Every now and then I run across a book that is written in an engaging style while, at the same time, carries forward a message that is both timely and thought-provoking. David Foster’s A Renegade’s Guide to God is such a book and I want to highly recommend it to any Christian that seeks to find more of a relationship with Jesus as opposed to a religion about Jesus.
Sub-titled Finding Life Outside Conventional Christianity, Foster has struck a major chord that is running through the church of the 21st Century. A growing number of Christians are beginning to express feelings that they have hidden for quite some time, feelings that they did not dare express in the past due to fear of being at best ostracized or, at worst, branded a blood relation of Beelzebub.
Either that fear is no longer a threat to many Christians or else these believers feel that there is safety in numbers. Whatever the cause, more and more earnest, sincere Christ-followers are becoming vocal about their inner longing for a deeper, more nourishing faith. Foster, founding pastor of Bellevue Community Church in Nashville, TN, speaks directly to this growing group of spiritual seekers in the book’s introduction:
God is too good and life is too short to allow rigid, self-righteous, do-gooders with a religious agenda to keep you from Him. So, if you’re done worrying about what “they” say or do, then join the club. If you are weary of the morality police and their cellophane sainthood, then lean in and let’s talk. If you’re repelled by the pointless, prosaic preaching of self-appointed prophets with a Messiah-complex, then you, my friend, might just be a closet renegade and today could be your coming our party.
It is immediately obvious that Foster does not intend to pull any punches when calling for a fresh vision of just what the life of a Jesus-Follower is like. Throughout the book, Foster refers to this as the “J-life” and illustrates in ways both clear and provocative, the fact that one of the last places one is likely to find this renegade lifestyle is the local congregation. As the book develops, Foster discusses seven characteristics of the J-life:
Describing the seventh sign of the J-life, Foster stresses that this hunger must be a true and lasting hunger, one that lines up with Jesus’ comment about those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. For Foster, this is a life-long hunger that spurs the Christian to seek an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.
I am just finishing my second reading of this book and can say without reservation that Foster, in ways similar to Brian McLaren and Erwin Raphael McManus, is able to speak directly to the heart of a movement in the Body of Christ, a movement that is gaining momentum every day. In this informative and challenging work, Foster does more than call for a languid reassessment of the Church’s calling and mission. He is calling for “renegades;” he is calling for spiritual activists who can no longer stomach the status quo; he is calling for, well, I’ll let him tell you:
I’m calling for the creation of a renegade nation where love is the ethic and freedom is the goal. Declare your independence from lazy legalism, feeble faith, and domesticated religion. If you suspect that deep down inside you lives a vibrant, vital, virtuous soul ready to rid itself of shame-bound religion, then you’re a renegade ready to step forth free and fully engaged in the art of the J-life. You can love God passionately and with deep conviction without becoming an arrogant, self-righteous, know-it-all.
Again, no matter what your religious leaning or affiliation, I encourage you to read Foster’s book. You may be motivated with a renewed hope and enthusiasm for change; you may be shocked and appalled; you might want to hug Foster; or you might want to come up aside his head. One thing is for certain, you will be moved.
(c) L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved