Book Review: Engage by Nathan Brown

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Published:
January 24, 2019

“…perhaps there are always those who are content with mere religion, while others hear the call to revival in a way that truly changes us and those around us.” —Nathan Brown

In his latest book, Engage: Faith that Matters, Nathan Brown challenges us to move from belief to action, and shows that this should be a natural progression in our faith journey.

Engage is a compilation of 38 previously-published essays that together “sound a call to engage more deeply with Jesus and, in turn, with His sending us into the world to love, to listen, to serve and to speak. It is a call to be faithfully of and in this world, as disciples of Jesus” (location 112).

Brown touches on several social justice issues of today, including racism, poverty, the refugee crisis, stewardship of the earth, and more. He encourages readers to fight against the ease of apathy that is so easy to fall into as we go throughout our daily lives, largely shielded from others’ pain. He reminds that “working for justice, seeking justice, doing justice, is a practical proclamation of Jesus, His mission and the hope we claim” (191).

This work toward justice is so integral to the biblical message, Brown says, that “at least one in every 15 Bible verses — more than 2100 out of about 31,000…speaks of God’s concern for the poor, His impatience with injustice, and His desire for His people to work on behalf of the oppressed and marginalised” (359).

In the essay “Practising Doctrine,” Brown recounts a conversation with his father, who was an Adventist pastor serving the church in local ministry for 40 years. When Brown was asked to write a series of readings several years ago for the General Conference Youth Week of Prayer on the topic of “Mission and Service,” he shared his writing — as he often did — with his father, who affirmed the message, while giving insight into what Brown describes as a generational difference that can sometimes lead to misunderstanding but can also create an avenue to learn from each other.

His father expressed the following:

What I was taught was that it was all about our doctrines…Ministry was about teaching people to believe the right things and had little practical application to it. But what you have written draws from our doctrines to make a practical difference. I think I would have done some things differently in ministry if I had been exposed to this approach earlier” (450).

Brown says that “perhaps it is one of my generation’s contribution to faith…to urge that it is not enough to merely believe, even if that belief is biblically true.” He goes on to state,

…our doctrines must have practical implications and applications. What we believe must change something in our world. It isn’t about “one day,” it’s about hope that changes today. It isn’t about good ideas — true and good as they might be — so much as what those ideas mean for who we are, how we live, and how we love and serve. It’s about mission” (458).

Brown’s little book of essays is uncomfortable, challenging, and necessary. A quick read packed with timeless truths, more relevant now than ever before in this broken world, this book reminds us of what living like Jesus truly looks like. We cannot be comfortable while also being Jesus’ hands and feet. We must choose. Are we content with mere religion, or do we hear the call to revival that compels us to act on behalf of our fellow human beings?

As Brown says, “When we dismiss, devalue, exclude, marginalise, and oppress others, we deny our shared Creator and Saviour. This sobering realisation must change how we listen and speak, ‘like’ and post, vote and worship, think and work” (1271).

Let us answer the call that Engage spells out so clearly for us and seek always to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly” with our God (Micah 6:8 ESV).

 

Notes & References:

Citations above refer to locations in the e-book edition of Engage: Faith that Matters by Nathan Brown (Signs Publishing, January 21, 2018).

 

Further Reading:

An Interview with Nathan Brown by Alita Byrd, August 2, 2018

 

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org

Image courtesy of Signs Publishing.

 

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