Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns The World Upside-Down Hardcover – Mar 13 2012
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About the Author
Mark Buchanan is a pastor, award-winning author, and father of three who lives with his wife, Cheryl, on the West Coast of Canada. Educated at the University of British Columbia and Regent College, his work has been published in numerous periodicals, including Christianity Today, Books and Culture, Leadership Journal, and Discipleship Magazine. He is the author of six books: Your God Is Too Safe, Things Unseen, The Holy Wild, The Rest of God, Hidden in Plain Sight, and Spiritual Rhythm.
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Top Customer Reviews
Safe for those who are broken—and no matter how good we look on the outside, we are all cracked in some way in the inside—and a community where people become "dangerous" –subverting the status quo of privilege and power, as otherwise ordinary people rise up and fight on behalf of the poor and oppressed.
As someone who lives in proximity to First Nations people, I found Mark's stories of how he and his church are building friendships with the Cowichan people rare and inspiring. His church shares life with the First Nations people so they can discover the true face of Jesus. Mark's church likewise experiences the treasures of the Cowichan culture.
As one who belongs to a church in the holiness tradition, which in parts sees holiness as a "flower that can wilt on contact with the world," I cherish the book's insights on how Jesus comes and changes the flow of clean and unclean. Buchanan writes, "Jesus comes and changes the rules. He reverses the way spiritual things work. He reverses the flow of clean and unclean. Now, astonishingly, when clean and unclean touch, the unclean becomes clean" (p. 135).
This insight alone is revolutionary—empowering me and my community afresh to truly be in the world without fearing we will become of the world—in the world with less fear, and a more confident, winsome hope.
Buchanan's prose is beautiful, cliché-free and leaves me hushed and still, and yet yearning for more.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I found the book a bit wordy at times, but otherwise well-written. The author uses scripture and examples from his own experiences to bring out the points he is making. He does this well. His writing is not bloated with "religious" nonsense, but only filled with constructive instruction.
He does not compromise God's Word, but stands firm on its truth. For instance, when two married women (that is, married to each other) decide to attend the church he ministers to, he finds himself in a quandary as to what to do because he believes homosexuality is a sin, but he also believes there is no better place for a sinner to be than in the church learning God's Word. It is an interesting situation.
I liked the book. It gives worthwhile instruction. It is enjoyable to read and learn from. And most importantly, it is based on the Word of God.
It's not that Buchanan sets out to say all churches are dull and lazy and he's certainly not saying we should all be out on the streets passing out Bible tracts (in fact he spends some time suggesting that tracts are not really a very great evangelism technique.) Rather, today's western church has lost its momentum. Where has the contagious spirit of celebration gone?
The back cover says "With surprising insights from Scripture. . ." Maybe it's just because I'm in seminary or because my parents expected me to actually read my Bible as a kid, but I didn't find any of the insights surprising. The insights that are shared in this book should not be surprising for Christians, but that could be the real point here. We've tucked away the parts of the Book that challenge us and deal with the stuff that makes us feel all warm and cuddly. The problem is that the last time I checked, we do not serve a warm and cuddly God. Part of growth is being willing to step out of your comfort zone and do something new.
Before you bristle up and back off because that sounds super awful, Buchanan is also not suggesting that we all start hanging out in biker bars in order to reach out to the "lost." He spends a good amount of time talking about "in-between" places. Those are the places where normal relationships are built and people are drawn to a life that looks different.
For any church that feels it's lost steam or doesn't want to lose steam, this is a great book. And this is not just a read for the pastor, elders or other leaders. This is a book for Sunday school or small groups. This is a challenge to all the congregation. Your Church is too Safe is not just a book about leading your church into a dynamic, contagious, Christ centered, but is about being a "dangerous" person in the context of your church. Church leaders can get great things from this book, but so can the laity as well.
One of my big beefs about much Christian writing today is that Jesus gets watered down or lost in the shuffle. Jesus is not a motivational speaker. Jesus is not a nice bonus in what is otherwise a rule book. Jesus is what it is all about. Buchanan does not lose sight of that in his writing. Always Christ is at the center of the church. This shines through on every page and I am deeply appreciative of that.
I have found a new author for my list of favorites. I'm pretty picky, too. This book is powerful, engaging, theologically sound and challenging. Should you pick up a copy? Yes. Can you borrow mine? No. It's on the "no lending" shelf because I don't want to take the chance of it not coming back.
I like the similar book by this author, Your God Is Too Safe, but in both - and this one more than the previous one - the title is the most thought-provoking and contemplative part of the book. I wasn't sure what he wanted me to do as I read - as a reader, am I supposed to be impressed by his work crossing generational and ethnic barriers? In other words, did he mean for this to be an autobiography or memoir? Sometimes it felt like that. Other times, though, I wondered: as a reader, does he want me to be upset or bored and angered or moved to action at a complacent church? If so, he offers no suggestions and merely stirs up angst. As he adds details outside of the biblical text, like surmising that John had acne or James's mouth turned downward sullenly, am I supposed to feel like that adds to my understanding of the story presented in the original text? It didn't and felt gimmicky. Did he want me to be cheering for him when he tells the story of lecturing a congregation for valuing their physical space more than the people in their community, after he spent less than an hour with them and supposedly knew their hearts well enough to chastise them? No, I ached for him to speak to them in grace and humility, which might have rendered a less cold post-sermon treatment. (In fact, I hungered for that grace and humility through much of this book.) He just seems angry, not funny or convicting, when he writes, "The church couldn't give a rip. It's about getting the best seat, damn you."
