Being a disciple of Christ is more than simply wearing a label and living in a subculture in the world. True disciples of Christ are not simply looking for a surficial relationship that seems a mile wide but which fails to go deep. True disciples are seeking to be as deep as they can be and with that depth, they will automatically go wider.
Brandon Hatmaker’s latest book “A Mile Wide” is an invitation for those who truly want to seek after and follow Christ to trade in shallow religion for a deeper faith. He addresses this in two parts within the book. He spends the first have focusing on what the Gospel does to us, how it changes us and makes us different. The second half of the book focuses on that the Gospel does once it’s in us. It doesn’t just implant itself there, deep inside, to be hidden and unkempt, but instead it works its way out of us, working through us.
Brandon Hatmaker is very relatable through his writing. I feel like every pastor, at some point in his/her life, falls into the category of rebel. Brandon is there now and in that way, I can relate. He’s not rebellious simply to be rebellious, but to shake up the norms and the system and to wake us up out of complacent slumber. If we are truly to be impacted and transformed by the gospel and by Jesus, than we need to be willing to subject ourselves to the discomfort and disruption that causes.
Hatmaker writes, “We limit the gospel by how we define it. We try to control it by making it too much about us, our form, and our function. Thus, what we’re hoping to embody lacks perspective and empathy, the very things that make the gospel good news to others.” A call to the gospel is a call to put aside our creature comforts and pursue something more disruptive than we might even be ready to face. But if we are truly seeking depth, it’s only through our own transformation that we can achieve that depth.
In the second half of the book, Hatmaker calls us to see things with a different perspective. He tells us that trading shallow religion for a deeper faith will require us to view things differently. God’s kingdom. Mission. Justice. All of these things look different when viewed through a gospel lens and when we are seeking depth rather than breadth.
The reader is challenged to stay connected to the community around them rather than getting so caught up in “church” things that they effectively pull themselves out of the very places where they can be used. “Sometimes we add a church group to our schedules and end up pulling ourselves out of our most natural mission field. Perhaps instead we just need to figure out how to invest more deeply in an existing group of friends that aligns more naturally with our current schedule.”
He states that our lives can be divided into three categories: communion, community, and commission. When we find ourselves within the activities of the church, we are deeply engaged in communion but it’s the common language of community and commission that can be the bridge between believers and nonbelievers.
Hatmaker had me until the end of the book. His last chapter is called “A Fresh Perspective.” While I think it’s essential and important for believers to keep a fresh perspective, our perspective still needs to remain grounded in the gospel. It can’t be grounded in our culture, in our feelings, or even in our relationships. While those things are all important in our mission, they cannot drive the process of our shifting perspective. I fear that without the gospel grounding to inform and shape our perspective, we will find ourselves on some very slippery slopes, trading truth for feelings, emotions, and the unstable things of our culture.
“A Mile Wide” was a good book. I appreciate Hatmaker’s perspective. His challenge to trade shallow religion for deep faith will be met if the reader enters into the journey with an open mind, an open heart, and a willingness to let transformation take place in them first.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)