I’m not sure how to describe this book. At one level it is easy to describe it; it’s an excellent book, well written and genuinely easy to read. I don’t have the slightest hesitation in recommending that you read it.
My difficulty, is that I’m not sure how to classify it. It is part guide to modern Christian life (with some good practical hints) and part extended practical theology. This is partly reflected in the title and subtitle. In the Ministry of a Messy House, vicar’s wife Amanda Robbie gives us glimpses into her hectic life with its struggles and triumphs. Those who follow her blog will recognise many of the characters and some of the stories, but the book is none the worse for that. The picture emerges of a family who are very busy, not always organised (buttered bread for Holy Communion), but who are constantly seeking to share their lives and faith with others – sometimes at significant cost. Each chapter closes with a few practical suggestions: things that the Robbie’s have found work for their family and which might help others. If this was all the book did, it would be a good book – though not very relevant to a late middle aged bloke with grown up kids, like me.
However, the subtitle is Grace Instead of Guilt; and this is what sets the book apart from the plethora of family and housekeeping advice out there. Running through the book is an extended reflection on the way in which we need to live our lives in the light of Scripture and its calling on us, rather than on the expectations created by the world. Essentially, this is a book of missional theology; exploring how to live out the Christian life in that most difficult of workplaces – the home!
As I read it, I found myself thinking back to Chris Wright’s The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (review here). Amanda Robbie’s book is less ambitious than Chris Wright’s work, but the balance of solid theology and practical advice is very similar. Those who know me, will recognise this as praise indeed!
One last comment; it would be sad if this were to become thought of as a woman’s book; men need to read it too.
I should mention that the publishers, IVP, provided me with a review copy of this book. However, this has not affected what I have said. If it was a stinker, I’d have said so – but it isn’t!