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Saturday, March 19, 2016

"Move Toward the Mess" (John Hambrick)

TITLE: Move Toward the Mess: The Ultimate Fix for a Boring Christian Life
AUTHOR: John Hambrick
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2016, (208 pages).

What makes life boring? What is the opposite of boredom? Perhaps it has got to do with what is inside rather than outside. If we are convicted about life, about the significance of living with a purpose, we would do what the author of this book call, "Move toward the mess." More often than not, we are not sure what to do with ourselves. Describing Jesus as a person who is engaging, enduring, and definitely not boring. Citing figures that show 31% of young people between the ages 18-20 who left their churches because of boredom, Hambrick decides to look for a fix believing that while "boring" activities are not necessarily bad, though some new perspectives can definitely be put into. Like seeing Jesus through the lens of the disciples and the Pharisees. The former would not have followed Jesus and the latter would not have killed Him. Jesus was definitely not boring. In fact, the "ultimate fix" that the author talks about is a way of living that is engaging, memorable, and that makes a difference in the lives of people. Christians should not have a locker room mentality where they only hear all the pep talks and speaks about the endless possibilities of the game. Christians are called to go out into the field, the court, or the rink to fight the good fight and the play the good game well. After a brief introduction, Hambrick plunges us into one story after another of how transformed individuals learn to live out the calling of their lives. Like Josh Matthews after experiencing a trip down a chaotic and messy neighbourhood, learns about caring for everybody, just like Jesus cared for the sick, the down, and the depressed. Go to where the needs are. The author learns first-hand what it meant to move toward the mess as he encounters Terry, a young Irishman a drug addict, learning that boredom quickly dissipates as he ministers to the needy. It means learning to expect the unexpected when not very "church people" show up in front of our doorsteps. It means ministering in the crossroads where there are opportunities to meet people like Rita, whose mum was a prostitute, and to reach out to them with free food and hot dogs. Leroy and Janelle despite not having any training or experience learn to reach out to Rita with love, offering her shelter and hospitality without expecting anything in return. This slowly led the the formation of a social enterprise ministry called Serenity's Steps.  There is Patrick O'Connelly who helped to work for reconciliation in Northern Ireland through the ministry of Habitat for Humanity. Then there is faith in Pakistan where readers learn about how some American believers are in solidarity with the local believers. The change in perspectives is all that is needed to trigger a change in lifestyle. When we follow Jesus, we must be prepared to go where the Spirit leads us, not wait for some comfortable pet projects to fall on our laps. Hambrick also shares the moving story of Young Life, a ministry that has blessed over 1.7 million kids. By organizing summer camps with the tagline, "This will be the best week of your life," they prove that kids are not people waiting to be fed or have things done for them. They can be empowered to do great things for God. All that is needed are people interested in their lives and are willing to connect, to build friendships, and to care for them. Key to the understanding of moving toward the mess is the motivation. It has to be powered by love and not guilt-driven trips.

The second part of the book expands this movement toward a messy world with several impactful stories. Stories about the Wycliffe Bible Translators; Atlanta Mission; a John Cowan; and others to show us the difference individuals can make if they can simply initiate a move toward the messy parts of society. Each chapter ends with several discussion questions. Every story points us to the actualization of possibilities. Each changed life shows us that whatever we do for Christ is all worth it when people see the presence of God in our outreach. It makes me wonder about the ultimate fix that Hambrick has promised. It is none other than the boldness to step out of our comfort zones so as to be immersed in where the action truly is. We learn about how moving toward the mess looks like. The moment we ask: "Where should I start?" is already a very positive sign. Below are some other tips:
  • Sense what things get us up and running with passion
  • Pray about the nudges in our lives
  • Investigate and be curious about possibilities
  • Do a test drive
  • Learn to work together with others for in teamwork, we discover more about things
  • Develop a new "assessment model" about from the worldly metrics for success; Try thinking about spiritual, emotional, physical, vocational, and social factors.
  • Recognize that there is no such thing as a "personal gospel" and a "social gospel." There is only one gospel and it incorporates both the personal and the social aspects. 
The single biggest reason why this book is important is because it brings fresh perspectives to an otherwise monotonous spiritual life. Most people want to be different, feel different, and to be a difference in this world. The problem is indifference or apathy that can keep one constantly in a cycle of boredom and complaints. What is needed is a paradigm shift. This book offers a lot of exhortations for us to learn from and to put into action. The stories alone are worth the price of the book.

John Hambrick is a member of the leadership team at Buckhead Church, which is also the urban campus of Andy Stanley's North Point Community Church. He has ministered in Pakistan, London South Africa, inner-city Los Angeles. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and two children. As one reads this book, one can easily feel Hambrick's passion flowing through the pages, to get us toward action. Read this book and say goodbye to boredom. For boredom is much more about the state of one's mind. What is needed is a starting kick to get us going.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of David C. Cook Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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