This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God by Rick McKinley
Rick McKinley, Pastor of Imago Dei Community, is the leader of a congregation that has left its footprint in the Portland area by its social activities. This book, This Beautiful Mess, is a revised and updated version of the same book originally published in 2006. The goal of the book is to see “A vision of a King who is loving and good and who reign has changed everything. A vision of a new realm of activity in His power that is breaking in and yet is not without opposition. A vision desperately needed for the people of God today” (xvii). Having just finished The Next Evangelicals, I was somewhat familiar with the movement in Portland of evangelical churches to engage the city, a town with a very secular bent. The kingdom mindset that Rick has in mind is one that is a force to wreckon with and takes place with ordinary people doing kingdom minded things on a regular basis.
What I really enjoyed about this book is that Rick asked the right question’s in each of his chapters. In the chapter on money entitled Stamp of Empire. Very quickly most of us rush through the check-out line to purchase our clothes, seldom do we ask, “Will this transaction be a good deal for everyone?” (124). In other words, is my purchase of these jeans good for the person who made them in a sweatshop 5,000 miles across the globe, or is my consumer habits bringing down some girl in Malaysia? These type of moral and theological questions affect the way we steward the money God provides for us. In another example, it is wise to invest some time and research to finding out how much of your charitable donations goes to helping that particular need and how much goes to administrative costs. Another question that Rick highlights is the push to ask, “How can we money simply as a way to bring about God’s goodness and healing to others” (124). These kinds of questions get at the motivation and heart of financial spending, and in turn, also point out the idolatry of our lives being consumed with it.
In the chapter on Sharing the News About Our King, Mike delves into the topic of sharing our faith to others. He makes it clear that when we are living the Jesus life, the sharing of our faith flows out of the events and activities in every sphere of life. Why is this so important? Often, we get the idea that if we share a few facts about Jesus and lead someone to a rote prayer, then this is the end of sharing our faith. But, if we begin with sharing our tangible experience of God’s grace in Christ through stories of his unfailing love, his pursuit of our children, our marriage, then people see that faith in Jesus matters for all our life and not just one faith compartment (90-91). In real life, this kind of sharing our faith hits the ground running as we face the death of a loved one, cancer, and many different kinds of horrific evil because we walk through tragedy with the same faith that we walk through celebration. We weep at the rejection of Jesus and at the moving away of a friend, for walking with Jesus gives us the grace to open our entire lives to Him.
Lastly, Rick’s chapter on Hardships involving suffering was spot on. He comments that, “First, we are seeing that we need to suffer with those who suffer” (137). Western Christians are not necessarily involved in the kind of physical, spiritual, and social suffering that many people in other countries go through. Yet, as Rick points out, we can carry the burdens from others who suffer by connecting in relationship with them, finding out what it is that they need most, and providing prayer support for them. Giving money is a good thing but also being relationally involved means a great deal to people dealing with suffering.
I really enjoyed this book and hope others will be encouraged by it. Rick has a kingdom focus that sees God’s sovereign grace at the heart of all things.
Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for review.