From Anglican to Barbarian in 141 pages
or “How I learned to stop waiting and start doing…”
Erwin Raphael McManus
Purpose. A word that has driven many a Christian to distraction (aside from Rick Warren, he’s done OK writing about Purpose), anger and even tears. What is my purpose? What is my mission? What am I called to do to preach the Gospel? What can I offer God? How can I serve Him using my talents and gifts?
We can all, I am sure, relate to some of those in one way or another, at some point in our journey and I can put my hat on two of those at least. For 10 years now I have been striving to walk humbly yet speak boldly, to love and care with the Gospel as my salve, but it was not ever thus…
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Nine years ago I was invited to a leadership seminar with a few people from my church in West Bridgford, Nottingham. Some small church called “Willow Creek” was running the show and scanning the list of speakers I came across the name “Erwin McManus” (EM) which did not mean a lot to me at the time but was someone who would have a big impact on my life over the next few years.
After the seminar I went back to my church but something was happening inside, my spirit was restless for something. A while later (2006) I bought a copy of McManus’ new book “The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith within.” This radically changed my perception of what it means to serve God and take risks for Him.
By his own admission, McManus had an interesting upbringing, a “pot-luck” of faiths and religions ranging from Buddhism to Catholicism up to Evangelicalism and, whilst you may not agree with every one of his exegetical positions, the Trinitarian backdrop to his overall theology renders a lot of his arguments compelling, to say the least.
In a nutshell, his argument in “The Barbarian Way” as I understood was this:
Don’t wait too long for God to tell you what to do, if you are a passionate believer in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and your zeal for His glory burns within you, do SOMETHING. God will offer clarification when you need it.
Like all authors of his type (he describes himself as the “Lead Pastor and Cultural Architect of Mosaic Los Angeles”… a “reference point for the future church” and he “collaborates with a team of dreamers and innovators”) he makes great use of the sound-bite statement. In fact on every page you could highlight at least two that essentially convey the message of the chapter or element. My copy which has been read and re-read is replete with highlights and notes – every time I read it I connect a few more dots and that is part of what makes it so compelling. That said, it’s not for everyone – my Catholic friend said “Meh!” in response when I asked her what she’d thought of it!
McManus essentially strives to do two things with this book; to strike at the heart of a complacent western religion that values unity above service and to re-ignite the fire ignited within each believer as they came to Christ. Ultimately he’s not saying anything new, but he does say it in a new way! The cultural relevance of his message means that its time will come again, indeed, perhaps it is not yet over. His passion is for movement and momentum, for an opportunistic, spirit-led, even chaotic response to the missional imperative, all in the name of the God we serve.
In some ways this was (and is) a manual for its time, a book that seeks to shake us up and remind us that the Great Commission involved the word “Go” not “stay”.The simplicity of the message within, broken down as it is into four chapters, belies the passion that he clearly feels for the lost but also for the Christian that has yet to connect with a person-specific mission.
McManus goes to great pains to break down the construct of a happy Christian, content with a life of normality. He surrounds himself with creative, fidgety and passionate, artistic people so it’s natural that this should be evident through his writing and perhaps this is why it connected with me. It gave a voice to the disconnect I felt as a creative person within my Anglican setting. It allowed me to see beyond the façade of smoothness and look at the church below the waterline and crucially, to connect with people and to develop the Volte ministry as an expression of creativity.
If I had to find one quote from his book that sums it up it would be this:
If you are a follower of Christ and you have allowed yourself to be domesticated, you have lost the power of who you are and who God intends for you to be. You were not created to be normal. God’s desire for you is not compliance and conformity. You have been baptised by Spirit and fire.
There is so much within this book that will ignite, annoy, infuriate and change you that to not read it would frankly be a mistake in my opinion, but I must warn you, to read it is to be changed, again.
Many a ministry or project has I am sure been born from the encouragement found within the pages of this small but ultimately big book – many a Christian (me included!) has found the missing piece of the puzzle that enabled us to create something in our community space that reaches out, preaches the Gospel and shares Jesus with others.
McManus has written many books since, have a look on Amazon to see his output. However, I feel “The Barbarian Way” is by far his most potent, mixing as it does a missional imperative, a desire to serve and a call to arms whatever those “arms” may be.
Shaun Turner is a co-founder of “Volte” – a ministry dedicated to helping the Church discover new streams of creativity and to nurture the creative within, by developing new expressions of the faith journey, encouraging the visionary, and finding imaginative perspectives that stimulate discovery, renewal or a deepening of a relationship with God. They also work with schools to deliver innovative, fun and challenging faith experiences to help stimulate and develop the young enquiring mind. www.volte-tbf.com