Review: Called to Stay

Called to Stay is my first review solicited by another author, and frankly, I could not have asked for a better initial experience. I have an aching suspicion it may taint others yet to come, not because author Caleb Jennings Breakey seems to be such a great guy (which he does) but because the book is just that good (which it is).

The work serves as Breakey’s timely call to his fellow millennials to do the hard work of staying in a place that frustrates them more than possibly any other: the local church. Millennial attitudes toward fundamentalism and the Christian faith are no secret. A generation of youth whose core values are identity and passion have come to see gaps between theology and practice as not only unacceptable but repugnant. Breakey’s message to his ever-authentic and integrity-obsessed peers is simple: the ethic of Christian love calls not for leaving the broken fellowship of believers but rather transforming churches through loving relationship and Christ-centered personal reflection.

Breakey shows his understanding of the current cultural mindset in more than just substance but also style. His background in journalism is on full display as he concisely expresses large ideas in a form that is brief but dense. Though the book reads at a breakneck pace, every page feels full of useful suggestions and valuable insights.

Of course, to some this may also make the book feel like a series of one-liners, bumper-sticker slogans, and other instances of fortune-cookie wisdom. Ironically, the book may seem to display the sort of pithy church culture against which millennials seem to react so harshly, but I think such a critique is dismissive. Breakey writes as he does with intentionality, because a staccato delivery is the most common way millennials absorb information. Though sections are brief, they are well written and succinct. Those who criticize the book’s shorthand “beat-by-beat” cadence have a right to do so, but to them I would simply pose the question, “How would you say it better?” (and let’s be sure, “longer” is rarely “better”).

One reason that Called to Stay is so useful is that the aforementioned style allows Breakey covers a great deal of ground in digestible bits. I found many moments and points of the book worth remembering, but I connected to these the most:

This quote from page 38 may be the single most poignant moment in the whole book, as Breakey comments on the current exodus from mainline and tradition churches to smaller enclaves started by those who are “going to do it right”. He notes, “those who end up leaving the church in order to be the church end up needing the church.” His point being that as these smaller churches grow, they develop the same dynamics and issues against which their members rallied in the first place.

An insert on page 51 calls for solving the problems one sees in their local church by challenging the critic to be the solution through personal action and accountability. The table essentially works like this: If the church lacks X, start providing some form of X yourself. For example, “No genuine fellowship? Create genuine fellowship.”

Pages 67-71 provide the excellent “Follower Manifesto” which I think will serve for many as the most compelling part of the text, particularly if one adhere’s to Breakey’s request to read the content aloud.

Pages 82-83 bring the Holy Spirit into focus as a source of not only courage but also inspiration and motivation.  As one who often acknowledges the power of following the Spirit’s whisper, I found this section essential to Breakey’s message.

Page 99 begins a section on childlikeness before God, and I was pleasantly surprised by not only it’s inclusion but also it’s content.

On page 146, Breakey writes briefly on the power of story. “Use sin subtley”, he advises. This is specifically pertinent to me as my own first book, Stronghold, deals in this method of glorifying God through recounting a tale of his deliverance.

Finally, Breakey recounts one individual’s darkest night just before her bright new dawn; and after, he asserts, “What was God up to during that process? What was he teaching? We just don’t know. All we know is that under the surface, everything just might be going right.” This sentence will probably stay with me for a long time, and I look forward to hunting and memorizing verses that attest to it.

I am picking my personal favorites, but they provide only a taste of the valuable truths and challenges presented by Caleb Breakey. To be honest, I became somewhat enamored with this book. While I’d like to offer more criticism and so forth, I really feel like I would be reaching simply in order to say something negative for the sake of balance. If you know me well, you know that I call it like I see it, esp. here on the blog.

Called to Stay is wonderful, plain and simple, and I was happy to buy it on release day despite my having a review copy already. The book should prove an excellent, potent read for both those within a local church body and those who have left it.

Called to Stay: An Uncompromising Mission to Save Your Church
on Amazon