There were a few passages that had me nodding my head in agreement, longing for days when the church's light will shine brighter in this dark world. One of the simple quotes I enjoyed was early in the book, when the author was setting the foundation for later concepts. He stated, "When Jesus said, 'Come follow me,' he wasn't heading to Sunday school. He was on his way to heal the sick, befriend a tax collector, stand up for an adulteress, and proclaim Good News to the poor."
I felt like I had a good grasp on how discipleship "ought" to be done in the Biblical sense from reading the Bible and reading or talking about ministries which have proven to be very fruitful and have the contagious joy of the gospel, which seems to often be lacking from large group format programs. I was not sure whether reading this book would simply confirm the ideas I'd formed or expand on them, but it has certainly expanded them and been well worth my time to read. I have a half dozen pages marked with post-it notes and the book has sparked a couple good conversations with my spouse. The entire section devoted to why having a multi-enthic church congregation is so important was very well written and thought provoking.
Several different controversial topics are addressed with tact. I have heard of people disliking the phrase "accept Jesus into your heart" because it sounds so individualistic and self-centered. The emphasis is on what WE do rather than what Christ has done as the finished work on the cross. This book also asks us gently to examine the phrase "having a personal relationship with Jesus," not because it is inherently wrong, but because it can become a misconception that our relationship with Jesus is to be private. "Our relationship with Jesus is personal, but it's never just personal. It's also communal [we need to be in fellowship with others] and missional [we need to be involved with those outside our belief system to share the gospel]." (Comments in brackets are not quotes from the author, but my commentary for clarification.)
The author of this book quotes several other sources, aside from the Barna Group, and I think I'd enjoy reading some of these books he mentions. For example, he refers to a book called "Church Refugees" by sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope. They interviewed 100 people who left the church (referred to as "dechurched" for some reason) and were very surprised by the results they found. Here's a quote from their book, "The dechurched are leaving to do more, not less. The church isn't asking too much of people; it's asking the wrong things of them . . . . Jesus commanded his followers to care for the poor, the sick, and the hungry,, [yet] the dechurched have experienced the church as an organization that cares primarily for itself and its own members."
The much discussed topic of why we have children leaving the church when they hit adulthood is also addressed briefly, suggesting that we may not be laying a large and deep enough foundation for our children by teaching them primarily about how they are to be saved and neglecting to teach them the calling Jesus had for those who are saved: to count the cost and follow Him. "Jesus didn't come preaching a gospel of individual salvation, nor did he come to take us to church. He came preaching 'the kingdom of God'-- the reign of God over all things. .... Jesus's kingdom is a whole new reality, a different way of living, a counter-cultural existence that can't be contained inside the four walls of a church building."
I would recommend this book to any Christian, middle school aged and above. I think it would provide a very thought-provoking study and conversation for leaders and laymen to go through this book together while examining the church's programs, resources, and available talents which are not being tapped into. I cannot picture that happening without conflict in many cases, but if Christ were the center and the fruit of the spirit was abounding, I think it could lead to a revival of serving in that community.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are my own.