Written for the Christian whose faith seems stagnant, Unstuck, by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross attempts to reach a very select audience. Citing extensive research, a three-step plan for breaking out of a faith rut is written by two men who are part of the Back To the Bible ministry. Further, the endorsement of Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, is featured prominently on the cover and first pages of this book.
But even with all that, the book felt flat. While I agreed in principle that the Bible, and engaging in study of it, is a vital means for revitalization of life, faith and relationships, this book did not inspire me in the execution of it. Part one focused on the deadness: burnout, busyness, and the research behind suggesting the Bible was meant to combat these struggles. I didn’t need a book to explain the research, in fact, if I had picked this up at a bookstore, it would have been because I wanted to get unstuck. So Part two described the process of the “Power of Four:” time with God, refreshed thru the Bible, recharged by it, and having a 2-way connection with Him. Part three applied this process to personal experience.
The book extensively relies on, quotes from, and refers to research. Just from my daily glance at Google news, I have become very skeptical of ‘research’ and while this may be the most researched method on the planet – it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know before I picked up the book. While I think the authors meant to simply establish their credibility, it made the book feel like required textbook reading, rather than an encouraging walk with a friend. After reviewing so many of this genre of books, I am partial to those who do have a plan (this one is 45 days), but am cynical about research. I am further cynical when chapter one is titled “Confessions of a Spiritual Loser,” as that just doesnt smack of the charisma needed to get me ‘unstuck’ from my current hang-up. While I don’t want Tammy Fay Baker to smile at me from each page, simple honesty goes far with me. The author’s story of his return to faith was moving, yet his continual use of this title suggested a lack of insight to me. Leaving the faith, or lonely in the faith, is not a loser – it is a lost and hurting person out of touch with his Saviour. And no research will help. The 45 day plan might, but I found the Scripture suggested and questions to be unconnected at best, and left me with more questions when finished. This would be very frustrating if read alone. In a group, it might work. (Where’s the research on that?)
On the flip side, the web site (gotandem.com)suggested in each chapter as a resource for further follow up, seemed well-done, engaging, and clear: daily Scripture delivered at your specified times, for the purpose of continual growth. The authors did not cite the research involved in the creation of the web-site’s name, a story I would be curious to hear. I would simply skip the entire book, and go to the site: the author’s stated purpose would be fulfilled (you would be getting into a lot of Scripture, in timely doses), and not have to wade thru pages of research and ineffective counsel on the very deep woes that bog down believers.
From personal experience, in the addictions, hangups and sins that enslave, being told to ‘read more Scripture’ or ‘go to church more’ simply angers – because it shows a lack of understanding of the enslavement. A slave is not free to simply do those easy things: it is foreign, untrusted and means nothing. Only when the enslaved reaches bottom, cries out to the Saviour, and has counsel and accountability is change possible. No amount of reading or attending works when internally, the message can’t change, and the reader cant ‘hear’ what is being said. That’s where this book misses the mark: it is written without concern for the audience. Stuck people don’t want research, they want help. Coating the help in statistics makes it that much more ineffective. This would be the equivalent of a researcher extolling the numbers of hungry, the value of a sandwich to a homeless man on the street: just give him a sandwich for crying out loud, and keep your research! Give him a hug, a shower, a smile – anything but this tome of boring (if well-meaning)facts.
In comparison, it is no surprise to me that The Purpose-Driven Life is a bestseller. Read it instead, and the resources there are far more apt.
This review is in return for the copy of the book Bethany House provided me. My opinions are my own. No surprise there!