Book Review: Connecting Like Jesus

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Over the last couple of days I’ve been reading a new book, published by SPCK, and authored by Tony Campolo and Mary Darling. “Connecting Like Jesus” is an interesting book, its subtitle “Practices for Healing, Teaching, and Preaching”, making it clear that it is a practical book. I’ve mixed views regarding Campolo’s recent pronouncements, but I was relieved to find that this book is not one full of controversial theological statements, but rather one that does seek to aid us in connecting like Jesus.

“Connecting Like Jesus” sounds like something a huge number of Christians (myself most definitely included) would like to do, and to do better. Whilst what Campolo and Darling suggest isn’t foolproof, or in line with certain traditions, they do offer a really helpful blueprint for relating to people within and without the Church. That in itself is a strength of the book – written by Christians for Christians, this is not a book for a Church that is a holy huddle: this is a book designed to equip and empower Christians to live in the reality of the Kingdom of God, and to take it out of the four walls of the Church.

Campolo and Darling set the book out superbly – basing all that they write on a concept they use called “Spiritually Charged Communication”. Rather than being a slightly bonkers neo-religious mystic technique, the fundamentals of this (At least as far as I understand it) are basically letting God’s Word (The Bible) fill your communication, and to be aware of the spiritual dimension and individual needs of every person you communicate with. This starting point provides a useful under-girding principle for the whole book, which is made up of three key parts. Strung throughout the entire book are excerpts from interviews with Brian MacLaren (who I’m personally concerned by some of the time, but also know that he has some fantastic challenges to bring), Mindy Caliguire (who I hadn’t heard of before) and Shane Claibourne (who is a fantastically radical follower of Jesus). Looking back, Campolo and Darling also draw on the sermons and writings of John Wesley, who has a fine, God-fearing voice.

The bulk of the book focuses on ‘Soul-Healing’, and it is crucial to note that the practice here is less an esoteric, bizarre cultish activity, but instead an attempt to bring God’s Kingdom message of Grace to bear on our hearts and minds. In this section are chapters dealing with Conflict, Narrative, and several other key areas. The closing section of book is delivered by Campolo, “Practices for Teaching and Preaching”. Its interesting how Campolo crafts this section: if nothing else the book is worth buying to see what makes Campolo such a powerful and easy-to listen-to speaker. And yes, his story about saying “s***” in a sermon makes it in.

I’d recommend this book to those who are communicators and leaders, but not to everyone. It is sufficiently ‘going deeper into the obvious’ that some will be frustrated, but it is also deep enough that it does bring some genuinely useful, genuinely new content to bear on the area of Christian communication. I was grateful that Campolo and Darling don’t fall into the trap of following and copying the corporate and secular world. You can get the book now from SPCK.

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