Change for the First Time, Again: A Story of Change and How Change is our Story
Paperback: Resource Publications, 2016.
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Reviewed by Jessica Hudson
This most recent publication of work by author Scott Lencke is without doubt the most enjoyable paperback I have sat down to digest in a number of years. It is just the book I want to have with a cup of my favorite coffee in my most comfortable chair. Indeed, the further in it I read, the more I felt the impression that I might as well be sitting across a table in a pub with the author, comfortably sharing our stories together.
However, to begin, as I read the introduction, the ideas that made their way through my mind were common themes to life in the twenty-first century – our transient, technology-steeped society, and the ways in which change is constant in such a society. Lencke weaves these themes subtly through the entire book’s process of the sharing of his personal story. Indeed, I can say there are overlapping layers of beautiful depth and meaning throughout the progression of his story. Not overtly in the beginning, but as the book progresses, he integrates Biblical insights and drama into his testimony, definitely revealing his knowledge of Biblical history and hermeneutics, but in a warm, winsome manner; never in a dry, pedantic style. The terminology that most stood out to me and that I found myself highlighting while reading it were terms such as renewal, restoration, healing, patience, and faithfulness.
Ken Steorts begins his foreword to the work by stating, “To change is to be human.” This sentence in itself warrants some thoughtful consideration. From the perspective of someone with any significant amount of theological training, any consideration of what constitutes true humanity introduces the question of how sin factors in. Is the reality of change due to the presence of sin? Other things I am currently reading were brought to mind as I read further into Lencke’s story, such as the following by Robert Sherman in Covenant, Community, and the Spirit: A Trinitarian Theology of Church (Baker, 2015), “The beginning of the biblical trajectory suggests that God’s intention for humanity as a whole is not to remain in a ‘natural’ or static state. The earth exists as a dynamic, thriving place, full of potential and energy” (Sherman, 10). Indeed, there are so many elements of Biblical history that point toward truths of Sabbath, new creation, repentance, and God’s forgiveness and restoration. Lencke briefly includes some references to some of these Biblical places, mostly from the New Testament, but a more overarching sweep of his writing views Scripture in its storytelling nature; the myriad genres and vehicles of literature that make up the “library” of Scripture. Lencke also hints toward how formational a doctrine of God’s kingdom has been in his life as a follower of Christ; as he states, “the church is ultimately subservient to the kingdom” (33).
There is a humility and transparency about Lencke’ s own life that shines through in his work. He is quite clear about his own weaknesses and the elements of his personality that have proven to be beneficial as well as detrimental in his life. As the reader, there was a pervading sense of emphasis on patience for the slow process of change in any Christian who is gradually being conformed to – transformed into – the image of Jesus Christ through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This transformation is nothing quick, neither painless or without awkwardness or uncertainty. However – without trying to fit everything into a neat, tidy theological box, but somehow in an extremely holistic and even artistic manner – Lencke communicates a confident trust in the sovereign purposes of God that allows for the free exploration of the children of the heavenly Father into what His purposes are.
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
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From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
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