Thursday, August 6, 2015

Into the Fray Review The Book of Acts for the 21st century

The Book of Acts is one of my favorite parts of the Bible, I love reading about how Christianity Spread in the early years of the Church.  And now, with Into the Fray: How Jesus’ Followers Turned the World Upside down. (OR: The Story of Acts Retold for Today) (Baker Books, 2015) Matt Mikalatos has used his extraordinary writing skills to bring the book of Acts from the 1st century to the 21st.  Here’s my disclaimer. I had fun reading Night of the Living Dead Christian; since reading Imaginary Jesus, I’ve used several of those stereotypes as Sermon illustrations. A couple of sermons were based on parts of The First Time We Saw Him, and now this.
To paraphrase myself in a tweet after reading the 1st three chapters, , how can any one person write so well in so many different genres and styles?
Meet Dr. Lucas. He is writing letters to his friend Theo, to explain a lot of stuff that happened to a bunch of guys. Dr Lucas has a dilemma, he wants to start at the beginning, but recognizes that the story itself is so big that it’s hard to decide which beginning. And so he decides to tell The story by telling the stories of people, people who were there, who walked and talked with “the Teacher”
So Dr Lucas wanders around with a handheld recorder and interviews people, and then he writes their stories and sends them to his friend Theo. And there is a caveat to these stories that Dr. Lucas sends Theo’s way: “You know their stories because their stories are ours, just as our stories are theirs. They are the tales and happenings and accounts and reports of the good news about Jesus and about his life and death and teachings and coronation and return”. And then comes the question that each of us must answer: “Where does your story of the teacher become our story of the good news?
And so Dr Lucas sets out, recorder in hand, and collects stories.  If you’re familiar with the book of Acts you’ll recognize the Pentecost event. Names like Pete and Esteban and Felipe will soon be as familiar as Peter, Stephen and Phillip.
The 21st century rewrite of a familiar story could be expanded and would stand on its own as a fun book to read, and a great teaching tool, but there’s a lot more to this book. Mikalatos has also done a great job of explaining the sacred text. With exegesis, expository teaching, and lessons on how to apply the text to our own lives, Matt invites us to make this story our own, to identify the beginning of our story with Jesus, and turn it into a story of the good news that can be shared with others.
But don’t despair, it’s not all theoretical, for those who like some practical advice on how to put the lesson into practice, turn to chapter 14 for some ideas on how to write and tell your own part of our story.  One of the core values at our church is that we are all a part of God's story, and we need to learn to tell that story and invite others into it.  I haven’t decided yet if Chapter 14 is recommended or required reading for the leadership team.
And in Dr Lucas’ last letter to his friend Theo, he reminds him that we can’t change the world without being changed ourselves. We are a part of God's creation, a creation which is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. As it changes, so do we.
On a scale of 1 to 5, can you give more than five stars?  Highly recommended to those who have heard the stories from Acts all of those lives and to those whose journey is just beginning.

FTC disclaimer, I received a copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for a review. There was no requirement to write anything but an honest review…

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