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This book has a SQUIRREL on the cover. I have no idea why. Somebody should figure that out. [update: my husband reminded me that there’s a story about a squirrel in the introduction. I was too busy thinking “SQUIRREL?!” and thinking about this.]

The subtitle is The Art of Not-Evangelism. I love this. I have never felt like traditional, getting-people-saved evangelism was an effective tactic. Actually, I’ve never felt like the whole philosophy of “let’s convert people and get them to attend our church on Sunday” was a good one. So this book is right up my alley.

According to Medearis, “making disciples of all nations” doesn’t mean we have to get everyone to go to church on Sunday, subscribe to a certain set of theological beliefs, or recite a certain prayer or prayers. It just means helping people to develop a relationship with Jesus and to follow Jesus.

And that’s it. It’s about Jesus. Not about Christianity or any other religion.

I loved it. It’s well-told and easy to read.

Here’s a sample:

Visit Carl Medearis’s blog.

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If you’ve ever done any therapy, you’re probably familiar with the idea that we all live by scripts. Sometimes we’re living out scripts that are unhealthy, even though they’re familiar.  Author Frank Viola suggests that as Christians, we need to look at the scripts we’re using to live out our Christianity with a critical eye, because not all of these scripts actually come from God. He exhorts us to re-center on God, and let Him revise our lives.

Revise Us Again: Living from a Renewed Christian Script is short, to the point, and full of good examples, including some humorous stories and some that will probably make you cringe.  If you’ve read and liked Viola’s other books, you’ll appreciate this one, too.

First off, I highly recommend this book. It’s overdue from the library right now because I couldn’t give it back yet.

Take This Bread is labeled as both “A Radical Conversion” and “The spiritual memoir of a twenty-first-century Christian.”  Sara Miles was an atheist until she wandered into a neighborhood church and found a home.

She didn’t just find a church home, though (and she didn’t always get along well with others in the church). She became a new kind of church planter.

Sara Miles decided to start a food pantry at her church. But it wasn’t just a food pantry. It became a church service of a kind itself, and a new congregation.  And her food pantry has gone on to help plant other food pantries. To Miles, giving away food is Holy Communion, every bit as much as handing out wafers or bread in a traditional service.

The food pantry has had its own problems. This isn’t a story of perfect miracles. In fact, Miles makes some disturbing statements about Russian and Chinese people in San Francisco.  But it’s an incredible story, well worth reading, especially for anyone who has been disillusioned by the institutional church.

It’s beautiful in Portland today, so I went for a walk.  When I’m walking, I often imagine dialogues in my head.  Here’s one on why I no longer belong to a local church.

“Do you go to church?” she asked, stepping over a branch lying across the bark-chip path.

I laughed.  “No, not any more.  I do meet with some people for a bible study, but I don’t belong to a church any more.”

“Well, why not?” she asked.

“It’s kind of a long story…” I demurred.

“We’re still walking,” she reminded me.

“All right, then.” I paused to pick up a candy wrapper and stash it in my pocket.

“Well, I definitely believe in God.  I’m convinced, based on personal experience, that there is something bigger than us, that binds us together.  You can call it God, the Force, whatever, it’s there.

“And I do believe that there was a man called Jesus, and that he was God-Made-Manifest.  This is one of God’s greatest gifts to us – that he came to us, and lived among us, and fully experienced what it was to be human.  We have a God who truly knows what it is to be one of us!

“He also taught us how to live life in the Kingdom of God.  He taught that we should love one another always, even those we call enemies, and that we should always be ready to help one another.  He reminded us that we should care for the last, the least and the lost.

“And I believe that he died for us, but not in a tit-for-tat way, like he died in my place so that I can get into heaven someday.  I think he died for two reasons: first, to show how much God loves us, even to the point of dying for us, as a parent might die to protect a child.

“Second, to teach us about the way of love.  He showed us that the way of love is more powerful than fighting back with violence.”

“You believe all of that and don’t go to church?” she asked, lifting an eyebrow.

“Absolutely.  You see, that’s what the church should be about, and often these are things the church talks about, but it’s not what most institutional churches really do.

“I do appreciate the church.  It nurtured me, both as a child and a younger adult, and taught me a great deal.  But eventually, membership in the church became a routine of trying to get enough money to keep the institution going and trying to get more members so that my kids weren’t the only ones in the Sunday School classes I taught (and so that those members could bring in more money).  And that’s not the true  work that God calls us to.”

“But aren’t Christians supposed to convert other people?” she asked.

I smiled. “We are supposed to share the Good News of Jesus, just as I might share some great news about my family with you, or I might share a really cool discovery, which is what this is – it’s a really cool discovery about something that could change your life!

“But Jesus never said we should add people to membership rolls and have them give money to keep up a church building and get them to volunteer on committees.

“So I’m still looking for a different way to follow Jesus, without the institutional church baggage.  For now, I’m just seeking to follow his commands: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)