Today I’m delighted to be reviewing a book which, since I first read it over the Christmas break, has been immensely formative, helpful and thought provoking. Rich Nathan – one of my favourite authors who has influenced me profoundly – and Insoo Kim have done the church a huge favour with their new book, ‘Both-And: Living the Christ-Centered Life in an Either-Or World’. This book offers a way forward/out of the ‘culture wars’ approach of many American evangelicals, navigating the tension of staying faithful and reaching out.
Kim and Nathan are both pastors (ministry and senior, respectively) at Vineyard Columbus – I’m looking forward to hearing Kim speak at the Society of Vineyard Scholars Conference this coming week, and intend to get along to the saturday evening service – a huge church with a reputation for a wife and welcoming set of ministries. Size isn’t everything, however, and this book goes some way towards offering an underlying theology for much of Vineyard Columbus. It is worth noting that in some ways this book is something of an update (in terms of intent, market, and readership) to ‘Empowered Evangelicals‘, which Nathan previously authored with Ken Wilson. In this sense, ‘Both-And’ is a call for the church to be something, but specifically written too/for the Vineyard Movement.
The authors write to/in an American culture that is notoriously either or – republican/democrat, right/left, pro-choice/pro-life, and so on. This book demonstrates the unique, or at least pioneering, contribution that the Vineyard movement can make. Since the beginning, Vineyard has attempted to walk a tightrope down the radical middle – between the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream of Christianity, and the Evangelical stream. Seeking to hold things in tension. This recognition underpins the first chapter – Nathan and Kim call us to be both evangelical and Charismatic.
The basic formula for this book is simple, and profound. Because our centre is Christ, the church does not have to buy in to the either/or nature of culture. A contentious example would be the LGBT conversation – often we are told that Christians must either be ‘anti-gay’ or ‘pro-gay’. This, of course, is a nonsense, and I’d encourage readers to check out ‘Living Out‘ as an alternative story. Racing through the chapters in broad strokes, Kim and Nathan call us to both mercy and justice in our concern, both proclamation and demonstration in method, and to both relevant practice and orthodox doctrine in our calling as a movement.
Part of the theological impetus for Kim and Nathan’s both/and paradigm comes from the underlying kingdom theology of the Vineyard movement. Occasionally ignored in the Vineyard for two reasons – an over-realised desire for the gifts, or an over-developed reliance on systems – kingdom theology is carefully explored in chapters 11 and 12, under the heading ‘What is our Expectation?’, with the authors noting that it is both already and not yet. This is key – and echoes the Christ-centredness of the book, and indeed (we hope!) the Vineyard movement. I love the closing words of the book’s epilogue, titled ‘Follow Me’:
“We are called to be both/and… But none of this is done by moderate people who pursue a gospel of moderation. Taking up our cross to follow Jesus means to radically and passionately walk on the high wire of Both-And Christianity!“
As you can probably tell (and careful readers of several previous posts have probably noted!) I am a huge fan of this book, and the theological/ecclesiological/discipleship method espoused within it. I think that Nathan and Kim are successful in navigating the tensions that define the Vineyard, and that in that navigation, they have written a book that issues a challenge to the wider evangelical world. I will certainly be referring to this little red book for a while, and would recommend it to those who are in leadership in the Vineyard/evangelical churches, and also to those seeking to understand the Vineyard.
(I reviewed this book back in 2014, but have republished this review on my new blog)