Category Archives: Books

Review: Growing Up Church of Christ by Mike S. Allen

I just finished reading Growing Up Church of Christ by Mike S. Allen.

This book isn’t so much a narrative as it is a topically arranged collection of memories served to readers in bite-sized portions. This makes for easy, fast reading, and I found it to be a page-turner.

I also found myself being flooded with memories while reading largely because I have personal connection to many of the people or institutions referenced. For instance, Mike’s ‘principle Bobby’ gave me two spankings when I attended Central Arkansas Christian School – once for punching a boy in the mouth, and then again … for punching another boy in the mouth.

The College Church’s boycott of the local convenience store in Searcy is also something I remember hearing about. This store was displaying pornographic magazines on the racks in full view of children, and I believe it was my dad who brought this to the attention of the mayor which led to a new law being passed banning such displays.

Additionally, Harding University is my alma mater, and Jimmy Allen (Mike’s father) taught my Romans class. Dr. Allen was and is quite a character, and I really enjoyed Mike’s stories about him.

I could go on, but you get the idea – and personal connection or not, if you “grew up Church of Christ”,  reading this book will bring back a flood of memories for you too.

Mike’s sense of humor comes through loud and clear in the writing. I read Growing Up Church of Christ with a smile on my face many times laughing out loud. Various topics are addressed in a tongue-in-cheek fashion – swearing, clapping and instrumental music, VBS, youth group stories, the evils of Rock-n-Roll, “The Baptists” – all handled in a tasteful and good-natured way.

Serious topics are also addressed, albeit less frequently. Mike shares a bit about what it was like growing up “in the shadow” of his father who is a famous preacher in Church of Christ circles, and several times references various personal struggles he’s had with life and faith. There are also sections on race relations, church discipline, the struggle between staying with the CoC or leaving it, and much more.

My favorite excerpt from the book is found on pages 48 & 49. In recounting the night of one of Jimmy Allen’s famous gospel meetings, Mike shares this:

Evening gospel meeting with us school-aged kids sitting up front.

Fiery sermon and a long invitation song.

People, young and old, come streaming down the aisles. A few of them, mostly women and girls, are crying. The young want to be baptized; the old want to be restored. So many are coming forward that there aren’t enough seats for everyone.

Which brings me to the best part.

The elders, the ones receiving the responders, pause. they give us kids – all of us singing our lungs out – a little nod. We vacate our seats and go to stand in front of the stage.
We look out at the crowd, at the responders who just keep coming. We stand there, grinning like fools. We’re part of this mass of moving people. We’re giving up our seats, so more can come forward.

We’re watching the world change right before our eyes.

If you “grew up Church of Christ” or in any conservative Evangelical tradition, you will thoroughly enjoy reading Growing Up Church of Christ by Mike S. Allen – I certainly did.

This book is available in paperback for $12.95 at Amazon or $5.99 for the Kindle version, and might make an excellent Christmas gift for someone you know.

Visit Mike’s blog here.

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Francis Chan Weighs In on the Hell Debate

As regular readers of this blog are aware, a huge debate surrounding the topic of hell was spawned recently due to the release of a new a book called Love Wins by Rob Bell – a Michigan megachurch pastor and alum of Fuller (my school).

In his book Rob says hell doesn’t exist – at least not as Christians have traditionally understood it (read the Time Magazine article on the book here). Bell’s reason for thinking this? He can’t wrap his mind around how God can send those who reject Him to hell for an eternity and still be called ‘loving’ (a view driven by anthropomorphism – “God isn’t doing what I would do or what I agree with, therefore this God can’t be referred to as ‘loving’ or even really God …”).

I’m happy to announce Francis Chan is coming out with a new book called Erasing Hell – a humble response to the current hell debate, and a reasoned critique of theological views defined by anthropomorphic tendencies.

A key scripture Chan points to is this one in which God speaks:

Isaiah 55:8-9
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Could it be, when we are tempted to write God off when He does something we wouldn’t have done or in a way we wouldn’t have done it, or says something we wouldn’t say, or thinks in a way we wouldn’t think, that HE is not the one with a problem? Could it be that HE is perfect and we are not, therefore we will always view his actions through imperfect, flawed lenses? Could it be that He really is loving regardless of what He chooses to do, because what He chooses to do will ALWAYS be right, holy, pure, and just – simply because that’s His inherent, perfect nature?

See, this debate isn’t simply about hell. This debate is really about trusting in God as holy and righteous and loving and perfect, even when we don’t understand everything. At its core, this debate is about our belief in the goodness of God regardless of our incomplete understanding or comprehension of Him.

A question we must ask: Is God really good “all the time,” or only when imperfect, flawed, so and so says? I choose to believe the former – not the latter.

You can pick up Francis’ new book after July 1 of this year. Here’s a promo video:

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The Principle of the Path: Direction, Not Intention, Determines Destination

Anyone who’s been on lots of road trips has been lost at some point, and nobody gets lost on purpose.

Why do we get lost? Because we’ve gone in the wrong direction. We’ve taken a wrong turn. We’re on the wrong path.

Every path has a destination, and even though where we are may not be where we intended to be in the beginning, the fact is we got there because of the path we were on.

Life, much like travel, operates under this simple principle: whatever road you’re on determines your destination, and direction, not intention, determines where you’ll end up.

This week I had the pleasure of introducing a new preaching series at Lake Merced Church discussing the Principle of the Path based on Proverbs 7:

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For more preaching like this, visit the westcoastwitness.com Sermon Archive.

Study help: The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley. Special thanks to Buddy Bell for turning me on to this material.
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