The Great Spiritual Migration – A Book Review

I have been eager to read this book since several months before it came out.  Many of the authors that I love have suggested it and raved about it, so I knew I would need to read it.  However, I’ve had several people warn me about Brian McLaren’s more “radical” views about Christianity and the Bible and have even had a few warn me not to read this book.

Since I’ve never been that good with being told what to do, I requested it gleefully.  And it didn’t disappoint.  Considering so many in my immediate circle seemed so concerned about this author, I was expecting to find some really radical things in this book.  Sadly, I didn’t.  I mean, I was hoping to have something jump out at me that I would have to yell back at the pages, “Woah, McLaren!  That’s crazy talk!”.  Nope.  Nothing like that.  Sad face.

There were, however, so many things I wholeheartedly agreed with.  Such as this nugget of wisdom:

“This nondiscriminatory love, Jesus says, is the true perfection, the true maturity toward which we should aspire: to be perfect as God is perfect is to love without discrimination because that is how God loves.” (p 43)

or this one:

“In story after story and without a single exception, we see that the driving motivation in Jesus’s life is love.” (p 44)

or maybe this one:

“God loves everyone.  No exceptions.” (p 51)

Wait, that last one might be a little radical, I guess.

The book is broken up into three parts: Spiritual Migration (from a system of beliefs to a way of life), Theological Migration (from a violent God of domination to a nonviolent God of liberation), and Missional Migration (from organized religion to organizing religion).  There is also a hefty section of Appendices at the back of the book mostly on the topic of “Just and Generous Christianity”.  Each chapter ends with a page broken into three parts (Contemplation, Conversation – which has discussion questions, and Action).  I absolutely loved the questions – I can imagine a very lively and thoughtful discussion coming from these questions.  Example: One of the questions after Chapter Three reads: “Are we more serious about teaching math than we are about teaching love?” (p 67).  I’d love to have a conversation about that one!

I don’t necessarily agree with every single thought expressed by the author, however, I found his argument passionate, compelling and well-researched.  There are so many topics covered in this book that it took me a bit longer to get through than I intended (I was shooting for a week – it took two), but only because I needed to go back to scripture and read other articles and essays on the topics to get a more well-rounded understanding.  Here’s the thing about this book: it asks a ton of questions and it makes you think.  Why do you believe what you believe?  Why do we talk about beliefs more than we talk about faith?  What can we learn from the life of Jesus about love?  What does it mean to have a broken-open heart?  I hate books that tell me that I have to think or believe a certain way.  I love books that make me think – that make me ask questions and assess things in new and fresh ways.  The Great Spiritual Migration is the latter.

A faith that has not been questioned, tested and wrestled with is a weak faith.  Questioning your beliefs does not make them weaker, but rather stronger.  Reading opposing viewpoints (although I’m not sure the author of this book and I stand that far apart) shouldn’t destroy your faith, but rather challenge it – which should lead to a better understanding of what you actually believe.

SO.  I loved this book.  There are so many things I agreed with: the call to unity rather than uniformity, the call to a radical (there’s that word again) and all-inclusive love, the focus on social justice and many other things.  There were a few things I wasn’t so sure about.  However, overall – I came out of this book encouraged, inspired and challenged and that’s a pretty great way to come out of a book!

Here are some of my favorite Quotables from The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian McLaren:

“ can learn beliefs in isolation, you can’t learn love apart from a community.” (p 56)

“We hear Jesus say ‘Follow me’ eighty-seven times in the four Gospels.  How many times does he say, Worship me?  Zero.  Name a religion after me?  Zero.  Recite a creed about me?  Zero.  Erect buildings in my honor?  Zero.  That’s not to say these things are wrong, but succeeding at them without actually forming followers of Christ is like climbing a ladder that’s leaning against the wrong building.” (p 65)

“..the less aware Christians are of how dangerous Christianity has been, the more dangerous Christianity will be.” (p 71)

“We need to stop pulling apart and start pulling together, converging and collaborating to build a more just, generous, peaceful, regenerative, and joyful world.” (p 156)

“If enough individuals are full of despair and anger in their hearts, there will be violence in the streets.  If enough individuals are full of greed and fear in their hearts, there will be pollution in the rivers and toxins in the air.  If enough individuals are full of supremacy and privilege in their hearts, there will be racism and oppression in society.  You can’t remove the external social symptoms without treating the corresponding internal personal diseases.” (p 167)

“As we work together for the common good, we are all transformed.” (p 176)

“If we simply start moving in faith, what has been impossible can become possible.” (p 178)

“There is so much right in the church, in the world, in humanity.  There is so much good.  And so much beauty.  When we see it, even a tiny glimmer of how precious it is, our hearts swell in gratitude and awe.” (p 180)



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from for the purposes of this review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own



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