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Monday, August 31, 2015

"Into the Fray" (Matt Mikalatos)

TITLE: Into the Fray: How Jesus's Followers Turn the World Upside Down
AUTHOR: Matt Mikalatos
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (224 pages).

The Bible is often referred to as the Living Word. For centuries, believers have testified the power of the gospel and the way God's Word speaks to us so profoundly with timeless principles and timely reminders. With the help of theologians, language experts, and scholars, the Bible has been translated in various ways. The more conservative quarters typically prefer literal word for word translations. The more liberal ones throw their weight behind paraphrases and modern ways of narrating the Word of God. A sizeable group adopts dynamic equivalent or balanced approaches. With changing cultural preferences, there have been several initiatives to update the way we read the Bible: Drama and story telling. This method is increasingly the approach taken by recent writers like Ruth Tucker's retelling of selected stories through "Dynamic Women of the Bible," or the new Bible translation, THE VOICE. This book is another addition to this genre of storytelling. Using the book of Acts as the source, Oregon author Matt Mikalatos tells the story of the Early Church, how it spreads from Jerusalem to the outermost parts of the earth, to tell the ancient story using modern language, cultural adaptations, and everyday symbols. It is a fresh re-telling of Acts filled with imagination, combined with allegory and dramatization that brings the modern reader back to the first century. In sharing the story of Acts in this manner, it is hoped that readers will be able to learn how to tell the story of the gospel in kind. Each chapter begins with a modern scenario to parallel a significant event in Acts. Fire is used as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost Day. The "earthquake weather" is a metephor to describe the urgency of sharing the gospel as experienced by the disciples being scattered by persecution. The author even has a chapter on the effeminate foreigner that talks about Philip the Eunuch, and how through the Holy Spirit was able to come into fellowship with the community of faith. The second half of the book deals with the lives of Peter and Paul, just like the Book of Acts in the Bible.

The key purpose of this book is to teach readers to learn to share the gospel by first finding our place in the gospel story. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives? How can we ever justify "lying for Jesus?" How are we to tackle the modern idols of today, just like Paul who does a cultural analysis before challenging the common man in the streets with the gospel. The general pattern of each chapter is like this the HOOK-BOOK-TOOK method. In HOOK, a modern case study with familiar everyday symbols is described. This is a small attempt to "hook" readers' interest, and to prepare them for the particular passage in Acts. In BOOK, the key characters are highlighted. The various issues are drawn up and key observations made about the interactions of the characters, the movement of the gospel, questions, and learning points. Here, Mikalatos gives us how he understands the main issues in the Acts passage. In TOOK, the issues at hand are "taken" and applied to our modern world.

It takes a little while before I get used to the retelling of the Acts narratives. Though only selected portions of Acts are covered, readers should get a hang of the formats by the time they reach the fourth or fifth chapter. The book title says it all, that in this retelling of the Acts stories, readers can easily jump into the fray of the Early Church, what they experienced, how they have been touched by the Holy Spirit, and how they obeyed the prompting of the Spirit to go to the lands far away. Who says that Acts is an ancient book only for ancient people? My suggestion for reading this book is in three ways: 1) Read through the book of Acts; 2) Read this book. 3) Read the book of Acts again. It will bring Acts alive to us in a fresh new way.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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