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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Unstoppable Gospel" (Gregg Matte)

TITLE: Unstoppable Gospel: Living Out the World-Changing Vision of Jesus's First Followers
AUTHOR: Gregg Matte
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (224 pages).

What causes ordinary people to embark on extraordinary adventures? What do we do with the negative perceptions people have about the Church? Can one really follow the path of Jesus that is completely independent of the Church? In a book that oozes with passion for the gospel, compassion for the people, and impassioned defense of the Church, author and pastor Gregg Matte puts into words what he normally speaks in this 224 pages book for the benefit of readers. After a firm affirmation of the place of the Church, he also acknowledges that the Church is not without her weaknesses. People in churches are also sinners and thus will have weaknesses that are symptomatic of sin. That does not mean we apply the label "hypocrites" indiscriminately on every single person in the Church. Anchoring this book on the book of Acts, Matte sees the story of Acts as a "spiritual earthquake" and how the Holy Spirit enables the disciples to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel. The mission in Acts 1:8 that inspires the Early Church is the same mission that can empower the Church to do the same today. In order to experience this "unstoppable gospel," begin with prayer and fasting. Acknowledge that it is God who inspires us. Have a global mission. Remember that all roads lead to the Cross of Jesus Christ. Recall how God moves the Early Church with three words: "Prayer, care, and share." The amazing thing is this: When we do our best to be generous and show grace to others, God uses the recipients of our generosity and blesses us in many different ways. In other words, the gospel's blessings are bi-directional or even multidimensional!

How is the gospel "unstoppable?" Here, it means that the gospel is not simply the gift of grace during good times, but also through times of trial. It is not simply sharing the gospel when we have that mountain-top experience but it includes moments of weakness and helplessness. For when faithfulness to the gospel is supreme, all other human emotions will take their place accordingly. Like Martin Niemoller who pledged to obey God rather than men. We are reminded not to be crowd pleasers but God pleasers. Matte highlights seven key similarities between the martyrdoms of Stephen and Jesus. We realize that the gospel can lead us to a point of sacrifice. The good news is that we will never be alone. Toward the end of the book, the author brings us back to the plan of prayer and the four people groups that are touched forever. Group 1 are the "potential" which are the Jews and those who worshiped God. They may not have gotten their religion exactly right but they are not far from the truth. For such people, discuss relationship rather than rules. Group 2 are the "passers-by," people from all walks of life that we encounter daily. It could be a stranger, a waitress, or anybody that the Holy Spirit is prompting us to speak with. For such people, through praying, caring, and sharing, use the limited opportunities to let God touch their lives. Group 3 are the "pleasure seekers" who are those who do what it feels right, regardless of how right it is. Pray that they would find this world's pleasure unsatisfactory and they would long for things of eternal value. Group 4 are the prideful, people who insist on their own ways. Pray that they would recognize their brokenness and would be open to us sharing the gospel of grace.

For me, the last chapter is worth the price of this book. It is a good reminder that the gospel is for all people groups and is relevant throughout all time and space. Gregg Matte is senior pastor of Houston's First Baptist Church and also founder of Breakaway Ministries at Texas A&M University. He lives in Texas with his wife and two children. He has written a powerful book that expounds on Acts 1:8 and how the Holy Spirit had used the Early Church to reach people groups from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the outermost parts of the Earth. The contemporary Church has that potential to do the same.

As I think of this, I cannot help but wonder if the same ideas and concepts used for the four people groups be also applied to the Church at large. For we know that in order for the Church to be active participants in the gospel, the Church must first be transformed by the Holy Spirit. For if the Church is prideful about being right at the expense of love, this Church is like Group 4, the stoic philosophers. For this type of Church, remember 1 Corinthians 13 that even if we understand all mysteries and have all faith that can remove mountains and have not love, we are nothing. Pray that the Holy Spirit would humble such churches to go back to the true grace of God. Some churches are like Group 3, the ones that resemble social clubs and revel in being "epicurean philosophers." They are focused on doing things that please themselves. They fail to reach out to their neighbors sufficiently. For such churches, pray that they too will find that temporal self-seeking activities will never satisfy. The gospel is never meant for self-consumption but to be shared. Other churches are like Group 2, the passers-by, behaving as if the gospel is just one of the options of being a Christian. Some call it the nominal church. Through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, may the Holy Spirit move a few members to be change agents. For churches that resemble Group 1, they are the ones with potential to move fast and furious into the work of the gospel.

Highly readable and totally practical, this book is not simply a book about the unstoppable gospel. It is about how the Holy Spirit can turn any person, whether the most stoic or the most enthusiastic into fiery witnesses for the gospel. If you do not believe me, pick up this book, read it prayerfully, and then compare notes.

Rating: 5 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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