Laying Down My Isaac

220px-Rembrandt_Abraham_en_Isaac,_1634Abraham, the Father of the Jewish people, had been promised by God that, although his wife was barren, he would have more offspring than stars in the sky. It was through that offspring that God would save his people. God promised. Abraham believed.

Eventually, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, would conceive and have a son whose name was Isaac. The promised one had come and Abraham and Isaac were overjoyed at God’s provision for them, just as he had promised.

But the story took a turn when God asked Abraham to go and sacrifice his son as an offering. In our day, this is astounding, but in a day when child sacrifices were prevalent, it wasn’t the concept that was strange, it was the thought of sacrificing a child of promise, one who was to be the first of many offspring who would eventually result in the saving of a nation, a people, and the world.

The heading in the Bible for this passage simply reads, “Abraham Tested.” It lasts a total of nineteen verses, which hardly seems adequate to convey the depth and gravity of the situation. There is little hesitation on the part of Abraham. His language communicates his hope that he and his son will come out on the other side, unscathed.

No matter how many times that I read the passage, I struggle to put myself in the place of Abraham. To be honest, I struggle to put myself in the place of Isaac either. But what happens when God calls someone to lay down their dreams, their hopes, their future? What happens when the very thing that God promised is the very thing that God asks us to lay down at his feet?

I am very willing to give up certain things in my life, things that seem expendable, things to which I am holding loosely. But what are the things to which I am holding more tightly? What are the “Isaacs” in my life that I am reluctant to let go of?

When we think about all that we must give up in our pursuit of God, it can sometimes feel as if he is a cosmic killjoy, calling people to give up everything. But if we find that mindset dominant within us, we probably need to look towards the end of Abraham’s account. Not only did God spare and preserve Isaac, but he kept his promise.

Did Abraham realize as he trudged up that hill with anxiety weighing heavily on his heart that God had a plan? Was he concocting an escape route in his plan, waiting for the right time to make a break for it and try to outrun God, something Jonah would do hundreds of years later?

I’m looking at the “Isaacs” in my life. I’m trying to figure out just what it is that I’m holding onto so tightly. I’m asking myself, “If I’m holding onto these things so tightly, is it possible that they’ve become idols to me?”

Soul searching is never an easy thing and we rarely get the pat answers for which we sometimes wish. But at the end of the day, I’d rather much rather be self-aware and in a bit of discomfort than to be like the emperor with his new clothes, blissful in ignorance and unable to see what was perfectly evident to the rest of the world.

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Seeing With Your Heart

I am a visual person. I like to be able to see things. I have a white board in my office where I can write out the things that I have to do and even work out ideas. It gives me the opportunity to sit at my desk and stare at the thoughts and ideas written on it. I can work them out in my head but right there in front of me as well. My thoughts come to life in a visible way, allowing me to see where I am going and order my thoughts better.

When I can’t see things, I panic. My anxiety rises up. I flip and flail like a fish dropped on dry land, struggling for breath and wondering when I will get a glimpse and see what I have determined in my head is necessary for me to see in order to move forward.

It’s funny how the things that we can so often think are necessary for our survival are far more expendable than we actually think. We obsess over things that seem crucial to us, viscerally reacting or even overreacting. Then we realize that we can live without the very thing that seemed to crucial and integral to our own plan.

Do I need to see, or do I just WANT to see? When I can see all of the pieces laid out in front of me, it’s really easy for me to wallow in my own self-sufficiency, elevating myself to a plain far above where I belong. Seeing all of the pieces may seem comfortable to me, but it mostly eliminates my need for trust and faith in God. If I can figure it all out myself, if I can seem to be self-sufficient, if there is no mystery, what’s the use of faith anymore?

A friend of mine describes the Christian life as being a combination of the two simple yet difficult tasks of trusting and obeying. It’s one step after another. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Onward. The mundane yet laborious task of putting one foot in front of the other, not always knowing where your footfall will be three steps or ten steps or twenty steps from now. Only knowing where the next step will be. Like the psalmist’s words, a light to our path doesn’t shine for miles in front of us, it simply lights the way for the few steps that lie immediately ahead.

