Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: Organic Outreach for Families

Organic Outreach for Families: Turning Your Home into a Lighthouse is the last book of the trilogy written by Kevin and Sherry Harney. This reviewer had not heard of nor previously read any of Pastor Harney’s works, so my review is without bias or agenda.

In the introduction, the authors are helpful is sketching out the book’s direction, which is challenging Christian families to pursue gospel moments through the use of their home in a natural, organic and relational way. Part one focuses on helping parents reach their children and extended family with the love of the gospel in practical ways. In part two, the Harney’s share their life experiences and proven methods of how they encouraged their kids to live out the Great Commission. Finally, the last section of the book focuses on the home itself: how to build a lighthouse, how to make it shine and how to avoid the dimming or covering of its light.

One of my first impressions of the book is that it is an easy read. The generous use of personal anecdotes and minimal theological terminology is perfect for newer Christians or those with an aversion to technical or complex argumentation.

Another factor that adds to the broad marketability of the book is its emphasis on the practical, not the theoretical. Most of the chapters offer bullet points of sensible advice, clearly drawn from years in the trenches of pastoral ministry. An excellent example of this is chapter seven: The Home as a Playground, where Sherry Harney, under the subtitle The Pathway to Fun, offers nine lessons ranging from #3—Say Yes Whenever You Can, #5—Slow Down or #8—Set Boundaries (my personal favorite). These lessons are strategically universal and ready for immediate implementation.

One of the unexpected joys of this book is the author’s commitment to eclectic evangelism. If there is any consistent methodology found in this work, it is the consistent dispersion of the Harney’s personal testimony. No Evangelism Explosion, Way of the Master or any other recent (or antiquated) evangelism technique is promoted or even mentioned. To this reviewer, I found this emphasis immensely practical and reinforced my conviction that most Christians don’t need a memorized system, just a little faith and a commitment to the mission.

The other unexpected joy is the special sections or "grey areas" within each chapter. These areas function to bring additional perspectives (mainly from the Harney's boys) or to elucidate important concepts such as the gospel, sin or forgiveness. In my opinion, these "grey areas" infused some much needed theological depth, which may give it more shelf life as a viable resource for the local church.

I do have one criticism, though.

The authors seem to have a subtle bent towards philosophical pragmatism.

On page 60 Pastor Harney writes,
“I was speaking to a woman in my family who had been investigating the Christian faith…for 25 years. This particular family member has a passion for music. Music touches her soul in a way that is deep and true to who she is, so over the years I gave her great Christian music. She loved it…..and eventually began attending a wonderful church near her home, and she joined the choir. She was not yet a follower of Jesus, but she loved singing and connecting with the other choir members, and they lovingly welcomed her.”
He goes on to write that at a later time she heard the gospel and responded in faith to the saving work of Jesus.

To be clear, I am thankful this lady gave her life to Christ, but as the saying goes, “The end doesn’t justify the means.” In my opinion, this approach is just as foolish as “missionary dating” and as inappropriate as putting a new convert in a position of church leadership (I Tim. 3:6). Innovation and risk-taking (p. 171) does not trump the priority of spirit-filled and truth-driven worship (John 4:24).


Overall, I endorse this entertaining, well-written book. It made me look within myself and ask these questions, "Am I really about outreach in my neighborhood?", "Am I balanced in my parenting approach?", "Is selfishness hindering me from being more involved in my community?" As I stated above, this will be a helpful resource to those new to the Christian faith and those who need some practical guidance of how to live “in the world”, but not “of the world”.

**Thank you to Zondervan and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

1 comment:

  1. Clint,

    Thanks for being a part of the Organic Outreach for Families Book Review Blog Tour. Thanks for sharing in your review about the questions the book made you ask in reference to your own life. I think that's helpful for potential readers, so they can better understand the self-examination they'll likely be doing as they read the book.

    Looking forward to working with you on future book review blog tours.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews