I know you’ve felt it. You’ve had to have felt it. Please, tell me you’ve felt it. That ever present, but conspicuously covert tinge of tension surrounding our distinctively American brand of Christianity, where comfort comes before kingdom. Although the tension is obvious, we scarcely talk about it or, worse, don’t (or can’t?) admit it’s undeniable presence. Why? Because if we openly acknowledged the tension we would have to change the game. If we openly acknowledged it, we would be forced to confess that the trepidatious way in which we’ve been following Christ (and doing church) leaves something to be desired. Then, once we got over the shock of admitting that we’ve been doing it all wrong, we’d have to get down to the hard work of re-discovering the real truth, because if something about our Christianity rings so false, how on earth can it be the truth? I hate to be so blunt, but it can’t.
In the re-release of her book, Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker takes direct aim at that tension, telling the story of how God interrupted her “typical American life” to change her family’s direction from going to a church that existed mainly to serve the weekend attendees to being a church that primarily exists to serve “the least of these.”
Hatmaker first released Interrupted in 2009, though it was largely overshadowed by her 2012 book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (which has rocked the world of more than a few of you, I know). Maybe Christians weren’t then ready to confront what Hatmaker sees as some cold, hard truths for Christians in America. As she puts it in the introduction to the re-release of Interrupted,
“The very comforts the American dream and American Christianity hold out to us are the same ones we must abandon without looking back, daring to trust that a Savior who had no place to lay His head might have the slightest idea what he was talking about.”
Ouch. Right?! I’m not sure most of us, myself included, are ready to embrace the magnitude of that little gem. And the tacit question that Hatmaker puts to us all is “Why not?”
Through her own story of transformation, Hatmaker keys into a moment of realization that resonated with me, as I assume it will with many of you as well, a moment in which the church at large and its current presentation of a “good, obedient life” is met by the question, “Is this all there is?” For Hatmaker, the moment came when she realized that she was simply “blessing the blessed” and “serving the weekend attendees.” She found that she and her family were a mirror image of American culture, “just a churched-up version.” And then with one simple prayer, “God, raise up in me a Holy Passion”, everything changed.
Following God’s prompting, she and her family moved from a comfortable mega-church where her husband was on staff – to starting a church-plant which seeks to challenge the typical American church model as it strives to daily live out the basic tenets of Matthew 25:31-46, in which Jesus instructed his disciples to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the poor, befriend the prisoner, and care for the sick as if “the least of these” were Jesus Himself.
Hatmaker’s book could be easily dismissed as yet another iteration of the social gospel movement that began in the early 1900s and was generally characterized by the application of Christian principles to a wide array of social issues such as poverty and income inequality. To do so misses the very important and relevant point of her story as it relates to the Christian experience in the American church today. We are too concerned with our own comfort, and not nearly concerned enough about His kingdom. The result, as Hatmaker puts it: “[W]e’re settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world.”
God calls us to action, not to comfort, and Hatmaker shows us in Interrupted what that has looked like in her life, while at the same time challenging us to examine what that should look like in our own lives. It seems like such an obvious message. It left me convicted, wondering how I could be so oblivious to the obvious.
Ultimately, Hatmaker challenges our belief in Jesus with the question, but do you believe Jesus? Do you believe what he said, what he did, what he died for? Do you properly see yourself as a sinner in need of a savior, “the least of these” who Jesus died for? This perspective is vitally important, because once you are convinced that he died for you (not an ambiguous you, like “you the church”, but a painfully personal “you”), once you realize your true place as “the least of these”, then you will begin pouring out your time, energy and affection on those just like you – the very least.
Ours is a God known for his divine interruptions – it is a theme we can trace all throughout Scripture – from Abraham and Moses in the Old Testament, to Mary and Joseph, the twelve disciples and the apostle Paul in the New Testament. Hatmaker’s account of how God interrupted her family’s nice little “churched-up” life in the suburbs of Austin, Texas was a welcomed reminder that God is still in the business of interrupting and left me asking, “God, interrupt me.”
*This book review was written as a part of a blog tour for Jen Hatmaker’s re-release of her book, “Interrupted”. You can find out more by going to http://www.jenhatmaker.com. As a part of that blog tour, I have a free copy of “Interrupted” to give away to one of you! Leave a comment in the comments section below and I’ll arbitrarily pick a name to receive the book 😉 Make sure to leave your email address if I don’t already have it!