Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker (book review)

I had a very hard time deciding whether to review this book or not because of the controversy surrounding Brandon Hatmaker and his wife, Jen. I decided to take a look at this book, reading it as I would any other book - with an open mind and a critic's eye (does that sound weird? I like to take a very close look at books, not just skim the surface). Please do not take this book review as condoning the statements made by the Hatmakers but take this book at face value.
image via BookLook
"Trading a shallow religion for a deeper faith" is the by-line that caught my eye about "A Mile Wide" by Brandon Hatmaker. I want a deep faith, fully connected with a relationship with my heavenly father. Sometimes I feel close to Him, other days He feels miles away...but I know He is always with us...so is it me? Probably. I am fleeting and sporadic in my spiritual disciplines.

In order to learn more about how to grow a deeper faith, I picked up Hatmaker's book. I read almost hesitantly, on guard about possible red flags and bad theology. And yet, I found none. The closest I found in "A Mile Wide" was in chapter 9 when he is discussion biases we may have, why we hold certain things at truth (he did not get into specifics). He wrote, "Let's start by taking a look at our formative faith environments and our past experiences with friends and family." He goes on to encourage readers to try to find out if their biases are there because of how they grew up (faith environment) or a group mentality (friends and family, wanting to belong). I disagree because the first place you should look is the Bible. That is the authority on anything! We need to know what GOD says about everything before we go looking in to our past and present.

There are just some really good things in this book that I believe could help us draw closer to God. One such thing that really made me stop and evaluate myself was at a point where Hatmaker is talking about "common postures I've noticed are helpful in fostering these moments of transformation"...he proposes we "take a moment to consider who Christ was and where he'd be found. Emulate him. Would he be in a hurry? What kind of posture would he take?" Now Hatmaker is speaking more about missions and discipleship things but it caught my eye because of real life. Do I live my life how He would? WWJD? But truly! Do I talk to my kids how He would? Do I hurry them? Do I hurry and miss moments? Do I consider how I should act every minute?

Hatmaker gave ideas about how to grow spiritually outside of typical church stuff: small groups, church services, Sunday school classes (he's not saying those aren't good but they aren't everything). He gave ideas on living in the now, living with a missional mindset (growing where you're planted, I suppose you could say): live in the now (not always gunning for the future or what's to come), slow down and listen ("stop being a know-it-all"), learn the names of your neighbors, be normal ("stop trying so hard), and the list goes on. Those last two resonate a lot with me - I talk way too much and I try really hard!

I really love my small group! We've changed some members the past few years, but I've loved it all. I love growing in the faith with others, I love reading through Bible studies (my husband just mentioned "you still love homework, don't you?" uh...yeah!), I love the fellowship. But sometimes it feels....same ol', same ol'. You know? Hatmaker has some suggestions to "deepend what you already have or to invite friends to join you in a different environment:" Add mission (once a month), inject some fun, make it more interactive (high/low with the group, more discussion), diversify your schedule (do something social on the even weeks of the month), celebrate family dynamics (invite the kids into your study or not), add break-out groups (guys/girls prayer time), increase your hang time (fellowship). I love each of these ideas and I plan to bring them up to our group.

Basically, "A Mile Wide" by Brandon Hatmaker could really help diversify and deepen your walk with God outside the traditional confines of the church. We need to stop thinking of the church as a brick and mortar building but as a body, living each day on mission.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others' opinions of this book and/or author may differ from mine.

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