I’m beginning to see that what I think I need to see may be just an extension of my need to control things. Maybe trusting is less about seeing with our eyes and more about seeing with our hearts. Maybe all I really need to see is what’s immediately before me so that I abstain from self-sufficiency and I lean more on God, who has promised to guide me and provide for every step.

I’ll continue to resist, I can be assured of that. I’ll continue to search for ways that I can see what I was never meant to see. But in my search and in my resistance, perhaps I will find that the same vision that I have prided myself in with my eyes may transfer over to my heart and I will begin to see things not as I want to see them, but as I need to see them. Perhaps I will find that as difficult of a task as it is to see with my heart, it will serve me so much better in the long run.

Breaking the Cycle of Fear – A Book Review

breaking the cycle of fearWhat do we do when we come face to face with our greatest fears? What do we do when those greatest fears actually come true? How do we move past the fears that grip us to a place of trust in the One who we believe holds all things together?

Maria Furlough shares her personal story in her latest book “Breaking the Cycle of Fear.” Furlough shares and gives her readers an intimate portrait of her own fear and loss when, during pregnancy, she was told that her fourth child did not have kidneys or a bladder. She was told by her doctor that her little boy would live through her entire pregnancy and once he was born would only live for a few minutes or hours.

Furlough describes her feelings, “Through my sobbing, I never felt mad at God. I never questioned his goodness or blamed him. But the fear that had gripped me for so long turned into terror, and I literally felt like I was going to die from the burden of sadness, pain, and anxiety.” Then she goes on to name her fears as she realized that if she didn’t kill them, they were going to kill her.

This book is an honest testimony of how God brought Furlough through the fears that she had experienced into a place of peace and trust. She shares so many of the Scripture verses that ministered to her. She shares prayers that she prayed. She shares the difference between pleading and praying, giving examples of both in order to distinguish the difference.

Furlough writes, “we do a vast disservice to God’s Word when we pluck out verses and have them stand alone.” Having been through my own difficulties and had people cherry pick verses to share as encouragement, I resonated with her statement. I know that she experienced the same thing in the loss of her son, which makes the comment that much more poignant to me. She points to the importance of looking at context which is such a vital part of digging into God’s Word.

The material that Furlough shares in this book has come out of her own teaching at her church. She is real. She is raw. She shares from the depths of her heart, not pulling any punches. I love the way that she ends this book, sharing the stories of those who have been impacted by her teaching to move from fear to faith, trust, and peace. She even shares her husband’s story about his own anxiety and fear.

Out of our deepest heartaches and pains can come our greatest insights and lessons if we allow God to use them. Maria Furlough has shared out of her deep heartaches and pains and has shared how God used those to change her and transform her. Every reader can benefit from those insights in order to move from fear to peace.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

What Are You Afraid Of?

I am afraid. I am full of fear.

I do not know what is going to happen. My fear wants to seize control (or at least give me the illusion that I’ve seized control). My fear wants me to have plan in place, so I’m looking, I’m grasping at any possible plan. I can make up plans with the best of them, so this is cake. Problem is, it’s not the right plan.

No, it doesn’t hurt to act. God wants us to act, but not to act in fear. How many times are we commanded in the Bible, “Do not be afraid?” Not urged or invited, but commanded.

Are my fears bigger than God? I’ve certainly been acting like they are. But we read, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” Trust in me, he tells us. Come to me, he tells us. My burden is light, he tells us. Cast your anxiety on me, he tells us.

So, what am I waiting for? What are you waiting for? What am I so afraid of?

More Than Just A Prayer to Recite…

“Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name….”

If you grew up in the church, the Lord’s Prayer has probably become familiar to you. You may have grown up reciting it to the point that it’s imbedded in your brain and you can recite it without much thought or contemplation.

