Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living was written by Ed Stetzer and Phillip Nation and published by New Hope Publishers. Stetzer is the director of LifeWay Christian Resources and Nation is a church planting missionary in north Metro Atlanta.
Compelled is broken up into three parts. The first, “Death by Love: God and Mission” looks at how the three persons of the Trinity love and how their love applies to our relationships and ministry. The second part, “Identifying Love: The Church in the World” looks at how we are shaped by love. This section really highlights the way that love works itself out in the context of the Christian community. I would say that this is the central argument of the text. The third part, “Formed by Love: Believers and the World” looks at how the church is to interact with the non-Christian world within which it finds itself. This section I think is the most important as it challenges the presumptions of the status quo.
There were two chapters that stood out among the rest. The first was Chapter 9 where Stetzer and Nation push back on the popularity of bashing the Church. They argued quiet well that if you say that you love Jesus then you will love his church. The vision cast for the necessity and centrality of the local church is fantastic. It might be one of the most simple and clearly stated arguments for the local church that I have read. The quote from James Emery White has really stuck in my mind over the last few days, “The church is not simply the vanguard of kingdom advance; it is the entire assault force (145)”. When we pick on the church we are picking on the very bride of Christ. We must love what Christ loves, and Christ died for his church.
The second chapter that really stood out was Chapter 12, “Called to Love: Living a Missionary Passion for the Lost”. Here Stetzer and Nation challenge the deep rooted selfishness that is inherent in the Christian community by walking through the Jonah narrative. They are calling the church to a renewed sense of contextualized service. I was reminded again that I am a Jonah, as most of us are, willing to serve God on my terms in my ways. How many times do we miss the God-sized redemptive opportunities around us because we are pouting in a corner as a result of not getting our way?
In conclusion, I can’t really find too many weaknesses with this text. I think in future printings (yes, it’s that good) it would be helpful to see an appendix with some best practices for individuals and churches to be able to look to as a model. By no means a claim of a “magic bullet” or a “recipe for missional ministry” but just some jumping off points. I think some of the people in my life will read this and wonder, “OK, now what? How do I DO this?”