Change is Possible! a book review

So you want to start a revolution? Yeah, we all want to change the world. Ministers, activists, non-profits, NGOs, world-relief organizations all have a vested interest in making the world a better place. We all want to change the world. The question is what we can do to bring about transformation and lasting change to a hurting world?

Stephen Bauman is president and CEO of World Relief and has devoted years of his life to bringing about transformation to the two-thirds world. To this end, he considers his African friends his most important teachers (he and his wife Belinda six years serving at-risk communities in West Africa). He has seen the ravages of war, poverty and violence and yet he is hopeful. Though we live in hard times, God has given us a part in changing the world through Christ. So if you want to start a reformation, Bauman has a blueprint about how to go about it in Possible.

The four chapters of part one explore our call to change the world. Bauman argues that the world suffers because of a crisis of vision, not a crisis of will (6). People really do want to help and give their life for a cause but old methods and approaches don’t work.  Bauman urges us to change the world through clear vision and thoughtful action (9), and a sense of urgency to address the problems of our age. In chapter two he explores change from the periphery. Recounting biblical, historical and contemporary examples, Bauman demonstrates that this is where change happens:

Shifting our expectations from the center to the periphery is essential if we are going to seize our moment in history.  If we remain fixated on ourselves or on the “important” people. we will miss the reformation among us, the groundswell of unlikely people–some who have been written off as victims as incapable, or–worse–as unworthy (26).

Chapters three  and four zero in our personal calling. helps us take up our unique destiny and mission to bring meaningful change to the world.

In part two,  Bauman helps us reframe the problem. Chapter five discusses ‘six impossibilities’–things that keep us from pursuing the possibility of real lasting change. Two significant orientations defeat us: the belief of some atheists, that faith does more harm than good and the belief that we can not do good without God.  Bauman acknowledges that injustice has been done in God’s name through the centuries, but calls believers to act in accordance to God’s nature (75-76). While non-believers can certainly do good through common grace,  Bauman argues that God and goodness are inextricably linked whether the do-good-er acknowledges it or not (79-80). Bauman encourages us to pursue justice, the eradication of poverty and suffering by treating it by seeing them as symptomatic of the larger problem: broken relationship (83). Bauman argues that “when we reframe the fundamental conundrums in the world as relational rather than problems requiring projects, we begin to see the need for the seismic shift [in our approach]”(84).

Chapter six explores the anatomy of heart change. Bauman pictures a tree: the roots of the tree are our beliefs, the trunk our values, the branches and leaves our behavior, and the fruit our results (90). Bauman says that what we believe to be true about our world, determines our values, which determines our behavior, which effects our results: Beliefs→Values→Behavior→Results. Thus Bauman argues that change begins with changing our beliefs, so scriptural meditation is key to getting us to act in ways that welcome God’s kingdom. This also gives a vital role to teachers in effecting lasting, change.  In chapter seven, Bauman pushes us to spark genuine, relational and heart change.

Part three is a practical look at how to bring change to community. Chapters eight gives advice on creating a vision for change within your organization. Chapter nine talks about our need to be changed as we work for change. Chapter ten talks about how hope is essential to the change process.  This is followed by an afterword and two appendixes which help readers to think practically about the nature of change.

Despite its depth, this is an easy read. My summary doesn’t do justice to Bauman’s passion that his personal stories convey. He has a lot of wisdom and inspiration for those of us who care about change.. Bauman inspired me and gave me good insights on how to lead the process of change in my role as a pastor. I give this five stars and highly recommend it.

Note: I received this book from Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.

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