Thursday, October 11, 2007

Book Review:This Beautiful Mess

I vividly remember sitting in a Sunday School class many years ago with my husband as newlyweds. The topic of discussion was the kingdom of God. Somewhat hesitantly, we offered up the opinion that perhaps the kingdom was already here. We were readily dismissed by the older, wiser members of the class, including the teacher.

In This Beautiful Mess, Rick McKinley presents the present reality of the kingdom in a way that makes it simple to understand yet difficult to ignore.

In Christian circles, I think that the kingdom is sometimes glossed over as just a vague religious idea, perhaps equated more often with thoughts of heaven and a future destination. However, the gospel that Jesus taught was not the gospel of salvation, but rather the gospel of the kingdom. That is why it is so important for us to understand the kingdom of God as more than just a vague concept.

Rick did a brilliant job of cracking a window open in order for those who read his book to catch a bigger vision and clearer picture of the kingdom of God. My absolute favorite chapter in the book is Chapter 5, "A Dimension of Being." In this chapter, he describes the present reality of the kingdom and the need for us to develop the understanding and vision to recognize the kingdom around and among us.

In the latter half of the book, as the subtitle, "practicing the presence of the kingdom of God," suggests, Rick then opens a door and issues an invitation to participate in the kingdom. He offers real and practical ways of encountering the kingdom of God, ways in which both individuals and communities can experience a lifestyle of kingdom living, of participating in God's mission.

There are gems of wisdom and insight in each chapter as he explains what the kingdom might look like in different aspects of life including encountering the kingdom among children; ministering in the margins; the presence of the kingdom in creation; a kingdom perspective of wealth, giving, and money; and a look at suffering and our own willingness to enter into sacrifice and suffering.

Throughout the book, Rick has painted a picture of the kingdom of God, the kingdom established when Jesus chose to enter into This Beautiful Mess and the invitation for us to do likewise, to participate in his kingdom by immersing our lives in This Beautiful Mess.

Rick doesn't coerce or manipulate in his writing. His invitation to practice the kingdom is gentle. However, if taken seriously, your life will be challenged and changed.


Thoughts From Jeff said...

Fully Agree

Anonymous said...

Grace, I've met Rick in person and he is one of the most intriguing pastors I have ever met. His original presentation at Mars Hill, if you can find it, is one of the best interpretations on repentence and set the foundations for his entire Kingdom mindset. It's a must listen.h

glenn said...

Grace- I read the book nearly a year ago, but I still remember the Rick's uncommon common sense and how the book inspired me to think radically about the church's kingdom role in the world here and now.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the review... I just received confirmation this morning that the copy I ordered for myself from Amazon was just shipped. Of course, now I wait a month before I actually get the book because of where I live.

Your review gives me something to look forward to!

Tia Lynn said...

Sounds like a fascinating book, I'll have to read it! Thanks for reviewing it!

Paddy O said...

What a wonderful book suggestion. Precisely what I'm starting to get really curious about. It's funny how "the kingdom is among you" is suggested to mean something other than the kingdom is among us. Or maybe folks skip that verse. Odd because they say they believe in all the verses... hmmmmm....

Unknown said...

I will have to check it out. Thanks.

Linda said...

I especially enjoyed the view of repentance that he discussed in the book. I have changed the lens through which I see words like sin, judgment, and repentance in Scripture from a lens of condemnation and shame to one of love and restoration. His description fit beautifully with the idea of repentance as turning toward God's better plan.

I am sure that any of you who haven't read it will enjoy the book. It is not a difficult book, but could have a profound effect.

I have changed my thinking from "how will we be the church" to "how can we participate in the kingdom."

Anonymous said...

I have changed the lens through which I see words like sin, judgment, and repentance in Scripture from a lens of condemnation and shame to one of love and restoration.

How ironic. Raborn and I were just discussing this very thing over our weekly breakfast at Chick-Fil-A this morning!

We talked about the possibility that sin separates us from God, not because God has judged us, but because we move ourselves out of relationship with God.

As you said, the story from God's perspective is all about redemption and restoration, not judgment.

As Raborn said, "How have we taken the gospel -- which is supposed to be good news -- and turned it into a bunch of bad news?"

jeremy zach said...

Wow, Grace another post I deeply resonate with. The book name "Beautiful Mess" is what I entitled my blog about Marriage. That is kind of funny. I love this implications behind the beautiful mess because there is a mess in beautiful and there is beauty in the mess.

Anyways, I want to make a few comments.

1. How did the author define the Kingdom of God. Did he give a sentence or two? Or did he define in a compartmentalized way?

2. The notions of "being" and
"practicing the presences of the Kingdom of God" is an idea I have not only been teaching my students, but been having my students do. I read the book: Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus. This book gave me some tangible ideas on how not to just be doing, but just be being in the Kingdom of God.

3. I am not familiar with the author. Who is he? What is his background?

4. I am such a huge advocate about this notion of being fully present. The kingdom of this world has us "doing" everything. We have to do school. We have to make money. We have crazy busy schedule that our blackberry's monitor. There are countless things our culture tell us we need to be "doing" more of. However this doing mentality has literally hijacked the way we view the Kingdom of God. Members in the Kingdom of God do not "do things" in order to experience Jesus, but simply be. It is not about doing, but it is all about being.

Paddy O said...

Oh, and I think this post and your post above go exactly hand in hand. The Spirit is, I think, the presence of the Kingdom of God among us. Where the Spirit is there is the Kingdom.

Linda said...

I have been thinking about this quite a bit and will probably post on it at some point. I think that so many of what we see as "bad" words in the Bible have been distorted through a wrong understanding of God. Wish I could join you guys for breakfast. :)

1. He describes the kingdom throughout the book. Like Jesus, he gives many examples of "the kingdom is like..." I don't really want to compartmentalize it more than his intention, but perhaps this statement is the closest he came to a "definition":

"The kingdom of God is the living, breathing presence and purpose and reign of God on our planet."

2. I saw Evan Almighty this weekend. Your comment reminded me of "God's" statement in the movie of how we change the world.

3. Rick is the pastor of Imago Dei in Portland, well known as pastor to Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, etc.

4. Yes, and I would add about recognizing the dimension of our being, which is the highlight of chapter 5, understanding the kingdom dimension versus striving for deeper or higher levels.

Amen! And it sounds like you have a book along these lines?