Review: Messy: God Likes It That Way


A.J. Swoboda writes like he's trying to do praise song lyrics. No complete sentences. Just thoughts. Flying at you from the page. Yet this very fragmented, sometimes grammatically chaotic style reflects his main point: Christians aren't perfect, and the church is as messy as the world. When God creates out of nothing, He first makes the nothing, the unformed matter, and then proceeds to shape it over time into something very good. And here, now, we are in that shaping process, and the fragments of unfinished material are both around and within us. Church, then, is not a place to get fed. It is a place to bless others. Real community can only be found among people who acknowledge the mess in their lives and stop trying to pretend that everything is perfect. Perfect people reside in the pages of fashion magazines, not in your church-or in your home. Christ kept His scars, even after He rose again.

Messy (Kregel Publications, 2012) is hilariously funny. Certain passages simply beg to be read aloud to innocent bystanders: "Santa is the ultimate hipster. He works one a day a year and judges you the rest."

Such doses of humor come at a price. Reverence is not Swoboda's strong point, and the theologically straitlaced will find his book more offensive than helpful. After describing the Hebrew word for the Holy Spirit as feminine, the Greek word as neuter, and the Latin word as masculine, Swoboda tells us that the Spirit has undergone "a sex change."

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Pastor Swoboda has his congregants make out their checks to Jesus. That same quirkiness bordering on sacrilege drives his whole book. Most of what he says is true. He just translates, and sometimes overtranslates, into today's like most banal idiom.

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson

Caleb is the pastor of Harvest Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Gillette, Wyoming.


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