I hesitated to do a review of this book on this page, since access to this title might be somewhat limited for most of you, but considering I’m reading parts of it for the second time, and especially consider the book’s backstory, I think it’s important enough to cover here.
God Enters Stage Left is written by Tim Day, the senior pastor of The Meeting House, Canada’s fastest-growing church, approaching twenty multi-site locations, probably best known for its teaching pastor, Bruxy Cavey. Meeting House is a “church for people who aren’t into church;” and is known for presenting the “irreligious message” brought by Jesus.
The book does what has become a trend lately, taking the Bible as a single story and aiming to present the “story arc” of its 66 individual books in a unified, cohesive way.
There are several things I found unique to this book.
First, the book comes out of the church’s environment, so everything is written with the non-churched, not-Bible-literate reader in mind. The pass-along potential here is huge (see fourth point.)
Second, the book doesn’t attempt to deal with each and every aspect of the Biblical narrative. Some items — especially Genesis — receive a much longer treatment than you’d expect, especially considering the Biblical “play” is reduced to six acts.
Third, Tim Day has this unusual thing which ambushes the reader unexpectedly at various junctures: He asks the reader very personal questions as to how this story intersects with their story. Have you ever read a book review that started asking you questions? (Like that!)
Finally, the way the church is distributing this is as unusual as the book itself. The church offers it on a pay-what-you-can donation basis with proceeds going to the church’s “audacious” ministry project goals. On the unSeminary Podcast with Rich Birch, Tim explains the how the book fits into the church’s overall vision, and also how your church could produce a custom edition with your pastor’s forward and your church name on the front and back.
Rich – …A friend of mine, Ben Stroup, talks about how books really are the new business cards. People see them as, if you want to kind of understand, in the marketplace, if you want to understand what we do, here’s a book. Rather than just ‘here’s a business card.’ … Why not charge for them? Let’s loop back on that. Why not actually say it $5 or $10?
Tim – Couple things. I just found that I couldn’t think of a good enough reason to charge for them. I just basically came down to and said, ‘If this is going to create a hiccup, a little bit of a barrier, something when someone might say, ‘I only have $20 in my wallet, and it’s $5 a book, I’ve got five people I want to invite, who do I need to cut off that list?’ I thought, ‘why am I doing that? It just didn’t make sense.’ If we just give them away to everyone, and people want to chip in, and it would kind of be a community experience, I couldn’t think of a downside to it … We have two churches now, they are dialoging on how they want to do it. They are two churches of about 1500, 2500 in size and they want to get the books and do the same thing with them where they just give them out. ‘Can we just buy a whole boat load of them at printing cost.’ And we may personalize them where the pastor writes the foreword. And we strip off any sort of our church brand. And the church just gives them away in their community. I think if I would have had that charge thing, all sorts of those conversations would have just stopped. And to be honest with you, I think the day of the pastor who somehow wrote something that turned him into a millionaire, I think that day has probably come and gone. It doesn’t sit super well. I just don’t think it sits well with the average person out in the street. So the conversation of ‘You are just giving this away? You are not making any money? You don’t make anything? Nothing?’
Rich – Zip, zero, zilch you mean?
Tim – It’s good news to people. That becomes good news that there is a message more important and it doesn’t need to be a part of my economy. And I love it! It just has made me happy!
Rich – Absolutely. Now the thing I, ’cause I know there’s some pastors probably thinking, that’s a great idea. I’m encouraged that you are working with some other churches, how do we repackage this. Even that, I think it’s incredibly gracious to say we want to work with another church. ‘You take the book, put your foreword on it, strip our branding from it, we just want the message to go out?’ Is that what you are saying, fundamentally with those other churches?
Tim – Oh ya. Like I said I will remove any reference to The Meeting House from inside. You write the foreword and you put your brand on the back of it.
Back to the book itself, this is transformative material. Most Christians are simply not articulate when it comes to describing the Bible’s story arc. A first step before giving the book away would be for people to read it for themselves. As the book’s cover states, the Bible’s big story has a big plot twist, and many smaller ones as well.
It’s a story no human could make up.