Book Review: Impossible is a Dare

Working for SPCK, the UK’s leading and largest Christian publisher, means I get to read alot of books. Some of them are brilliant. Some are average. Some are awful. Some, though, make you sit up, read them at the weekend, and think about ways of recommending them. Impossible is a Dare, by Ben Cooley, is one of the latter.

Impossible is a Dare by Ben Cooley

This is a book that is brilliant for two reasons. First, and foremost, it is a brilliant story. The short history and brilliant work of Hope for Justice, of which Ben Cooley is one of the co-founders, is authentically and honestly told. Secondly, as I’ve previously blogged, this is a book with a message that the world needs to hear. That message, hidden in plain sight in the title, is not an unthinking triumphalism. The way that Ben works his passion out is inspiring – not least as he carefully unpacks the importance of policy and oversight, strategy and vision, as well as the ‘exciting’ stuff. This is a book, then, about worship, the kind of worship God wants, with eyes fully fixed on the future and hands and feet fully engaged in the present.

This book isn’t for everyone. This is a difficult book to read, because of the subject matter. Ben focuses, as he has focused his life, mission and ministry, on the subject of modern-day slavery. This book is peppered with stories of brutality. Some end well. Others don’t. This is a book about justice in all its gory detail, not for armchair horror fans, but for those of us willing to really engage. The book ends with an invitation to join Ben and Hope for Justice in ending slavery. Ben’s fast paced writing style, inescapable enthusiasm and passion, not to mention the way he models even in the writing of the book the kind of leadership he suggests, mean that this is a book that I found very hard to put down.

This book is one of few I’ve read where the character of the author is both fundamental and not as distracting as you’d think. In some books – like Journeys in Grace and Truth, for example – the presence of the editor or author is overwhelming, distracting, and ultimately infuriating. In this book, despite Ben clearly being larger than life (google him, or follow him on Instagram, if you need evidence) he is careful not to get in the way of what he’s saying, and also to radically give the stage over to other people too. The book is peppered with stories told from other people’s perspective. Some of them are refreshingly honest about the main authors failings. This is a warts and all book, and it is better for it.

The core message of this book is anti-slavery. The secondary message is two fold – firstly, that what seems impossible might not be, and Ben dares you to give it a go – and secondly, that leadership is in need of some serious subversion. The language of Impossible is a Dare resonated with me – I’ll write a little blog post about it soon. The stuff on leadership in this book is also brilliant. Ben is advocating and modelling an open form of leadership, which empowers people and recognises the weakness of individuals. A lot of his God stories are about Ben’s weakness, and there are some chuckle-worthy moments as God places the people Ben needs on his path.

In closing, then, this is a brilliant little book. Buy and read it because it is inspirational and harrowing on the challenge of human trafficking and modern day slavery. Buy it and read it if you’ve ever been told your dream is impossible. Buy it if, like me, you find the language and practice/culture of leadership that you find in the world (And often infecting the Church) to be missing something.

Go on, I dare you.

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