A note of disclosure: As viral marketing is all the rage these days, publishers will often send out free copies of books to bloggers in exchange for a review on their site.  One such title that I recently completed is Off-Road Disciplines by Earl Creps.

Earl Creps, by his own description, is a 53-year old man who takes Lipitor.  Not exactly what a person might expect from someone who writes extensively about the emerging church.  Now, just hearing any variation of the phrase “emerging” might send some readers into either a fierce attack mode or equally fierce defensive mode.  Throughout the book, Creps speaks with a very humble voice that, hopefully, can serve to bridge the ever-widening expanse between these two camps.

Though much of the book seems to be written with the intent of helping baby boomers understand upcoming generations, I found that much of Creps’ writing actually gave me (an Xer serving Millennials) insight into the boomer perspective.  His purpose in writing this book is to develop missional leaders.  As he writes in the introduction,

Missional leaders see the world through the eyes of Jesus and see Jesus in the world. They assume the role of helping the body of Christ understand itself and make of it much more than a missionary sending agency, as if the “mission field” existed only somewhere else to be reached by someone else. Rather, these leaders cannot conceive of the Church apart from living the mission of God to touch the world with redeeming love in Christ… For missional leaders, then, mission does not refer to a framed paragraph hanging on the wall in the lobby… it refers instead to the Church’s very reason for being. To remove it or replace does not just make the Church less effective; it changes the Church into something else…

Creps structures his book into two parts.  The first deals with the personal spiritual disciplines a missional leader should develop; the second with organizational disciplines in which such churches must engage.  Creps is extremely well-versed in the language of leadership — from both within the church and outside of it.  I must admit that I found myself lost, at times, in some of the vocabulary he borrows from the business world.  He shares relevant personal anecdotes throughout the book to highlight major points.

When writing about the discipline of spiritual friendship with those who do not follow Christ, Creps creates a new vocabulary for the Church.  Instead of referring to such people as souls with ears (yuck),  pagans, sinners, or even seekers or pre-Christians, Creps encourages us to think of these people as the sought.  This, he writes, “puts the emphasis on God’s mission in Christ on a wayward planet. A missional person, then, cultivates “Seeker-sensitivity” by staying attuned and cooperative with God’s efforts to reach the sought by expressing the power of Christ’s death and resurrection through the Church in its many forms.”

In some ways, this reminds me of efforts by Louie Giglio, Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin to replace our language of “worship leader” with “lead worshiper.”  More than just clever wordplay (like the Sphinx in Mystery Men, who loved to reverse phrases), these re-workings of familiar phrases force us to reconsider our perspective on significant issues about which we probably would not give a second thought.

Toward the end of the book, I found Creps’ discussion about Timothy as a “third culture” leader to be very insightful.  Third culture people, according to Creps, “bond both to their homeland and to their adopted nation, creating a virtual citizenship that does not exactly represent either.”  This exegetical work on the relationship between Paul and Timothy has an important impact on both emerging and Asian American church leaders, who routinely find themselves walking a fine line between two vastly different cultures.

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