Holy Discontent

I was really excited to pick this book up. I've respected Bill Hybels for a long time. Throughout the late nineties and early part of this century, Bill Hybels and the philosophy of Willow Creek Community Church were the "hot button" issue that students of theology debated over coffee. Regardless of where you fall/fell on that debate, I think it would be impossible to not respect Hybels for his humility in dealing with his critics, and willingness to admit when he has made mistakes.

I've read several of Hybels' books, and have generally been very impressed. Courageous Leadership and Just Walk Across The Room were both good reads with some excellent material.

Although I thought Holy Discontent was "okay," I don't think it's probably Hybels' best work. And that's a shame, because in a lot of ways, it's a book about what made Bill Hybels, Bill Hybels.

Hybels talks about "Holy Discontent" in the way that most people talk about "Driving Passion." But, it's not just a passion that comes and goes, it's a passion that defines your life. The biblical illustration Hybels uses is Moses who seems to have had a "holy discontent" about the status of the nation of Israel that drove him to both murder and liberation.

For the most part, and I mean this with all due respect, Holy Discontent is something of a "rah-rah" book. Hybels challenges us all to find the one thing that drives us - the one thing that we, like Popeye "just can't stands no more," and devote our life to that thing.

Although Moses is a good example of someone who does seem to have had a "holy discontent" about something, I wasn't ever completely convinced by this book that every person is given a "personal burning bush." The anecdotes and examples in the book were "change-the-world" kind of examples. One guy drops everything to move his family to Australia and pastor a church. Another woman leaves a lucrative accounting career to move to Africa and work with AIDS orphans.

Don't misunderstand me - I'm infinitely thankful for those kinds of people, and have no doubt that their desire and decision to make those kinds of sacrifices are God-ordained. But what about the guy who lives a quiet life on his block and quietly impacts his neighborhood with the gospel? We certainly need people who are changing the world on a macro level, but I'm not sure I think everyone is called to have those kinds of dreams. You have to have Pauls and Timothys, but you also have to have Freds and Jim Bobs.

The second big challenge I had was that all of the illustrations of Holy Discontent being put to use in the book were with local church ministry. Again, we desperately need people with a heartbeat for the local church. I'm one of those people. But we also need people with a heartbeat for their neighborhoods, para church ministries, and families. As one of my mentors says constantly, "The local church is not the hope of the world, Jesus is."

The final big challenge for me in this book was that it doesn't help me identify my area of holy discontent if I have one. It tells me how to live once I've identified my burning passion. It tells me what holy discontent looks like. And it tells me a lot about other people who are changing the world. But if I have an area of holy discontent and don't know what it is, I'm not sure what steps to take in identifying it after reading the book.

Holy Discontent is an easy, quick read, with some great stories that will get you fired up about the potential for the church to do great things in the future. However, if you're looking for a book that will help you identify what you were created to do based on biblical principles, I'm not sure this one is the best fit.


Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

I'm struggling with the concept of gratitude and the call to contentment and the notion of "holy discontent" -- your book review was helpful. Thank you!