The Deep Reach of Amazing Grace
by Stephen N. Johnson
The church is losing. People on the outside consider it either irrelevant or dangerous. People on the inside are leaving. The hard times the church faces today are largely the church’s own making. The church has forfeited the message of Jesus—a message of incredible good news—for the trappings of religion that fail to win minds and meet the deep needs of the human heart. Too often, the church presents a religion that is superficial, inconsistent, and incompatible. Putting it bluntly, many find it repugnant. For those who have left the church, I agree with you wholeheartedly that some churches need to be left. For those disgusted with the church, I urge you to hang in there and help make the church more Christ-like. To those rejected by the church, I apologize that we were not more like Christ. To all my fellow “ragamuffins” needing “a handout of amazing grace,” The Deep Reach of Amazing Grace explores the profound richness of God’s outlandish grace.
Steve Johnson is a compelling and moving voice for rescuing Christianity from the ravages of the contemporary church. The reader is not left to read between the lines. Indeed, he writes with candor and stunning clarity. His description of God’s grace will be startling to many because of his refusal to allow human boundaries and an array of performance requirements and expectations, which the institutional church tries to impose, to undermine or to veil the sheer wonder and simplicity of the grace embodied by Jesus and which carries no conditions or limitations. —R. Kirby Godsey, Chancellor, Mercer University
Steve Johnson belongs to the Baptist tribe. We talk grace and walk works. Johnson, on the other hand, talks and walks a grace so revolutionary that it offends us religious. Read this book, and I promise that you will at some point murmur: “Come on, Steve, you don’t really believe . . .”, “Yeah, but . . .”, “Are you actually saying that . . .?”. And, yes, he actually has his heart wrapped around a sweeping, drastic, radical grace. It is a radical grace that issues into radical works. —Walter B. Shurden, Minister at Large, Mercer University
The Deep Reach of Amazing Grace is a powerful and inviting exploration of the “God of outlandish grace.” Johnson combines meticulous analysis of scripture, with a willingness to look at his own beliefs and behavior with humility. He tells powerful stories from his experiences and calls on a vast range of sources—literary, philosophical, and Biblical—to carefully examine contemporary issues of religion and faith. The result is a compelling book. While I am neither a Christian nor a religious person, Steve Johnson writes in a way to make Jesus most appealing and the Christian faith both intellectually understandable and personally winsome. — Jane Bolgatz, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Fordham University, Graduate School of Education, Author of Talking Race in the Classroom (Teachers College Press, 2005)
About the Author
Bruce Morgan is a veteran pastor who lives in Gainesville, Georgia, with his wife, Emma, and teaches courses in literature and theology in the Learning and Leisure program at Brenau University.