Conviction of heart is far stronger than any training, any education program, or any forms of evangelistic strategies. When the person is convinced about how crucial it is to share the gospel, he/she will find out what it takes to do it. Far too often, the Church has taken a back seat and believing erroneously that evangelism comes first with training. No! Evangelism begins when the Spirit of God works in the hearts of people. Buchanan writes: "Belief, I said before, is a thing that we hold; conviction is a thing that holds us" (71).

Closing Thoughts

I find myself getting convicted with the message the more I read this book. Initially, it looks like "Your God is Too Safe" Part 2. Toward the middle, it looks a little more like another call to reach out to our neighbours, our First Nations community or the locals in our neighbourhoods, and evangelism 101. Toward the end, I can sense that Buchanan is trying to shake readers out of their comfort zone by inverting all their previously held beliefs. Using biblical examples of how God uses Abraham to be a blessing to people, Zechariah's style of using a community to reach a person, how the amazing reversal of the cleanliness paradigm where under the law, it is always the unclean that tarnishes the clean, but under grace, the clean redeems the unclean. Apart from the gospel stories and the ways Jesus overturns the stale tables of people's spiritual inventory, Buchanan gives a powerful example of how the Resurrection of Christ created a people of Acts that are so dynamic and full of conviction over the people in Hebrews who continue to need admonishment to live a holy life.

This book certainly makes any reader excited about being a Christian. More importantly, it convicts the believer to move beyond mere believing, to become disciples earnestly seeking to make disciples through risk taking, through radical living, and through real faith marinated in God's love.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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