Monday, 20 June 2016

The Gospel Next Door - book review

I grew up with what I assume to be a pretty standard understanding of the gospel story. Jesus died for our sins so that one day when we die we can go to heaven. Our time on earth could be thought of as a doctors waiting room where we simply hang around running down the clock, staying vigilant lest we don’t hear our name called out when it’s our time to move on to the great physician in the sky.

This is not the story of The Gospel Next Door though. Marty Troyer has delivered a message to us that the gospel is good news right now. This Jesus who brought good news to the poor, who healed the brokenhearted, set the captives free and gave sight to the blind is very much alive today in you and me and His heart has not changed. We are all missionaries’ right where we live, not in the traditional sense of the word but rather as Gods children on earth with the potential to powerfully impact our communities right where we live.

This book is full of stories from the authors own life as well as the people around him which connects the gospel to who God is and what it looks like when His people start to practically demonstrate the life and love they find in Him to others. The stories that are shared are really what make this read so powerful; it’s not just a neat little doctrine we can jot down in a notebook and forget about but a challenge to the church to recognize where God is at work in our community and to join in with Him. To quote Marty himself, “Love is possible. Hope is possible. Joy is possible. Taking risks, overcoming fears, dealing with negative emotions and anxiety, moving beyond habitual disobedience – are all now possible. The welcome and integration of strangers, extravagant generosity and simple living, serving the marginalized, working for the common good: these, too, are possible. I believe if God brought Jesus back to life, then even I can change!”

The Gospel Next Door moves beyond simple statements about loving and serving others. Whole chapters are devoted to exploring the devastation of war, to exposing modern day slavery and how our lifestyles unwittingly support it. One of the chapters explores the Black Lives Matter movement. All three topics revealed a degree of ignorance in my own heart toward the injustices in this world which I often simply never saw. Marty’s pastoral skills must have been at work here though because rather than shame, I felt encouraged to move forward from where I am. I am excited about the prospect of growing more and more into the role of seeking the shalom of my own city. Whether it is in paying attention to the things I consume and how they affect the people and environment to how I directly interact with those around me.

By the conclusion of this book I felt like an Esther, called to a time and place such as this. The gospel is about more than just sin management and the afterlife. Participating in restorative justice is a powerful way to prophetically claim the kingdom of God. This book reveals that far better than I can, I hope the Gospel Next Door falls into as many hands as possible.

If you would like a copy, it just went on sale today and you can get it on Amazon by clicking over here.

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