Saturday, July 12, 2008

Book Review: "Theirs is the Kingdom"

A year ago Stew and Jenny Rose were reading "Theirs is the Kingdom" by Robert Lupton. JRF recommended I move it straight to the top of my reading cue... it was just that powerful. I vividly remember her reading me an short excerpt from the book about how the author really struggled to love a woman in his ministry to the poor-- summarized simply and honestly in his resistance to inviting her into his home because she was dirty, stinky, and had toilet troubles that he was certain would ruin his couch or, worse, his coveted recliner chair. The author writes, "Why should it be such a struggle to decide which is more godly: to welcome Mrs. Smith into my home and my corduroy recliner or to preserve the 'homey aroma' of my sanctuary and get extra years of service from my furniture. Is this not precisely the issue of serving mammon or God?" (pg. 9)

This is the book I picked up to take with me on our sabbatical. I bought it in the church lobby the day before we left. I was pleased that it was a short 121 pages and that most chapters were simply 1 page, front and back. This will be a quick read, I thought. But, it is so much more than that. I could read each chapter-- which I would describe as little vignettes, or short reflections from the life of Mr. Lupton as he serves Jesus in urban America-- in minutes, but then would have to chew on the story for the rest of the day (or for several days). It's not an instructional book. It doesn't tell you how to do "poverty ministry in the urban cities". It is just a collection of snapshots... stories from the author's life trying to live among and serve a tough population. Many of the stories are of how he messed up and how God convicted him. Others are of his insight into how the situations in urban cities get perpetuated over and over. He is honest. He is wise. He is human.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. With our church's planned move to the St. John's neighborhood in Austin, this book is sooo appropriate for our church partners!

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