I did cheer inwardly at parts, like when he commends the church for naming and standing against injustice but warns not to let that desire make us so accommodating in the name of love that we fail to name other varieties of sin. It has several great one-liners, like ""Any church to safe became that way because somewhere, somehow, they started wanting to dwell in Rivendell more than travel to Mordor. They started caring about fellowship more than mission, and in the end lost both." I also loved his acknowledgment that evangelism can't be reduced to tidy formulas and that the gospel must be shared in our words and in how we live our lives in response to it. I didn't fully agree with his take on John 9, since "the works of God displayed" is more than simply how our compassion responds to needs we see, but I'm glad he tried to take on that important text.
Finally, I can't help but feeling like we need to be writing and reading fewer books about the church's complacency - because they just feel whiny - and need to spend more time in the one book, the Bible, that has the power to stir us from complacency - because it's God's word. I don't think that last statement of mine is completely fair, though, given that I started this review by commending another book - Platt's Radical - and given that Buchanan does delve into several passages from the Bible in laying out the text of this book. However, the end result for me with this book was angst with what the church is and not hope for what it can be and how I and others can live out the church in a way that changes the world in Christ.
"Your Church is Too Safe is a biblical reflection and roadmap to making the earthly church more like the heavenly Kingdom it is called to represent. Part celebration and part manifesto, this pull-no-punches book by veteran pastor Mark Buchanan is a plea for churches to return to their roots: to be both good news and bad news, an aroma and a stench ... a disruptive force to whoever or whatever opposes the Kingdom of God." (From the Zondervan Publishing Company Website)
About the Author: Mark Buchanan is a pastor, award-winning author, and father of three who lives with his wife, Cheryl, on the West Coast of Canada. Educated at the University of British Columbia and Regent College, his work has been published in numerous periodicals, including Christianity Today, Books and Culture, Leadership Journal, and Discipleship Magazine. He is the author of six books: Your God Is Too Safe, Things Unseen, The Holy Wild, The Rest of God, Hidden in Plain Sight, and Spiritual Rhythm.
My Thoughts About the Book: Citing the Scripture verse in Acts 17:6, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also," pastor and author Mark Buchanan shares with us as the reader of his book how to have God-centered churches where we as followers of Christ are turning our worlds upside down for Christ.
With Scripture as his guide, Pastor Buchanan takes us to where we should go as followers of Christ so that we can be world changers for the glory of God and good of man. He feels "there's an enormous gap between the life Jesus offered and the life we're living." And he's right. There is. It's obvious by what is happening and what is not happening in our country, our society and our churches today. The church in America is neither powerful in the preaching of its message and the living out of that message or persecuted for being Christ followers as the early Christians were...and many Christians in other parts of the world are today. It costs something to be a Christian and Pastor Buchanan in his book drives that point home as well he should in light of our current situation in the church in America and in our country.
Pastor Buchanan is basically calling the church of Christ to "WAKE UP" and live as Christ lived, speak as Christ spoke - the Word of God, and love as Christ loved. He writes about the need for unity in the body of Christ in America and about that fact he is correct. It is by our love for one another and our unity that we show the world we are Christ followers. It is the dis-unity in the corporate body of Christ in America that gives unbelievers a reason to think negatively of us and our churches.
In Chapter 12, "When Clean and Unclean Touch" he shares 5 important convictions that have been developed at his church and should be the convictions of all true "Christian" churches in our world. And the convictions are truly convicting, or at least they should be, driving us to our knees to Christ and returning to our first love, who is Christ, and to serving what he loves so much that he died for it; his body or the church...in other words, one another.
When you get a copy of Your Church is Too Safe to read and set down to begin your journey through the book make sure you have your Bible handy as Pastor Buchanan cites numerous Scripture verses in his book. You are going to want to not only just read them but also meditate on them as you read the book so that perhaps it could be said of us as Christians living in America that "These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also." And wouldn't that be a wonderful thing to be said of us and the Church in America today?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the book at no cost from the Zondervan Publishing Company for review purposes. 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: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Now, on to my review...
I love Mark Buchanan's writing and have been a fan for a long time. He is always straight forward, never shies away from controversy and pretty much hits the nail on the head for most topics. That said, Your Church is Too Safe is a call for churches everywhere to wake up and become what they used to be...a force for the Kingdom of God!
Buchanan reminds us that we are not to be safely cocooned in our own little worlds, shut in by church walls on Sunday morning, but to be making a difference in the world around us. This of course is nothing new. Many books and authors have been bemoaning this fact for years. The church is no longer a force for change in the world. People who don't know Christ have stopped seeking Him out. They don't get excited about Jesus. They don't say, "Hey! That church talks about Jesus and I hear He even shows up on Sunday mornings! I'm going there! Let's all go!" Instead, people avoid church and "church people" like the plague. We are not a pleasing aroma anymore to the outside world and Mark Buchanan, through personal anecdotes and humour, shows us how we can become churches that are like Jesus and Jesus was a disruptive force! He spoke his mind, he taught with authority and his love for the world was evident. He is how we should be.
As I stated at the beginning, I read this on a Kindle and so my review is based on that experience. Buchanan's message is clear - stop being safe and turn the world upside down for the Kingdom of God! I think it will be an encouragement to you.
I give it 4 out of 5 stars.