This was actually my second time through this book. I read it once in Briercrest days for a class called something like Evangelism and Discipleship or Missional Evangelism or something like that. While I remember thinking fondly of the book a few years ago when I read it, I’m glad I took the time to read it again and let some of the ideas percolate in my mind a bit more.
Mr. Wakabayashi knows what’s up. He not only has sound theology, but a track record of working with Inter Varsity (therefore young adults) that backs him up. I was struck when reading this that the world needs more people like him. I don’t know him personally and I’ve never read anything else by him, but I can tell you that he deeply believes what he writes and that he’s a man who’s not afraid to admit that the truth of the kindgom can seem to conflict with what he – and everyone else – experience in this life.
The main thing that I got out of this book is that the Bible is all about the kingdom. Individualism has crept into the church too much and given us a watered down view of a personal salvation that doesn’t exist outside of oneself. As he says, “when we reexamine the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke with fresh eyes, a curious truth emerges: The gospel message focuses less on Jesus’ substitutionary death for us and more on the kingdom of God.” (p. 28) Amen.
I think this idea is making it’s way back into our theology and practice because the North American church is realizing that without it, we don’t have much of a foundation. Yes, Christ and salvation are central, but they’re central to the bigger story of God and his creation… the Kingdom. Steve Bateman and myself are actually using this idea of a larger narrative throughout the bible (and all history) for our young adult curriculum this fall.
Many of us who have been raised in the church have been taught a plethora of great stories and morals that we can take from the bible. They’re there, and they’re good. Many of my peers also haven’t really been taught the greater story that all these things are a part of. No wonder young adults are leaving the church – without a context to put all kinds of teachings into, they’re easily discarded or ignored.
Back to the book. Allen agrees with the majority of scholars in defining the kingdom as “God’s reign breaking into history and into our world in a decisive and new way to bring restoration to God’s lost creation.” (p. 29) He unpacks the Gospel of the Kingdom, the tension of this here-and-now and the not-yet Kingdom, the mission of the Kingdom, the role of Evangelism in this Kingdom, the community of the Kingdom and “the way of the Kingdom”. All said and done, the bases are pretty well covered as to how the Kingdom is seen as integrally weaved through the bible.
There isn’t a lot of bible quotation or reference, but the writing came across in a way that told me that Allen was well immersed in the Word of God and tried to draw most of his content from that.
I deeply appreciated the ballance of evangelism and social justice which is presented – maybe wrestled with is a better way of putting it. There aren’t clean and clear answers in this book as to how to better live your life or how to increase your tract-to-convert ratio, but it is a great book for forming a better worldview through which we all make all of our decisions. It’s not too heavy or heady, and I’d strongly recommend this book to anyone who has not yet read it.