The Prayer That Turns the World

In his latest book “The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down,” Albert Mohler even says that, “many evangelicals can identify with…what it is to pray without really praying.” Although we may have memorized the words of this prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, we may have not given it much thought. But Mohlers suggests that this prayer and what is contained within it is actually revolutionary if we really take to heart what Jesus said.

Before venturing into an exposition of Jesus’ prayer, Mohler expounds on the idea that evangelicals have gotten good at praying without really praying. He challenges the reader saying that a lot can be told about our relationship with God based on how we pray and how we worship. Mohler defines what prayer is and what prayer isn’t.

Mohler walks through each of the key phrases in Jesus’ prayer, expositing each and pointing towards Jesus’ prayer not as something to simply recite, but as a guide and primer on just how we approach God in prayer. We pray not so that we can simply list off all of the things that we want or need, but to commune with God, to relate to God, and ultimately to be changed by him. As Mohler says, “There is no true intimacy with God without prayer.” Mohler points out that the intentional phrasing in the prayer points us away from our individualism and reminds us that we are part of a greater whole, the body of Christ.

The Lord’s Prayer is also a reminder to us that we are part of a kingdom that is not of this world and a king who far exceeds the political powers which make headlines on a daily basis. Our commission as followers of Christ is to make disciples of this king and citizens of his kingdom. As we pray that the Lord’s will be done, we are asking God to align our will with his, not asking that he make our heart’s desires come true. Our hearts desires in prayer should slowly begin to align to the heart’s desire of God.

We are reminded, through this book, that our prayer for our daily needs may not always be answered in the ways that we might think or even hope. God will provide for our needs but perhaps not the way that we might have imagined. We are taught to forgive as we are forgiven, not because we are forgiven. We receive forgiveness through Christ and because of what we receive, we extend forgiveness to others.

Mohler reminds the reader that Christians are not somehow immune to temptation. No temptation is brought on by God, but it is allowed and with that temptation, we are given the tools by which to triumph over it. The power to resist temptation isn’t something we muster up with enough gumption and energy, it is only something that we can accomplish through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The reader is reminded at the conclusion of the book that the last phrase that has been tacked on to the Lord’s Prayer was not found in the original manuscripts of the Bible. While that doesn’t make it wrong, it doesn’t make it God’s Word, Mohler writes. It may have been added in the decades and centuries following Jesus to act as a doxology.

Mohler concludes his discussion of the Lord’s Prayer by reminding his reader that, “This prayer is dangerous…This prayer is hopeful…This prayer is compassionate…This prayer is reverent…This prayer is good news.” Through the Lord’s Prayer, we not only understand what God asks of us when we come to him but also we begin to understand more of who he is as we unpack this prayer.

If, as Mohler says, you have ever felt like you, “can go through the motions, say all the right words, and even lead a congregation or group in prayer without remembering a single word…or even understanding what (was) prayer for,” you might consider reading “The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down.” It’s a short enough read that you won’t feel like you are getting bogged down but it packs enough into those few pages that you will feel challenged in how you approach this important prayer the next time you recite it.

(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.)

Killing Spiders

kill the spiderWhat happens when we know that something is wrong in our life, something that needs change? We see the evidence of it throughout our lives, in our habits, in our relationships, in the nuances of how we go about living day to day. We begin to clean up the evidence of what’s wrong and never really go to find the source of it. It’s like a spider, we see the spider webs throughout the house, we clean the webs in order to make the house look tidy again, but that doesn’t remedy the problem. If we really want to get rid of the spider webs for good, we’ve got to kill the spider; otherwise, we’re just doing cursory work.

In his book, “Kill the Spider,” Carlos Whittaker tells his own story of getting to the heart of the issues that he faced in his life. His marriage was falling apart, he was losing his family, and he realized that he wasn’t fully convinced of the convictions upon which he had staked his life. He needed to find, identify, and kill the spider that was wreaking havoc on his life.

“Kill the Spider” is an autobiographical wisdom book. Whittaker shares his story with raw and deep details. He holds back on revealing everything, but it’s hard to read this book without feeling his feelings, thinking his thoughts, and perhaps even finding yourself identifying similar experiences in your own life. What Whittaker doesn’t capture with literary eloquence or powerful prose he makes up for with intense and reflective sharing of what he went through.

Whittaker journals his experience of losing his faith and finding it again in a week-long intense counseling retreat. He offers his insights into how he was able to push past the cobwebs and do the hard work of identifying the spider that was ruining his life. He never claims that answers are simple, easy, or quick. The old adage that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” proves true here when considering the amount of time it took Whittaker to get to the place from which he couldn’t escape on his own. In fact, he points out, although he was able to come to grips with the reality of identifying his spider, he wasn’t able to kill it on his own. The only one who could was Jesus.

Whittaker is no theologian, just a simple storyteller. This book is just the chronicle of someone who hits rock bottom and discovers an approach to getting back to the top again. Whittaker shares helpful insights from the Bible and even shares prayers that have been helpful for him. Whittaker was not able to come to grips with the heart of his problem until he was willing to get real and honest with himself. He shares the steps that brought him to that place.

“Kill the Spider” was a fast read. I finished it in just a few days. Whittaker’s ability to tell a story drew me back to the book and I found myself wanting to know just how he came out of the pit in which he found himself. Some might not appreciate the rawness with which Whittaker shares in the book. His cursing was most likely used to emphasize just how low he found himself and how raw he had become, and although they did not deter me, there are some who will close the book when they read those words.

If you’ve been struggling in your life to get to the heart of the things that have been bringing you down, “Kill the Spider” may be a helpful book for you. The way that Whittaker crafts and tells his story alone is a compelling enough reason to pick up this book and read it.

(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.)

Overwhelmed

I’ve been thinking about the word “overwhelmed” a lot lately. It’s probably because I’ve been feeling it…..a lot. Overwhelmed with emotion. Overwhelmed with activity. Overwhelmed with thoughts. Overwhelmed with worry. Overwhelmed with anxiety.

The word “overwhelmed” means “to turn upside down, to overthrow.” But like so many other words, it can mean something so different based upon its context. While we (or I) may use it more often as a negative word, it can easily be used in a more positive way.

Lately, my use of overwhelmed has felt much more negative. Tomorrow is the six year anniversary of my mom’s death and no matter how far I get from that day, it seems that it still has as severe of an impact as it did when it first happened. I can feel the anxiety and sadness rising up within me. I can feel myself getting overwhelmed.

I’ve had some additional responsibilities on me over the last two months. I’ve found myself growing in many ways, learning how better to manage my time and be more efficient. At the same time, there are moments when I feel incredibly overwhelmed, overcome and overthrown.

Even Jesus, as he prayed in the hours leading up to his death in Matthew 26, was overwhelmed. At least that’s how the New International Version translation of the Bible renders it. “My heart is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

But I think we can be overwhelmed with good. I think we can be overwhelmed when people do things for us that leave us speechless. I think we can be overwhelmed as we look at the blessings that we have in our lives rather than looking at what we don’t have.

As I’ve pondered it, I’ve thought more and more about how I want to be positively overwhelmed. I know that I will not stop being overwhelmed by other things, but how will I choose to respond?

I had a rough night last night. Didn’t sleep well. Tossed and turned. Dreamed restless dreams. Other than the overwhelming emotion of what tomorrow represents to me, a few other things were thrown at me in the past few days that completely threw me off. I’ve felt vulnerable, detached, disconnected, and aloof. While it was nothing compared to what Jesus talks about in Matthew 26, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling overwhelmed.

I really felt like I had no choice but to do my best to allow myself to be overwhelmed by God. My go-to place for that is the Psalms. I have always appreciated the raw and honest nature of the Psalms. So, I put on my head phones, laid on the couch, and let the Psalms be read into my ears.

And you know what? It worked. I was overwhelmed.

I was overwhelmed with the goodness of my God. I was overwhelmed with his presence with his people. I was overwhelmed with his faithfulness. I was overwhelmed with the salvation that he brings and offers to us.

I think the key to finding the positive aspect of being overwhelmed is to know where we need to go to find it. I will oftentimes go to the wrong place, some place that doesn’t fulfill, that doesn’t really meet the need. When that happens, it does the reverse of positively overwhelming me and I feel even more overthrown. We can all find places that will give us a temporary reprieve from the overwhelming feelings we face.

But in the Psalms, we find the God who is there. We find the God who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. We are not alone. We may be overwhelmed, but if we really stop to think about it, we can be overwhelmed by all that God is and all that he has done for us.

This past Sunday, we sang this song in our worship service. It’s a song that I’ve loved from the first moment that I heard it. I had forgotten about it until Sunday and as the music washed over me, I was truly overwhelmed.

Slaying the Giants

goliath must fallAnyone who has attended Sunday School for any length of time is most likely familiar with the story of David and Goliath. David, the young shepherd boy, is on an errand to deliver something to his brothers who are in the army. He hears Goliath taunting the army of Israelites and can’t get over the fact that this Philistine giant is disrespecting the God of the Israelites. David talks to King Saul, who offers for David to wear his armor which is way too big, but eventually, David faces Goliath with only his shepherd’s sling and five smooth stones. Goliath’s confidence is in his strength while David’s confidence is in the strength of God.

Many people read this story and put themselves in the place of David, suggesting that they are the ones who are supposed to conquer their own giants. In his book “Goliath Must Fall,” author, speaker, and pastor, Louie Giglio, suggests that WE are not David in the story, but God is. We don’t fight our battles ourselves, but God fights them for us. In fact, it’s God’s strength that propels us and in order to see true and lasting change in our lives, “we need to understand our dependency on the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Our change is more about trusting and less about trying.”

Giglio suggests that most of us don’t struggle with hundreds and hundreds of giants, but really with five big giants: fear, rejection, comfort, anger, and addiction. The bulk of “Goliath Must Fall” deals with these five giants and the ways that we can battle them.

Words are important, as are titles, Giglio says, thus the name of the book. It’s not that Goliath WILL fall or that Goliath HAS fallen, but Goliath MUST fall. In other words, our giants will not fall in the future at some designated time. Our giants haven’t been conquered even though Christ has won the battle. Instead, in order for us to really live a life of freedom in Christ, our giants MUST fall. It has to happen.

Giglio presents all of this with a sincere honesty. In fact, having recently read Giglio’s other book “The Comeback,” I thought that this book was more honest, real, and even raw. He does not present giant-slaying as something that we do on our own nor does he try to convince the reader that difficulties and hardships won’t exist in our lives. God may just set up a table for us in the presence of our enemies. That table represents God’s provision to us, even as we face and sometimes fail against our giants.

Throughout the book, Giglio continued to return to the story of David and Goliath, giving background information about David. He focused on many of the aspects of the account that can often be overlooked, especially when we jump to the Sunday School version of the story. I was glad to be reminded of the richness of the biblical account of David.

I would recommend “Goliath Must Fall” for anyone who has struggled, is struggling, or will struggle, which means pretty much all of us. Giglio presents his message with encouragement, humor, and honesty. His classification of the five types of giants that we all face seemed spot on as well. This book is a great reminder who is fighting our battles and who is walking alongside us as we face each of our giants.

(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.)

The Comeback – A Book Review

The ComebackComeback stories seem to draw a lot of attention. Some might call them “Cinderella Stories” and others might talk about the underdog, but when it comes to comeback stories, most people seem drawn to them. Maybe it’s the unlikelihood of the stories or the cast of characters that seem to litter the landscape of such stories. Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve all probably experienced a moment or a time in our lives when we’ve needed our own comeback and we’ve been the underdog or the “Cinderella” in the story.

