A Great Read

I just finished reading Churched by Matthew Paul Turner. The cover was what initially intrigued me. A close-up shot of a kid putting a tie on. The subtitle grabbed me next: “one kid’s journey toward God despite a holy mess”. THAT resonated with me.

Having grown up in a mix of Assembly of God and Baptist churches (don’t ask, I have no idea), thriving in my relationship with God through High School in a Foursquare Youth Group, and attending Bible College right out of High School, I’ve served on staff at a church in one role or another ever since. The last 11 years, I’ve been the Senior Pastor (after serving 8 years as Youth Pastor and 4 as Associate Pastor) of a Foursquare Church that is pushing 60 years old and doing my best to revive it, only to find myself exhausted and literally burned out on 2001.

My journey out of burnout is being chronicled at Pastor For Life. In the meantime, I am always looking for resources to help those like me who have found themselves drowning in the mire of this thing called ministry. I am finding that way too many of us got into ministry with a good heart, but not necessarily a healthy one.

I found Turner’s story quirky at first, in the sense that he seemed a bit cynical. I’m a little quicker (not much, but some) these days at figuring out that most things I read or hear that seem cynical are because of my own defensiveness, rather than what’s really true about the author or speaker’s point of view.

It actually didn’t take long at all to equate the resonating sound of Turner’s experience of having been “raised in the church” with my own. I try to stay positive about it all, but truth be told, a lot of my own experience as a kid in church seems now to be just plain weird. And that, my friends, is what resonated so deeply within me as I kept reading.

If you can get past what sounds cynical and relegate yourself to identifying with Turner more than defending your own history, this entire book is actually a riot, in halarious kind of terms. This guy is funny! It kept me going, wondering what was going to crack me up next as I could feel the creaky wooden steps and smell the musty old pews of my childhood Baptist Church.

I could go on, but one of the funniest parts is his story about hearing Phil Donahue host his talk show one day on the topic of narcolepsy. Turner becomes almost convinced that he has narcolepsy, and the only time it shows up for him is when he’s in church. He tries oh-so-hard to stay awake by drawing in the air with his finger until the air is so discombobulated by his writing that he has to stop. It took me back to the night time meetings of my Vacation Bible Schools at the Baptist Church, doing the exact same thing!

Then, I have to share what I think is the most poignant part of his whole story. He freaked out after seeing A Thief In The Night, and wrote about some of the storyline that scared him most. Well, I got saved watching that movie at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting sometime in 1978! The way I tell my story is that the movie “scared the hell out of me”!

The one thing I loved about Churched most was how freeing it can be to actually live in the grace of God. It’s one thing to know that God’s grace is sufficient for you. It is something altogether different to actually believe it and live it.

When you start to actually believe it and live it, you realize how far behind yourself you actually are. When you recognize that, it’s the very grace God gives us all that allows you to accept where you are and grow from there, even when you feel like it’s a rhythm of two steps forward and one step back.

This is a great book! Go get it here.

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