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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to Start a Riot review

How to Start a Riot: Support Your Local Jesus Revolution Description:

A story about shipwrecks, snakebites, beatings, meetings, and other church events.
When was the last time you saw crowd control at a church?

If you ask most people--at least Western people--what they think about Christianity, they will probably give you a pretty domesticated vision of church. Almost half of Americans think that religion is at best irrelevant and obsolete, and possibly a way of making the world a worse place.

But I have a hunch most of us wouldn't like the world if Jesus hadn't been born into it. From our modern ideas of human rights, to prisons and orphanages and universities...For thousands of years the people who have followed Jesus have been a compelling force for good in the world.

The way of Jesus has always been wilder than we think and more dangerous than we'd like. This is a book about what it means to belong to the community of God--a book about how to Support Your Local Jesus Revolution.

This is why Acts of the Apostles is so important. The four Gospels are followed by a book about what the people of God did. Because the gospel leads to action. It leads to a different kind of people embodying a different way of life. And as Western Christianity becomes more assimilated into Western culture, it is good for us to notice not just what the earliest Christians said and thought, but what they did. Acts is a manifesto of a people who went all over the known world proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and that God is doing a new thing that is available for anyone.

My Review:

The title, How to Start a Riot, Support your Local Jesus Revolution excites us, ignites a desire to be on fire, to do something. Storment then proceeds to give his account of how the first century Christians turned things upside down, drawing upon the words of Luke in the book of Acts. I was revved up and ready to go when I began reading, who wouldn't be?

Unfortunately, that excitement didn't stick with me. At times he assumes we (the reader) has a bit more Bible knowledge than the average Christian does. How many people know the significance of numbers in the Bible? On pg. 36 Storment directs us to "pay attention to the number. Twelve, and she's a woman." when talking about the woman who was healed that had a bleeding disease. Yet he never explains the significance. I'm all for encouraging people to study God's Word for themselves, but if you are going to direct us to pay attention to something, then I would expect that you would explain that the number 12 signifies God's power and authority, not leave it up to a reader to seek out the answer themselves. Having to research to understand a book has the potential to dull the purpose of the book.

I was also concerned about the chapter, How to Stop a Riot, in which Storment draws from Acts 15. He discusses how the Jewish people were attempting to require the Gentiles to become circumcised and after the church leaders met they decided to simply request the Gentiles adhere to three requirements. Storment then implies that we should just "exhibit amazing generosity" towards what everyone who claims to be Christian believes. That, for me, is tantamount to saying that it is okay to just throw out the parts of the Bible that don't suit us. I don't know if this is the point he was trying to make, or if he was simply trying to remind us that our role is to love God and love people, not judge and condemn them. But we are also told repeatedly in the New Testament to call our brothers and sisters on their actions that defy God. If we are just exhibiting "amazing generosity" to our fellow Christians and their beliefs, can we really be helping each other to grow? I don't believe so.

Don't get me wrong, there are some amazing truths in this book. Being a Christian shouldn't be safe. God can take even the most messed up situations, the biggest adversities, and work them for His glory. We Christians shouldn't look like the rest of the world. Jesus ascension should remove our fear of death and allow us to live like we believe we have eternal life because we do. The truths that are shared make this a book that is worth reading, just recognize that it may not be as deep as the title implies, and you may not agree with all he writes. Then again, isn't that how a riot starts? A disagreement?

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