PROVOCATIVE FAITH: Walking Away from Ordinary
Matthew Paul Turner
The way Matthew Paul Turner remembers it, the day Jesus woke him up he was home alone, sinning in an online manner. For him, checking out porn sites wasn't so much an addiction as it was a flirtation; every once in a while, when the right moment came along, he'd indulge in a bit of what he calls "downloadable ecstasy," followed by a period of heartfelt repentance. He was truly sorry for his sin and grateful for God's forgiveness, but not enough to turn away from porn for good. That is, until the day seven years ago when God would have nothing more to do with his shallow confessions.
That's when Turner, former editor of CCM Magazine, began to walk away from the ordinary life that also plagues other well-intentioned but disillusioned Christians who long for a life-transforming relationship with God. Like Turner, they have settled for a semblance of the real thing, substituting an empty church life for a vibrant faith life. Through anecdotes from others' lives as well as his own, plus one-on-one interviews, Turner shows what it looks like to forsake churchianity (my word, not his) and embrace a powerful, risk-taking, challenging, and provocative faith.
That word "provocative" is best understood, in the context of this book, in the way that Jesus was provocative. The Man did provoke, but He provoked in a way that always, always challenged people to become who they were meant to be all along --- individuals who loved God, believed He knew what was best for them, and sought to follow His direction. They were also members of a community, a community of faith, and it is on this point that Turner especially takes the church to task (something he does frequently --- and with good reason --- throughout the book). Community happens naturally, Turner believes, when people develop life-affirming personal relationships that then expand to include other people. Artificial attempts to create community through small-group, kumbaya-ish programs often fail because they lack authenticity and therefore allow --- no, encourage --- Christians to continue living behind a fašade of niceness.
Like far more Christians than we can count, Turner is among those who have been slammed by the church, and, in his case, a Christian company as well. Those who can identify with that portion of his journey will find a kindred spirit in him. But even if you've never been voted out of a church, as he has, chances are fairly decent that you've grown tired of playing church, and you wonder whatever happened to the breathtaking vision of faith you started out with. Here's a test to see if Turner's message resonates with you: If you've ever been invited to yet another "Praise Jesus!" Bible study by yet another "Praise Jesus!" Christian with a winning "Praise Jesus!" smile and your first impulse was to vomit, I'd say you and Turner are on the same page. I know he and I are.
Though they're often misunderstood by a church culture that would prefer to keep them in line, thirtysomething authors like Turner and, say, Donald Miller offer hope for the future of evangelicalism. Rather than fearing --- or worse, dismissing --- their broader understanding of what it means to live as a genuine Christ-follower, evangelicals would do well to pay attention to the challenge they've placed before them.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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