What surprised me most about this book was how it strayed from a triumphalistic theology (for triumphalism clarification click here). On the contrary Banning Liebscher proved to be consistently realistic vs. a pie in the sky theology, or a success-driven one at that. The following is taken from ch. 1:
“One of my deepest concerns with the church is how hung up we have become with short-term successes… We measure our success…by numbers-numbers that measure popularity and material success.” (p. 11)
This statement is significant coming from the founder of Jesus Culture, since many look to such booming ministries and automatically assume and assert that numbers=fruit.
Marked by simplicity, Rooted breathes with an appeal to draw its readers into experiential closeness with God rather than a mere knowing about him. This is made evident by statements like “it’s possible to know the Bible and not know God” as well as “Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for searching the Scriptures yet refusing to recognize Him as the One the Scriptures were talking about” (p. 23).
Liebscher notes 3 “soils” for being rooted; the soil of intimacy, serving, and community. In soil 1 (intimacy) he emphasizes the importance of “the secret place,” referencing Matt. 6:6 in which Jesus tells us to pray in privacy and secrecy. Liebscher bids believers to make secret prayer central, writing, “The real question is not whether you can be passionate when you are at a great worship service with thousands of others… The question is whether your heart is alive with love for Him when you are all by yourself” (p. 105). Well said.
His describing community (the third soil) is probably my favorite part of the book. In it he mentions a few cultures which happen to be community-centered while noting that Western culture is very individualistic, thus making it hard for us (Christians) to grasp true community.
“…community-driven cultures carry a value for community that my culture lacks, and this lack makes it more difficult for us to understand and embrace God’s value for community. For us steeped in Western individualism, it [community] can be very countercultural…” (p. 176). Community, he notes, is a theme in all of the Bible, not just the New Testament. Yet “if we read Scripture through the lens of Western individualism, we can miss this biblical theme” (p. 178).
Borrowing from scholar Scot McKnight, he drives the point that the gospel is about the restoration of community, not the promotion of an individual (personal-?) salvation. He goes against the idea of a “just me and Jesus” relationship, noting that we follow Jesus in community, not isolation. In other words, Christians need each other-we’re not meant to be rogue.
This book, very simple and readable (and short!), is a great and refreshing read full of gems and “aha” moments. Liebscher’s passion for God and the church is evident as he calls us to experience God more. This is a book I recommend.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.