Definitely enough

What do you think of the following piece of writing?

The first option is rather than mirroring, imaging, reflecting, showing God we turn the mirror round and we become absolutely enamoured with, infatuated with, ourselves. That is, you get concepts of self-esteem, self-love, and Maslow with his hierarchy of needs said that ultimately our greatest need is what? Self-actualization—to glorify ourselves, to get all we can get, to be all we can be, to do all we can do, to have all we can have. This comes from the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus. If you know the concept of narcissism, it is one who absolutely is enamoured with, addicted to, themselves.

As writing, it is not really very good, is it? The words and ideas are just piled up without any real structure or flow. There’s very little memorable imagery or language. It lacks power.

Truth is, it comes from one of the most popular and gifted Christian communicators on the planet, Mark Driscoll. But it was not written by Mr Driscoll. It’s a snippet transcribed at random from one of his online sermons. The reason it is such bad writing is that it is not writing at all, and was never intended to be.

Now it’s possible to do some editorial magic on this sort of writing. We could tidy it up like this:

The first option is that rather than mirroring or imaging God, we turn the mirror around and become infatuated with ourselves. We love ourselves rather than God. Maslow, with his hierarchy of needs, said that ultimately our greatest need is self-actualisation—to glorify ourselves, to be all we can be, to have all we can have. This is narcissism (which comes from the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus). A narcissist is someone who is enamoured with, and addicted to, themselves.

Does that improve things? Well, a bit. But it is still not very good, and a book full of this sort of prose would be tiresome and hard to read. There’s very little rhythm or life to it.

Such, in my experience, are most books that start out as sermons. They very rarely work, not only because spoken English is not the same as written English, but also because the rhythm, style, diction and method of a sermon is difficult to translate to the page. Even the most electrifying and edifying sermons seem to have the blood drained out of them when they become an article, or chapters in a book.

This is why I was a bit skeptical when Ray Galea sent me a proposal for a book last year, based on a series of sermons he had done in the psalms. “This isn’t going to work”, I mumbled to myself. But it was Ray, and he was both a friend and the author of the very successful Nothing in my hand I bring. So I said I’d read it, and get back to him.

I’m glad I made the effort. The result­ing book, God is Enough, has been one of the success stories of 2010. It’s already gone to a second printing, and has done so largely through that most precious of publishing qualities: word of mouth. People who read God is Enough tell their friends. It’s a contagious book.

God is Enough is the exception in books-from-sermons for two reasons. The first is that Ray has succeeded in making the transition from spoken English to the page without losing his rhythm or his voice. It doesn’t take very long in God is Enough for you to forget that you’re reading a book, and to hear Ray’s warm, funny, insightful voice teaching and encouraging you from the Scriptures. It’s an easy and delightful book to read. (Ray would be the first to tell you that this is also due to the excellent editorial efforts of Emma Thornett in our office.)

The second reason the book works is the subject matter, and the way in which Ray approaches it. It’s about what happens when you’ve been a Christian for a while, and the world starts to close in. You find that your enthusiasm and love for God has been displaced by busyness, responsibilities, and a never-ending round of Christian activities and involvements. You suffer some disappointments—perhaps some profound ones. And you start to wonder why you’re doing all this.

God is Enough aims to re-focus our lives on God by looking at how a series of different psalms do just that—focus on God amidst the difficulties and pressures of life in this sinful world. The theme verse for the book is from Psalm 73: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Ps 73:25).

If you haven’t yet read God is Enough, you really should. It will be good for your soul, and will give you yet another useful resource to share with your friends.

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