Take Heartby Matt Chandler
Length: Approximately 3 hours. To read (123 pages).
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Author Matt Chandler tells us that we are living in an age of unbelief. We are not to pull back completely from the culture and become a complete sub-culture as Christians. We are not to become inclusive and attempt to fully be a part of the culture. No, the authors call us to courage in this age of unbelief. With his usual wit, and strong biblical exposition Matt Chandler calls us as Christians to take heart and be difference makers in the time period and culture God has placed us in.
Who should read this?
This book is written with great power and strength, but very readable for all Christians. The stories, witty humor, and great explanation of the biblical themes allow for all believers to reap great benefits from reading this work. Pastors can use this as a great resource for those they are shepherding. Particularly, those that are struggling with living in this current culture climate.
Most believers today are struggling and wrestling with how we respond to our culture as Christians. This has been a constant struggle since the dawn of the church over 2,000 years ago. Christians have responded in many different forms over the years, some good, some with extremes. In Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief, author Matt Chandler calls all Christians to engage our culture with great courage. He desires for us to find balance in our engagement with the culture.
The authors begin the book by presenting the case for the “age of unbelief” we are currently living with in America. By giving examples from Bernie Sanders and the culture of “intolerance over intolerance”, we see the world we are living in today. Chandler proposes for us the question of how we will respond to this world we are interacting with. He gives us four options to choose from in our engagement with culture. First, we can try to convert the culture to our biblical standards. Second, we can condemn the culture, leading to complete separation from the world. Third, we can just plain consume the culture, leading to compromise on major teaching from the Bible.
Lastly, we can find great balance by being courageous as a part of this age of unbelief. Chandler adds here, “With courage, this season of history can be viewed not with fear and trepidation, but instead with hope and a sense of opportunity” (19).
With this understanding of the way we can approach this culture the authors give us a history lesson on how we got here. Through Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the official religion, changing almost overnight our standing in the world. Matt Chandler argues that while certainly there are benefits to this event in Christian history, there were also downfalls including the social club and consumerism aspects we see in the church today.
He argues here that the church can thrive as it moves towards the margins of society by bringing more purity to the church and a deeper desire to share the love of Christ with others.
The writers then share with us the need to know God and His Word more in order to be courageous in the culture. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what compels us to engage our culture in a way that brings glory to God. Chandler says, “God isn’t looking for polished, perfect people. He’s always worked through people who know they are sinners and who are amazed that they have been saved” (41). The authors argue that God provides to us so many blessings, riches, and wisdom that allow us to reach our culture.
Chandler and Roark really impress on the readers the Hebrew idea of Shalom, which means peace. There is a longing in all Christians that there be restoration and peace on earth. The only way to find this is through the work of Jesus Christ. The authors call all Christians to be a part of that work and courageously interact with those around us.
Through the narrative of scripture Chandler shows us that God is a warrior that came in the flesh through Jesus to bring the Shalom we all need. How do we join in this victory? One way comes by salvation through Christ, and then “person by person, the church takes the victory out to the world as we proclaim the gospel of Christ” (69).
The last three chapters of this book center on the application of being courageous in this age of unbelief we are in the midst of. One of the ways starts with admitting that we are becoming more and more like exiles in this world. Secondly, courage looks like standing firm on the grace of God that we have been given.
Thirdly, we must show holiness and integrity in our conduct. Chandler stresses that we show less concern about behavior and more about posture as we strive to be courageous in the culture. Lastly, he discusses the importance of being evangelistic in all the areas of our daily lives.
The authors give us some very personal and challenging tasks that drive us towards action in being courageous with our culture. They begin by reminding us of the need to go and that the power to go comes from Jesus in the Great Commission of Matthew 28. One of the practical aspects that is highlighted at the end the work is the need for evangelistic hospitality.
Inviting neighbors, co-workers, and those friends your kids rub shoulders with into your lives for the purpose of sharing the love of Christ with them. Chandler writes, “When the Bible speaks of hospitality, it almost always ties it to aliens and strangers – that is, to people who are not like us” (96). They give several practical tips and personal stories here to illustrate how this all works out. They argue that hospitality like this takes great courage and patience for believers.
The book closes with a challenge to take heart and face with Spirit-led courage the time the Lord has placed us in. We should accept the challenge given to us because we serve a God that is bigger than any of these issues.
In America today, Christianity is losing its grip as a flourishing and accepted part of the culture we are living in. Many pundits, bloggers, and authors are commenting and giving ways to react to this eroding influence of our faith on the world we live in. Many are living on the extremes of pulling back fully from the culture like in Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option.
Some are living in the other extreme of caving to the culture. Many have sacrificed the truth of God’s Word for acceptance in the culture. In Take Heart Matt Chandler and David Roark instead take the path of engaging the culture with courage, despite the massive amounts of unbelief and resistance we will face.
One of the greatest strengths of this book is the personal nature Chandler uses in writing this book. His leadership with The Village Church and Acts 29 provides him a voice that is respected and a prophetic voice of seeing the culture’s current movements. Eric Mason’s endorsement of the book says it all, “Matt is a voice I trust. Pick this up to get pointed in the right direction.” His personal illustrations, including his admissions of wrong doing in this area are refreshing and a great model for all believers. The author is a great man of conviction in his preaching, leadership, and shepherding, giving great credence to what he is writing here. We truly can trust he will live by what he writes in this work.
The way the authors outlined this book was particularly helpful for those reading through it. They presented the problem then gave historical background to see how we arrived here, finishing up with the solution for the current cultural climate we are dealing with in America today. One of the highlights of their solution is the chapter on looking to God for our answer above all and first. It truly shows how great of resource this book can be for all that are followers of Christ.
This book is very readable, alongside the powerful illustrations that make it very engaging. It really feels throughout the book like you are getting a one-on-one sermon from one of the most engaging preachers around today in Matt Chandler.
Another great strength of this book is the author’s willingness to hit deep with conviction where it is needed. There has been a way of dealing with the culture recently that will not work with our current status as Christians in the culture. Chandler is willing to push back against the “Religious Right” mentality and move us towards a more biblical and healthy way of engaging the culture. He comments that, “The church after Christendom can, by God’s grace rediscover that courage and rediscover that mission” (36).
One of the poignant sections that convicted me personally was about missional hospitality. I desire to invite more non-believers into my family’s daily life, and the author reminded us here that this is a way we can show courage in our current cultural climate.
Most importantly I believe the writers’ standing on the authority of God to direct our current path was the most helpful. We must stand on God’s Word alone to show us the way as we engage the culture we are living in with courage. It gives us the power and passion we need to do it rightly. So many of the other works written on this subject do not focus enough on scripture to drive the argument and persuade the readers.
Another impactful area for me personally was when he discussed the Hebrew word Shalom (peace). He moved through the history of Israel, ending with the Revelation 21-22 look at the return to Shalom the Lord desires for all of us. This really hit home with the main application of having courage in this age of unbelief.
One of the critiques I have for this book would be using more illustrations from his church and personal life where this idea of courage in the culture are fleshed out. There are a few sprinkled in, but I would have liked to see this more in action here. Many times it can be easy to be stuck on the theoretical knowledge of following this biblical path, but not enough illustrative proof that it works well. I am sure many of the readers including myself will see the benefit of this direction as we live it out in our own personal lives.
One of the points made several times throughout the book that I would push back on a bit is that the times the church is the center focus of society is always negative. I believe that the church is and does flourish on the margins as proposed here.
There are certainly dangers involved with church as the central point of culture, as we have seen in America. However, I believe that the Lord did do lots of good things during the times when the church has been the focal point of a culture. It faced a lot less martyrdom and saw the Gospel spread to many places it had not before. We need to show balance here as we discuss this topic.
Overall, this book is an excellent, very accessible read that is good for all believers as we move to the future. This work is important in light of other books that have been written recently on the topic that live in the extremes of facing the culture. I would highly recommend pastors and church leaders giving these out to those they are shepherding.
Christians are facing a culture that is resistant to any influence from our faith in the world. We are living in an ever-increasing age of unbelief. Matt Chandler and David Roark in their book Take Heart offer a challenge to engage the culture with great courage that brings great glory to the God that we serve. We do not need to be afraid of the cultural trends we are facing. We can take heart during this time of unbelief because, “You were literally, made for this moment. This is a great time to be a Christian. Take heart” (119).
“Until Christ returns, this world will never look as it should. You can’t use politics to build the New Jerusalem, and you can’t legislate people into the kingdom of God.” (15)
“the more a government tries to subject and destroy Christianity, the more it flourishes. The more it is given friendly quarter, the more it grows and stale and soft- professional, rather than missional.” (25)
“God isn’t looking for polished, perfect people. He’s always worked through people who know that they are sinners and who are amazed that they have been saved.” (41)