Let’s be honest with each other, if we can, for just a moment. We all want to build something awesome in this life, even if we do fly the banner of Christ. We wanna be known for something, we want to leave a legacy that our children can look back to and say, “That’s what my Dad/Mom did”. There seems to be an ever-present problem, however, which finds itself manufacturing this attitude in us today, and its called sin. Of course we want to build something awesome, but it’s not because we want God to get the glory. We want the glory, we want the fame, we want people to think we’re awesome. One thing about that….we’re not, and we need God to show us the truth about ourselves. But are we willing to risk it all for a glimpse at the truth?
Owen Strachan has engaged the Church with his timely book, Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome, to combat this, “I’m awesome” attitude. He notes the meaning of a true Christian as one who, “Sees that Jesus Christ and his righteousness are the needs of our heart and the apex of our satisfaction. Through the Spirit, we’re able to see that Jesus is worth it all” (48). He also points out that the apex of our problem. “Sin does crazy things to our minds. It makes us weak. It makes us fools. And it leaves us unwilling to risk, and therefore unwilling to gain the whole world in Jesus. I am convinced that a big part of what is keeping modern Christians from spiritually flourishing is this: our self-identity.” (48)
Owen encourages Christians to live this life without playing it safely. He pushes us to involve risk, not only in our faith, but also in our families, vocations, communities and personal witness. The two areas which I find the most help for my own soul were chapters 5 (Risky Families) and chapter 9 (Risky Citizenship). Not only am I a father to two children but I must also care for my wife’s heart while living this life with an element of risk. Owen comforts my fears in leading my own family when he tells me, “You have to risk to build a strong family. You have to trade in dreams of self-driven comfort, ease, quiet, mobility, and indulgence for the self-sacrificial but far more enjoyable goal of leading a family to know and worship God and glorify him together through a happy, disciplined, loving home. The demands of the family are great. But its rewards are greater.” (97)
In a time of narrowing values and the decline of churches in the United States, being a public witness for Christ may cost us more than it has in the past. While growing up, though not a christian, I felt relatively at ease in this life. I had no major worries or problems other than my older brother picking on me. Today I have some major hurdles to climb over as I seek to share my faith, protect my family, build God’s church, and fulfill his calling to love him and love my neighbor. Owen calls us to be more than salt and light. He doesn’t negate the value of being those things but he pushes us to so much more in Christ. He calls me to live in the public spectrum while maintaining a level of risk which is in line with the gospel.
“The people of god cannot live only for themselves. In obedience to Christ, believers must make themselves a presence for good wherever they are. Some will know far greater freedom than others. If you’re living in a country that bans Christianity, you’ll have far less opportunity to be publicly engaged on crucial questions than evangelicals in freer societies. But every Christian in every place can be salt and light, being a godly, courageous witness to Christ.” (188)
Owen finishes up this book by relaying the story of Matt Chandler, who I’ve noted elsewhere, has been very instrumental in my own walk of faith. Chandler is a guy who grabs your attention from the moment he begins speaking and doesn’t let you go til he’s done tearing you down with the word of God and building you up with the very same word. Guys like Matt Chandler, guys with great families and large churches, shouldn’t have to go through troubles in this life…right?
The truth is that guys like Matt, like Owen, like you and I face troubles in this life. Christ told us we would and it’s a wise thing to listen to the words of Christ. Owen encourages us at the close of this text by saying that living for Christ isn’t risk at all, it’s the surest work we can undertake. With the power of the Trinity and the deposit of our inheritance, to not live for Christ would be the biggest risk we can take in life. He calls us to remember Christ who went before us and faithfully walked in this way before us.
At the end of this book as I reflect on the things Owen has taught me, I can hear one echoing refrain throughout the pages of this text which finds an anchor in Hebrews 13:20-21. Owen points us to Christ from the opening of this book to its final words. I would recommend this book to all those who are struggling to follow Christ fully and also for those who think they already are. We won’t be done with out work until, as Owen says, “We’ll be in glory, and we’ll celebrate what the gospel accomplished for us by God’s awesome grace; we risked the world, losing nothing…and trust Christ, gaining everything.
Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome Owen Strachan/Thomas Nelson, 2013 Review Copy Courtesy of Booklook Bloggers