Weird is the new Normal

 Weird: Because Normal Isn't Working by Craig Groeschel


I just finished Craig Groeschel's newest book, Weird: Because Normal Isn't Working.  It took me a while, not because it was a hard read (it's not), but because I was busy doing ministry, going to school, being a father, husband, son and countless other things.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Groeschel, he is the lead pastor of LifeChurch.tv, a mulit-site megachurch in Oklahoma.  LifeChurch also has the distinction of being one of the most innovative, creative and open source-minded evangelical churches in the U.S.  They routinely give away potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of teaching and preaching material a year---not to mention over 2 million downloads of the Bible.  Groeschel is the author of several books, a frequent speaker at church leadership events, a husband and the father of six. 


Back to my review...  Ironically, the sort of busy-ness that kept me from reading Weird all the way through in a timely fashion is just one of the many issues that Groeschel lifts up as "normal" problems confronting Christians in our current culture.  He writes,
"When we overschedule ourselves in the belief that we can do everything, we stop being human and try to become godlike--not only impossible but also incredibly arrogant.  Most of us are living at a pace that is not only unsustainable; it's also unbiblical." 
OUCH.  For Groeschel, "normal" in our culture is: broke, busy, unfaithful, secular, consumer-driven, greedy, and self-centered.  He also believes that what passes for "normal" in the Church isn't much better.  He asserts,
"In churches, normal is lukewarm Christianity, self-centered spiritual consumerism, and shallow, me-driven faith." 
DOUBLE OUCH.  Groeschel  advocates for a weird lifestyle that isn't based on the aformentioned normal things the dominant culture advocates as necessary and helpful.  Groeschel takes the description of Christians as peculiar people pretty seriously.  In fact, he outlines a way that Christians can become weird with their time, their money, their relationships, their sexuality and their values--all based on Biblical principles, and all in direct contrast with the way our society defines normal. 

Groeschel's influences are very prevalent throughout this book.  His good friend and mentor, Andy Stanley (pastor of Northpoint Church in Atlanta), is echoed throughout the book as are phrases from popular business gurus and authors like Jim Collins, who wrote Good to Great.  At one point Groeschel writes that "Normal people allow good things to become the enemy of the best things."  This is almost a direct quote of Collins who wrote, "Good is the enemy of great." I point this out simply to locate Groeschel in his own unique space as the pastor of one of the largest and fastest growing churches in America, and as a leader who definitely approaches his role with a CEO style lens.

This doesn't take away from Weird's sincerity, nor does it dilute the message it's trying to convey.  It does however invite critique from those in the more intellectual arms of the Church, who would dismiss Groeschel's work as populist theology, or pooh-pooh his insight as merely a privileged point of view from one of Christianity's "success" stories. 

Groeschel seems very aware of his place in Christian culture.  He was once a mainline church pastor, educated in seminary, degreed, robed and part of the institutional church.  Now as an "outsider" to that culture, he tends to offer harsh criticisms of it, to be sure. But in the end, Groeschel's aim with this and with his previous books is not to rail against the failings of the institutional church.  Nor is it to brag about the success of his own.  What Groeschel seems to desire most of all is to provide accessible, thought-provoking and transforming ideas about what it means to faithfully follow Christ.
In his conclusion, Groeschel discusses at length how so many of us Jesus-followers seem to give part of our life to Christ and hang on to the rest of it.  We throw ourselves into being full time businesspeople, musicians, athletes, entrepreneurs, students, you name it... And we halfheartedly give ourselves to a part time faith.  The biggest part of being weird, Groeschel asserts is when we become a full time lover of God, and follower of Jesus.  When we do, Groeschel believes that we discover something about ourselves:
"Your heart is no longer tied up in the strings of the world.  You find meaning and identity and purpose by losing yourself..."  
I recommend this book for pastors, preachers, church leaders and pretty much anybody who is trying to figure out how to live, lead, serve and love differently. 


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