Better Books :: Compelled by Love

A few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to be a part of Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation's blog tour as they share with others about their new book, Compelled by Love. These guys generously offered to send me a copy of the book to review, which I was more than excited to do. After reading the book, however, I am even more excited about the book. This book is fascinating in that it looks at missional living from a different perspective than I have seen, that is through the eyes of love. Missional has really become the cool catch phrase of the year with many people assigning their own definitions to the word and, unfortunately, the result has been something of a diluted definition that becomes almost benign, at times, because of its ambiguity. Stetzer and Nation, however, seem to have a very clear picture in mind when it comes to the concept of missional living and this book helps provide a foundation for the application of missional life. By providing what they believe is the foundation to missional thinking Stetzer and Nation help to justify not only the priority of missional as important, but even more than that, they help affirm that is is non-negotiable. Stetzer and Nation's work is a significant addition to the literary world. I would strongly recommend that you get a copy.

Stetzer and Nation answered a few questions for us about the book. They help shed some light on the book itself. They did this through both a written interview and an audio interview. You can find both interviews below. I appreciate their willingness to invest this time to help us understand the significance of this concept. You also should run by and take a look at the website for the book. You can find it by clicking here.

_______________________________________________________________ Click on the audio player to hear the interview with Dr. Stetzer

[audio: Interview.mp3] _______________________________________________________________

1. Ed, you write often about contextualization. Why do you write a book about love and how does love contribute to biblical contextualization?

Ed: Without love, contextualization becomes nothing more than manipulation. Love makes contextualization a personal activity rather than a spiritual experiment.

2. In the book you share that defining biblical love is extremely difficult. While that may be true, can you possibly give us a word picture that will illustrate what biblical love looks like, particularly in relationship to contextualization?

Philip: The word picture which seems most prevalent is that of marriage. Great marriages are characterized by selfless sacrifice. No one is keeping score of who sacrificed more. They simply sacrifice because the other person matters more.

3. There are a tremendous amount of books that are on the market and which correspond with conferences. Why then the need to write this book and how is different from the rest?

Philip: The intention for the book was to give "normal Christians" a guide for why they should do all the things the pastor was asking of them. I think believers want to make a difference, but sometimes their motivations fail them. The biblical ideal of love can be a primary force leading them to be missional.

4. Missional is a popular yet controversial term. Can you attempt to define it and explain its importance?

Ed: I think that "missional" is like a Rorschach Test for many. In the Rorschach test, you asked what you see in random inkblots. It tells much about you and what you think and feel. The same is true for in the missional conversation. In many way, how we define "missional" is influenced by our concerns about what is wrong, and what is right, with the church today.

So, I can't say my definition is the only one, but I will say that mission is shaped by a few things for me: Seeing God as missionary by his very nature, we join God in his mission. We tell of his good news, engage our communities as missionaries, and are agents of the mission and Kingdom of God.

5. Philip, how did the concepts in this book help you as you planted a new church that was much different than the other churches in your area? Do you find that it helps Lake Ridge to be more effective in communicating the gospel?

Philip: I want to be careful to say that I think other churches in our area hold out love as important. How love is communicated in our church is that without it, you will let your neighbor's marriage crumble without intervening, your co-worker's project crash without helping, and everyone around you perish eternally without caring. God's love being made manifest in our lives causes us to go into the messy lives surrounding us and carry the only thing that will make a difference - the Gospel.

6. How does love relate to Missiology?

Ed: Missiology is the study of how mission work is done and why it succeeds. If you remove love from the framework, it degenerates into secular sociology that is pure pragmatism. With the desire to draw people into the love of God through the gospel, it lifts the study to having a divine purpose.

7. One of the things I've noticed is that many people talk about being "missional" but there doesn't seem to be much difference in their behavior. What practical helps do you offer in the book to lead people to be more "missional"?

Philip: Throughout the book, we real stories from our own lives and those of our friends who live missionally. Additionally, there are discussion questions at the end of each chapter that can be used individually or in a group setting.

8. Philip, as a life-long member of the Southern Baptist Convention, how does this book offer help for our current denominational decline?

Philip: The state we find ourselves is uncharted territory for me. I pray that it can be a clear call of death to self. The denomination as a whole is merely an annual representation of local congregations which are clusters of individual believers. My prayer is that a book like Compelled by Love will awaken our passion for God's love on such a local level that denominational effectiveness is simply a happy aftershock.

9. With Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation championing a book I'm sure many will assume that this is a book for "contemporary" settings. In your opinions, is this a traditional/contemporary issue or a "church-at-large" issue?

Philip: The state of our hearts is not a style issue. It is very much for the church at large. I grew up and have done most of my ministry in toe-tapping, Southern Gospel singing, wear a suit every Sunday churches. I love the fact that all styles of churches can lead people to Christ's lordship. Our book gives no specific guidance of contemporary or traditional - it simply asks for an examination of our heart before God.

Ed: After Philip's description of church, I am speechless. Southern Gospel, eh?

Anyway, I think the fact the book is about people and how they react to the love of God as expressed through the cross-that is trans-paradigm.

10. Lots of people have endorsed the book... why does the message resonate?

Philip: It seems to be relatively unique at this season of church life. We are simply grateful to the godly people who have leant their influence to its message.

11. If you could narrow down your desire for this book to one thing, what do you hope happens in the lives of your readers after reading this book?

Ed: One is hard, so you will have to give me two. First, for Christians to simply understand God's heart better. Second, for them to see and love their community as the mission field.

12. Both of you have worked for your denomination. How would this message affect the way the SBC operates?

Ed: Though not reared Southern Baptist, I'm glad I have made the choice to be here. Contrary to what you see in the news and on some blogs, love is not in short supply in our denomination. I would hope to see it influence the way we communicate with those who seek to forge new models but still remain faithful to the Gospel and God's inerrant scriptures.

Philip: The message of God's sacrificing love can be the reinforcing power of why we do it. The temptation for self-aggrandizement is always before us because we are the largest Protestant denomination. Love will keep us humble because it will keep our focus outward.

13. Many in contemporary culture seem to equate love with tolerance of all things. Is this true? If not, how do you remain committed to biblical principles and yet still remain loving?

Philip: Jesus said in Matthew 10 that he came to bring a sword and not peace. Love must tell the truth and will not tolerate evil. When you tell the truth as God decrees it, it is divisive. As we live out God's searching love, our work is to bring what will heal the mortal wounds of the soul. It is God's love displayed exclusively in the Gospel to atone for the sin nature. There is not much tolerance there.

14. According to 1 John 4:8, "God is love." With that as a central theme in your book, how does it shape the rest of the Christian's life?

Ed: It shapes a person's perspective. As God is love and calls us to follow in his way, we will simply perceive everyone with an everlasting scope rather than a temporary lens. When you see everyday events as part of a person's eternity, being motivated to aid them becomes natural.

15. What if a reader says, "My life is not compelled by love." What is your answer for them?

Ed: Not to give a Sunday School answer, but look at Jesus every day. Not just the rote "read a chapter a day," but consider how he interacted with the other members of the Trinity, the apostles, the Pharisees, and the lost around him. Look and see if you can find anything outside the scope of love. Even in his just actions, you find love for God's glory through redemption. Make that your central thought and you are on the way.