Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 05/06/2010 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. An anointed exposition of the love-producing power of the gospel. In two words: living missionally.
In Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living, co-authors Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation have provided the Church with a straightforward and (suitably) compelling explanation of, and exhortation to, missional life. This book came about in 2008 by way of a request by WMU, an organization focusing on educating about missional living, for Stetzer to write a book to bring "missional thinking to everyday believers." Stetzer tapped Nation to co-write, and the rest is history. Well, the rest is a book, actually. A very good book. A most excellent book.
It is truly a straightforward book, so much so that I can't recall that I read a book that was quite so on-message, all the time. Part I: Death by Love: God and Mission, grounds the mission in the unadulterated gospel, a message which Stetzer and Nation deliver with theological accuracy and contagious passion - head and heart.
When we assume the gospel, we assume too much.
Summed up in one word, the gospel is Jesus. Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be. The Crucifixion/Resurrection event is the most important in human history. The gospel is this: our incarnated God died for our sins so we might be reconciled to Him and glorify Him eternally.
We can never show the love of Christ until we understand the love of Christ. And we can never understand the love of Christ until we understand His death. And we can never understand the death of Christ until we understand why He died. And we can never understand why He died until we understand His holiness and our sin. (52-53)
Part II: Identifying Love: the Church in the World, shows love to be the natural outflow of the gospel in a believer's life. The longest section by far, it would take too long to walk through the various facets of how the gospel produces love in the life of the Christian. However, I did make special note of the authors' high view of the Church - not always a trait that Baptists are known for. Here are two choice quotes:
We believe the church's purpose is to glorify God, not to make people happy. The church does not exist for believers or unbelievers; it exists for God's glory, for the equipping of believers, and the church is God's missionary in the world. (114)
Isn't it ironic that the very remedy for our sinking, drifting Christianity is found in the very institution many are weakening, marginalizing, and walking away from? We have the institution through which the risen Christ plans to capture the hearts of rebellious men, yet we scamper here and there after wispy spiritual experiences. Amazing! (144)
Part III: Formed by Love: Believers and the World, deftly but gently encourages self-analysis by contrasting the prophet Jonah's passion for a gourd vine and shade from the heat, with the Apostle Paul's passion for his fellow countrymen, even if it meant losing his own salvation - if that were possible. This section also establishes the inalienable link between love and obedience.
It is a truly gospel-centered book. It's fairly rare that I feel the urge to dance around the room when reading a book (I do recall one episode in a Starbucks when reading Paul Tripp's A Quest for More), but this was certainly the effect of Part I. Nor do the co-authors relent in their gospel-centeredness through the remainder of the book.
It is a truly useful book, particularly for any Christian who is confused or even frightened of the term "missional." Stetzer and Nation coax this postmodern bogeyman out of its closet and reveal it for what it is: a new term for the marriage of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission - and nothing to be remotely afraid of, but rather embraced.
A "Points for Personal Reflection and Group Discussion" section concludes each chapter, but if that doesn't meet your group's needs, LifeWay has produced a video curriculum available for a decent price.
In case I didn't mention it explicitly, this book is soaked in Scripture. I found myself freshly appreciating many of the biblical references because most of them derive from the Holman Christian Study Bible (HCSB), which I suppose is the translation used by the WMU, and one of the translations I am least familiar with.
What more is there to say? Let me be as passionate and straightforward as the book itself: Stetzer and Nation have provided us with an anointed exposition of the love-producing power of the gospel. This is what "missional" is, and this is exactly what all we professing Christians should be practicing.