For sometime I’ve dreamt about a different kind of church. I’ve had my moments of wanting to walk away from her and try it my own way. I didn’t. I continued to dream of a church that lived and loved like Jesus and brought restoration to the broken. Even now as I search for a pastorate, I long for and dream for the beautiful and for it to show up in and out of the church. Skye Jethani in his book Futureville not only challenges the individual but the church as well to plan for a better today by reimagining tomorrow. Tomorrow is our hope and our purpose is to share glimpses of the beauty in the “ordinary brokenness” of our worlds.
It didn’t take long for me to want to read more when Jethani began sharing how many fail to see the church as relevant to their lives. After several years of working with and teaching young people, I have found that many of them are ready to walk away. We were all created in the image of God and desire meaning and significance, but the problem is how we (or the church) look at the future and our place in the world today.
He spends much of the book giving a well laid out timeline as to how the church’s focus has changed. At one time, the focus emphasized evolving to a better tomorrow through acts of social justice and making a difference in the world. He also portrays the church’s obsession on evacuating – the end times and separation from this world. Both are shown not as evils but rather how both should be working together for good. Left alone they miss the proper future focus.
His book culminates with the possibility that the church should embrace everyone’s story and place in the world – an encompassing vision and mission beyond social justice or clergy calling. The church is called to celebrate and encourage each other’s gifts and “garden patches.”
My favorite illustration in the book shares part of Nelson Mandela’s prison or wilderness chaos story. Mandela could see the beauty of home from his prison cell but could not reach it. Instead of giving up hope, he brought beauty to the prison by cultivating a small patch of ground into a beautiful garden. This act of incarnation rather than evolution or evacuation is how beauty came to his chaotic world.
The church with a proper future focus will then celebrate personal value and every man and woman and the part they play in our world today. Jethani shares that “our faith affirms the God-given value of every person.” He devotes one chapter (probably one of my favorites) to the churches need to affirm the calling of the artist. He suggests that “perhaps Jesus would say, ‘Why do you bother them? They are doing beautiful things for me.’”
This book was a needed reminder to every reader that the church can be a beautiful place if she sets her sights on affirming everyone’s place in their world. The beauty of the church is her diversity and remembering that “everyone’s story matters.” I highly recommend this book, especially for those pastors who do want to make a difference rather than garner praise or a paycheck.
Thomas Nelson provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for this review which I freely give.