John Ortberg, Author . Zondervan $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-310-22864-6

There are no normal people, asserts prolific author and pastor Ortberg (If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat; The Life You've Always Wanted), and the sooner Christians accept this disquieting truth, the healthier they and their churches will be. In this mediocre treatise on Christian community, Ortberg implicates Christians who are constantly on the run and on the most superficial terms with their fellows. Citing numerous biblical stories where Jesus turned the tables on foes and drew in unlovable and undesirable people, Ortberg nicely communicates his passion for seeing past external appearances and delving deeply into people's hearts and souls. Christians, he says, must learn to communicate on Jesus' terms; they should practice unconditional love, strive for authenticity and build mutual trust. While Ortberg warns readers to be circumspect with personal disclosure, he contends that the modern Christian church has failed miserably in biblical communication, especially in loving confrontation. Still, the overall message of this book is upbeat, as Ortberg reminds readers of the positive aspects found in solid relationships, which he names as genuine forgiveness, deliberate inclusion and heartfelt gratitude. While this message is ageless, it is certainly not new; "Christian living" bookshelves are crowded with volumes on spiritual formation, congregational life, group prayer and communication. Among these, Ortberg's offering loses its impact quickly because of poor organization, various tangents and over-long chapters. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/27/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
Paperback - 437 pages - 978-1-59415-093-7
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