Spent Matches: Igniting The Signal Fire For The Spiritually Dissatisfied, by Roy Moran
[Note: This book was provided by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
As the sixth book I have read in the Refraction series , this book fits alongside the other four in the series for their excellence as well as for their provocative nature. Let us make no mistake, this book is provocative, seeking to diagnose the malaise of contemporary church culture in large part due to the departure for biblical behavior towards discipling and also showing a great deal of hostility to hierarchical ways that seek to increase dependency on human leaders and that hinder believers from reaching spiritual maturity and the ability to then go out and teach and lead others through their example and building relationships. Although the author seeks to rejuvenate contemporary American Christian culture from within, he does so from the point of view of a radical insurgent (it should be noted here that the author uses the language of terrorism, which is even more heated), working at the fringes of congregations without the support of church leadership in order to build up leaders who are capable of running home churches and building up teams of enthusiastic and obedient believers. As much as I enjoyed reading this book, there are likely to be a lot of church leaders who would be less than thrilled at this particular approach.
Although the author seeks to ground his approach in the Bible, there are ways in which he utilizes contemporary patterns of categorization in order to make the Bible speak to our current age, rather than writing in such a way that he teaches the reader the language of the Bible. These lists and categories, even if they do not come directly from scripture, make the author’s point easy to understand. For example, of the disciple making movements he wishes to inspire, he defines them as having six key characteristics, namely: being God oriented, Spirit dependent, Bible centered, obedience focused, discovery based, and disciple driven (109). There is nothing in any of those steps I would have an issue with. Likewise, the author seeks to focus evangelism efforts, in a particularly non-churchy way, with four key elements: radical commitment to the Christian cause, starting at the fringes rather the front, starting small, and persevering by learning how to fail faster and smarter (173). Again, there is nothing here that I object to or that I do not practice in my own particular life and in my own particular way, although they may be a bit more radical than the qualities that most people possess.
In terms of its structure, the book has two parts, the first part detailing the problem and the second part giving the solution. The first part contains four chapters, which talks about the excessive cost and very limited effectiveness of contemporary efforts at church planting and evangelism. Then the author discusses the Great Commission and contrasts the first century focus on discipling through personal example and focusing on learning about God’s ways through obedience and our contemporary division between a high degree of head knowledge and a low degree of heart knowledge . The third chapter seeks to correct the mistake of our division of preaching the Gospel and preparing a people and seeks to bring the familiar fights over guns and butter into a greater unity. The fourth chapter shifts from ministry, with its focus on human leaders, to a movement, focused on a way of life that is practiced by believers in Jesus Christ. The second part is more of a journal approach with five chapters dealing with such concerns as hybrid chruches that combine different approaches like a hybrid engine combines gas and electric, a look at how believers can see their walk of trust in God as a journey and not merely a conversion event, describes seven journeys that involve a greater level of obedience, generosity, and maturity in one’s Christian walk, gives some lessons that seek to move Christian efforts at evangelism from a sales and marketing approach to a revolutionary approach, and then discuss what kind of people are movement ready. After this conclusion come three appendices that look at how facilitation meetings to keep the fire of faith alive can be structured, a three-column method of Bible study that focuses on active reading and application, and an imagined scenario of what growth looks like from the author’s paradigm, which is admittedly likely to be frightening for many readers, as well as resources for those willing to take the journey of insurgent Christianity, and some friendly and gracious acknowledgements.
In terms of criticism, my concerns about this book are rather limited. For one, the book is written from the point of view of an Evangelical Christian, even if a particularly radical one, so it assumes that worship services (even those without hymns and that play music from U2 and Mumford and Sons and the like) will take place on Sunday rather than the Sabbath of the Bible. Likewise, the author makes one reference to the imaginary and unbiblical Triune god as a way of demonstrating that no matter how radical he is, he is not beyond the pale of what is acceptable Christianity. These bona fides are to be expected in such works, even one which strives to focus on obedience, largely because genuine biblical knowledge and obedience to what was practiced in original Christianity is hard even for those who, like the author, consider themselves most radically committed to it. On a more personal level, the fact that this book is so radical means that I am concerned that my warm praise for much of this book’s contents would mark me as a more rebellious and troublesome and radical person than I feel comfortable with. My comfort, though, has seemingly rarely been of great interest to anyone in my life, and that includes the authors of the books that I read.
 See, for example:
 Frequent readers may be familiar with my own lengthy discussion on precisely this subject: