A Good Answer for a Misleading Critique

At the end of 2014, I was surprised to add up that my book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission,” had sold more than 10,000 copies since its publication in late February.  10,000 copies in 10 months.  Never saw that coming!

When I wrote “Joining Jesus” my goal was simple: I didn’t want to write a theological textbook but a practical handbook.  I wanted to honor and stand on the shoulders of our best biblical theology without feeling the need to repeat all of it.  I wanted a short book that showed regular folk how to actually join Jesus not a long book theologians simply sat around and talked about.

Regular folk seem to appreciate that.  Not all the “theologians” seem to.

For instance, on Amazon.com there are 36 reviews posted.  35 are glowing.  1 is not.  It would be easy for me to set aside such a critique. After all, you can’t win them all, right?  As I read the review (or the one posted on a synodical website) my initial thought was, “Did they read the same book I wrote?”  In that way it was almost comical.

However, not so funny is how some innocent lay people have Googled “Joining Jesus” (when their pastor or group leader has suggested it as a resource) and they find one of these two misleading reviews online. The reviews can cause undue hesitation, confusion about their pastor’s judgment, or worst of all, keep them from joining Jesus on His mission.

While my initial thought after reading the review was, “I think they missed the point,” Vicar Mark Hunsaker of Branson, Missouri did one better.  He posted his own review on Amazon.com, which I believe does a wonderful and winsome job of answering the misleading critique.

I have received permission from Mark to include portions of his review below so that you can show it to your folks who are wondering what to think.  (Thanks, Mark!)

A Good Answer from Vicar Mark Hunsaker

“While another review I read here suggested that this book is ‘theologically inadequate,’ I would challenge that notion by saying that this book is a wonderfully accessible foray into practical use of the theology of mission. In fact, I find it noteworthy that a reviewer would look for 20th Century dogmatic language (which has been forwarded from earlier centuries) in a work intended for those who have not studied such disciplines. Indeed, Greg Finke is light on theological jargon and lighter yet on academic and theoretical ideas. But when considering the author's setting and purpose, this is entirely appropriate.

“What will you find? A book which is utterly practical. While pastors and other trained theologians may have the ability to systematically engage theology and know how to use it in their vocations, the average church-goer probably doesn't.

“But that is where this book's contribution comes alive: What should we ACTUALLY DO on a Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.? Or on Friday night when I'm at my neighbor's house for dinner? Or on Sunday afternoon when I'm at the local Cracker Barrel for lunch after having just attended Divine Worship where I received God's Gifts?

“The issue isn't that this book is theologically inadequate, but rather, that it is engaging theology in an area where our tradition has been inadequate. It is challenging us to look again at the imperative Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20 and then asks the very important question: What does it look like to live out that imperative where I live, learn or work? How we answer that question is very much a theological exercise.

“Finke's question, ‘How's Jesus been messing with you lately?’ comes to bear right here. He is not promoting a departure from God's Word as some have suggested, but rather he is calling us back to it. How is God's Word, his clear Word, disrupting our apparent status quo? What are the things we are doing, looking like in comparison with God's Word? If we've got our distribution of God's gifts just right, but we are not "preaching the Word wherever" we go (a description of the laypeople in Acts 8:4), then why? Does our view of ‘church’ passed down to us from the 20th Century match what is in Scripture? Does our view of the activity of the church match what is in Scripture? These are questions Finke challenges us to look at and the way we answer them is very much a theological exercise. His efforts to get the rank and file thinking theologically about these things, in very practical ways that play out in their vocations, is simply wonderful.

“An outstandingly practical and theologically provocative work!”