This month in the Patheos Book Club, we’re featuring the new book Godspeed: Making Christ’s Mission Your Own, by the Rev. Britt Merrick. This post by JR Rozko, and more to follow, are part of a roundtable conversation about the book and the topic of mission in general.
My thoughts when I began reading ran in two directions. On the one hand, I was excited to realize that I was reading a book by a pastor who suggests, “I believe that the right understanding of mission is what’s missing in the church today.” (13) On the other hand, I was fearful that the fact this subject runs toward the subject of my doctoral research was going to render me overly critical. In the end, my excitement remained and my fear was (probably) confirmed. But something else grabbed my attention that I wasn’t expecting and continues to occupy my thought – doubtless because I am just a mere 10 days away from having been a dad to a little girl for 1 year. It was the occasional references to Britt’s little girl Daisy’s battle with cancer. A battle that the video below would seem to indicate continues.
While I have my theological and pastoral quibbles with a range of things that Britt touched on in the book, those are far overshadowed by the undeniable fact that what Britt’s on about in the book could not be more of a reality (an appropriate pun since Reality is the name of the church Britt pastors) for him.
This came home for me most poignantly in Chapter 7, Free: Justice for the Guilty. Here, Britt recounts the ordeal a decision that he and his wife faced when, as if watching their little girl battle cancer wasn’t enough, she almost dies because of a doctor’s mistake. Joining in on Christ’s mission at that point for the Merrick’s could have just been a nice idea, but they choose to live it out and forgive the doctor. For whatever deficiencies there might be in the book, this is the kind of witness that extends a level of credibility that too few authors are able to garner.
The importance of that feature of the book aside, I appreciate Merrick’s attempt to intersperse biblical reflections with actual stories from the life of their congregation. On the whole, I think this could have been far more integrated into the overall development of the book, but it will make it much more accessible to “people in the pews.” I think this book would have most significance for those who are newer in the faith.
I hate it when reviewers criticize books for not doing something that they really weren’t intended for – others can determine if I am going that here – but I really think that given the nature of the book, the author really should have devoted some space to talking about how his church works to move people into the vision that he’s outlining. In other other words, my big question at the end of the book was, “Dude (I feel like I can begin a question like that to Britt since he’s a surfer!), Britt, where’s the stuff on discipleship?! How is your Church seeking to form people into the missio Christi?” That would have been a welcome, helpful, and appropriate addition to this book. But bottom line, I am grateful for pastors like Britt who are calling people to understand the Christian life along the lines of mission and even more for his particular witness to embodying it.
JR Rozko is conducting doctoral research as a part of a cohort focused on Anabaptist Perspectives in Missional Ecclesiology through Fuller Theological Seminary’s DMiss program and serves as Director of Operations & Advancement for the Missio Alliance, an initiative that aims to provide a place for theological dialogue, training, and the creation of resources to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate present and future missional challenges. He blogs at http://lifeasmission.com/blog/