Date read: 05.28.2017. How strongly I recommend it: 10/10.
(Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that the ministry of Within Reach Global will receive 4.50% of your total purchase from Amazon.)
Well-written missions books can be extremely difficult to find. If you have a passion for missions and love to learn what God has done and is doing in the nations, this book should be at the top of your list. One acknowledgment at the beginning of the book describes this story well: “At points, the story is heart-wrenching and poignant; at other times it is uplifting and motivating. From the despair of having to bury his only son on the steppes of Mongolia to the birth of a church-planting movement, Hogan offers a deeply spiritual memoir, peppered with humor and inspirational insight, and informed by solid biblical missiology.” For readers who want to learn the practical essentials for biblical-based missiology in a real-world scenario, There’s a Sheep in My Bathtub will not disappoint.
Let’s start with the obvious and be brutally honest: the cover art on this book is atrocious. I fear that this initial imagery acts as such a deterrent that the potential reader might never delve deep into this superb narrative. An adolescent cartoon overlaid on a photographic image should never be applied to a book cover. And then there’s the typeface which feels like it must have been an accident—nearly as unpleasant as Comic Sans. The title might have felt more creative and less strange with a quality cover. I feel that I must pause at this point and implore the author/publisher to update the cover of this book. My reasoning is obvious: the story itself (as well as the author’s writing style) is remarkable and I fear that too many readers will be turned off without giving the book a chance. Everyone judges a book by its cover, and this particular book should not be overlooked. The content is extraordinary, the narrative compelling, and the challenge one that the global Church is waiting for. The reader becomes aware of the title’s meaning halfway through the book, at which point makes complete sense and feels naturally apt. This is one of the best missions books I have ever read and should not be overlooked because of the cheesy cover.
(After conversing with the author, I was pleased to hear that my advice was not overlooked. The previous cover has now been replaced with a tenth anniversary cover that gives greater credibility to the narrative. Here is the old cover next to the new cover.)
This book highlights the struggles and victories that every missionary experiences on the mission field. It is rare to find a cross-cultural worker who is so committed to establishing an indigenous-led ministry in their host country. This was incredibly refreshing and inspirational. The author (and his missionary counterparts) solely devoted themselves to “working themselves out of a job” with a first-century Church missional approach. George Patterson says, “Many church planters follow such a long list of things to do to start a church that they fail to give top priority to the few essential activities, and end up doing so many things that the key, pivotal elements of church planting are buried in the plethora of work items.” The sound biblical missions approach depicted in this book is an example that should be emulated by missionaries worldwide.
The author’s wit, coupled with his years of cross-cultural experience and missional savvy, are powerful agencies of communication. I found myself laughing out loud then suddenly brought to tears as I walked with the author through his glorious victories and heart-wrenching losses. I appreciated his skill in redundantly reiterating particular aspects of the narrative. He expounded on (and returned to) the personal losses that he encountered (the death of his young son) and then did the same in articulating the breakthroughs that he experienced. This creativity in storytelling was a breath of fresh air in a world lacking well-written missionary stories. This book has the capacity to become a Christian missions classic.
The author moves between writing styles with ease, at once with whimsical comedy then with introspective vocabulary. This book is not overly verbose but does boast a shrewd and savvy vernacular. I was impressed by the language selection of this book. It is a rare and happy occasion to find a mission book that is written so well. There’s a Sheep in My Bathtub focuses on a previously unreached region of the earth—a topic I am particularly interested in. The author writes of his target country, “Their ignorance of Christianity and Christ is staggering, and we have to remind ourselves there is no Christian background here at all.” Again, speaking of indigenous-stye missionary work, the author says, “One of our principles of church planting was to keep the local leaders off the apostolic team because this team is only temporary—like scaffolding—dismantled as the local, indigenous Church takes shape.” The author writes with candid wit and with an authoritative voice on the subject of cross-cultural missions.
This book made a tremendous impact on me. Not only was the story compelling and inspirational, but the narrative also challenged my writing style as well. Like I mentioned above, I laughed and cried while reading this book. The author masterfully writes in a “reader-centric” style, which draws you into the storyline and makes for enjoyable reading. But not only that, the book also challenges the paradigms of cross-cultural missions, questioning the validity of modern missional approaches. He does well to reiterate the strategic and time-tested missionary efforts portrayed in Perspectives on the Christian World Movement. After finishing this book, I find myself praying that God would pull me back from the missions drift I have experienced into the central role of apostolic ministry, namely, planting indigenous-led churches among unreached people groups.
10 POINT RATING
I give There’s a Sheep in My Bathtub a 10/10.