5.18.15 BOOK REVIEW: “Possible” by Stephan Bauman

 In Book Review

1420414896710To start, I need to apologize to Multnomah Publishing and the author, Stephan Bauman, as this book review is WAY overdue! I received the book towards the end of March and immediately began to read it, but my schedule got hectic as April and the 1st two weeks in May included a trip to Kenya, followed by a 15 city tour with Steven Curtis Chapman, immediately followed by a trip to Zambia, Malawi and Kenya. Needless to say, the book received some frequent flyer miles! Even though this review is a little late, I do hope that you read my thoughts on the book and will consider picking up a copy, as I HIGHLY recommend it!

Reading “Possible” by the CEO of World Relief, Stephan Bauman while I was traveling through three countries in Africa was especially encouraging! I grew up and spent the first 30 years of my life in Maryland only 45 minutes away from the World Relief office. I’m embarrassed to say that I have never visited the office (yet), but would love to have the opportunity to get to know more about the ministry of World Relief in the future, especially after reading this book!
I was immediately captured by Stephan’s words when I read:
“Out of our excess we devote a bit of time and resources to the vulnerable. But what if we were to flip this paradigm on its head and instead organize around God’s love for the least first, where worship doesn’t sidestep the world’s suffering but includes them?” – Stephan Bauman
In my role as a social justice and global missions advocate, I often find myself in situations inviting The Church to participate in building God’s Kingdom through child sponsorship for “around $1 a day”. For many families, $30/month can actually require a sacrifice within their budget to sponsor a child, and I am always humbled to see families willing to make that sacrifice! For many other families though, $1/day is not even felt in their budget. Thankfully, in my opinion, my invitation is just an introduction to global missions, one in which I hope will help ignite a passion to serve the poor, mobilize missionaries, and inspire lifestyle change to release resources to be used to build God’s Kingdom on earth.
“I pray that you, too, discover the relentless God of the universe, not through shimmering stained glass, but instead through faces marred by suffering yet marked with unspeakable joy.” – Stephan Bauman
I have a confession to make. In addition to traveling as a speaker on Christian music tours, I have been traveling as a “worship leader” for the past 9 years with my brothers in the band, Willet. For the past 2 years especially, i continually find it more and more difficult to experience God’s presence in modern day, American-worship services. Great length is taken to setup a “worship experience” through lights, fog, ambient keyboard patches, and visually stimulating graphics projected onto the wall, but still, I leave feeling empty and unsatisfied. On my recent trip to Africa, I led worship at a church in Kenya and also a Church in Malawi. Even there I struggled to experience the presence of God! But – the times that I powerfully felt worship being displayed through my life was when I fed a hundred school children their lunch (some of which would be their only meal of the day) and when we celebrated U.S. Mother’s Day in Malawi by visiting an orphan care center, ministering to a group of young girls.
“Most people see the poor and vulnerable as victims without the capacity and potential to change their world. What if the vulnerable were empowered to lead their own change?” – Stephan Bauman
I was so thankful to see Stephan’s consistent view on poverty and community transformation as a “relationship” with the poor rather then an “us-to-them” mentality. As I spent this past month in some of the poorest countries in the world, I experienced communities facing challenges such as hunger, poverty, and disease… but I still saw hope.
“Living unafraid yet vulnerable has the potential to set the world on fire because faith is most attractive when it is least selfish. When onlookers to faith cannot clearly distinguish our motives, they shrink back. They wonder if any substantial difference exists between those who pursue God and those who don’t.” – Stephan Bauman
I was primarily reading “Possible” it to assist with my role as “Worship and Community Transformation Coordinator” for New Mission Systems International for some upcoming programs we are working on developing, however, I was pleasantly surprised by how the book ministered to me on a personal level.
“The purpose of pruning is to increase fruit, not kill it.” – Stephan Bauman
The past view years have included some major valleys in my family’s life. The biggest one being a 5 year adoption process from Ethiopia. With every month that passed, we would receive an updated photo of our daughter with comments about how she was now starting to walk, talk, and eat on her own…milestones that are supposed to be shared-experiences with us as her parents. But, there we sat – an ocean away and aching with pain on behalf of our daughter.
“…the tallest trees have the deepest roots. And roots spread wide during times of storms and wind; they go deeper during times of drought.” – Stephan Bauman
On my layover in South Africa on my way home from my recent trip, my wife shared with me the news we had been waiting for forever over FaceTime….a positive adoption letter from Ethiopia with our court date coming next! Finally, a glimmer of light shining through the door! We may never be able to understand why the process took so long, but all I know is that we are stronger because of the storm.
“Deeds tell the real story of faith. They differentiate true religion from false, and they say a whole lot more about the quality of our faith than words do. While people are never redeemed through their words – only God redeems – faith that does not produce good works is dead.” – Stephan Bauman
Stephan’s call to action resonated deeply with me. More than ever, I am convinced that you cannot be a Christian and sit on the sidelines of God’s redemptive work among the poor.
“A person who openly confesses Jesus but intentionally acts in ways contrary to the nature of Jesus desecrates his nature and therefore his name too.” – Stephan Bauman
“If the gospel is primarily, or even entirely, about saving us from our sins, then saving the world will exclusively mean evangelism, Bible translation, church building, training for ministry, and so on – not addressing physical needs, economic choices, or societal and political evils.” – Stephan Bauman
I often fear that we sometimes dilute the gospel down to a simple prayer in an effort to see “conversions”, while all along missing the fact that the gospel of Jesus affects all aspect of life: spiritual, physical, and emotional.
“What if we refused to obsess about arguments that center on what could be God’s will and instead wholeheartedly pursued what we know to be his will? Most agree that God is concerned with not only redeeming people but also, through them, bringing his will, his rule – as characterized by truth, peace, justice, and love – into all of life.” – Stephan Bauman
I’ll leave you with a few more strong quotes from the book. The quotes that I’ve included in this book review only scratch the surface of a book rich with Biblical truths, in-depth stories, and thought-provoking concepts. Immediately after I finished the book, I emailed my dad who is a Pastor in Maryland over worship and missions, and told him about the book because “Possible” included a bonus “Community Mapping Appendix”! I highly recommend this book for any ministry leader, organization director, social justice advocate, or global missions participant. Be prepared to be both challenged and inspired.
“Injustice occurs when these people [the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, and the poor] are left out, oppressed, or exploited. Justice occurs when they are included.” – Stephan Bauman
“Charity is still too often reduced to giving from the outside rather then mobilizing resources from within.” – Stephan Bauman
“I’ve found that hope is sometimes strongest where the need is greatest.” – Stephan Bauman

“Where your joy intersects with the world’s pain is where you will bring hope to a weary world. It’s also where you will personally thrive.” – Stephan Bauman

For the least of these,

Jeremy Willet
*I received a free copy of “Possible” from Multnomah Publishing in exchange for an honest review of the book, and I do not receive any compensation from you reading this review or pre-orders / purchases of the book in any way. In my role as Worship and Community Transformation Coordinator for New Mission Systems International, I attempt to keep my eye out for new resources, books and publications in regards to justice, missions, and poverty. I was thankful for the free copy of this book, and I hope this review shows you how I was inspired by Stephan’s story and work on behalf of the Gospel.
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