Book Review: This Beautiful Mess

*If you buy this book from Amazon, you’ll be helping me out. Click at the link after this sentence: This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God


This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley mixes art with his purpose of changing our thinking from living as we wait for the Kingdom to living in the Kingdom. However, I left this book with mixed feelings.

The book begins very slowly. I put it down several times because I expected more meat, less dessert. It reads like many of the blogs I read online—beautiful, poetic, and Rick McKinley is quite a writer. The book is separated into parts. Some of the chapters include excerpts or what looks like poetry; an expression of worship, like dipping a banana in chocolate to make someone swallow the truth more pleasantly. What would be worship without beauty? God is, afterall, an artist, too. This Beautiful Mess gets into the truth, the meat, and my mind is satisfied, hungrily devouring every word.

This Beautiful Mess was written by an author who lives in liberal Portland. Naturally, one would expect a bit of leftist ideology in it. The author uses the word “rape” when referring to the environment in two places in the book, repeating himself.

“On the one hand, I see some evangelical communities and traditions that camp on the not-yet-end of the truth of the kingdom. They tend to look away from the disadvantaged, from issues of injustice or raping of the natural world for profit because…,” or here, “…understanding that creation was given to us to serve us. That doesn’t mean we’re free to rape the earth…” While the author stays vague so you’re not entirely sure how far left he thinks in regarding to environmental politics, it puts a conservative like me on alert. While I agree with taking care of the environment, I don’t agree with the more extreme environmentalists. With no specific examples, there’s too much room for assumption. He also has some black and white claims when comparing liberal and conservative churches.

At the 85% point of the book, he says the culture listens less because, “Jesus is not being lived out in the mess of their (conservative churches) lives. Christians are simply saying that Jesus is King without also living out His reign in the streets.” I attend a conservative church. We have two very large programs that take care of the disadvantaged in our community. Our church also did a 90 Days of Blessings to encourage our congregation to reach out beyond the walls of our church. To be fair, he also touches on the liberal church in the next paragraph. He devotes a large portion of the book to emotionalism and social justice.

This Beautiful Mess goes on about social justice, but, unless I missed it, I saw no change in the people who were warmed in the streets or who received free meals via many camp stoves. He praises a man who inherited $20,000 and gave it all way on Wall Street in small bills. I wonder what could have been done with that amount to double or triple his investment to do more good than a few dollars to temporarily help someone in need? In location 1988-1990, the author quotes Mother Theresa:

“My actions will preach. ‘There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point,’ said Mother Teresa. ‘What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone’s house. That says enough.’” This is where I disagree. We have too much of this in the world and not enough truth balancing out the action. Even the secular people do kind things for others, but what makes Christians different than the culture? People are hungry for love and for truth, even if truth hurts, and we need both. I did see change in the single parent stories. I agreed with him about repentance and how much we all need it (in and out of church). I agreed with much of his Appendix.

Normally, I don’t read Appendix’s, but the author’s Appendix is basically a proposal to the church on how to reach a culture without compromising beliefs. The author says, “This may be the biggest stretch for many of us, because discipleship has tended to focus on matters of being part of the church while mission has been left to those going overseas.” People are a wreck in and out of the church. This Beautiful Mess, while too much fluff at times, beautifully illustrated how redemption through Christ is a spiritual miracle and it must be done through relationship, not rote; through repentance. I gave this book three stars.

*Book given by publisher to review.