book report - A Bigger Table by John Pavlovitz (2017)

John Pavlovitz appeared on my social media radar during the 2016 presidential campaign. He expressed the same dismay I did with America's conservative church's enabling of Donald Trump. At the same time, he continued to find hope despite the circumstances. Then his book came out! I heard a sermon of his a few weeks ago via Gracepoint Church podcast in which he spoke of the big themes of this book.

What if church could be more like his Italian American family's kitchen when he was growing up, always making room for one more, where conversations could be loud, where disagreements could be had in the safety of love, where no one was left out?

I sat down and read through the book in a few hours. The premise is so simple. Instead of deciding who is in or out, just find them another chair. But this story is more than that, because it is his story of process. He was raised by a loving safe family in the Catholic church where he acquired a predisposition to guilt. A fresh start in Philadelphia at art school brought him together with all sorts of people who did not live up to the stereotypes he was raised on in church. He lost God, but came back to God through a kind Methodist pastor who was willing to marry him and his wife. He ended up in ministry full time. Eventually, years down the road at another church, he was fired from ministry for not being a good fit at the conservative church he worked at. He was making too much room at the table. Now he finds himself in a smaller, messier church where he is not chastised for writing about loving his kids no matter what, even if they are gay. (Make sure to read the voices of Christian mothers of gay children in response to that blog post, here and here.) Loving and accepting people is difficult. It's difficult for conservative christians to accept gay christians and it's difficult for progressive christians to accept young earth creationist christians. John knows that from both sides of that place, as do I, which is why I appreciate learning from John's commitment to trying to get both sides to a bigger table. I love this quote,
expanding the table isn’t just about entitled conservatives needing to make room for marginalized communities or progressive Christians; it’s also about those whose religious convictions are far left of center finding a way to continually seek understanding of and to extend invitation to those who may stand in complete opposition to them. The bigger table cannot be for ourselves and only those who are to the left or the right of us. Redemptive community requires that we extend the invitation to both sides of our political and religious perspectives, and endeavor to build relationship, or at the very least understanding.
I hope this book gets read by believers on both sides of the spectrum.

I occasionally review books through Speakeasy. They send me the book for free, if I'm interested, and I give them my honest review. Usually I pick books like this which I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy.


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