Note: I have not been asked to review this book by a publisher or by the authors. Like all reviews, these are my sincere opinions.
Rumors of God by Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson has been sitting on my To-Read shelf for too long and I was glad to read it. Darren is a teaching pastor at Willow Creek and Jon is a church planter in New York. Now Trinity Grace now has six campuses in the City and I’ve always appreciated my interactions with those in their ministry. Having spent the last 5 years in north Jersey, I’ve bumped into Jon a couple of times at various gatherings. I find him to be a good soul in a city that we all know can be grueling.
I appreciated the message and content of the book, really liked the concept, although I was a little thrown off by the subtitle “Discover the Kind of Faith You’ve Only Heard About.” Many have not heard anything good about faith or the Church, and for some, their view of God is rooted in an absent, angry being that roams around the galaxy. From what I know of Jon (and the little that I know of Darren), they know this to be very true. Still, the point is taken, there are a significant number of people who have heard glimpses of the redeeming message of Christianity. So much of what many grace-preaching, sharp and caring pastors are saying is being overpowered by the scandal-rich, crazy, hate-filled verbiage out there. The true gospel is almost coming out like a rumor.
Rumors of God covers a lot of ground. We learn a good bit about these two men who knew each other as teenagers in Australia. We read of their Christian conversions, we see their passion, hustle and glimpses into their personal lives (like Jon’s 2 year old daughter wiping the contents of her diaper on her bedroom walls).
I resonated with much of how they spoke of themes like love, the need for community, social justice and appreciated how they spoke of the Christian Triune God. The book is a great introduction to the Christian faith but it’s also a welcomed re-introduction. I could see this being helpful to the countless who leave the church in college and are now seeking to find something deeper than the materialism and humanism that they traded for. In fairness to them, many churches are not doing an adequate job in preparing their young hearts to leave their homes and churches. I don’t just mean the institutional church, I also mean it in terms of church as a community of families, friends, etc. Each of the mentioned needs to dramatically improve, not just with effort but in perspective as well. Though it would be nice to go further with this line of thought, this is intended to be a book review and I only mention it to say that Rumors of God is especially helpful to this audience.
Chapter Seven “The Radical Individual” was my probably favorite chapter as I find this to be an extremely important message for our culture. Especially for our twenty and thirty somethings who have been groomed by American individualism and promised the world. Which brings up another distinction, “the world” that many of us as X’ers and Millennials are promised isn’t the same one that the Boomers and Builders were talking about. But that also doesn’t really fit in with this book review.
Chapter Four, “Getting the Gospel In Order” threw me a little bit (but I still liked it). It had an excellent central point, it’s orthodox and so forth, I’m not throwing any heresy flags out there. I just thought it was a little too old-school in comparison with the rest of the book. It even had the classic “The officer pulls you over, pays our fine” (gives you his car) illustration. Glad to see the illustration of the railroad engineer who takes his son to work and got his little foot stuck … didn’t make the cut. I loathe that story on so many levels. But I’m just being critical because this a blog post. I do want to reiterate that the central point of this chapter is solid; I do like the “Jesus trades identities with us and gives the believer His inheritance” and it is certainly true that the church needs to be known as a place for grace. But I am hardly original in pointing out the church may need some better metaphors in discussing substituionary atonement.
After that, I did find the dichotomy of old-school evangelical versus new school. Which in some ways, works for certain parts of my ministry. While I certainly do not want to dismiss the richness of the last 50 years of evangelicalism, I’m not sure these are the parts worth preserving. And when I say, I’m not sure, I’m not trying to be polite here, I am honestly unsure. This has been on my radar the last 10 years of ministry and while I loved the content of Rumors of God, I’m not exactly the target demographic for it. I found myself thinking about their approach in reaching out to fellow X’ers/Millennials. To be fair, some of this was odd to me because of what I think I know of Jon. (He uses a lot of NT Wright material in his messages and frankly, he uses it really well.) It does make me wonder about the behind the scenes of Christian publishing though.
That’s about as critical as I can be – it’s a great read, especially for a significant number of people who are looking for a better articulation of the Christian faith and hoping for a better church. This may be a book we read together in a future Reading Circle, we’ll see …