I am a reader but I don’t love reading. I enjoy learning new things and I love figuring out how things work, but if given the opportunity to skip the reading required to do those things…I would take it. So I combat that by trying to only read books that I think would interest me.
If you have read this blog in the past or have seen some of my social media posts, you know I have a tendency to think a little differently about Christianity than most folks do. I think most Christians are educated beyond their level of obedience. I am trying to NOT throw blame around as to why that is the case, but there is an obvious disconnect between what is written in the Bible and the structure of the church in 2018 (most of them anyway). Most churches are full of people who think ministry is only for the paid professionals and fail to see that Christ laid out The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18) to be done by EVERYONE, not just people on church staff.
I recently finished two book written by a guy named Hugh Halter. The books were called Brimstone and Sacrilege. Both are written from a missional perspective and have heavy focuses on the responsibilities of individual believers. Hugh is not a fan of the consumerist culture of church today and honestly neither am I. There are several reasons why consumerism is the order of the day but these two books help to break out of that style of thinking and helps Christians think differently about what they are responsible for as believers.
On the Amazon page of Sacrilege, it has this description: “It is safe to say most Christians do not live like Jesus did, have the same influence on people he had, or draw even the slightest curiosity from the on-looking world. Jesus’s ability to woo people to him and win their hearts was directly related to how he challenged their assumptions about religion. He not only gave them a unique, personal way to follow him but also showed them how to participate with him in his mission. Sacrilege helps readers rethink what it really means to become like Jesus. It exposes the patterns of thinking that have held the church hostage for years and inspires readers to rethink the way they understand Scripture, family, spiritual formation, conversion, church, sin, and more.”
The big challenge of this book is that there is some damnable evidence presented which argues that the modern day Christian church is full of the exact same kind of Pharisees who Jesus actively spoke out against. The current Christian church is full of rules which well-meaning people have put in place but they ultimately keep people from Jesus.
For Brimstone, the Amazon description reads, “How was Jesus the most holy person while at the same time the least judgmental? And why don’t His followers live like He lived? Let’s be honest, Christians are losing the culture war. The western Church is in stark decline and our kids no longer find the message of judgement tenable in the real world. Jesus came to influence and draw—not condemn and repel. In Brimstone, Hugh Halter helps us navigate the overuse of poor judgment and the underuse of right judgment. This book will help you navigate the great law of love given by Jesus. Inside you’ll find a disruptive invitation to be holy as Jesus was holy and engage the sinful world with a smile instead of pointing a finger in their face.”
The big challenge in this book is for us to put away our judgment and just love people. Christians should behave the way Jesus did and, most of the time, it just doesn’t happen. We are full of judgment and a quick to dismiss anyone who has a beer at dinner, smokes a joint, or has sex differently than we do. God still calls us to love those people whether we like it or not.
My favorite quote from Brimstone is this: “To say the greatest command is to love God with everything you’ve got and to love your neighbors as much as you love yourself also means the greatest sin may be to love God haphazardly or only when you need something from him, while at the same time having no interest in caring for or even getting to know the names of your neighbors.”
That hits hard.
These two books (And with a few others written by Halter and some of his friends) are challenging me on what it looks like to follow Jesus and not what I have been taught about being a good Christian. Maybe being a good Christian looks more like sitting on the porch with a neighbor while they smoke a joint than sitting in a pew on Sunday morning and not knowing your neighbors name.
Food for thought…