Review: Is There Anybody Out There?: A Journey from Despair to Hope

Is There Anybody Out There?: A Journey from Despair to HopeIs There Anybody Out There?: A Journey from Despair to Hope by Mez McConnell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed watching God’s amazing grace change this drug-addicted burglar and all-around street tough. I listened to him give his testimony in an interview with Mark Dever some time ago. The book offered even more edifying and instructive detail.

Of course, it is also hilarious to watch someone from a totally different culture encounter conservative Christian culture for the first time.

Here’s a vignette:

I can’t believe that I’m going to church. But as there’s a big group of us, and I don’t feel so conspicuous, I figure that I’ll give it a go. See what all the fuss is about.

‘Good morning, brethren. If you are a visitor here, then we welcome you in the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ.’

‘Matt. What’s a brethren?’

‘It’s like people. Good morning, everyone.’

‘So why didn’t he just say that then?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Let us pray. Oh Lord, we know that thou art our heavenly Father and that we are thy humble servants. We beseech thee in the Name of thy precious Son to hear our supplications this morning.’

‘Matt. Why’s he talking like that?’

‘Shh. He’s praying to God.’

‘What? Does God understand him then?’

But, especially once Mez becomes a Christian, spiritual insights get included as well. Mez goes to Bible college as a brand-new baby Christian:

I found out today that I’m ‘Reformed’. Apparently I have a choice between being this and ‘charismatic’. I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about, but I‘ve been put in the ‘Reformed’ camp anyway. One of my lecturers told me that I ‘take the Bible too seriously and ought to make more effort to discover the experiential side of my faith’. I told him I would follow his advice if we opened the Bible in his class once in a while! Sometimes I get the feeling that some of these people are only a few pages ahead of us in the textbook. ‘What you need, Mez, is the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.’ ‘Is that right?’ ‘Yes, your problem is that your faith is all intellectual and you’ve never had a real and powerful experience of the Holy Spirit.’ ‘Is that right?’ ‘Yes you need the power, Mez.’ ‘The power? What power?’ ‘The power to defeat sin, to rise up in the Name of the Holy Spirit and to witness to the glory of the gospel.’ ‘Tell you what, muppet, why don’t you and I take a walk around my old estate and we’ll see where your power is. You wouldn’t last two minutes in the real world.’

And then there’s this comment, which hits me in the gut:

There are many ‘Christians’ who would like us to tone down what we do and be less ‘in your face’ with the truth. They want us to ‘love the poor’ and all that patronising nonsense. People here want the news straight up—end of story. There’s a lot of this ‘we have to earn the right to speak’ nonsense that does the rounds, particularly in middle class churches looking for reasons why they are so ineffective in areas like ours. We do not have to earn the right to do anything. Jesus Christ has earned the right for us! Our responsibility is to speak the truth in love. But we must not let the ‘in love’ bit come to mean that we should water it all down to acts of service. People need to hear truth proclaimed whatever their financial, social or political circumstances. End of rant!

The book is just 3 bucks for Kindle right now. Also check out Mez’s video testimony:

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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