Have you ever purchased a book only by what the title stated? Sure you have. We have all done this at least once. Well I did that with Matt Chandler's Take Heart. It was actually not the title that sold me, but more its subtitle; "Christian courage in the age of unbelief". Are we living in the 'age of unbelief'?
I first learned of Matt Chandler a few years ago through a video series. This series studied the book of Philippians titled, To Live is Christ, to Die is Gain. On first impression, his teaching is full of passion, enthusiasm, boldness, and energy. It looked unnatural. So who is he? Chandler is the "Lead Pastor of Teaching" at the "Village Church", Flower Mound, Texas. He is also the President of the "Acts 29 Network". This network (stay with me on this) "equips churches to plant churches that will plant church-planting churches". Did you follow that? Does it makes sense?
As I said earlier, the subtitle sold me to find out if we are in the 'age of unbelief' and how did we get there? How does one show this "Christian courage"?
Take Heart walks the reader through a brief history lesson. How the "age of Christendom" started in the fourth century. Christianity spread throughout the Roman empire and over half the world. The more governments tried to control, persecute, and destroy Christianity, the more it flourished. Then in the eighteenth century, the "age of enlightenment" began. This was a movement of philosophers and thinkers that used human logic and reasoning. They disputed God's wisdom. Human scientific observation was all encompassing. It put man at the centre of reality rather than God. This led to the full force of the "age of unbelief" in today's culture.
Chandler shares his concerns of the twenty-first century. Fewer people are claiming to be Christian throughout the west. The Christian faith losing its social status and favour among culture. Christians receiving the label as "bigoted" or "hateful" for their convictions and beliefs. Chandler explains three methods Christians have responded to culture. Converting, condemning, and consuming culture. While all three methods have good intentions, they create bigger problems. Converting culture perpetuates a war which pits the church against the world. Condemning culture separates Christians from the very people Jesus wants them to reach out to. It removes the opportunity to be salt and light to the world. Consuming culture neglects the message of the gospel. It puts culture first before the Bible. It neglects and compromises significant aspects of the Christian faith.
Chandler believes that these three options are different, but are all derived out of fear. Take Heart is about presenting a fourth option, courage. This is not as a strategy, but a posture that allows readers to look around and think, This is a great time to be a Christian.
So how does one find and apply Christian courage in our culture today? Chandler believes it looks like holiness. Holiness leads to integrity, a devotion to people, evangelism, and hospitality. He provides four ways to show courage through hospitality. These are surprisingly simple concepts (at least for extroverts). Welcome everyone you meet, engage with people, make dinner a priority, and love the outsider. Incredible how a published book showcasing basic principles will actually work. Don't believe it? Try it yourself.
"We tend to think that courage is the lack of fear, but that's just not true. If there's no fear, there can't be courage. You must feel fear to be courageous. Real courage takes place when you are anxious, when you are worried, when you just don't know how to push throughbut then there's something more valuable, something greater than that fear. So though you feel fear, your actions are not driven by that fear. They are directed by something else. You step out with courage because there is something else that drives yousomething that is greater than what you're afraid of." - page 40
Chandler claims Christianity in the west is declining. This is at least from what we see from news outlets and social media. While I do not deny these claims, legitimate statistics would provide further evidence. Some sources could have been helpful for the reader. This would help clarify that this is not Chandler's opinion. I appreciate Chandler's conviction. I take issue that he does not provide one single source of evidence. To be clear, I agree Christianity is declining and under attack. But Chandler should have spared a page or two providing sources to create a solid case. Especially when a book of this topic is being published.
Chandler hopes that readers will not walk away depressed by the decay of Christianity in the western world. Throughout history Christianity is at its strongest when on the margins and facing persecution. While today's culture may not be an easy time to be a Christian, he assures us it is a great time. He shares how our view and devotion to God often dictates our level of courage. He hopes to shift that devotion from mere head knowledge to a heartfelt awe of Him. The appreciation readers have of Take Heart will also dictate their view and devotion of God. If it is a small view, it will most likely be a small appreciation. Simple as that.
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