Not too often can I say the introduction of a book is worth its purchase price. I can say that about BEYOND YOUR BACKYARD. Tom Ellsworth, preaching minister of Sherwood Oaks Christian Church in Bloomington, IN, begins with the premise that the church is not built of brick and mortar. The church is the flesh, intelligence, compassion and love of the people who follow Christ in any geographic area. The church is not the building.
Sometimes we read books that will stretch us theologically. I haven’t been stretched with this reading because I already agree with Tom. However, this book will stretch the thinking of members in hundreds if not thousands of congregations that merely go through the motions each Sunday morning. As for me, this reading has given me another kick in the pants to do more good in my community.
Tom Ellsworth nudges readers to get out of their pews and serve others. Not only does Tom urge us to serve others but he encourages us to love those that are different. With our church plant, Zach’s House, named after Zacchaeus, I dearly loved Tom’s exposition on Luke 19:1-5. Tom makes an outstanding point that it is easy to serve others if we only open our eyes, especially if we open our eyes to those we’d rather ignore.
Chapter 3, my favorite, includes important points on friends and connecting with others. This chapter is absolutely necessary for anyone that hasn’t heard the term “Christian community.” Tom states we can connect with others with whom we have built a bond. I would add that this can happen while we serve along others and with those we serve.
An 8 session discussion guide can be purchased along with BEYOND YOUR BACKYARD. If you can only afford the book, you may find the Stepping Out to Serve sections at the end of each chapter very handy for small group or class discussions. They are filled with brilliant discussion points that will encourage service to others.
Tom sums up the book and encourages readers with a couple well written sentences from a section titled It’s About Sacrifice, Not Satisfaction, “…when we make sacrifices so that we can invest our lives in others, we discover a deep sense of satisfaction. Don’t hold back. Start looking for specific ways to help someone. Look around – it’s not difficult to find hurting people who need you.”