Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: Sun Stand Still

Before I start this review, I need to tell you that I was a big fan of Steven Furtick before he put a single word down on paper. I first heard him speak last September on The Nines, an online conference put on by Leadership Network...

Now, I realize that he may or may not be your cup of tea - he's definitely got a "grew up in the South & around church" vibe - but that video cut through a morass of self-pity & frustration in my ministry & life. He blends "inside baseball" humor (well, "inside ministry life" humor) with great expository teaching & incredible encouragement. (BTW, his video from the 2010 event is not available but I did locate this bonus video he posted.)

In November of 2009, I was given a free ticket to the National Outreach Convention in San Diego... and Steven was the final speaker. You can read one of the points of his message in his blog post, Give Me My Rocks... but there was more to what he said. This gawky 29 year old kid (yes, the fact that he would have been in one of my youth groups makes me a little crazy) challenged & encouraged a group of convention-weary pastors/leaders with humor, passion & capital "T" truth.

A bit ashamed of myself for groupie-like behavior, I went up after the convention was done to meet him & tell him how much his video on The Nines had meant to me. And here's why I'm not sure I can give his book a completely objective review - Steven hugged me (was NOT expecting that) and prayed for me, right there in the middle of a crowd of well-wishers. I don't remember much of what he said (still stunned from the bear hug) but his humility & exuberance won me over... in part because it's all too easy for me to live/minister out of pride & duty. Some days, it seems like my passion for Christ & for people has been boiled down to simply getting the job done.

So, with all that background/biographical information, now I'll attempt to review Steven's first book, Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare To Ask God For The Impossible.

Early on, Steven declares his purpose for writing this book on faith:

This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I'm not writing to calm or coddle you.

With God's help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers & turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity & fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God's truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years. In short, I'm out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose & potential.

I figure the best way for me to review a book by an author that I'm rooting for is to try & judge the book by this simple question: does he accomplish what he set out to do?

The short answer, at least for me, is "Yes."

The book is based on the passage in Joshua 10 where God causes the sun to stand still in order that the Israelites can complete the victory that He has promised them. We can all debate the possibility of miracles some other time. (Furtick doesn't even bother here in the book - he simply makes the same assumption that I do: we're dealing with the same God who resurrected Jesus from the grave... if He can intervene there, He can easily do so here.)

From there, the author takes us along on his personal journey as the pastor/church planter of
Elevation Church... and shares multiple stories of people whose lives have been changed by audacious faith.

One of the things I really liked about the book is Steven Furtick's willingness to rewind a bit & make sure that the reader is understanding the terms/words as he is using them... and even to deal with some faith issues that often get ignored in this type of book. What do I mean by "this type of book?" Well, due to my past experience with Christian publishers, lots of books on faith are simply "rah-rah, believe more & get more, name it & claim it" (and so on) and gloss over areas of difficulty that Furtick plunges into head first:
  • how can I have a big vision when I'm just an "ordinary" follower of Jesus (aka "not a pastor")?
  • is this simply a "baptized" way to perform prayer rituals to get God to do your bidding
  • what happens when God doesn't answer your audacious & faithful prayers?
With his characteristic humor & solid Biblical foundation, Steven has written a book that manages to encourage followers of Jesus to passionately ask God to move on our behalf for His glory... and to do so without using false guilt to motivate people to pursue faith.

Note: this is not a book that's going to appeal to those who are struggling with the reality of God... it is written to a Christian audience. For those who are growing closer to God - whether they've crossed the line of faith or not - I think this is an inspiring look at real "rubber hits the road" faith & prayer can be.

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