Over the next few weeks, I am going to be commentating on Brian McLaren's new book Everything Must Change. I was sent an advance copy under the premise that I would do a book review. That would be hard for me. I rarely read a theological book straight through. I read some, leave it for a week or two while I dig through another book, come back to it, etc. (However, I did read the latest Harry Potter straight through in less than 36 hours).
In addition, I don't think I could read a full theological book through in a few weeks time, and then write a review on the totality. I think I would need to read it through multiple times to write a review like that.
So instead, I will write in spurts as I work through the book.
In the first few chapters, Brian focuses on a trip he took to Burundi to meet with some of the local pastors. Burundi is a country like Rwanda in terms of the violence and ethnic unrest that is there.
One of the pastors who got up at the meeting said that he had grown up hearing basically only one message from his pastor father. It was the message that had been given to his father by foreign missionaries which was, "You are a sinner and you are going to hell. You need to repent and believe in Jesus. Jesus might come back today, and if he does and you are not ready, you will burn forever in hell." Brian states that almost everyone in the room laughed when they heard that. Not because they thought it was funny, but because it was what they had heard all their lives too. I laughed when I read it. When I read it out loud to my wife, she laughed too. All around the world, that cliche' message has been delivered.
What interests me, when I consider that message in the context of someone from Burundi, is that they would have lived that message as different warlords and rebel groups came to power. When a new faction took over, the message was "Submit to this regime or face terrible punishment". In their context, how would the gospel presented in the way stated above be good news? Jesus is just another warlord.
The pastor finished his talk by asking, "How many of you from Burundi and Rwanda have ever heard even one sermon telling Tutsi people to love and reconcile with Hutu people, or Hutu people to love and reconcile with Tutsi - or telling both Tutsi and Hutu to love the Twa as their neighbors and brothers and sisters?" Hardly anyone raised their hand.
So far, the book seems to be pointing out how lopsided our presentation of the Gospel has become. In a talk, McLaren said "What you focus on determines what you miss." We have perhaps become so heaven and afterlife focused, that we are missing that God wants his will carried out on earth too.
I will try to give an objective commentary on this book, but I have to say straight up that I am a fan of McLaren. I felt a little isolated by how unorthodox my theology was becoming years ago until I read A Generous Orthodoxy. Whew! It was a breath of fresh air.
Brian McLaren - Everything Must Change Part 2