Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God (by Tony Campolo)

Browsing around our shelves for Christian books I hadn’t read, I came across this one by Tony Campolo, an American pastor, sociologist, speaker and writer whose work I have found helpful and thought-provoking in the past. I have no idea where this book came from: perhaps it belongs to one of our sons.

I was particularly struck by the title: ‘Following Jesus without embarrassing God’. And indeed, as one inclined to cynicism from time to time, and fairly easily embarrassed, I thought the book encouraging and helpful.

It's divided into five sections: everyday life, spiritual growth, what you believe, social action and family life. Within each section are between three and five chapters, each focussing on different ways in which followers of Jesus can emulate his lifestyle and follow his principles without going overboard or putting people off.

So, for instance, the author talks about wise use of resources and technology, while avoiding extreme positions of (for instance) giving everything away and relying on welfare, or avoiding all use of mobile phones and computers. The book was written twenty years ago so is inevitably a bit dated, but the principles still hold good.

Other sections look at prayer without being pushy or over-wordy, finding guidance without expecting writing in the clouds, understanding basic theology without being an intellectual snob, and - in the family section - raising healthy children without guilt trips or getting too far into popular psychology.

I liked the structure of the book, each chapter being complete in itself, with some clear explanations of the author’s point of view interspersed with relevant anecdotes from his own experience, both in family life and as a pastor.

There are a good selection of relevant quotations from the Bible too, and therein lies my only slight problem with the book: every quotation is from the King James version. Perhaps that was the only version easily available in copyright-free form back in 1997 when the book was written, but despite my familiarity with the passages concerned, I find the KJV language awkward and stilted, meaning it was all too easy to skim over these verses.

That apart, I thought it a sound and positive read, nicely balancing the author’s passion for social justice and living the Christian life with his strong evangelical (in the best sense) beliefs. Tony Campolo was a voice of common sense at the end of the 20th century, and I would recommend this book, in a low-key way, to anyone interested in knowing more about being an ordinary person living as a follower of Jesus.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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