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Sunday, September 27, 2015

"The Irresistible Community" (Bill Donahue)

TITLE: The Irresistible Community: An Invitation to Life Together
AUTHOR: Bill Donahue
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (256 pages).

This book can be simply summarized in three words: Table, Towel, and Truth. In other words, these three things are essential in the building of a community that is simply "irresistible." Four chapters are allocated for each part. Each chapter ends with the name of a disciple who had walked with Christ. The author has been teaching this "Irresistible Community" idea for more than 20 years at conferences, churches, and various communities of faith. As far as he is concerned, he is convicted that "anything can happen when Jesus is in the room." The subtitle of the book provides a scant reference to a classic on community living, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Life Together." This book provides a more practical side to what it means to cultivate and develop a Christian community of faith. It is an invitation to watch how Jesus himself created and developed the community of faith with each disciple. The thought circling my mind is this: If a community in Jesus is already so irresistible, how much more irresistible it is to be with Christ!

In Part One, we read about the fellowship at the Table. With the Lord's Supper as the centrality of identity, we learn to find our place at the common table. The symbol of the table represents a common identity and a simple gathering in the Name of Christ. The table welcomes all, regardless of age, creeds, race, professions, or whatever we represent. This is even more poignant as we remember that Jesus was a carpenter himself, skilled in the design and the making of tables and chairs. At the table, we learn the common rules of engagement: How we communicate? How we interact? How we treat one another? What it means to live together? How we can share one another's stories? What God's story means for each of us? In doing so, we learn to become the very answers to someone else's prayers.

In Part Two, we read about service and servanthood: The Practice of the Ministry of the Towel. We are reminded of how Jesus washes the disciples feet. In a reference to Mark 10, we are reminded of Jesus being called to serve rather to be serve. As disciples of Christ, we are to do likewise.  Everyone of us has our name on the towel, symbolizing owning the purpose and being responsible to discharge our duties as followers of Jesus. We serve together. We need to "dirty" our towels and not simply hang our clean towels on the rack unused. We need to put words into action and our deeds into doing the will of God. When the going gets tough, we must let the toughness of Jesus dwell in us to persevere on rather than to throw in the towel.

In Part Three, we read about the pursuit and the defense of the truth. It is about being hungry for truth that we can faithfully proclaim the truth in Jesus. Being hungry for the truth means constantly pursuing the truth in Jesus. It means following after Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The pursuit of Truth can be dangerous as there are falsehood and perpetrators of evil trying to thwart the will of God and the people of God. In this light, we are reminded that the Truth will truly set us free. In order to do that, we need to be fed with the truth. We need to be honest with ourselves about the Truth. Like the use of words, truth can hurt, truth can also heal. It hurts largely because of pride or broken trust. It heals because the Truth is grace personified.

If I can add one more thing, I would include a fourth: Throne. This is exactly what a community of God lives for. The destination is God's Glory and to see Jesus sitting on the throne. The three things mentioned by Donahue are practical steps that we can do while on this earth. The Table is about the common gathering place that is so important in an age of materialism and individualism. At the table, we learn to welcome and to accept one another in the Name of Christ. The Towel is about serving one another and the people around us. It exemplifies servanthood and to imitate the ways of Jesus. The Truth is about the cement or the glue that holds the people of God together. While the table is welcome to everyone, it is just the beginning. Only in the Truth can there be true unity and solidarity in the spirit. Those who are of the Truth will stick together and remain the kind of community that the Spirit of God requires.

I like the way that Donahue describes the irresistible community. Very simple and easy to understand, the bigger challenge would be to put them all into practice. I would submit that the fourth item, the Throne is necessary so the community can remember that when we meet at the Table, we meet in the Name of Christ. When we serve with our towels, we serve in the Power and Humility of Jesus. When we proclaim the Truth, we remain steadfast in Jesus but always learning to speak the Truth in love. When we live together, we always remember the purpose and our destination of it all: Seeing Jesus' Name lifted Up and Jesus sitting on the Throne. This is what we live for, and this is what we will proclaim with our lives, looking forward to that day, with every knee bowing, every tongue confessing, and every creature shouting: Jesus is Lord. Maranatha!

Rating: 4.75 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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