Book Review – Called to Stay

9780736955423_centered_283x436Called to Stay, written by Caleb Jennings Breakey and published by Harvest House Publishers (due out in October 2013) aims to encourage young people to do two things: to remain faithful to their local church even when they feel like leaving so that they can then spur on the “body of Christ to love and good works.”

This call to faithfulness and ministry sounds noble. No, it is noble, particularly when statistics tell us that this present generation of Millennials constantly leave churches out of frustration and dissatisfaction.

As aside, I would say that I suspect that this exodus has much more to do with a lack of desire to be a part of Mom and Dad’s church. That, and the great disconnect between modern youth ministries (whose focus largely on music and emotional responses) and more traditional adult worship services.

That said, Breakey states there are two groups of people who must read this book. He calls them the frustrated and the sieged. People either thinking about leaving the church or people who have already left the church.

I fall into neither one of those categories which is why the following quote disturbs me:

This book isn’t just about changing church culture, or making Christianity look more attractive to the world. It’s about thrusting yourself into the grand campaign God has for building his church.

There it is. The book isn’t just about changing church culture or trying to make our faith more attractive to the world. It’s about that, and more.

So, from there, my skeptic antennae slowly started to rise, until I realized that this “breakout new author” and I don’t share the same vision of the church, at all.

He believes that church culture needs to be transformed so that the church looks good to the world. I believe that lives need to be transformed so that believers look different to the world (different…not just weird).

Serving the target audience well, he plows “the radical for Jesus” row more than once. The book is long on risky and edgy and, frankly made this 38-year-old feel like 85 at times. And then, There is the next generational social media element with links to videos and Facebook status suggestions at the close of each chapter.

Lest you think I’m being overly harsh, let me point out some things that Called to Stay does right.

  • It is full of scripture references, thus giving the reader proof texts for each point being made. This serves a dual purpose of showing that the author studied the material and handles the Word carefully.
  •  At times he writes with wisdom beyond his “millennial” years. A good example is when he writes, “Baptizing believers is a one-time event. Teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded is a lifetime event.” Absolutely.
  • The book leaves no doubt about the author’s sincerity, nor his love for the Lord Jesus, His church or His children. Breakey’s desire is obviously to see believers discipled and growing in healthy churches.
  • He tries to find the delicate balance between boldness and humility. He doesn’t advocate rebellion or a pastoral regime change, but if taken improperly, some of his words could be misconstrued as subversion, especially when he calls people to “infiltrate” the church.

Honestly, I’m torn. I found some material very profitable and edifying, other portions worrisome and still more simply strange. His use of the Holy Spirit represented as a giant ball that suddenly appeared in someone’s house make me scratch my head.

But, if you’re out of church or thinking about getting out and are somewhere between the ages of 15 and 30, try Called to Stay. It just might be what you are looking for.

Thank you to Harvest House Publishers for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for this review.

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  • http://www.calebbreakey.com Caleb Breakey

    Hey Michael—thanks for the review, brother! I wanted to drop into the conversation to, first, say thank you. I’m humbled by some of the book’s strengths you pointed out! Makes me hopeful of just how God might use it.

    The second thing I wanted to do was ping-pong a bit about our vision for the church.

    You mentioned: “He believes that church culture needs to be transformed so that the church looks good to the world. I believe that lives need to be transformed so that believers look different to the world (different…not just weird).”

    This makes me curious, brother, because my point throughout the book isn’t about making the church look good to the world (did I write anything else that supports this?). It’s about loving our brothers and sisters in Christ—especially those who we’d rather not—so that the world can tell that we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:35), which is actually just another way of saying what you said: that lives need to be transformed so that believers look different to the world. I certainly don’t want to misrepresent what you wrote, but are our visions for the church really different, brother?

    One other paragraph I wanted to dialogue about: “Serving the target audience well, he plows “the radical for Jesus” row more than once. The book is long and risky and edgy and, frankly made this 38-year-old feel like 85 at times. And then, There is the next generational social media element with links to videos and Facebook status suggestions at the close of each chapter.”

    This makes me curious too, Michael. In what ways would you say the book is plowing the “radical for Jesus” row (in a way that’s negative)? If it’s for loving God and others, sign me up! But because the context seems to be negative here, I’m wondering what the review means by radical and edgy.

    On a much lesser note: The story about the giant ball appearing is a representation of what happens when we accept Christ and receive his Spirit. What can I say? Trying to paint a fresh picture doesn’t always hit its mark. =D

    Grace and Peace to you and your family, brother!
    Caleb Breakey recently posted..Welcome, friend!My Profile

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      Bro. Caleb, thank you very much for your reply. It’s an honor to hear from the author of the book that I just reviewed! First, let me say that my sincere desire was to express my honest opinion about your work…not to be overly critical. Having had others review my writing or make negative comments on the blog, from time to time can hurt. I know how that feels. Please forgive me if I have misinterpreted any of your words.
      I’ll try to explain my point of view a little more in depth and answer you questions below:
      1. The piece I quoted about Called to Stay being about, “making Christianity look more attractive to the world..” appeared to me to be a fundamental premise (both by the wording and the placement) in why the church needs to be transformed from the inside, based on the preceding words, “This book isn’t just about…” implying that it was about those things and more – as you went on to state. I’d have to look back over some notes to see if there are other supporting statements for this. Yet, I’m not above the fact that perhaps I put too much weight on that one statement or looked at the book through that lens. Does that make sense? As a pastor when someone talks about changing the church culture, I get slightly nervous because of how that has been interpreted over the last several years. I’m all for discipleship being done by the membership and not simply from the pulpit, but I believe that a person who is frustrated should first address the root of that frustration. Is it cultural? Is it doctrinal? Is it natural lack of stability or maturity?
      On page 17 of the book you write of the church and its purpose, “It’s meant for messed up believers to move toward love, unity, and a deep hunger for Jesus.” My church experience appears to be much more of a glass half-full than half-empty kind of thing, but since my early 20s (when I trusted Christ) I haven’t found myself being frustrated or sieged. Therefore, humbly I say that I still believe our visions of the church are somewhat different.

      2. I must apologize for the typo when I wrote, “The book is long and risky and edgy…” it should’ve read and now does, “This book is long ON risky and edgy…” The verbiage of Navy SEALS, infiltration, radically living for Jesus, crosschecking (a hockey metaphor) folks in the church, crazy faith, etc. all painted a picture of edginess for me. It’s an age old debate and I don’t want to appear like a wet blanket, but a young person could see lukewarmness when in reality it is a steady, quiet faithful walk. Head knowledge could be confused with confidence. Experience and maturity gives us different viewpoints over the years. It is the vocabulary that points to the Gen Y mindset, that is completely different from the vocabulary used by other, older brothers and sisters. It is a matter of taste and preference.

      3. Finally, I understood the giant ball and the other example of the girl with the “imaginary” father, but it took away from the overall quality of the book, in my opinion. I believe that some real life examples or personal testimonies could have communicated the same truths more effectively.

      I hope that I have answered your concerns about my review. May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry.

      Your servant in Portugal,

      Michael
      Michael recently posted..I’m no electricianMy Profile

  • Mom

    This is an interesting dialog. I, too am concerned with the state of the church today. I see people following a trend or a person rather than the Savior. I look forward to reading the book.

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