Review: Owen Strachan’s Risky Gospel

Owen Strachan has written a practical and provocative book on Gospel risk. Now you may thinking, “Ugh another book on radical Christian living?” Well in a way yes and also in some considerable ways no. Owen launches from Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents. This parable sets the stage for how the reader must understand risk in this book.  Here’s a short summary of the parable. The master leaves and gives three of his servants different amounts of money. Two use the money well and earn their master more. The third acts wickedly and hides his money. He lives in fear. That kind of fear prevents living faithfully. Instead, “We’re saved,” Owen says, “to plunge headlong into a life of God-inspired, Christ-centered, gospel-driven risk” (30).

The considerable difference between Owen’s risky proposal compared to other radical imperatives is a more balanced approach when fleshing out the bones of daily Christian living.

We’re called to be faithful in our day and our own context. . . .

Whether you’re overseas or in your backyard, your sacrifices for Christ are intensely important. When we give up dreams for ease and quiet and lack of suffering for Christ, God gets glory. Gospel risk has entered the equation. (37)

So this isn’t your best life now, or your greater life, or any of the other trite recommendations found in pop psychology “Christian” theology. This is your life in Christ lived out in faith. Chapter three discusses our identity and union with Christ. He ends this chapter by building on the foundation of gospel risk and makes it practical. The second idea is “building stuff. I mean, specifically, investing in God-honoring pursuits, like our spiritual lives, families, churches, and jobs” (66)--that’s what the remainder of the book addresses. This brings us to what I relished in Risky Gospel. Owen has a way of living in the middle of deep gospel truths and practical Christian living. Gospel risk isn’t an intangible truth. He shows us how grace is gritty. How the gospel has rough edges for living in this real, fallen world.

Risky Gospel, in a way, is about the start of the gospel story when God commands us to take dominion, or as Owen says, “building stuff.” Living our lives--no matter where or what that means--in a way that recognizes the truth of the gospel. “Holiness does not boil down to either grace or effort. It’s grounded in God’s grace, but it happens as we, through the Spirit’s agency, practically ‘pull off’ sin and ‘put on’ godliness” (70). That’s the tension we live in as we work, live as families, serve the church, or move away to the mission field. Because of the intense practicality and theological depth, Riskey Gospel serves a wide range of needs in the church.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes. He’s married to LeAnn and they have three daughters. He also loves to read, hike in the woods, and cook. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.