Friday, February 21, 2014

God is Saying Something, We Best Listen

Four books by good friends in the missional church conversation are coming out at the same time and address related themes––but in very different ways. Do not think that if you read one, you have read them all, for that could not be further from the truth. There is actually very little overlap in the content, instead they seem to each build on one another as though designed to do so.

Mike Frost, Casesar Kalinowski, Hugh Halter and myself are friends who are frequently together addressing the missional church and training folks around the world. The four books being released are Incarnate by Mike Frost, Transformed by Casear Kalinowski, Flesh, by Hugh Halter and Primal Fire by myself.

The theme that is overriding all four books is that Christ within us is what makes all the difference in the people of God and their mission in this world. But this theme is addressed in very divergent ways with distinct voices. None of these books are a rerun.

I am convinced that God is saying something important that couldn't be entrusted with just one author or one book. Why not take a short season to delve into this subject by studying these four books one after another? It seems as though God has providentially arranged at this kairos moment to address this important topic. I am inclined to believe that God is saying something to us of utmost importance and he has moved through several people to say it in fullness.

Incarnate By Mike Frost

I have read many of Mike's books and was truly moved and challenged by this one. In fact, I couldn't just skim it in a fast read (as I fully intended); I had to read it slowly and take notes. I didn't really have time to do this, but I had to––it was that good. I think it may actually be his best yet, and that is saying a lot.

Let me just say that I have always loved Mike's books, but he is actually getting better with age! This man is pursuing Christ, learning and maturing as he does. That does not mean his earlier works are not good, but that he is getting better, and I think that is one of the highest praises a follower of Christ can receive.

I would argue, however, that Incarnate is misnamed. It is less about incarnation, and more about the fact that we are living excarnate lives: void of authentic human connections. With cutting social commentary, this book rips a useless band-aid off a lethal wound exposing a serious issue for us all.

Transformed by Caesar Kalinowski

Caesar is a newer author and I was pleasantly surprised by his writing skill. I have known Caesar as a missional practitioner as well as a bold thinker and communicator, but that doesn't always translate into a good book. In this case it does. He not only communicates profound ideas, but he also does so with many real life examples and moving stories.

Transformed is about how the gospel changes us from within so that we live from our new identity in Christ as God's children on mission rather than seeking a sense of importance from external behavior. It flows well and is easy to read.
Flesh by Hugh Halter

I have read most of Hugh's books. He is a prophetic voice and a great story teller. This book is no exception. While I was reading this book I felt self-conscious because of my tears. At other times I would embarrass myself while sitting in a cafe as I bust out laughing at some of his stories. Like Mike (and a good bottle of Scotch), Hugh seems to get better with age.

I understand that Mike and Hugh were originally writing a single book together, but the Lord made it clear that these were two separate works on the same subject but from different angles. I am glad they listened because the result is two very different books that are both needed.

Primal Fire by Neil Cole

Primal Fire is probably my most important work to date. I value all my books in different ways, but the implications of this one affects every kind of church and every kind of Christian in the most profound ways.

Fire is often used to represent God in the Bible. He is the first fire––the primal fire––that consumes, purifies, heals, forges, warms and provides light and serves up nourishment. Whereas the Primal Fire was something people saw at a distance and even followed behind in the Old Testament, in the New Testament it rests upon us and has taken residence within us. The fire now burns within and should be contagious and spread.

This book is a fresh take on Ephesians 4:1-16 and specifically the difference the five gifts of verse 11 makes in the health, development and reproduction of churches. I believe that the Primal Fire within us is Christ and that His strengths are measured to us in five gifts: apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching.

I have known that I was to write this book for 15 years. I tried writing it a few different times and even had to cancel a contract with a major publisher (and pay back the advance) because the timing and content of the book wasn't right...until now.

It cannot be coincidence that these four books all have come out at once. Perhaps they tell a full story together.

Incarnate (Frost) sets the table for the dinner and whets our appetites for what is to come. Transformed (Kalinowski) prepares the food in the kitchen so that it is served fresh and warm. Flesh (Halter) brings it out to the table where we all can see it, smell it, and taste it's goodness. This is a full meal, not just hors d'oeuvres being served up, and Primal Fire (Cole) addresses the menu with all the ingredients and recipes of each course for a balanced culinary experience.

Perhaps an important question to ask is why did we each feel led to write on this theme at this time in this specific way? I suggest that there is an important message that God wants to get across and He is doing so from at least four different angles so that it is a holistic message. Bon appetite!


Tim Ivey said...

You guys are going to blow up the world if you keep this up :) Nice analogy but now I'm hungry. Is Alan Hirsch making dessert? Looking forward to reading these all together.

Steve Simms said...

Amen, Neil! Christ is saying something like this: Let me out! I'm in all of you who are truly my followers. But don't keep me contained in your heart, be courageous enough to let me flow out of you.

Neil Cole said...

Thanks Guys, maybe Alan invited us all to the dinner.

Dr. Tommy Shavers said...

God is definitely saying something! I just finished my 3rd book soon to be released. The Lord made me stop all other works to finish this one. The title? Chris In You: The Revealed Mystery of the Power of God. I look forward to reading the books you mentioned, and I hope you'll get the chance to read this one as well. Blessings your way!

Dr. Tommy Shavers