Book Review: “Defying Gravity: Break Free from the Culture of More”
Defying Gravity: Break Free from the Culture of More
by Tom Berlin
Abingdon Press, 2016
Available from Cokesbury
Do you feel weighed down by things that you have accumulated, or struggle with a desire for more? Are you tempted by enticing images featured in targeted advertising? Do you want to be more generous in giving, but wonder how you could manage to make what feels like a sacrifice? Tom Berlin understands that growing in mature faith regarding generosity is a process. He encourages us to let go of the pursuit of our culture’s views of “the good life” in order to embrace the deeper happiness of a great life (page 100).
Berlin is a pastor who offers a higher perspective in this creative approach to becoming a faithful steward. He draws on concepts from astronomy such as black holes (p. 32) and the reality of space junk (p. 69). He describes the lure of the things of this world as a force of “financial gravity” pulling us down into our individual kingdom of self (pp. 15-18). By bringing biblical passages into the discussion, he shows how Jesus invites us to freedom from being burdened by material concerns. Berlin presents engaging ways to help us enter more fully into the joy of participating in the kingdom of God.
This book is grounded in down-to-earth insights gleaned from Berlin’s life as a Christian. He also highlights recent news stories of ordinary people whose dedication to finding and doing God’s will has led to blessing other people. Berlin helps us imagine the happiness and buoyancy we can feel when we’re free from clinging to possessions, anxiety, or seeking fulfillment in other things.
There are many things that we could do with our money. A lot of these options result in short-term pleasure. When we view our life’s legacy, what will bring the most satisfaction or even transformation? Individually, and as part of the church, we can harness our goods to make a lasting difference. We can help children and adults who are in need to flourish in our community and the world. Berlin shares hopeful views and true stories, showing that it’s not too late for us to live into our faith commitments in meaningful ways.
Although there is no children’s book or youth guide to accompany this program, it could still help members of all ages in your congregation grow in discipleship. Berlin devotes significant time to analyzing experiences in his childhood and his daughter’s youth, applying the lessons learned to contemporary life. He also shares the positive influence of his wife’s steady commitment to tithing as influential in his discipleship during their early years of marriage.
Use this as part of a four-week stewardship program for your church. Berlin also wrote The Generous Church: A Guide for Pastors to assist pastor and leadership teams in planning and implementing this stewardship program in their context. Other companion resources include the Defying Gravity DVD, Leader Guide, and Program Tools Flash Drive. All of these are included with the pastor’s guide when you buy the Leader Kit.