This spot is for reviews of books read and discussed during our monthly book clubs meetings  at Soma Book Cafe. The book clubs hosted and facilitated by Soma Book Cafe are: Charles Book Club, Taswira Book Club, Writers Support Club and Waka Poetry Consortium

Introduction

This is an independent, members-led Christian book club hosted by Charles Makakala (MSc, MBA (c), Dip). The vision of the book club is to provide a life transforming experience through engagement with Christian materials made possible by a positive peer pressure that challenges members to read and reflect on what they have read. The club provides an alternative place for members to commune and network.

The club is Christian in the sense that members are committed to read Christian books, but this does not mean that membership is limited to Christians only. Since reading is first and foremost an intellectual exercise, anyone who wants to join us in this journey is welcome to do so regardless of their religious background. Critical perspectives of what is read are encouraged.

The club membership is now approaching 30 coordinated mainly through a WhatsApp group. Membership requirements are, first, the commitment to read the assigned book, second, participate in one monthly 2-3 hours discussion.

Book Tittle: Purpose Driven Life (Charles Book Club)

This is a synopsis of the book put together on the basis of the book club discussion held on 2nd of March, 2017. The author of the book, Dr. Rick Warren, is the senior pastor of Saddle back Church in California, one of America’s largest churches and possibly the most influential church congregation in America.

The discussion was moderated by Charles S. Mushi (MD).

The theme of the book

Two themes were identified. One, as aligned to the title of the book, how to identify and live according to God’s overriding purpose for all of mankind. Two, a panoramic view of a Christian life – the author provides a review of the main aspects of the Christian’s journey through life.

Theme development

The book is structured through six sections, the first one posing the question ‘what is my purpose on earth’? and the next five sections answering that question by providing a list of the five purposes that the author has identified from the bible. These purposes are: one, you were created for God’s pleasure; two, you were created for the community of God’s people; three, you were created to be like Christ; you were created to serve God; and, five, you were created for (God’s) mission.

The members observed that the logic that the author used is synonymous with his ‘crowd to core’ 5-Purposes driven strategy for growth that he outlined very early in his ministry (in 1981) – worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. The idea was to reach out to the community firstly by drawing in a crowd, then turn them into members, building them up to maturity and into ministry, and finally sending them out on missions.

With every section the author provided a chapter by chapter discussion of the specific purpose under discussion which the author strongly advised that they should be read subsequently only one chapter per day. In our analysis some of the chapters provided a very strong and practical description of the subject matter, and that made reading the book a delightful experience indeed.

Strengths of the Book

This is possibly the world’s most successful book ever written with over 50 million copies sold since its publication. That fact alone is mind boggling, especially considering that this is a religious book. The fact that the author was a pastor of the largest mega-church in the US then who had already published a highly successful book before this one all contributed to the commercial success of Purpose Driven Life. But the book has many merits on its own:

  • It is written in a very simple and practical language. The text is highly accessible – the author has avoided the use of religious jargon and the holier-than-thou attitude. This is in line with his philosophy of drawing in ‘the crowd’ first, before challenging them to reach out for more in their Christian journey.
  • The book succeeds in providing alternative answers to several of life’s major questions on individuals’ purposes. Rick Warren insists that purpose has to do with what God’s eternal expectations for an individual, so it is neither temporary nor man-centric. Thus, according to the author, questions of who should one marry, or what career one should pursue, only have bearing on one’s earthly journey and not eternal purpose. God’s purpose transcends those temporary considerations, thence, paraphrasing Rick Warren’s words, ‘it is not what you do but how you do it that is of interest to God’. In other words, God is interested in building his people’s character because its dividends are eternal.
  • The book offers a panoramic review of many of Christian teachings on life, worship, community living and ministry. Thus, it can be rightly be used as a foundation tool for new and matured believers.

Critical Review

This was the most productive part of the club discussion. As good a book as this was to read it has significant flaws which members observed the author will do well to correct in its future versions.

  • The book’s biggest weakness – as has already been identified by many reviewers – is its overly simplistic coverage of the gospel requirements for salvation at the end of Chapter 7. With respect to the prayer that the author claims will change one’s life he writes ‘Jesus, I believe and receive you’ then congratulates the reader and moves on. While the length of ‘salvation prayer’ is not a necessary requirement for salvation, that is not the ‘full’ gospel. Without being too theological – that prayer has one glaring omission: the element of confrontation and repentance of sins. If one were to be more theological, then even the faith that is presented is partial – one can hardly say what the reader is truly ‘receiving’.
  • The discussants questioned whether the author knew what his intended audience was – was it the people in churches or all general readers. This is evident in the way the author appears to struggle to focus his message especially at the beginning. The weakness mentioned above is one such example. As the book’s progresses though, and the focus becoming increasingly on Christian living and ministry then the author’s message becomes more focused on Christians rather than the rest. It would have been better if the author had resolved this dilemma earlier in the discussion.
  • A question was raised on what the author meant by ‘You were created for God’s pleasure’. Did he mean pleasure as the artist enjoys his creation or as subjects strive to entertain their overlord? This raises one big conundrum on the character of God: why does God require worship which the discussants tried to address. An alternative way of reading scriptures should have been by putting importance on one’s relationship with God rather than pleasure. That would make worship a more relationship-driven aspect than ego-boosting requirement.
  • There were questions whether the title of the book was appropriate given the number of subjects covered in the book. Is it possible that a title like ‘Understanding How To Live a Christian Life’ express the message better?

 

Was the Author Successful? And How Could the Book be Improved?

The book has been immensely successful both commercially and on its influence on churches around the world. Its proposed 40 days study plan was adopted by thousands of churches across the world thus directly influencing them. It has much strength that makes reading it a wonderful experience. That said, barring the first weakness pointed above, it should rightly be considered as one of the greatest Christian books of the 20th century.

Information About This Book Club:

This is an independent, members-led Christian book club hosted by Charles Makakala (MSc, MBA (c), Dip). The vision of the book club is to provide a life transforming experience through engagement with Christian materials made possible by a positive peer pressure that challenges members to read and reflect on what they have read. The club provides an alternative place for members to commune and network.

The club is Christian in the sense that members are committed to read Christian books, but this does not mean that membership is limited to Christians only. Since reading is first and foremost an intellectual exercise, anyone who wants to join us in this journey is welcome to do so regardless of their religious background. Critical perspectives of what is read are encouraged.

The club membership is now approaching 30 coordinated mainly through a WhatsApp group. Membership requirements are, first, the commitment to read the assigned book, second, participate in one monthly 2-3 hours discussion.

The following books have been proposed for this year:

  1. The Christian Family – Dr. Frederick Price (Family) (March, 2017)
  2. The Knowledge of the Holy – A. W. Tozer (Christian Devotion)
  3. The Gospel of the Kingdom – Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God – George Eldon Ladd
  4. Understanding Church Growth – Donald Anderson McGavran (Church Growth and Ministry)
  5. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger – Affluence to Generosity Ronald J. Sider (Christian Life)
  6. The God That is There – Francis E. Schaeffer (Apologetics)
  7. The Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren (Christian Life) (February, 2017)
  8. The Hiding Place – Corrie ten Boom (Christian Devotion)
  9. Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis (Apologetics)

To join please call 0673-014-071  or  0786-070-740