Sunday, January 23, 2011

A REVIEW // Matthew Barnett, The Cause Within You

Matthew Barnett is the co-founder of The Dream Center (with his father Pastor Tommy Barnett) and senior pastor of the Angelus Temple in L.A., and in the opening of The Cause Within You, he talks about the night he spent on Skid Row in downtown L.A. (quite a dangerous idea) to celebrate their 15th anniversary as the Dream Center.

In the 15 years of the Dream Center, Barnett had worked with and spent time with people facing hardship and suffering but he had never slept on their streets. In lieu of a celebratory banquet with staff and volunteers, touting their own success, Barnett felt God leading him to do something different, radical and uncomfortable, much like what he felt when he started in the Echo Park area of L.A. as a young 20-year-old brand new pastor. So he did it. He spent the night on Skid Row. And he came away realizing that the more dangerous place to be for a Christian, more dangerous than Skid Row, would be the return to a "routine life not fully aligned with God's cause" (p. 25).

His experiences inspired this book, The Cause Within You. It's a collection of stories from Barnett's personal experience as well as the personal stories of people from the Dream Center and Angelus Temple. [Disclosure: I've attended Angelus Temple while in L.A. and was given an advance copy of the book by a staff member for review. I am also acquainted with two of the women whose stories are included in the book.]  The various personal stories are both interesting and inspiring, and they make for a quick and easy read, and illustrate Barnett's challenge well.

His challenge to himself and to his readers is to find the cause (or vision, dream, purpose, reason for being) that God has placed in each person's heart. But even more than just finding one's cause or purpose, he aims to have readers focus on their personal relationships with God in order to discover how waiting on God and having the right attitude will fuel the fire of their cause. Otherwise, what he believes often happens is that a person will redefine their cause to their own comfort level, rather than the full radical and passionate purpose God places within them.

He breaks the idea down into smaller bites: 1) discovering the cause, 2) waiting on God's timing, 3) having the right attitude, 4) starting to serve, even by small steps, 5) finding partners and 6) knowing when to quit. He includes inspirational bullet points at the ends of chapters of what he has learned, something a reader can pick up quickly for a reminder.

Barnett closes the book with the thought that one's God-given cause is the cause of Christ and to live out one's life to this cause goes well beyond personal achievement or success on earth and is part of something far more magnificent than anyone could imagine, with eternal significance. That's the bottom line and that's where Barnett leaves it.

Confession: I usually read headier books on missiology or theology (maybe I'm a dorky bookworm, or maybe that's my God-given purpose). The Cause Within Me is more along the lines of popular reading for the Church. Absolutely nothing wrong with that; there just aren't many of those books on my bookshelves these days. Still, I found this book encouraging me and challenging me as I walk toward a new venture in my life this year. It reminded that I need to regroup with God and allow him to clarify and define my vision for this next stage of life.

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