By Jeff Goins, Editor
The God of Intimacy and Action
By Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling
Campolo and Darling team up in The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice to bring readers the holistic gospel, a union of mystical encounters with Christ and essential action. They point to both Catholics and Protestants whose impact on society was fueled by their intimate relationship with their Creator. They highlight mystics such as St. Francis of Assisi and political reformers such as Martin Luther King, Jr., as examples of intimate lovers of God who followed their dedication with proactive attitudes.
The two authors complement one another: Campolo, a prominent Christian advocate for the poor, explains the why, and Darling, a Protestant trained in Jesuit tradition, explains the how of evangelical mysticism.
Campolo begins the book with an outline of mystical Christianity. He then describes certain encounters that evangelicals have experienced but do not recognize as mystical, such as new insights from a familiar passage of scripture. In the following chapters, he shares his heart for evangelism and social justice, explaining anecdotally that without an intimate bond with the Holy Spirit, efforts to further the kingdom would be fruitless. His pragmatic approach and use of storytelling will appeal to those seeking to balance their relationship with God with making a difference in the world.
Then Darling takes up the baton, moving from storytelling into methodology. She shares her desire as a young evangelical Christian to be more connected with God and her discovery of the usefulness of spiritual training in contemplative exercises. I found myself particularly caught up in the section discussing examen prayer, in which a person examines her own soul, confessing shortcomings and reflecting on Christ-like accomplishments. The intention is neither self-deprecation nor elevation of ones ego; rather, it is a prayerful inventory of each day.
As an evangelical, I find that I occasionally get burnt out on prayer. Darling gave me a list of options long enough that I should not be bored for awhile. The simple steps she outlines for a disciplined prayer life are challenging, yet, I found myself saying, “Well even I could do that.” She does a great job of pointing the reader to grace, reinforcing that one does not do these exercises to win favor with God. The disciplines she shares are detailed and for some may be tedious to read, but her description is ultimately helpful.
The book ends with a warning from both authors not to get caught up in narcissistic spirituality or to attempt to serve humanity without a spirit of love. They share a final admonition to get involved in community, and they share in some modern monastic movements that are practicing these disciplines together.
This book is refreshing and challenging; it connects the reader with practices long-forgotten by American Christianity and points someone seeking a deeper walk to fruitful methods of receiving Gods grace without delving into legalism.
Jeff is from Chicago, IL, but lives in Nashville, TN now. He is editor-in-chief of Wrecked and won the school spelling bee in 6th Grade.