Start Where You Are by Rashawn Copeland

False starts and derailments plague the Christian life. It can be discouraging and leave us wanting to quit all together.

Start Where You Are, by Rashawn Copeland, is written for people who feel like giving up. You may, or may not be, at rock bottom, but you know you’re not getting any where.

In Start Where You Are, Rashawn Copeland challenges with that very statement: Start Where You Are. Change doesn’t happen overnight. The road is filled with twists, turns and potholes, but if you start where you are, with what you have, you can steadily make progress.

Start Where You Are

by Rashawn Copeland

Published by Baker Books

September 1, 2020

“The change you long to see in the world starts in your own heart. Thankfully, that’s exactly where God is waiting for you.”

What I love about this book

I love the energy behind this book and the deep sincerity. It reminds of Johnny Cash, the man in black, reaching out to those left behind. He’s in the trenches with you, urging you on and lending a hand in the struggle.

Law and Gospel

As a Lutheran, I’m looking for balanced preaching. Law and Gospel. Leave out the Law and the Gospel becomes Pollyannaish. Leave out the Gospel and the Law is oppressive. Rashawn give us a does of both.

Law

Scripture states plainly that we are all dead in sin. That’s why we all should stand in awe of God’s grace because apart from Christ we’re all guilty.

Copeland, Start Where You Are

Gospel

There is no gift greater we will ever be given than the gift we never earned, asked for, or deserved in the first place. We never deserved Jesus, we deserved far worse. What none of us could do, Jesus did in our place. What all of us deserved, Jesus bore on our behalf. What we could never earn, Jesus offered as a gift.

Copeland, Start Where You Are

Our Purpose

Purpose is a question Christians perpetually overcomplicate. Rashawn’s view is refreshing because it actually takes into account the full scope of Jesus words; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27 ESV)”

But we have to remember that mission work is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is.

Make every moment an opportunity to share Jesus.

You aren’t just needed overseas; you’re needed right across the street.

On Being Prepared

We need to be prepared if we are going to make a difference in the lives of others. As Christians we need to know God and we need to offer grace. Unfortunately, these are two things Christians often say stops them from sharing the Gospel; 1) We feel inadequate and 2) we like to judge others. We don’t always admit to the second one.

Rashawn has a simple, yet profound answer for both.

When you feel inadequate…

There is so much we will never know. So many questions that go unanswered. But there is also so much we do know.

When you don’t feel like giving grace…

Don’t we all have a moral deficiency?

He goes into greater depth, well worth reading, but he offers a concise conclusion, “As Christians we have to remain humble and understand that God uses whomever He sees fit.”

We read in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV)”

Stuff I wasn’t crazy about

Here’s the hard part. I really like this book, but no book is perfect. Rather than ruining the book these points simply call for more discussion.

Decision Theology

Decision Theology, simply put, is the sinner choosing God and then God swoops in and saves the sinner. To Rashawn’s credit he points out, “We didn’t choose God; He chose us,” but there are a few statements like, “If you sincerely believe” and “Give God a chance.” I’ve known believers who questioned their salvation because they weren’t sure if they were sincere enough when they gave God a chance.

Christless Eternity

He also uses the phrase, “Christless eternity” which, to me, seems meaningless if you don’t believe in Christ and unnecessary if you do.

The Christian Living Contradiction

On the one hand he states, “This side of heaven, we are going to battle sin and waffle back and forth between doing good and evil. I get depressed and I sing for joy. I am confident and fearful. Left to my own devices, I never really know what I’m going to get.” But he also says, “When you think right, you will live right.”

Ultimately

I highly recommend this book. If you’re looking for honesty from a Christian on what it means to be a Christian, this is the book for you. Start Where You Are is a familiar phrase, but this is one time it’s backed up with honesty and sincere empathy. Rashawn isn’t condescending, belittling, or using rose colored rhetoric.

And that’s the perfect place to start.

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