I have benefitted from listening to John Mark’s sermons and interviews. He has much good to offer the church.
My expectations for this latest book were high, but I was disappointed.
It is not easy to convince others that a popular book may be lacking in some critical areas because the sheer success in sales makes most wonder what the heck you are yapping about.
Since I am sure John Mark would want me to register these thoughts as he seems to have a genuine desire to honor God, I plow ahead with this review.
There are certainly some wonderful insights and turns of phrase that we have come to expect from the author, but the punchy and provocative style failed to deliver this time. Here are some of my concerns:
On page 140 he approvingly cites John Wimber’s longing to do miracles. Like John Mark and Wimber, I believe miracles happen today. However, quickly citing Wimber’s famous question about being antsy to see miracles was careless. Wimber’s “When do we get to do the stuff?” meaning his eagerness to see miracles, needs more warning about the abuses inherent in such desires.
Comer says that he does not care much about whether you attend a megachurch or house church. He doesn’t think forms matter much. As he says, “…they each have pros and cons.” What matters is whether formation (or apprenticeship to Jesus to use his language) is taking place.
Here there needs to be an honest conversation that perhaps some forms stymie formation from taking place. I’m increasingly convinced that form is not neutral. Forms matter. For example, if your church is so big that it is impossible for the elders to be known by the body (I Pet. 5:1-3), then the form is keeping you from fulfilling the clear teaching of Scripture.
John Mark says that “Love is the metric of spiritual maturity, not discipline.” Again, I wish John Mark had written more. I wish he had brought Gal. 5:22,23 into this discussion where both love and discipline are fruit (not fruits) of the Holy Spirit. He leaves the reader assuming a false dilemma.
One final example comes from the short discussion on prayer (pp. 183-85). In an effort to encourage us to start praying, John Mark writes, “There is no bad way to pray and there is no one starting point for prayer.” I know John Mark believes the warning Jesus gives about “bad praying” in Matt. 6:5-15 is very much applicable today. Jesus makes it clear that there are in fact “bad ways” to pray.