Monday, November 15, 2010

‘Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There’ by Leonard Sweet – Book Review

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One of the things in life that the Lord keeps bringing to my attention time and time again lately is to listen to His still small voice, and to be a part of what He is doing in the world today. The latest book I have read, ‘Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God’s Who’s Already There’ by Leonard Sweet looks at this from a unique perspective.

Here is the synopsis of this book:
Pay Attention. Brace yourself. This book is set to revolutionize your understanding of evangelism. That revolution stands to affect not just your everyday habits, including encounters you have with other people, but the very roots of your faith, the range of your mission, and the limits of your freedom.
In the tradition of The Gospel According to Starbucks, this groundbreaking book dares to ask: Instead of bringing people to Jesus, how about joining Jesus in what he is already doing?
Author Leonard Sweet challenges you to use all five senses to interact with God and others. Nudge will remind you that for God to do something though us, God must be doing something in us.

Here is the biography of the author:

Leonard Sweet is the E. Stanley Jones professor of evangelism at Drew University, Madison NJ, and a Visiting Distinguished Professor at George Fox University, Portland, Oregon. Sweet has been Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Theological School at Drew University for five years. and a chief contributor (along with his wife Karen Elizabeth Rennie) to the web-based preaching resource Sweet is the author of hundreds of articles and numerous books, including The Gospel According to Starbucks, 11, So Beautiful, AquaChurch 2.0 and Soul Tsunami. Sweet has held distinguished lectureships at various colleges, universities, and seminaries and has presented academic papers before major professional societies. The founder of SpiritVentures Ministries, Sweet is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences, state conventions, pastors’ schools, and retreats.

Here is an interview with Professor Sweet speaking about his book; I think it gives us a great view of his passion for people and Jesus:

I am really charged up by the perspective Professor Sweet brings to the subject of evangelism!

Here is how Professor Sweet explains his perspective in the Preface:

Evangelism for too long has been disconnected from discipleship. In Nudge, evangelism is discipleship. What yokes evangelism to discipleship, I propose, is the art of attention, attending to life and attending to God.
The art of attention goes something like this: You have an appointment with God. The address of that appointment? The dress of the next person you meet, whatever it is. Their dress is God’s address. Want to find God? Look in the face of the person next to you or the next person you meet.
You will not find in Nudge a gospel of religion; what you will find is a gospel of Christ. What’s the difference? The currency of the gospel of religion is fear and imposition. The currency of the gospel of Christ is love and invitation.
Love engenders a spirit of wonder, where fear spawns anger and distrust. Fear seeks to quash wonder and to impose. Love frees to wonder and invite. (p. 21)

In the Preface, he captures what the Gospel is all about:

In short, the gospel is the good news that Jesus is the way – in a world that has lost its way and when there seems to be no way; Jesus is the Truth – in a culture of lies where deceit is king; and Jesus is the life – in a world full of evangelists of death. Nudge is a call to evangelize life and to face death so that others may live. (p. 23)

Professor Sweet focuses on our five senses that we need to use for God’s glory:

1.   Pause: Use Your Ears – Do you Give Ear to God? – Hearing Jesus
2.   Presence: Taste – Do You Have a Stomach for the Kingdom? – Tasting Jesus
3.   Picture: Use Your Eyes – Do You Have a Vision for the Kingdom? – Seeing Jesus
4.   Ponder: Touch – Do You Have a Touch for the Kingdom? – Touching Jesus
5.   Promise: Use Your Nose – Do You Have L’eau de Jesus? – Breathing Jesus

I have had a tendency in the past (and now to a lesser extent) to separate the secular and the sacred. But I am seeing more and more that that is a man-made, artificial barrier. Here is Dr. Sweet’s take on that:

God meets us everywhere, in a bewildering variety of forms and fashions. Eighteenth-century hymn writer Isaac Watts called John’s book of Revelation “the opera of the apocalypse.” We grow giddy over mystic numbers, signs and seals, heraldic beasts and composite beings, but what about the opera of the everyday? The ordinary and mundane. John Updike believed his only duty as a writer was to “describe reality as it had come…to give the mundane its beautiful due.” Updike was a brilliant semiotician.
Nudge argues for the triangulation of all three: Scripture, Culture, Spirit. But we walk a tonal tightrope: in touch with the world but in tune with the Spirit through highly pitched souls, with heightened sensitivities that connect to the Scriptures and then to the Spirit and then to culture. (p. 43)

Professor Sweet explains what he means by one important term in this book:

Semiotics is the art and science of paying attention. Since evangelism is also the art and science of paying attention, I will argue that evangelism is semiotics. There is another book to be written on the prophetic role of reading the signs of semiotics. Nudge argues that a semiotics evangelism is more pay attention than attract attention. The best evangelists are not the attention getters, but attention givers. Yet the most attentive semiotician is hopeless if the sign is read yet misinterpreted. Our quest is to be so filled with the Spirit of God, and to be wearing interpretive Jesus goggles, that we not only notice, but are able to interpret and respond. (p. 50)

We need to give God this most important gift to Him:

The greatest gift we can give God is our passionate attention, which as we have seen, is but another word for prayer. God pervades the world through the Spirit, but for most of us we live in a world without regard. The writer of Hebrews even goes so far as to suggest that the key to staying faithful and on with track with the Spirit is our attentiveness. “Pay more careful attention…to have we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” “Drift away” is a nautical phrase that beautifully conveys how easy it is for us to stray and go adrift without the focus of attentiveness.
Our inattentiveness to the world contrasts so sharply to Jesus’ attentiveness to all of creation. Jesus was a “dawn collector” who found God’s Spirit in all things, in all aspects of the natural world, both animate (birds, animals, flowers, seeds) and inanimate (pots, coins), yet showed how we can experience God’s Spirit in ways that are beyond and “beneath language.” (p. 54)

 There has to be interest on our part to see the Lord:

You have to want to see Jesus to see him. God is already present everywhere and anywhere. But God doesn’t enter where God isn’t invited. Jesus does not force himself on us. Jesus is everywhere to be found knocking about and knocking. But he must be invited in. We must want the divine touch for God to touch us, and deep listening changes the desires of our hearts. As the poet of the Lord has written, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Jesus spoke in parables so that not everyone would “get it.” He unveiled the mystery only a tad, letting glimpses of truth escape. But only if you wanted to get it was Jesus willing to explain his parables and to reveal the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” and then he was eager to help. But he was not going to throw pearls before swine. (p. 85)

I have to admit that this book took me a long time to read, because it is so packed with content; it is not a book to be skimmed over! Professor Sweet is a deep thinker. This is the first title by him that I have read. He gave me a lot to ponder, and I think I will be pondering and ruminating on this one for a long time to come. If you like reading books that make you think, this one is for you!  

You can order this book here.

This book was published by David C. Cook and provided by The B & B Media Group for review purposes.

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