Permission Granted to do Church Differently in the 21st Century (by Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell)

I regularly download, on my Kindle, books that sound interesting and which are offered free. I had never heard of Graham Cooke, listed as the author of this book, or the co-author Gary Goodell, but reviews of ‘Permission granted to do Church differently in the 21st century’ were positive, and the premise sounded good. I downloaded it about two-and-a-half years ago, and started reading it just before doing some travelling about a month ago.

The overall theme of the book is one I have read about in many other books, and which I agree with, on the whole. The idea of ‘church’ being inward-looking gatherings on a Sunday morning is not Biblical, and in many cases not particularly helpful. If we put the pastor on a pedestal and expect the music group or choir to be trained performers, we are rather missing the point of what church is - or should be.

The book then takes a slightly strange detour in describing new expressions of church as ‘third church’, and stating that God has given ‘permission’ for believers in the 21st century to do something radical. Perhaps this is true, but it has been happening for some decades; Christians all over the world meet in small groups, or house fellowships, sometimes in addition to Sunday morning services, sometimes as an alternative option. This book talks about different sizes of gathering, which make sense too, although they are rather prescriptive.

Several chapters cover stages in which the authors insist a church can be transformed into something new, and most of these stages seem most unpleasant. A few example are given, in general terms, with a great deal of abstract imagery that I did not find helpful at all. Nor, in my experience, do most people go through a series of different stages in moving from traditional church experiences to more eclectic and interpersonal ones.

However, what bothered me most about this book is that the writing is repetitive, often going around in circles saying nothing new in two or three pages. It is also full of clichés. In places I counted three or four in the space of one paragraph. The occasional clichéd idiom can be useful, but there were far too many in this book.

I kept reading, and found, here and there, some interesting insights. But on the whole I didn’t think this nearly as good as the many other books on the same or similar topics. Perhaps worth reading if you can borrow it, or find it free to download, but currently the Kindle price is almost as high as the print one, and I would not recommend it in general.

Review by Sue F copyright 2019 Sue's Book Reviews

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