Louie Giglio writes of our own need to experience this and be part of these stories in his book “The Comeback.” We all have come to a place when we’ve needed a comeback. Perhaps we’ve gotten our lives off track by ourselves. Perhaps we’ve just had a number of unfortunate events happen to us. Regardless of the cause of the turmoil in our lives, many of us have come to a place where it’s the bottom of the ninth and we are seemingly down by an impossible number of runs. When we come to that place, we need a comeback.

With his balance of wit, wisdom, and Biblical truth, Louie Giglio shares stories of others who have experienced comebacks in their lives. Some of the people of whom he shares are in the Bible and others are people he’s met along the way. All of them have experienced some kind of comeback in their lives, a second chance, an opportunity to get their heads above the water and begin swimming again. That comeback that we need to experience can only be experienced in Jesus Christ.

It can be easy for those of us who are in need of a comeback to get to a place where we don’t think we deserve another chance. We think, and sometimes the church tells us, that we need to have it all together. Giglio writes, “See, we don’t need to shine ourselves up and sit in a beautiful church sanctuary. We don’t need to gather our children and spouse together and figure out how to become the world’s most functional family. We don’t need to get well before we meet Jesus. That’s what he does for us.” Jesus is the one who provides the comeback for us, we don’t do it ourselves.

Giglio shares a lot of stories in this book. Some of them seem almost as if they came straight from a Hollywood script. In fact, it was hard for me to read a good portion of the first half of this book as there were so many stories of success and comeback that it was difficult to take considering some of the experiences that I’ve had myself. I began to ask myself, “What happens when there is no comeback?”

At just the right time, Giglio gets into that, talking about how comebacks don’t always look like we’d like them to look. Sometimes there is just no cure. Sometimes there is no repairing the relationship. Sometimes the child just doesn’t come home. When we come to that place in our lives when the comebacks don’t match what we had envisioned in our heads, we need to remember that Jesus experienced the ultimate comeback in order that we might experience the same.

There is a life beyond the temporary comeback, a salvation that is eternal, and we can’t lose sight of that. As difficult as it is to accept, the answer doesn’t always match up to our expectation. But just like Lazarus was raised from the dead and would still eventually experience death again, there was something beyond that physical death and we need to remember God’s faithfulness and love in the midst of those times. We need to remember that because of the ultimate comeback of Jesus, we too can experience the same.

“The Comeback” was full of inspiring stories. Louie Giglio is engaging as a storyteller. At times, he can seem to ramble on and maybe overshoot his point, maybe even to the point of ramming it into the ground rather than gently sticking the landing. He never comes across preachy so much as he might come across as wordy. “The Comeback” probably could have been at least twenty to thirty pages shorter.

At times, when it felt like Giglio was edging out into a prosperity gospel, he reeled it back in again and brought in biblical truths that showed just where he stood.

If you have been experiencing frustration and difficulty in your life and you need encouragement, “The Comeback” is for you. This book is geared towards those who are looking for answers and encouragement and Giglio provides both. They might not always be the answers you’re looking for, but they’re the ones you probably need to hear.

(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.)

5Q – A Book Review

5QIn the early days of the Christian church, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus laying out the various roles of those in the church. He wrote in Ephesians 4:11-13, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors (shepherds) and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” This description has come to be known as the fivefold ministry of the church.

In the introduction of his new book “5Q” Alan Hirsch writes, “It is sobering to consider that, as far as we can tell, Christianity is on the decline in every Western setting…” This decline of which Hirsch speaks of is due, in his opinion, to the abandonment of the bulk of this fivefold ministry of which Paul wrote. He says, “As for the church’s ministry, the historical church has largely opted to exclude apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic frameworks and has viewed ministry through the now severely reduced categories of the pastor (shepherd) and the teacher (theologian).” Using the acronym APEST to describe this fivefold ministry, Hirsch claims that the Western church has done a good job of eliminating the APE ministries and accentuating and even overemphasizing the ST ministries.

