Book Review: Hastening & Rebirth
Have you wondered what it would be like if a small group of people decided to pursue complete fulfillment of the Great Commission? What would it look like practically? What kind of soul-winning methods would be employed? What barriers would have to be overcome? What kind of people would carry out the mission?
This tandem, the No Place Left series, powerfully illustrates the answers to all these questions. Steve Smith, and missionary, church planter, and church planting movement facilitator, envisions exactly that in the pages of these two books: Hastening and Rebirth. Building on his personal experience in CPM work, as well as his familiarity with the powerful movement led by Ying Kai in China, Smith paints an accurate picture of the details that would have to go into such a mission, as well as the cost that must be counted.
The central theme of the series is Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” As the title ‘Hastening’ suggests, the series protagonist, Christopher Owen, envisions being part of an effort to be the last generation – the generation that preaches the gospel in every last nation, to every last unreached and unengaged people group (UUPG). From Christopher’s perspective, this would amount to ‘hastening’ Christ’s return – not in the sense of creating a deadline or timeline for the eschaton, but rather in the sense of completing what Jesus left us here to do. For those who might be concerned about this concept, please read the entirety of both books before you pass judgment – the final chapter draws everything together in a way that both makes sense and is completely compatible with scripture.
Christopher Owen sets out with a small group – friends, associates, and contacts from other Christian groups, and models his approach along the same lines as T4T or Any-3: a rapidly reproducible Bible-centered obedient discipleship and church planting movement. Christopher’s group endures persecution, setbacks, and even martyrdoms – yet, their dogged pursuit of full obedience to Christ’s final command bears unimagined fruit. The cost is high, but the rewards still higher yet. Along the way, unexpected things happen, to which the group responds in surprise, but in faith as well.
Part-way through Rebirth, there is a theological twist that may upset some of you who are strongly convinced and opinionated about certain events in the end times. Please keep in mind the big picture, and stay with it through to the end. A keyword to remember is that this is a may be scenario. We have to be humble enough to admit that we do not know or understand all of scripture perfectly, especially the end times. A quote from the book may be helpful in clarifying Smith’s purpose: “It is better to prepared for the worst and surprised by the best, rather than to be prepared for the best and surprised by the worst.” This is Smith’s way of challenging our comfortable and apathetic Christianity of the present day – by and large Christians are prepared for the best, and would be sorely put to the test if our interpretations should prove wrong. In my estimation, Smith is really asking: If you did not get the benefits that you are expecting from Christ, would you still be willing to pay the price of being His disciple and bringing His gospel to the nations? This question is worth asking – even in an uncomfortable way.
The conclusion of Rebirth will surprise and satisfy, and I believe Smith does the best job I have ever seen of drawing attention to Jesus and painting the big picture of Christ’s plan and purpose on this earth.
This pair of books is a must-read. You will not be awed by the writing, or possibly the story, but you should be awed by the possibility that we have today to bring glory to our risen and ascended Lord, who is worthy of everything that we can do and more. May the Lamb that was slain receive the just reward of His suffering!