Book Reviews: Permission to Speak Freely

Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace by Anne Jackson (Thomas Nelson)

Author Anne Jackson opened a floodgate when she asked a simple question on her blog ( “What is the one thing you feel you can’t say in church?” She received hundreds of responses, from Christians and non-Christians alike. And her experiment in digital confession got picked up on an atheist website and went viral—globally viral.

Permission to Speak Freely presents scores of answers to Jackson’s question. It’s shaped by the narrative of her own struggle to speak freely to fellow Christians about her less-than-perfect life. She’s candid about her own addictions and struggles and invites readers to join her in the chorus of the broken-yet-redeemed.

The question Jackson asked “came from places in my own heart and life where I was afraid to say something inside a church or to other Christians,” she acknowledges. “Fear had kept me silent, had overruled confession, and I needed to know I wasn’t alone.”

So, Jackson wrote a courageous book about faith and confession and soul-healing.

Marv Knox, editor

Baptist Standard


A Door Set Open: Grounding Change in Mission and Hope by Peter L. Steinke (Alban Institute)

Peter Steinke knows church systems. He masterfully leads congregations, church consultants and intentional interims in finding and addressing the real issues within churches. Now, he presents possibly his best work by helping us examine a crucial issue for today’s church: knowing and doing its mission.

Steinke uses real-to-life case studies, solid biblical theology and inspirational thoughts in this three-part book. First, he proves there is a crisis. “If 1950 were to return, my congregation would be ready,” is a testimony that is painfully relevant in many churches.

And while we easily can see where a church is losing touch, Steinke exposes the normal, but unhelpful, reactions that typify church responses. For instance, many churches look for a “magical” formula. They then try the steps offered in a popular book or from a trusted consultant, thinking erroneously that they will “fix” their church.

Steinke demonstrates how anxiety feeds emotional reactions that trigger dysfunctional choices. He gives the reader hope, however, that the challenges can be overcome.

Next, Steinke takes a look at changing the mission within a church. His approach is gentle and not overwhelming, realistic and not idealistic, unifying and not divisive, biblical and not gimmicky. He hopes to lead the reader to understand that “either the church is missional, or it is not the church,” which means the church must be about loving, serving, preaching, teaching, healing and freeing. Steinke does not address this subject in a vacuum of piety, however. Instead, he looks at changing a church’s understanding of mission while addressing the real challenges of personalities, resistance and anxiety.

The final section nicely summarizes the rest, while offering very practical ideas for personal and collective steps in reducing anxiety, finding the mission and staying on course. A Door Set Open will help any church trying to find what God is calling them to next.

Karl Fickling, director

BGCT Pastorless Church Team




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