Misfits Welcome: Find Yourself In Jesus And Bring The World Along For The Ride, by Matthew Barnett
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
Being someone who has always, and with good reason, considered myself a misfit, this is the sort of book I read knowing that I will see people who are like myself. Yet in some ways this book was both very easy and very difficult to read. It was easy to read because it was written in a well-polished prose style with straightforward language and very well organized structure, everything in the book relating to the theme of God (and Jesus Christ’s) concern for the outcast and misfit and broke and how we should all care for them as well in our actions. On the other hand, some aspects of this book were not easy to read, as the testimonials of those who had rough lives dealing with abuse and degradation, of which there were many, was most difficult to read. I find it hard to read about people in distress, being someone who tends to feel distress rather acutely as well and identify readily with other souls in torment. Suffice it to say, this book has a lot of such souls, being about the life and mission of a preacher who has devoted his career to working with the most reviled and downtrodden people in Los Angeles–gangbangers, prostitutes, homeless, drug addicts, abandoned children and the like. Ultimately, this is a book about hope, with an optimistic vision about how God takes the broken and makes them whole, but it does not whitewash the ugliness of life in this broken world.
One of the key strengths of this book, and something that distinguishes it from a lot of other books written in contemporary Christianity, is the fact that this book largely avoids discussion of contentious and unnecessary theological matters and focuses on the core of practical Christian duties which reveal the character and nature of God and of His love for us. It manages to avoid the extremes of others who wallow in brokenness , pointing to the fact that obedience is necessary and that restoration and wholeness are possible even for the most broken among us . Ultimately, this world has been broken by thousands of years of sin and folly, in which all of us have played a part (some of us particularly inglorious ones), and as God wants to raise up sons and daughters for His family, that means putting broken pieces back together again, and using those broken pieces, infused with life and build anew, to help build the world into something worthy of His name.
And though this book does not discuss theology except in a practical sense, there is one element of God’s law it unintentionally highlights over and over again. The book speaks about Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath as a way of countering the self-righteous expectations of those who thought themselves pious but looked down on others. Yet the Sabbath commandments have always been about showing graciousness and generosity to the poor, the downtrodden, those who are heavily burdened, something that the Jews of Jesus’ day were largely ignorant to. Although the author of this book is certainly not a Sabbatarian as God commands , this book is something that should encourage those who wish to live as Jesus lived, and love as Jesus lived, even if the consequences are sometimes difficult and awkward. Even better, this book has a lot of great quotes  that are worthy of deep thought and reflection as we seek to model God’s ways in our lives, even if they are sometimes a mess.
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p. 6: “Now I pastor a church of misfits: girls who are victims of human trafficking, homeless families, people in rehab who have had lifelong drug addictions. It’s a beautiful collection of people who are realizing day by day that God doesn’t throw over left-over pieces. He redeems them. He collects them to reuse.”
p. 23: “Misfit thinkers always seem to live life aggressively rather than passively. They choose to live life and not let life live them. They are the kind of people who will drive home a different way just to see life from a different perspective; the kind of people who will see the meaning behind the mundane; the kind of people who strategize ways they can make a difference before they even arrive where they are going; the kind of people who decide the attitude they will have before they even get to where they are going. They are addicted to life–addicted to making a difference.”
p.32: “But the people got this all wrong. Jesus wasn’t invited to be the guest of a sinner; He invited Himself to be with the sinner. The entire life of Jesus from the womb to the resurrection was about one thing: looking for misfits. Jesus didn’t wait for misfits to find Him; He went after them with incredible intensity and awareness.
p.50: “Every believer ought to pursue a habit of loving people, embracing people. When we do, it becomes contagious. The great thing about being there for people who are misfits is the way we build confidence in them to dream again. Many people who feel life is over feel that way because they can’t see through the walls of mistakes. They need someone to fight for them so that they can rise again, dream again.”
p.54-55: “Embracing misfits is also misunderstood. There are times when it’s not popular to help certain people because a family, or a community, or even a nation feels these people are not worthy of being loved. Embracing misfits means standing by people even when it’s unpopular. The church ought to set world records on how fast we spring to rescue the fallen. It’s so easy to love someone at the top of their game, but it takes real character to love someone at the bottom.”
p.104: “The closer I get to helping others in their brokenness, the more broken I realize I am. I’m not better than the broken parts I try to put back together. I often feel equally battered. The reality is that we all pick each other up along the way.”