Review of “The Briarpatch Gospel”
Shayne Wheeler’s “The Briarpatch Gospel: Fearlessly Following Jesus into the Thorny Places” (Tyndale Momentum, 2013) is a book that I requested to be allowed to review for a very simple reason: I liked the title. It sounded intriguing, and after having read it, I’m glad the title caught my attention. Shayne forces us to look at life where and how life happens, not just as we might prefer to find it.
In my opinion, one of the greater damages that the Bride of Christ has done to Christianity is to allow the misconception to continue that becoming a Christian means your life becomes perfect. We’re all about getting the commitment, the decision, and then our greatest desire is that the new believer will go away and leave us alone, that he’ll go figure it out all by himself, and leave us to the important business of making more new converts; and we really don’t want to have to do much there other than ask someone to say the sinner’s prayer so they can get a ticket to heaven. And if they voluntarily come to us, that’s even better than us having to go to them. There’s just a small problem. Jesus didn’t say to go make converts, he said to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach them to obey. If you’re all about making converts, your role stops when they say ‘yes’; if your plan is to make disciples, that ‘yes’ means that your work has just begun.
Wheeler isn’t willing to let us get off the hook easily. With an engaging writing style, scriptural references, and tales that he tells on himself which let us know that he is no stranger to the briarpatch called life, he reminds us of what our calling is.
But here’s the rub: why do we need another book that tells us that we’re supposed to be following Jesus’ example of serving the poor, the hungry and disenfranchised, and not only serving them, but proclaiming the gospel at the same time? We need it because despite the books that are already out there waiting to be read or put into practice, we still haven’t gotten it right.
Most Christians are willing to admit that they are ‘sinners saved by grace’, a few more will hint at some ‘unchristian-like’ things in their past and then go on to tell how life is wonderful now and will be so much better when they get to heaven. Wheeler goes a couple of giant steps further, he opens up about those not-so-Christian things, and talks about his time in the briar patch. And because he remembers what it was like, he is willing to go back to seek out others like himself. Sounds noble, sounds special, sound like martyrdom in the making, and what really messes with my head is that he’s doing it. He’s doing it and I’m not.
This is a book that you’ll love to hate before you hate to love it. Shayne doesn’t ask us to do anything that he’s not doing, for that matter he doesn’t ask us to do anything that Jesus didn’t do, he just reminds us that there’s more to being a Christian than going to church on Sunday; sometimes we’re supposed to follow someone into the briarpatch, because it’s there, in their comfort zone where we will best be able to minister to them.
This is an engaging read that will challenge you to get way outside your comfort zone. Not for the faint of heart. I rate it 4.5/5
Tyndale provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my review.