Paul, founding pastor of Sanctuary Toronto, a ministry and faith community serving marginalized communities, has written a compelling resource sure to bring the needed wake-up call to those Christians who are quite ignorantly living a functionally irrelevant life. He recounts real-life scenarios of those within his city who have been forgotten, overlooked, and dismissed, and parallels this obvious neglect with Jesus’ call to go to the poor and needy. The author spends ample time explaining what God’s Word has to say about religion—the good and the bad. Paul’s chapter “The Leveling Effect” will especially hit home with middle-class Christians and how they tend to view their finances. In 10 chapters, Christ followers will discover and hopefully put into action fresh steps toward living selflessly and devoting themselves anew to those within their sphere of influence. Paul exposes the faulty beliefs so many Christians cling to out of naivety and perhaps fear before offering a better way to meet the needs of those individuals God brings across their path.
Paul (God in the Alley), founding pastor of Sanctuary Toronto, a ministry serving marginalized communities, argues for a new definition of religion in this impassioned call for rethinking the role of Christianity in a community. Decreasing church attendance, divisions over doctrine, hypocritical church members, and the loss of young members have all contributed to Christianity’s declining reputation, Paul writes. He believes that “good religion”—motivated by empowering love, not power, money, or fame—can turn the tide. Instead of using faith politically, he writes, Christianity needs to become welcoming by directing individual faith toward communal good. Paul illustrates his points with examples from his ministry, as with the story of Mike, a homeless man with liver disease whom Paul takes in for a few months. Their time together makes Paul rethink how Sanctuary Toronto works with people who need housing, inspiring him to take a more proactive approach to finding and helping them. Paul also includes inspiring reflections on Bible stories, including the perspective of John, the brother of Jesus, and a gripping (and surprisingly humorous) recounting of the martyrdom of St. Lawrence. Paul’s uplifting message will appeal to Christians looking to reenergize their communities.
In this book, Greg Paul speaks an urgently contemporary word about the church. He knows about the church. He knows its faults: excessive accommodation to culture, privatism that is mostly irrelevant, and intellectual schemes remote from reality. But he also knows better than that. His pages teem with testimony about “the other shoe” of gospel obedience that lives in the real world, that moves in ways of mercy, compassion, and justice, and that heals and transforms. Paul is a story teller; he has rich, concrete, compelling tales about real people living out gospel lives. His book is a treasure house of evidence that there is a way that need not yield to “bad religion.” We will not want to miss out on this rich testimony!
I have a growing suspicion that the antireligious sentiment, which is so pervasive in Western culture and is captured by the mantra, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual,” is simply the latest version of that old enemy and heresy, Gnosticism. It’s like saying, “I love football; I’m just not into the organized kind.” Unless our faith is rooted in and structured around practices and pathways that have stood the test of time—unless it is, in some real and deep sense, religious— it will not hold together. Indeed, the root of the word religion is exactly that: to re-ligament, to tie broken things back together. Greg Paul’s book Resurrecting Religion comes just in the nick of time. Greg—who claims to be neither theologian nor writer, but who does both these things brilliantly—speaks winsomely, urgently, convincingly about our need to reclaim our religious identity and heritage, while also doing what Jesus and the prophets did: rejecting all bad religion. This is a book for our times if ever there were one.
It’s easy to criticize religion. It’s an entirely different thing to offer thought-provoking insights of your own religious practice from the trenches. Deep inside the muck and mire of human existence is where the gospel first gave light and the religious impulse was born anew—one that would care for widows and orphans in their distress and spark a living faith in a living God. Greg Paul lights up the dark realities of our post-religious talk with the hope of a religion that matters in real life to real people, right now.
Greg Paul’s central premise, that true religion is vital for the life and salvation of the world, is backed by an experiential authority that is uncomfortably hard to dismiss. Particularly, reading the book of James through the lens of the Beatitudes is a lesson I’ll not soon forget. This is a timely and important book.
“True religion,” writes Greg Paul, “is to faith what voice is to a thought. It puts flesh on the bones of faith.” This book describes the gritty intersection between incarnational theology and integrated spirituality. With raw vulnerability and buckets full of hope, Greg Paul will restore your faith in the church.
I highly recommend that you read Resurrecting Religion for these reasons: stories that will move and inspire you; insight that is wise and practical; writing that is vivid and lucid; a guide (Greg) whom you’ll enjoy spending time with and who has lived this story with integrity and by grace; and, finally, because this book will give you a vision for more faithfully loving your neighbors in response to our common prayer that God’s Kingdom will come on earth as in heaven.
Resurrecting Religion will inspire you to live out the biblical call to justice and Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. In a world that continues to create distance between the rich and poor, Greg’s book teaches us the importance and power of having close relationships with those living on the margins of society.