The Insanity of Obedience

“We claim, rightly, that God’s command is vital. We claim, rightly, that God’s call is crucial. It is. But our conversations about call should be focused on where we have been called rather than on if we have been called. Should I be in Jerusalem? Judea? Samaria? Should I be serving at the ends of the earth? Now that’s a conversation worth having!

But have I been called? That question should be settled at the very beginning of our walk with Jesus. God’s Word is clear that we have, in fact, already been called. We have been called to radical obedience” (78).

A Bold Challenge

Written in an easy to understand, yet slightly repetitive manner, The Insanity of Obedience “is a bold challenge to global discipleship.” The book includes a variety of topics, such as, the call that is inherent to Christianity, the inevitable persecution that will follow, common pitfalls of Western missionaries, practical matters of money, and a challenge to live victoriously. Through each one, Ripken challenges us to long for more than a safe, comfortable life. He shows us that something far greater is within reach; all we have to do is obey.

The Call

Divided into five sections, the first is entitled, “God’s Command to Go to the Nations.” This section covers first the call given to every believer and ends with a chapter explaining “the biblical rationale for continuing to focus on people groups that are, seemingly, not responsive… which constitute significant risk to national and expatriate believers” (95).

Between these Ripken lays out the inevitability of persecution and the main goal behind it: to deny people both access and the chance to respond to the gospel. He says that stopping persecution isn’t complicated; all we must do is stop proclaiming Christ. In fact, the silence of Christians who refuse to witness, for whatever reason, can “yield the same result as the violence of persecutors!” (29)

Witness in Persecution

In the second section, “The Birth of Faith in Persecution Environments,” Ripken walks first through three different types of persecution and explains how they work. “The most effective and devastating of all the forms of persecution” is the one in which the “persecutor is at the breakfast table and sleeps in the next room” (111).

He says that believers in these types of settings have taught him that “they are always free to share [Christ], even if the consequences are devastating.” “Witness,” he says, “is ultimately not about freedom; it is about obedience. Witness is, in every case, built on the courage to suffer the consequences of exercising our God-given freedom to witness. Too often have the persecutors been given center stage, the media attention they do not deserve. It’s time to focus on Jesus and witness rather than the persecutors and their nefarious methods of limiting witness and harming the children of God” (114).

Ripken then moves on to discuss how the Spirit of God works among ‘pre-Pentecost’ people groups and how closed cultures are often converted, not through the faithful work of a Westerner, but instead through miraculous works of the Holy Spirit. He explains this in order to reveal the fact that “God uses different methodologies in different places to make Himself known” (153). He also states that, while it is natural for Western workers to focus on what they know and are familiar with, “we must take the time to discern what God is doing so that we might join Him as He works” (153).

Witness Across Generation

In “Reaching Grandma and the Rest of the Family” Ripken explains the common barriers that prevent multigenerational churches from forming within the host culture. One of these he terms “an addiction to literacy” (162). Using literate means to convey the gospel is not a problem unless those you are trying to reach are illiterate. “In many of the people groups that are without Jesus, illiteracy can be as high as 45 percent for men and 90 percent for the women!” (163)

Unless we know how to communicate the truth of the gospel orally, how will these people ever learn about Christ? To effectively witness across generations, we must understand the barriers and have the correct tools to overcome those barriers.  

Nuts and Bolts

The fourth section, “Practical Matters” covers just that, the down to earth, grounded in reality type of thing without which it is impossible to do effective ministry work. These things include finding workers with the essential characteristics of competence, mutual trust, commitment, and “the ability and desire to express the faith in the local culture” (236). He talks about how to regulate the use of money and also about being selective in whom the workers reach out to. Rather than focusing only on reaching out to the people around you, Ripken says, it is better to target those who have influence in the culture.

Are You Safe?

The book concludes with a chapter of encouragement to live in victory, unafraid of man, wholly dedicated to Christ and his will.

The Insanity of Obedience is one of the most convicting books I have ever read. If you are a Christian who is striving to grow in Christ, whatever the cost, this book is for you. If you are someone who prefers the safe, comfortable life of familiarity and predictability, don’t read it. But be careful, you may not be as safe as you think.

Stephanie Stephanie Kinsinger and her husband, Eddie, currently reside in Elnora, Indiana. Originally from Virginia, they both miss spending time with family and seeing mountains wherever they go. She works part time as the janitor for Elnora Bible Institute. Art, music, reading, coffee and good conversations with friends are all things she enjoys.

Sources used:

Ripken, Nik, and Barry Stricker. The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places. Nashville, TN: B & H Group, 2014. Print.

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