I picked up a copy of Provocative Faith at a local used bookstore here in Nashville last week. After reading two of Matthew Paul Turner’s other books, Churched and Hear No Evil, I jumped at the opportunity to read another. As my luck would have it, not only was the book $.75, but it was also autographed. It was as if I had stumbled upon a hidden goldmine in the Christian section of the store.
Turner is also the creator of the blog jesusneedsnewpr.net, and the thing that I appreciate most about his blog and his books is his honesty. He tells it like it is, much to the chagrin of many people in the Christian community. Not only is he open about his opinions regarding current issues facing Church today, but he is also open about his conservative Christian upbringing and how it shaped him into the man he is today.
In Provocative Faith, Turner tells what he has learned by developing an intimate relationship with God. There were so many things that are worth sharing from this book, but there are three main things that I learned from reading this book (Plus, you should just buy a copy for yourself).
1. Expect a relationship with Christ to change your life.
Turner writes, “By the time I was in my mid-twenties, my faith in Jesus Christ had become more of a habit than a life-altering existence” (27). This sentence jumped off the page at me, because it is something that I have struggled with for so many years. In church, we tend to refer to this as “going through the motions,” and it is not exciting. But when everything seems to click – that point where what’s habitual becomes life-altering – embrace it. Run with it.
2. Develop a personal statement of faith.
Every organization has a mission statement. It is something that guides their decisions and motivates them to perform. Develop one for yourself, and see what happens. Turner writes about a conversation that he had with a girl named Kendall Payne. As she shares her story, she says, “My faith is no longer is the God I believe in; my faith rests solidly now in the God who is” (119). In a few words, Kendall is able to define the cornerstone of her relationship with God.
3. Understand that God is always good.
This is a hard one because things don’t always seem good to us. It’s easy to trust God when everything is just peachy in your life. Turner writes, “Most of us are quick to say that Jesus is good. But often his good and our expectations do not match. So instead of trusting his ways to be perfect and good, we get angry with him for not responding” (57). It’s easy to become frustrated by unmet expectations, especially when you were banking on God to come through for you in the clutch.
By developing an intimate relationship with God, you’ll be able to see that God is still good in those times; your expectations just weren’t in His plan. By having a faith that God is good, it reduces your likely hood to cuss and shake your fists at Him when things don’t go your way.
The theme of this book can be summed up in one profound sentence: “I know that if the life of a Christian reflects anything close to what Jesus intends, the result is provocative, controversial, stimulating, and confrontational” (185). It’s okay to have a provocative, controversial faith. It sure beats a boring, stale one.
(Buy Provocative Faith. It’s only 190 pages. I don’t want to oversell it, but it will probably change your life.)