Owen Strachan, Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, November, 2013. 240 pp. Paperback, $15.99.
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Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy!
Owen Strachan is executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. He also teaches at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also writes books, and he also is a rapper (and Reformed at that). If that’s not enough, he also guest posted on my blog a couple of weeks back (see here), as well as a bunch of other places around the web as part of a promotional campaign for the book I’m getting ready to tell you about.
Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome is easy to read but much more difficult to apply. Though not necessarily a different version of David Platt’s Radical, it certainly shares some affinities. Both are calls to put your faith to action and step out in dependence on God to live life to the fullest. And by “fullest” neither are talking about what most people would classify as “the American Dream.”
In Strachan’s work, he begins by making a play on a popular Joel Osteen book and tries to connect with readers who are perhaps experiencing their “stressed life now.” He wants his book to be a source of encouragement and hope, but also a call to step out and take gospel risks for the sake of the kingdom. Before detailing what that might look like, Strachan spends a foundational chapter explaining how the walk of faith is a call to risk. The cornerstone is his exposition of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and this informs his further development of the role of risk in the Christian life.
Subsequent chapters connect the notion of risk to our identity in Christ (chapter 3), our Christian walk (chapter 4), our family life (chapter 5), our daily grind (chapter 6), our Christian fellowship at church (chapter 7), our efforts at evangelism (chapter 8), and our interaction with the broader culture in the public square (chapter 9). Finally, he leaves readers with a chapter explaining the stakes of a life of risk, parting with a final encouragement from those who have gone on before.
Strachan writes in a very accessible style. He is not only concise, but culturally savvy as well and illustrates with everything from Vintage21’s Jesus videos to The Office to Steve Jobs and much in between. He seems equally comfortable referencing John Owen and big stories in the public square, and this is certainly a strength of a popular level Christian living book. That being said, I wasn’t particularly drawn into the book. I recognize the value and the strengths, but it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable or compelling read on my end. That could be because I already am on-board with Strachan’s thesis, which puts me somewhat outside the scope of the intended audience. More likely though, it was just an occasion of a book that I recognize has merit, but just doesn’t really do it for me personally. Take that for whatever it’s worth.
This book seems ideal for high school students, but is definitely not limited to that particular audience. It is really for anyone who could use some encouragement and practical advice on how to live a faithful Christian life that involves taking risks. Those risks are calculated in light of the gospel, and with the proper foundation laid by Strachan, readers will be better prepared to actualize the vision that he has (and is certainly not alone in articulating). Given the approach of the New Year, this might make a good Christmas present for a friend or young person in your life looking for direction and encouragement in their Christian walk.