A Mile Wide – A Book Review

“Our love of one another is the greatest measure of our faith.” (p189)

Brandon Hatmaker’s new book, A Mile Wide, is more than a call to a deeper faith – it’s an invitation into kingdom living.  It’s an invitation to live a life modeled after Jesus – filled with love, grace and mercy.

The book is broken into two parts: The Gospel In Us and The Gospel Through Us, each part including four chapters.  At the end of each chapter there are ten discussion questions, making this a fabulous book to use for Bible study, book club or even just to discuss with your family and friends.  This book is more than just a quick read filled with fun stories and interesting ideas – it is potentially life changing.  It will challenge you, encourage you, inspire you and teach you.

Brandon is a fabulous storyteller – down to earth and funny – and his stories will leave you longing for a more authentic and tangible faith.  The way that he sees people is inspiring.  As I read through this book I found myself talking back to the pages as though the author could hear me affirming his words or asking questions about things.  There were even a few times I read a paragraph and thought – man, that needs to be a whole book just for that one thought (such as the quote below in bold – I would LOVE to see an entire book on this concept).

The thoughts and ideas here are not new, but they are written in a way that might be more accessible to the average person.  There’s an easiness about this book that makes it hard to stop reading, but the words are so deep and profound that it’s necessary to stop every so often to really soak them in.  Humility and kindness drip from the pages in this book in a way that is extremely refreshing and comforting.  There are also some difficult topics here, though – loving others, showing mercy, seeing the needs around us.  Although the book is written in a very thoughtful tone, there is nothing surface-level about this book.  It’s a call to live like Jesus.  A call to authenticity, vulnerability and grace.  A call to a deeper, more meaningful faith.  It’s a beautiful book and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Favorite Quotables from A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker (I really want to just quote the entire book to you, but that would be a lot of typing):

“..our interpretive lens should always be love.  It’s like the legend on a map helping us set our course.  How then should we love?  Choose love.  Every time.” (p5)

“Jesus came to rip the scales off our religious eyes to show us the heart behind the letters.  He moves from judgment to grace and chose love over law and people over position.  His gospel was for all, his community was inclusive, his discipleship was holistic, his mission was eternal, and his kingdom was vast.  Everything about Jesus and his dream for us was bigger, wider, and deeper than we can imagine.” (p6)

“The true gospel has never appealed to the masses, nor did it ever try to.  Jesus didn’t want fans; he wanted followers.  Yes, this kingdom will save your whole life, but you have to lose the one you have first.  There is no resurrection without a death.” (p13)

“Nothing matters more than humility, teachability, and repentance, because the opposites – pride, arrogance, and obstinacy – make us blind and deaf to every goodness and truth in the kingdom.” (p14)

“True gospel community starts with true vulnerability.  It’s where we end and the gospel begins.” (p96)

“Every move toward humility is a conversion.  Killing pride involves a thousand daily deaths that are hard and hurt and will cost us something.  But every time we choose to reject the lie of bigger and instead choose little, we are more converted to the greatness of the kingdom.” (p126)

“Everywhere we look there is physical, spiritual, emotional and relational need.  If we don’t see it, we are either looking in the wrong places or we’re not really looking.” (p138)

“Missional people attempt to live lives that are attractive to those who have no context for church.  They earn their places in the lives of others.  Only then do they hold the moral authority or personal permission to speak truth into someone’s life.” (p141-142)  [*this is probably my favorite quote in the entire book]

“Loving mercy and walking humbly are inextricably linked with seeking justice.  Loving mercy is the key motivation to justice, and personal humility is almost always the end result.” (p155)

“God is just.  But his justice is expressed through his mercy.” (p164)

 

 

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Life In Community – A Book Review

Dustin Willis’ Life in Community is a book that explores what true Biblical community should look like in the church.  The book is organized into three sections: forming community, values within community, and next steps for strong community.  The first section is perhaps the best one, as it covers the need for, barriers to and benefits of living in community with others.  I loved this quotable from chapter three: “Since there is only one God, there is only one people of God.”  I also loved this one from the same chapter: “The gospel is the driving force to our transformation, and community is the context where the greatest growth and revolution takes place.”

The second section (The Values for Living in Community) covers topics such as authenticity, confronting sin, grace and forgiveness, encouragement, and bringing your best to the table.  All of these chapters are good and helpful, although the tone changes quite a bit in the chapter about calling each other out on sin – which, due to the more stern and almost condescending tone, was my least favorite chapter of the book (It’s actually titled “Hate can be a good thing”). My two favorite chapters in this section were the “Glue to the Good” and “Love, Like and Honor” chapters (chapters 7-8).  I loved these quotables from chapter 7:

“Biblical encouragement uses your words to point out examples of God’s goodness in another person’s life”

“It’s amazing what can happen if you take your eyes off yourself and all that is broken in life and attempt to be a source of encouragement to others.  Not only does God use this to bring affirmation to someone else’s life, but it brings joy to yours as well.”

And this one from chapter 8:

“As we reset our minds to see one another through a lens of mercy, forgiveness will become a part of the community we are building.  The Scriptures are rich with the thread of the mercy that leads us to a place of deep forgiveness.”

The final section of the book is actually just one chapter with the theme of being captivated, motivated and driven by God’s grace.  The author lays out a very practical step-by-step process for implementing the ideas from the book.  He talks about belonging being the opposite of loneliness.  It’s a wonderful ending to the book.

At the end of each chapter, the author provides four or five “Getting Practical” questions that would be helpful in a small group setting or maybe even for personal reflection.

Now for my thoughts.  There were parts of this book that I loved (chapter 7 & 8 and the final chapter).  There were parts of this book that I didn’t love – or even really like.  The foreword by David Platt was, by far, my very favorite part of the book.  While there are ideas within the book that are good, there aren’t many that are new.  If you’ve not ever read a book on this topic before, this would be a great one to start with.  However, if you (like me) have read many, this book is really just a rehashing of the same things as before.  I will say, though, that the chapter about Gluing to the Good (chapter 7) was entirely new to me and a wonderful read.  Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone new to the topic or experience of biblical community.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

Love Comes First

I was raised in a Christian home and was in church from the time I was four.  I grew up in a small Southern Baptist Church in the DFW area and, although I know that everyone has a different experience of church – no matter the denomination, my experience in church was overall a very positive and affirming one.  I was loved, cared for, taught and encouraged.  I was also admonished when I needed to be, but with love and kindness.  When I think back on my experience in church growing up, I feel very blessed.  The people of my church were my family.  They taught me things.  They helped me become who I am.  Without them I cannot imagine where I’d be.

Richard taught me how to love people no matter what they looked like by loving me just as I was and no matter how I dressed.  Nita and Ginger taught me about missionaries and what it looks like to serve God in other places.  Johnny taught me about worship and later he and his wife, Leona, taught me about marriage and parenthood.  Miss Rose taught me about Jesus.  Miss Bessie taught me about faithfulness.  My friend, Chris, taught me about loyalty and about unconditional love.  Paul taught me about evangelism and his wife, Christy, taught me about modesty.  Pattie, though she may not know this, inspired my dream of becoming a worship leader.

Later in my life and ministry Eric and Paul Michael taught me about what ministry really looks like and they both encouraged me and believed in me enough to help me find my own.  Dennis taught me about myself, who God made me to be, and that I didn’t need to be afraid of it.  After over ten years of ministry in churches, I’m still learning from the people who I serve with.  Lee is teaching me about grace – not only through his words, but mostly by his example.  Rachel is forever teaching me about forgiveness and courage.  Amy is teaching me about joy and friendship.  I cannot count the number of people who have spoken love and life to me over the years.  These people are all church people.  These people are all my people.  We speak the same language.  We think the same thoughts.  We have the same burning passion for Jesus and for people to know Jesus.  Church is meaningful to me.  Church people are meaningful to me.

I never understood the enormous difference between my experience with church and the experiences of the people around me that seemed to be so negative.  That was, until I had some negative experiences of my own.  It’s amazing how completely oblivious we are to the world around us until we get a taste of it ourselves.  I have been deeply hurt by church people, too.  I carry deep scars that may never fully heal from people who follow after Jesus.  And I’ve left scars of my own too.  And I think that’s the part that hurts the very most.  Church is supposed to be a place where broken, hurting people can come to be healed and loved by Jesus and supported and encouraged by each other.  And sometimes we’re great at that.  But sometimes we’re not.  Sometimes I think we’ve missed the point entirely.

Christians spend so much time trying to stand out from the world as “holy” or “set apart” and that’s exactly what we should be.  But I often wonder if we’re trying harder to ACT holy than we are trying to BE holy. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”              – John 13:34-35

Love comes first.  That’s how they know that we follow Jesus – by how we love each other.  Christian to Christian.  Christ follower to Christ follower.  Believer to Believer.  How we love each other matters to the people around us.  When they see us bickering over stupid things, arguing over theology, fighting over semantics it makes it look as though we hate each other.  The world is having a hard time believing that following Jesus is worth anything because even His followers can’t get along.  Forget about how we treat the rest of the world – although that’s enormous too – we can’t even get along with each other!

Think about that.  We’re part of a family that has something incredible to offer.  We desperately want the world to know what we have to give.  What we have to give is good and real and life-giving and FREE!  So we stand up and start telling everyone how wrong and stupid and awful all our family members are.  Then we tell all of those people how horrible and unlovable they are too.  And we cannot figure out for the life of us why they aren’t interested in our offer.  It’s ludicrous.  It really is.

The world needs Jesus.  Desperately.  He is the source of love, peace, mercy, grace, forgiveness, healing and everlasting life with a perfect, holy and loving God.  But the world won’t ever see Him in bickering Christians, or prideful pastors.  When we spend all our effort and energy on “defending the Gospel” instead of living the Gospel we’ve entirely missed the point.  I don’t believe that the Gospel needs defending anyway.  What if instead of boldly proclaiming the truth (as we understand it) we were graciously living the love of Christ?  Instead of boldly proclaiming … graciously living.  Wouldn’t that make the world stop and take a look?

In his book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians debate, Justin Lee said this: “Jesus radiated grace and compassion in such a way that people came to him to hear his views on things.  By contrast, we Christians were so focused on preaching our views on things that we were driving people away, turning them off to church, Jesus, and everything we had to say.”

I believe that the way that we treat each other as Christians greatly affects the way people around us view Christianity.  I know that it is such hard work to find common ground with people you vehemently disagree with, but if we are to be Christ’s love to a hurting world we have to try.  We have the ultimate common ground: grace.

“Grace sees people for what makes them uniquely beautiful to God, not for all the ways they’re flawed or all the ways I disagree with them.  That kind of grace is what enables loving bridges to be built over the strongest disagreements.  Gracious dialogue is hard work.  It requires effort and patience, and it’s tempting to put it off.  All of us have busy lives and a lot of other issues to address.  But for anyone who cares about the future of the church, this can’t be put off.  The next generation is watching how we handle these questions, and they’re using that to determine how they should treat people and whether this Christianity business is something they want to be involved in.” – Justin Lee (Torn, pg 252)

I couldn’t agree more.  If the world is ever going to care what we have to say, they need to know how much we care about them – and how much we care for each other.

Love comes first.

 
PS: If you’re at all interested in helping to bridge the divide between gays and the church, please go buy and read Justin’s book. It affected me deeply.  You can also find his blog here.