Posted by: Aaron McCarter | July 16, 2007

Book Review: This Beautiful Mess, by Rick McKinley

Rick McKinley is the pastor of a church called, Imago Dei (Latin for ‘Image of God’…easily one of my top five favorite church names) (, a church in Portland that’s famously attended by Donald Miller (he talks about his church a lot in his books).

This book’s about the nature of the Kingdom of God…one of the more gnarly theological topics to tackle. I’m a part of the Vineyard church movement (, and much of what makes us theologically distinct is our understanding of the Kingdom of God…so when a book on the topic hits the shelves, I go after it!

Rick McKinley is a subtly brilliant guy. Using bite-size words and casual illustrations he slips in truly insightful and sometimes even profound comments, almost undetected. The title seems to imply that it’s an artsy-fartsy book with a lot of abstract imagery…it’s not at all. I was glad of that. The Kingdom of God is plenty mysterious on it’s own! Rick’s hardly a masterful writer…he’s writing for purpose, not art.

He has a fresh perspective…without compromising truth (for the sake of having a fresh perspective). The book’s in three parts…the first two aren’t so much about application as they are about framing our understanding of the Kingdom. The third is mostly stories that Rick expounds upon, as he talks about ways in which the Kingdom breaks-in on our lives through people showing the love of Christ.

I found the first two far more helpful and insightful than the third…but that may be because I listen to Rick’s sermons online quite a bit…and therefore had already heard most of the stories. However, the last two chapters of the book are fantastic! He switches hats in those last two chapters and tries to inspire us to action. Some people think it’s tawdry when authors do that…but it worked on me!

There’s a lot of the typical postmodern questions: “What would it look like if…”.

To be honest that language is so tired, that it’s get on my nerves a bit. However, Rick’s questions weren’t lame questions like, “What would it look like if the church was more awesome?”…instead they were questions worth asking like, “What would it look like if the Kingdom of God broke in on a homeless shelter”, and “how does showing God’s love for the earth, show God’s love to people?”

Don’t read this book to lay a theological foundation for the Kingdom (read ‘Breakthrough’ by Derek Morphew for that), not because the theology isn’t accurate, but it’s just not at all systematic. If you don’t already have a framework for the Kingdom, it won’t clear up the picture much for you. But, that’s not why it was written, so that’s OK. All in all…this was one of the more insightful books on the Kingdom of God I’ve read in a long time.

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