Book Review: Book offers spiritual and practical post-retreat guidance

LovingWorld_cvrLoving the World with God: Fourth Day Living
Rebecca Dwight Bruff
Upper Room Books, 2014

By Aubrietta Jones
Special Contributor

Many attend retreats designed to motivate them to Christian service, only to find themselves at a loss when returning home. Some struggle to re-enter life outside the retreat setting. Others are impatient to get started in meaningful service, but don’t know where to begin.

The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Dwight Bruff’s book Loving the World with God: Fourth Day Living is written with these individuals in mind. She sums up the entire book’s message on page 11: What would it look like if the Christians in the pews on Sunday took their faiths into the world the other 167 hours of the week?

The book’s audience is “Fourth Day” movement participants. As Bruff aptly explains in the book, Fourth Day retreats include talks revisiting Christian teachings and powerful worship. The goal is to enliven the faithful to live the faith on all the days following the retreat (collectively, “the Fourth Day”). Whether the reader comes from Cursillo (Roman Catholic), Tres Dias (interdenominational), the United Methodist’s Walk to Emmaus or another Fourth Day experience, the book applies.

Using vignettes from the lives of returning “pilgrims” in each chapter, Bruff acknowledges the gamut of feelings Fourth Dayers could experience upon coming home. She then pivots to recount ways each returning pilgrim incorporates service into their lives. These examples show the reader the possible scope of their own callings. The author’s guidance continues as she touches on surprises and disappointments a mission field neophyte encounters. Listening for God, making spiritual sense of mission experiences and developing relationship with those receiving assistance are identified as components of missional living.

Bruff’s approach to the subject is refreshing. It is at once spiritual and practical. The book is seasoned with Bible quotes and Bible stories. Prayer, not spiritual gift inventories or searching for mission opportunities, is the starting point for direction. And she rightly identifies Christian service as bringing glimpses of the kingdom, rather than being the way God’s kingdom is permanently established on earth.

At just under 100 pages, this book makes for a quick read for the average adult. All Fourth Day language is defined, and there is no academic jargon. Each chapter ends with an opportunity to reflect on a Scripture passage, to ponder a personal experience akin to what is described in the passage, a call to pray and an invitation to put faith into practice.

I believe that all Christian outreach should be in concert with a verbal or written witness about the One who summons us to acts of charity. Given that some in mission share faith in destructive ways, I would have liked to have read more about how witness best accompanies mission. This book does not explore that issue, but it does address the surprising signs of God’s presence among those in need, and invites the reader to connect with Jesus in the least, the last and the lost.

I enjoyed this book personally and I would recommend it to Fourth Day participants—particularly the newly initiated. If paired with the other aspects of Fourth Day living, such as accountability groups and spiritual disciplines, this book could indeed be an impetus to do what the author suggests at the end of the foreword: “…get over yourself and go love the world already.”

The Rev. Jones serves as pastor of First UMC Lonoke.