As you all know, I don’t write book reviews as such. But, I would like to tell you about this book that I just finished reading. In some ways I read it twice, maybe three times in the one sitting. That is, I read the beginning. I read some of the chapters in the middle. Then I read the last chapter. Then I read the whole book right through. I pick up a lot more when I do that. And, so, I think I can fill you in with my thoughts now that I’ve had a day to think on it.
The basic premise
An old church in a fictional (?) American suburb, Centreville, has just retired their pastor and is at risk of having to close. One of the elders, Samuel Mason, is not prepared to let go and wants to convince his fellow elders that what they need is a new, younger pastor, to help revive their church and congregation. They seem to find the answer to their prayers in Paul Hudson, who is the son of a famous televangelist, and has his own impressive resumé. However, as time passes, and the church does begin to grown in numbers, it becomes apparent that Pastor Paul has views that do not gel with those of the elders. Nor with God’s mandate for the Church.
The novel spans the many years that Paul is at the helm of the church in Centreville and covers the good and the bad of church life in the small town in the last few decades.
Every single character in the tale is relatable. There are several main characters, though I would have to say the main main protagonist would have to be Paul Hudson. Though, to get all spiritual on you, perhaps God is the main character.
Paul Hudson – so full of faith to begin with, but then falls for the trap of leadership and materialist view of the world.
Stephen Decker – the skeptic, divorcee with an estranged daughter, a contractor/builder who is convinced, initially, by Paul’s vision, but then is hurt through the process.
Sheila Atherton – bethsheba… a woman who is married to a rich man but doesn’t love him and comes onto Paul during marriage counselling sessions.
Eunice Hudson – at odds with her husband, but on fire for God.
Timmy Hudson – the Rebel, the son that gets left behind, but doesn’t allow it to destroy his relationship with Christ in the long term.
Lois Hudson – Submissive wife, wonderful grandmother to Timmy, ultimately a strong woman of God.
David Hudson – (what makes a Christian?) The famous televangelist father that Paul is always trying to impress, and forgetting that it’s God he needs to impress, and not man.
Samuel Mason and Abby Mason – Faithful servants of the Lord, faithful prayer warriors. Build an amazing friendship with Eunice and Timmy.
Otis and Hollis – Voices of the Past, but very much in love with Jesus. At loggerheads with Paul.
These characters resonate in my mind long after ending the book, and make me think a lot.
One particular thought I have is pertinent in the season I am in at the moment, and this is it:
Building churches – The trap of materialism v serving God
This tale makes me ponder my own church. And really think about what we’re building. Pondering what the wider church is building in our city. Where is the focus? Growing disciples for God, or adding numbers to our church congregations? Both are important. I know that, and all this shows me is that I need to focus on God, and pray.