20 April 2012

Review: Making Life Matter by Shane Stanford

Making Life Matter: Embracing the Joy in the Everyday begins with the stories of three historical figures, and how they overcame significant personal challenges to achieve, to make their lives matter. In the same way, the author of this book, Shane Stanford has overcome his own challenges. He was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1986, having caught the disease from contaminated blood. Remember that at this time there was a huge stigma attached because AIDS was seen as a homosexual disease, God's punishment on the gay community. I first heard of AIDS in around 1984, and a diagnosis was seen as a death sentence. I am amazed that someone diagnosed that long ago is still alive.

I started reading this one Sunday afternoon. The theme of that Sunday’s sermon was to 'choose life' and that was exactly the choice that Slade was faced with after his diagnosis. His grandfather challenged him to choose life, “choosing to live each day to the fullest, choosing to make his life matter”. But this book is not about Pastor Shane Stanford (as inspiring a story as that would be). It is about you and me, working to improve our relationships, to change, to make our lives matter.

Why is this important? Stanford quotes a study from Willow Creek Community Church, famous for leading many changes the way church functions, from worship music to how people joined in community. They found that these changes “provided little to no impact” on whether or not people remained in the church. Put simply, “the people studied said they felt shortchanged by the glitz and glamour”, and “what they really wanted were ministries that drew them closer to God, closer to each other, and closer to who God had created us to be from the beginning. The real issues on their minds and on their hearts were about identity—about what really made life matter.”

While this is a short book, it is not intended to be a book that one reads and forgets in the hurry of reaching for the next book in the pile. Rather, it is meant to be read slowly, one chapter at a time, and to be meditated upon. This is not a long book - just an introduction and seven chapters and an epilogue that takes the message of the book for the indivdual and applies it to the organisation, the church (I’ve decided that I like reviewing non-fiction, because I can say what happens at the end without it being a spoiler).

At the end of each chapter is a weeks' worth of Bible readings, a Psalm, some questions for reflection or discussion and a prayer. Making Life Matter could therefore be used as the basis for personal devotions or for a weekly group study. Recommended.

Thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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