Just for today, I’m going to take a break from my planned flow of thought (which was developing into principles of sharing the gospel with others). Instead, I’m going to post this short review of a book I recently finished reading.
Baker Books sends me complimentary titles in return for written reviews of them. They don’t expect endorsement, just review. If something stinks, I can feel free to say so. I picked this book out of their offered line-up because I’m likely to choose some heavy tome of spiritual formation for my Master’s Thesis. As you can imagine, my preparatory reading has slowly grown into a small mountain. The index cards are also piling up.
One thing I’ve noticed. Helpful books that map spiritual maturity are scarce. The classics are sometimes not easy to read and therefore not too accessible (who knows—maybe they shouldn’t be?), while books that are easy to read weigh in on the light side (maybe there’s not enough room left for substance after all the punchy anecdotes and one-liners).
At any rate, this book, 10:10 Life to the Fullest, managed to capture an interesting balance. For a long time, I’ve felt that certain publications and even entire denominations erred in over-emphases of various kinds. Some stress works, others miracles, teaching, prophecy, devotions, church, evangelism, discipleship, etc. The truth is, all of those things are necessary, but in unchecked extremes, eventually become wrong and downright unhealthy. Daniel Hill, the author, manages to bring together a hybrid spirituality that is truer to the varied approaches found in Scripture.
He identifies faith as the cross-denominational thought that continually emerges. He sees its growth cultivated in the intersection of fear, relationship, and mission. This three-dimensional faith (as he calls it), first finds fertile soil in challenges related to our fears. Fear is the great anxiety that tempts us to play it safe or to manipulate our surroundings. No wonder God chooses to work there. Second, faith grows in the matrix of relationship—the very presence of God. You have to be with Him for the fireworks to happen. Third, faith springs up out of our reaching others to serve them with the gospel of Jesus. This section on mission alone is worth the cover price (well, just saying…the book was free for me). Hill tells the story of his own struggle in reaching out to others, especially as he breaks through the barriers of his introverted personality. That would relate to a lot of us.
Overall, the book manages to avoid mere pragmatism (how to do this, how to do that), which is important, since you’ll be reading it to start with, looking for something authentically spiritual. On the other hand, there is enough substance here to avoid “cloud bank” mysticism. We are not left with feelings and mysterious phenomenon. I’d like to think I’m a spiritual fellow who needs to hang his hat on a hook somewhere at the end of the day. Hill provides such practical angles.
I’m not going to say this book is the end-all in spiritual formation. Not much space was devoted to growing in a faith community with others. Some nice thoughts occur in passing about church life, but mainly (I felt), considering whether your particular church had become a limitation to your personal development. Unfortunately, such ideas have led to a lot of church shopping and disconnected spiritual people who can’t fit anywhere.
For now I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Hill, though, and just admit that a section on communal spirituality would have bulked up the book too much, by adding another hundred pages to it.
I’ll take it as is and just accept that no book (except the Bible) is going to capture everything in perfect tension.