Pastor Josh Kelly, Mount Vernon, WA takes a thought-provoking, often entertaining look at why Christians shouldn’t feel they “have to live crazy to follow Jesus,” the sub title of his debut release, Radically Normal. Where he writes, “normal Christians” can act in radical obedience to Christ “without acting obsessive or complacent.”
He doesn’t intend to discourage Christians from doing “radical things” for the Lord if that’s what God calls them to do. Instead, “Radically Normal” is for the believer who feels a nagging sense of guilt, “haunted by the feeling that God would be happier” if he or she were more spiritually minded.
Kelley questions if such guilt is fostered by a culture that tells them to “live for today,” or by the church who tells them to “live for eternity.” He assures readers God doesn’t want that to be an either or choice. Rather, Jesus wants us to live normal lives, to find joy in ordinary routines and love others like Christ loves us. That’s his definition of “radically normal Christianity” lived out with God’s grace.
Sometimes the concept of “grace” is difficult to grasp because grace can involve hard lessons we’d rather avoid even though grace is defined as “getting what we don’t deserve,” by O.S. Hawkins in “The Jesus Code.”
That’s the situation Pastor Kelly found himself in after twenty-five percent of his congregation left The Gathering, a church he’d been lead pastor of for three-and-a-half-years. It took a gulp of grace to realize “his faith and optimism” had concealed his naïveté” and lack of business training. The church had run out of money and desperate measures had to be taken.
To ease the financial crunch he became a “bi-vocational” pastor and “found himself in the back room of a Mount Vernon Starbucks putting on his green apron for the first time.” He learned serving customers was not that much different from ministering to his congregation. Whether serving “Ice Tea Lady,” who challenged his patience or engaged in conversation with an obsessive, super spiritual customer he nicknamed, “Radical Randy.” Such customers challenged his patience, yet he saw them as “God’s gift of grace.”
His Starbucks era included a rough draft of this book and a reevaluation of what he believed was God’s plan for his life that has yet to be answered. His writing reads like he knows he’s in the right “ballpark,” (read ministry), but perhaps the wrong “seat.” And the question remains, should he continue in a pastor’s role or shift to the teaching, writing and speaking side of Pastoral Ministry?
There’s no question Kelley is a talented writer because “Radically Normal” is like reading preaching at its best; entertaining, yet filled with personal examples and vibrant word pictures, circumstances and situations that illustrate and encourage spiritual growth. Kelley teaches believers not to feel unnecessary guilt. “It’s okay to be normal,” to be in the world, just not of the world. On a scale of 1-5, “Radically Normal” is a five plus! I look forward to seeing more from this undecided preacher.
‘Radically Normal,’ by Josh Kelley, Harvest House, 2014, 224 Pages, 978-0736959384, $13.99
Midwest Book Reviews—”Gail’s Bookshelf” October 2014
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