There are few books that are able to blend depth of thought and substance of content and yet still be readable and accessible. ‘ ’ by Will Samson scores highly on all counts and even looks like passing the ‘Danelle test’. (Any book Danelle reads is worth noting as it means it is one I can pass on to others who get less of a kick out of reading than I do). At just 160 pages it is definitely short enough to read yet potent enough to really ignite some great conversations and ultimately – hopefully – new ways of living the gospel in this time.
I must admit that from afar another book on the challenges of our consumeristic western culture left me a little uninspired. I have read plenty on this subject both secular and Christian, and challenging the self indulgent way of life has been a key pillar of our Upstream values. So I began a little weary of the topic, and while some of Will’s critique / analysis of the situation is familiar, some of his biblical reflections and practical thoughts as to ways forward were refreshing and energizing.
Some aspects that stood out to me were:
Each chapter begins with a clever rendering of the Rich Young Ruler story and Will shines some light on the things we tend to think are important – even if we say we don’t… sneaky…
Will reflects on his own conservative upbringing regularly and the reductionistic gospel that was so much a a part of that. (Ie Jesus died for your sins so that you can go to heaven) and he does a good job of elucidating a much broader view of God’s work in the world – without negating the cross (for those who are about to label him (or me) a liberal…)
He argues for a morality that goes well beyond being pro-life and anti-gay and looks at the morality involved in issues of justice and poverty. He argues that Jesus is pro-life in that John 10:10 says he came to give us life to the full.
In essence he advocates what he calls a Eucharistic community – and thankfully he explained what he meant by that – because I didn’t grow up with that term either and was puzzled when I first heard it. Essentially its about living grateful, sacrificial lives in community and for the good of the world rather than simply being concerned with ourselves. Very countercultural.
He mentions a couple of times Newbiggin’s notion of the church as the hermeneutic of the Gospel – ie – people can make sense of the gospel by engaging with the church community and suggests that if we take the bigger picture of God’s kingdom seriously then chances are we may offer a more authentic way of being church and therefore expressing the gospel.
As I read I couldn’t help but hear the voices of my friends in the pages, as Will echoed many of the thoughts I heard these guys share during their time in Oz. That’s got to be a good thing as it shows the strength of shared values and understanding in the ‘Communality’ community. We were inspired by the story of Communality and this book reminded me of the power of a small committed group of people to influence a local community.
On pg 61 there is a great ‘prophecy’ adapted from Amos 5:18-27 that is entitled a message to the American church. It goes a fair bit beyond the text in its paraphrasing, but it is both a critique and a vision for who we are to be as the church. On the money too.
The final section of the book is very practical and offers a valuable list of practical ways we can live differently and actually combat our own selfishness. Some will find his suggestions a little too simple – eg plant a garden, practice the daily office, but if they are seen as simplistic then the point has been missed. The actual practice of many of these things will re-shape us into the people we wish to be.
So if you’re looking for a challenging and yet easy to read book that doesn’t leave you riddled with guilt then its well worth checking out ‘Enough’.
Recently (in the last 10 years) we have spoken a lot of what it means to be a missional community but personally this was a reminder that as the church we are to be a prophetic community of people who speak to both the broader society about how God intends for us to live as well as speaking to the church itself and challenging the internal inconsistencies.
When we lose our prophetic voice our ‘missional’ business gets pretty dry.
None of this is easy, but the net result of ‘business as usual’ is not something I would like to contemplate either.
Read it. It’s good.