Book Review of Barefoot Church, by Brandon Hatmaker
When I received my digital review copy of Barefoot Church, the first thing I noticed was the title. And the first thing I thought was, “Oh. Another book trying too hard to be edgy and cool. Like The Gospel According to Tony Soprano or something like that.” Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the content of this powerful book. Within minutes, I was in tears over the powerful truth that I encountered.
Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture is a book about how churches do (or don’t do) mission, evangelism, discipleship, social justice, and outreach. Please don’t expect another book debating the pros and cons of social justice. Instead, expect to be taken on a journey that explores what the Bible says about the church’s mission, and how that should look in your city, in your own assembly, and in your local context.
So, What’s the Whole Barefoot Thing?
If the title got your attention, that’s great. I think that’s the whole idea. I’m not going to spoil a good read for you, but will let Ed Stetzer sketch out the principle behind the title: “To be the body of Christ, we would do well to remember that our bare feet, rather than being adorned with Gucci’s and Jimmy Choo’s, need only be dressed with the gospel of peace, a gospel through which lives will be changed, not the least of which will be our own.”
Five Reasons Why You Should Read Barefoot Church
- It is packed with Scripture. Some authors like to fabricate flimsy arguments based off of life experience or human wisdom. For the most part, Hatmaker chooses to found his arguments on Scripture. If you want to argue with his points, that’s fine, but you’ll have to do so by interacting with the Bible.
- It is readable. No, let me restate that. It is not just readable. It is actually fun to read. As a smalltime writer/blogger, I know how hard it is to produce content that is easy to read, fun to read, yet makes a serious point. This book may not flow like a Dr. Seuss book, but it is nonetheless a really enjoyable reading experience. It’s full of stories, examples, and quotable turns of phrase. I had trouble putting it down. For a church how-to manual, Hatmaker has done an outstanding job of writing.
- It is radical. Think of the book as upsetting. Paradigm-shifting. Troubling. Controversial. Don’t bore me with a book that doesn’t saying anything. Challenge my thinking. Confront my comfortable world. Interact with the here-and-now, the rough-and-tumble of real life. Hatfield rushes into the arena of life, messy and chaotic as it is, and proclaims, “Here is the gospel, and how it radically changes things.” I, for one, am not a fan of being radical for radical’s sake. I am, however, a proponent of gospel-centered radicalism, that is radical because of its biblical authenticity. You probably won’t come away agreeing with every single word. Neither did I. But you will come away with a fresh look at what you’re doing, how you’re doing, and maybe how you should change.
- It is practical. The book takes theology and applies it to daily life. Then, it explains how you can do the same. The book is not pedantically prescriptive, but it is profoundly practical. Regardless of your role in the church, or even the status of your faith, you will be challenged and changed in a very real way by reading this book.
Next year, on the last Sunday in January, none of the several-hundred Austin New Church members will be “at church.” They’re going to be on the streets. They will be handing meals to homeless people. Painting school classrooms. Repairing a single mom’s home. Instead of gathering together as a church, they will take their faith to the streets and “be the church.”
No offering will be taken. No invitation will be given. No worship songs will be sung. No attendance will be recorded.
But, lives will be changed. Christians will grow. Unbelievers will see Jesus. Scripture will be obeyed. Mission will be advanced.
Still intrigued by the whole bare feet thing? There’s a story in chapter one where Brandon talks about his own bare feet on a freakishly cold Easter Sunday in Austin, Texas. That’s where the story starts. Maybe the story of your own changed church will start there, too.