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A Review of
Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be
Paperback: Tyndale Momentum, 2014
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
For many years now, I have had a tenuous relationship with the label “evangelical.” On one hand, I have wanted to stay connected and in conversation with the tradition in which I was raised. On the other hand, I was so frustrated with almost everything that evangelicalism represented, and especially how it had come to be so closely bound with right-wing partisan politics. Even today, I still waiver on whether to call myself an evangelical. Lance Ford, author of the new book Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be, is an evangelical; he writes in a manner that will be compelling to evangelicals, richly steeped in scripture, and full of stories that will connect with evangelicals. And yet, Ford is out to define a new sort of evangelicalism. He describes this “revangelicalism”:
Revangelicals are followers of Jesus who have moved beyond merely favoring Jesus with their belief in him and have committed themselves to actually following him with the substance of their day-to-day lives. They take Jesus’ words very personally, and often quite literally, and are convinced that his example is indeed a livable model and standard for us to emulate. Revangelicals are those who seek to live their lives as Good News people of the Kingdom of Heaven, even if it costs them the American Dream. Revangelicals don’t necessarily fit into political boxes. They refuse to let the Good News that Jesus proclaimed become co-opted and distilled by ideologies that conflict with the life and practice that Jesus taught and modeled.
Not only does this description fit my experience – and that of many other Christians I know – but the whole of this book resonates with the ways in which evangelicalism needs to be transformed. Ford has structured the book around nine practices (all of which start with the prefix “re-“) that he believes will move evangelicalism out of its present state and into a culture of deeper faithfulness to the way of Jesus, one that actually can be understood by our neighbors as good news.
The arc of Ford’s argument over the course of the book will be familiar to many evangelicals – re-calibrate, repent, re-commit, reconcile, represent, renew, restore, reunite, reposition. This language, and especially the first few terms, are reminiscent of an evangelical presentation of the Gospel, but Ford very carefully and stealthily redefines each of these terms, shifting our gaze at every step of the way from what evangelical culture has become to Jesus and his mission in the world.
I love what Lance Ford is doing in this book, not jumping ship and trying to create an alternative to evangelicalism, but rather speaking clearly and directly to evangelicals, challenging them to imagine new and deeper ways of following Jesus that are more consistent with the good news by which they identify themselves. I hope and pray that his message will be heard and put into practice. I know that I will be sharing this book with many of my friends who are deeply committed to traditional evangelical churches!
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com