Speaking Beyond Normal: a book revew

Mike Baker, J.K. Jones and Jim Probst serve together on  the pastoral staff at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois. They are passionate about getting reluctant disciples to speak out, testifying to the good things God has done for us in Jesus Christ. In an attempt to reach beyond their Normal audience, they teamed to write We Speak: Proclaiming Truth in an Age of Talk.  The book, and the available  companion DVD (not reviewed here) utilizes each of the gifts of the three pastors.

9780830844258Baker is the senior pastor and primary preaching pastor at Eastview. Each chapter begins with a ten-page exhortation, pressing in on a particular theme related to sharing your faith. This is followed by five daily devotions (Monday through Friday) written by J.K. Jones, Eastview’s pastor of spiritual formation. Probst is their small group pastor and he writes a discussion guide for each ofchapter (week) of the study. Probst organizes his discussion guide under four headings: Gathering, Grow, Give (ways to pray for and encourage group members) and Go (implementing the study and praying for one another). Probsts questions refer to the DVD, the chapter and the devotional

There are seven chapters in all. Chapter one is about how we cannot but speak about what we’ve seen and heard (Acts 4:20) when we sense all Jesus has done for us. Chapter two probes how the gospel is goodnews. Chapter two probes deeper into the ways in which the gospel is good news for us. Chapter three exhorts us to speak up even if no one listens (just like the prophets). Chapter four reminds us that we speak powerfully in weakness. Chapter five discusses how the gospel brings hope in the midst of suffering. Chapter six explores how the truth of the gospel is communicated by each generation. Chapter seven is a final exhortation to speak up and never stop speaking.

First  I like the format.  I was impressed the way  these pastors worked together in synergistic unity, each doing what they do. The exhortation, the devotionals and the discussion guide complimented each other well. I also liked their zeal to encourage all of us to share our faith.

Yet if you are looking for a how-to-share your faith guide, this isn’t it. Treat this book more like a shot-to-the-arm-reminder that as Christians we have good news worth sharing, and if we believe it’s true, we will share it with others. Point taken,and I certainly need a good kick in the pants, but as such, this is more exhortative than expositional, more pep-talk than practical.

I wished the examples were more varied. Much of the life examples from Baker and Jones are rooted in their experience as professional clergy. There are far fewer examples of ordinary Christians sharing their faith. Outside of a few isolated Bible passages, I can’t recall a single story about  a woman sharing her faith in these pages. For a book which aims at inspiring and releasing the whole church to share their faith, they emphasize the experience as clergy too much.

But they insist all Christians are called to speak up. Though our time, place, venue and audience size may vary, we each testify to Christ’s work in us (10). Christians who read this book, participate in  the discussions and try to put the message of this book into practice will be bolder in sharing good news with the world. I give this three and a half stars.

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






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I am a pastor, husband, father, instigator, pray-er, hoper, writer, trouble-maker, peacemaker, and friend. Who are you?

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