Personally Risky Faith: a book review

Rick Lawrence recounts Warren Buffet’s sixties-era investment when he invested $105,000 from of eleven doctors and put in $100 of his own money (11).  Buffet’s investment success is well documented, but it took this seed money to allow him to develop  and grow his own portfolio. Lawrence sees an analogous risk for would-be-disciples of Jesus. Like Buffet with his investors, we have a partner with significant resources for us to invest (namely Jesus); however in order for us to get the most benefit out of our investment, it will cost something from us. We also have to put our life on the line, and be willing to take part of the risks of faith.

Skin in the Game is a short book which explores the places that Jesus asks us to share in his reward by putting ourselves on the line–putting skin in the game. He invites us to face our shame (with the Samaritan Woman in John 4), He challenges us to move beyond a karma life where we get exactly what we deserve, and to throw our lot in with Jesus who lavishes grace on the undeserving. With the Canaanite Woman (Matt 15), Lawrence calls us to look beyond our destructive narratives and to see our true-identity. With the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5) he asks us to ‘own what we want’ God to do for us. Lawrence points to Jesus walking on the waves in the storm and the terrified disciples and exhorts us to face our fears. Finally he summons us to wait on the Lord and to ‘make Jesus our first and last.’

Lawrence spends about 137 pages, calling us in different ways to press deeper into Jesus in ways that are personally risky. There are lots of good stories and pop-cultural references (Lawrence blogs at youthministry.com and is the executive editor for GROUP publishing). He is a good communicator and his message is on point in a lot of respects. This is the second book of Lawrence’s I’ve read and I much prefer this one to his earlier effort. The prose is winsome and I feel the call to a more compelling personal faith.

There in lies the rub. This is a book about personal faith and the risks that Lawrence calls us to,  addresses us as individuals. This of course is appropriate on many levels. We must own our own faith. We have to face our shame, take hold of grace, discover our true identity, own what we want from God, face our fears, wait on God and prioritize Christ in all things. As a Christian and as a pastor I add my voice to Lawrence’s. But as I read this book I wished that the communal aspects of the risk of faith were explored more in depth. I mean reconciliation, justice, care for the vulnerable requires risk. If we want transformation to come to our churches, our communities and neighborhoods it requires skin in the game–personal risk. It is costly and there are no guarantees on the actions of others. But transformation and the epic Jesus-centered life can’t be fully experienced without giving our lives away to others.

Lawrence didn’t write that book, but he did write a good book. I recommend this for anyone wishing to deepen their faith in Jesus. My first thought while reading this was that it would make a good graduation gift (high school or college) because it is pithy and helps you focus your life on things that matter. But of course we all need to hear Jesus’ call to greater trust and risky faith. Put your skin in the game. I give this four stars.

Notice of material connection: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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