Hirsch asks his readers to read through this book with soft eyes, doing their best to let go of the ways that they’ve looked at things in the past in order to see more clearly what we’re missing by excluding these crucial elements of ministry for the body of Christ. Hirsch goes so far as to say that, “the fivefold ministry is the way, or mode, by which Jesus is actually present in the church, and by which he extends his own ministry through us.”

Hirsch proceeds to support the idea of fivefold ministry with a biblical foundation. As we live into our own gifting and encourage others into their gifting as well, we begin to fulfill the purpose for which Christ left the church on the earth as his ambassadors and representatives. We move towards the fullness of Christ as we live into this ministry. The church has been sorely lacking by not living into this paradigm and ideology. This lack has led to a “fatal and degenerative dis-ease into the body of Christ.”

Jesus epitomized this fivefold ministry in his own life and the church has been called to carry out and continue to use this paradigm to accomplish his work on the earth. The cultural mandate to which the Church has been called should fulfill this purpose through these ministries. This fivefold ministry of the church Hirsch terms 5Q. As Hirsch writes, “Once we have identified 5Q as perfectly exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus, we can then see how he grafts these into the foundation of the church.”

Hirsch lays out the five ministries: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher. He gives descriptions of the various characteristics of each, also giving examples of how these gifts may manifest themselves in both sacred and secular environments. Hirsch says that these fivefold archetypes can actually be found throughout creation and history, giving them ontological weight.

Hirsch then moves from Christ to the church, describing just what it would look like if the church should embrace 5Q and live into this fivefold ministry and archetypes. He also describes just what happens when there is a deficit in these areas, giving examples of just what that would look like within the church. To live into this paradigm is to move towards a much more functional means of doing things. The apostle Paul described the church as a body and Hirsch agrees. Just as the parts of the body work together with their strengths and functions, so should the church follow suit. To neglect an area is to be deficient. “To remove one is to undermine all the others. We need all five to mature.”

Over and over again while reading “5Q” I found myself nodding my head in agreement with all that Hirsch lays out. The APEST model is something that he has spoken of in his other works as well, but not to this same depth. It makes sense. It’s logical. It’s biblical. In theory, it seems like it should be successful, in a biblical and spiritual sense, not necessarily in a worldly sense.

In order for the 5Q approach to really work, there needs to be a paradigm shift within the Western church. That shift may be easier for some local communities and harder for others. That shift may be easier for some congregations and harder for some pastors. Egos can’t get in the way because they will surely short circuit this approach in a heartbeat. The purpose of a body is shared ministry and experience, if personalities who can’t handle being the center of attention or the primary focus can’t step aside to embrace a fivefold ministry, we can expect that the Western church will continue the decline that we have already been experiencing.

5Q is not a new idea. It’s as old as Christianity itself, but the focus and shift within the church has moved away from a more balanced approach towards ministry and placed the emphasis and weight on a select few. Should we then be surprised when we see some of those crumble beneath the weight and when we see so many longing for something so much more significant than they have experienced? I think not.

I’ve been a fan of Alan Hirsch for years. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him in a little Irish pub in Long Beach, California a few years back. There was no pretense about him in person and his writing reflects the genuine personality that he possesses. He writes not with a pretentious confidence but with a loving desire to share the knowledge and wisdom that he has gained through his own experience, seen both personally and second hand.

If the Western church were to shift back towards this fivefold ministry which Hirsch is encouraging, I think we would see a significant change in effectiveness and in staying power. Of course, if we instead choose to embrace the things that we have always done, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see history repeating itself.

There are plenty of resources in this book for local communities to use to help more towards 5Q. I look forward to exploring them myself to see just how the community of which I am a part can move back towards ministry the way that Christ intended.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from 100 Movements. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)