Have you ever driven past a tiny, partially hidden cafe hundreds of times and then one day on a whim took a look inside? Or finally got around to reading that best-seller your sister gave you for Christmas? Did you discover something you wished you had experienced sooner? Whether or not you’ve actually had such an experience, I think you just might be pleasantly surprised if you took a step into our church library. When I first discovered it, I was impressed with the depth and variety of what is offered. Becky Levy, the church librarian, puts her heart and prayers into the collection and it shows. I have been privileged to read fascinating books on topics as diverse as the oral origins of scripture, human sexuality and modern Christian practice. My son, Cephas, has gotten to enjoy some of the charming children’s books. Even my husband Phil has gotten in on the action when I read my favorites to him on long car rides. I love walking into the library on a quiet weekday and browsing its shelves for uplifting movies, commentaries, books on personal relationships and parenting. And there is so much more than that, if you’ll only take a few minutes and look.
I also discovered that anyone can make recommendations for the library to purchase as well. This is another wonderful feature as we can all help contribute to its content. In fact, I’d like to tell you about a book I recently recommended called Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.
That our society increasingly tends to view Christians as “irrelevant and extreme” is something many of us suspect. Good Faith refers to and shares many of the data that support this claim (22), but goes beyond stating the problem by taking “…a factual, realistic look at the challenges of living faithfully in our new cultural reality…” and helping “…the community of faith respond effectively–both individually and collectively” (20). In this book we have an evidence-driven guide to help us live our faith in a positive and attractive way, without compromise but also without alienating or condemning those who do not believe what we believe.
Good Faith covers four areas: 1) Neighborliness and intolerance in public life, 2) Relationships, 3) Sexual Ethics, and 4) Church and religion (46-47). These are topics that affect all of us, and again, the evidence-driven approach is invaluable. A simple approach is advocated, summed up as the phrase “love, believe, live” and is illustrated with numerous personal examples from the authors’ and others’ lives, including encounters with Oprah and President Barack Obama.
There were a few insights that I personally drew while reading this book that I wanted to share. The first is how much our “I”-centered culture has permeated the church, where “…91 percent of practicing Christians agree that ‘you have to be true to yourself’” and “76 percent…believe ‘the best way to find yourself is to look inside yourself’” (228). At the very least, it’s an interesting reflection of how we tend to think. I certainly felt convicted when I read these statistics.
The other and more challenging insight I took away was that the church does not have a monopoly on the good. One of the responsibilities of Christians today is to work to redeem the culture in general, promoting and affirming any good that exists in the culture at large and not just that which had its origin in the church. We aren’t any better than the world we are trying to serve. This point was driven home to me when David and Gabe wrote: “To a Christian audience of today, Jesus might have said the good Samaritan is a bisexual, atheist burlesque dancer with one of those Darwin-amphibians-eating-a-Jesus-fish bumper stickers. And the broken man is us” (78).
Good Faith is a good book. It is easy to read, and has practical recommendations. It gives us a critical look at ourselves that if taken seriously, can help us toward personal and community transformation we need to effectively love, believe and live the truth of God’s word in a world that (still) needs to hear it.
Consider checking out Good Faith from the library. And maybe a few others too.