Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Prodigal christianity

I just finished Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts Into the Missional Frontier by David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw. This was one of the last books I bought when I was a pastor, and I think it was actually a good thing I read it now instead of then. I was pleasantly not surprised by anything I read... which means I enjoyed it.

I have followed Fitch through his blog, Facebook, and attended several of his Missional Learning Commons things, and this book fulfilled all that I expected in that regard. I like how he thinks and doesn't shy away from difficult subjects or issues, and also isn't afraid to go against the flow. But at the same time I don't find him to be argumentative, but quite open to dialogue. I don't fully grasp everything he's talking about, but I like how he presents things even if I might not agree or understand. So it was a worthwhile book from that standpoint. Plus, not a lot of today's writers/speakers actually practice what they preach - in a church setting - but these guys do. I like and respect that about them. I was also very familiar with most of the people, places, and issues they discussed.

As far as the book... the inside jacket cover says:
Prodigal Christianity moves us beyond Christian-culture-bound ways of being Christian to living radically as Jesus's people present in the world. Using ten 'signposts,' Prodigal Christianity charts the journey every Christian must take into 'the far country.' 

The ten "signposts," or chapters, are...
1. Post-Christendom - Into the Far Country: The Journey into Post Christendom.
2. Missio Dei - With the Prodigal God: The Journey into God's Mission.
3. Incarnation - On the Ground: The Journey into Everyday Life.
4. Witness - In the World: The Journey into the World.
5. Scripture - Living Our Story: Journeying by the Book That Is More Than a Book.
6. Gospel - Making All Things Right: The Journey into Redemption.
7. Church - In Kingdom Communities: The Journey as the Body of Christ into the World.
8. Prodigal Relationships - With Our Brokenness: The Journey Toward Sexual Redemption.
9. Prodigal Justice - Among Our Neighborhoods: The Journey Toward Local Justice.
10. Prodigal Openness - For the Good News: The Journey into Diverse Worlds.

I underlined a fair share of the book, and it's one of those that seemed to get better with each chapter. Two places I highlighted in particular were on p. 74ff where they talk about when they shifted "from teaching the Bible to proclaiming God's victory over the world in Jesus Christ as found in the Bible" at their church. That whole section was pretty good. I like the subtle (or not-so-subtle) shift in thinking.

The other piece I found helpful (which I'd read before somewhere - from Fitch) was on p.92ff in regard to "on-ramps into the Kingdom." As they say, rather than asking if people are "saved," we should be asking something like, "Have you entered the salvation already begun in Jesus Christ that God is working for the sake of the whole world?" In other words, rather than asking if someone has asked Jesus into their heart, ask, "Have you entered God's kingdom with your life, your circumstances, your very soul?" Another significant shift in view. Anyway, lots of good stuff.

Practically speaking, the book is 165 pages of small type (not counting the intro and forward). One of the things I didn't like about it... they have this habit in every chapter of starting out praising someone, but then just as you begin to say, "yeah, I agree with that,"... they tell you what's wrong with it. I don't know how many times I would underline something, then they would rip it to shreds and I wished I hadn't underlined it.  The only other negative I have about the book is that there were times it was over my head. I sort of knew what they were talking about, but didn't really understand it and would occasionally start to gloss over. But I can live with that, because I know I'm not the smartest crayon in the cookie jar.

So... while I wouldn't recommend this book for just anyone - because of its depth and subject matter - I would recommend it for anyone interested in discipleship and leading the church in our day and age. I'm glad I read it, and will most likely look through it again from time to time to refresh my memory. Good stuff.