The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places

By: Nik Ripken

The Insanity of Obedience is a book, that when read by a Christian cover to cover, is likely to change his life.  The reason that this book is so powerful and insightful, is that God clearly prepared Nik to write it.  He has been involved in foreign missions for over twenty-five years mainly in Africa and the Middle East.  After leaving Somalia, where he witnessed the loss of over 100 believers, Nik was devastated and embarked on a mission to learn about the persecuted church.  In The Insanity of Obedience we can see the fruit of Nik’s journey of interviewing over 600 believers who live in environments of persecution in over 70 countries.  This book is a priceless resource that will have an impact on missions for years to come.

Summary

Nik starts with an introductory chapter laying out the reality that Christians are called to be “sheep among wolves” (2), and then splits it up into five parts.  In part one, God’s Command to Go to the Nations, the author goes into detail about God’s calling on each and every Christian as a worker for the kingdom.  This part of the book explains how the reader ought to think about missions, while defining terms and tearing down any false ideas about persecution and the Christian’s mission.

In part two, The Birth of Faith in Persecution Environment, Nik seeks to explain how God has worked in the unreached persecuted setting to bring about a church much like he did on the day of Pentecost (118). The reader is able to learn individually about the conversions of Muslim Background Believers (MMB) and Hindu Background Believers (HBB) in this section.  This part is not focused on technique but is simply an observation of how God works to bring lost people to himself.

Part three, Reaching Grandma and the Rest of the Family, focuses on the continuing birth of the gospel among the unreached.  Nik gives special attention to common barriers to the spread of the gospel, circumstances that get in the way of the gospel including betrayal, as well as decisions of overseas workers that can end up destroying a believing community and increase persecution unnecessarily.  He then wraps up the section with case study comparing the situation and results in China and the USSR, and two chapters dealing with the dynamics and roles of baptism.

After the many chapters on barriers to the Gospel in part three, Nik jumps into practical help and wisdom in part four, Practical Matters.  This section deals with the many things that the overseas worker needs to watch out and things they need to consider such as matters relating to support for locals financially, training leaders, and staying focused on evangelism even when a group of believers begins to form. The book comes to a worshipful ending in part five, A Victorious Faith with an inspiring story of a persecuted Christian in Russia and a list of important truths to wrap up the book.

Evaluation

It is nearly impossible to describe what Nik Ripken has provided for God’s people in this book.  In parts of the book, the reader is full of joy as he reads about the way challenges overseas can be overcome through practical guidance and real life examples.  Other times, he is led to repentance and sorrow while reading about the tragic fruit of fear and unfaithfulness both overseas and in the West.  With the different feelings and thoughts that this book stirs in the readers mind, tears are practically unavoidable.  Yet through all of these emotions, the thoughts, and the tears, come a better understanding of  how Christians are to have victorious faith, both in the relatively safe Western countries, and in the harsh areas of the unreached and unengaged.  The result of this understanding is that God’s mission may go forth in the darkest areas of our world with less failure and more victory.  This is Nik’s aim in the book.  His goal in this book is to equip Christians and Churches with the tools they need to not just survive in difficult places, but to thrive.  Every single section in this book succeeded in this mission.

The biggest strength of this book is the way it is applicable to all Christian readers.  Most would expect a book like this to be for overseas missionaries, not ordinary American Christians but this is not so.  Every single chapter can be life changing even for those who are not overseas missionaries.  Nik makes clear early on that all Christians are called to missions and the book is mainly about overseas missions but has an almost equal application for non-persecuted Christians.  This reality becomes clear in his subtle statements about the western church.  For example, when talking about a Pentecostal Environment in Persecuted people-groups, Nik says, “God desires for such movements for every unengaged and unreached people group globally.  Does He not also desire such a movement in the West?” (126).  Also, while talking about the causes and effects of persecution, Nik points out that when Christians fail to share their faith,  they are choosing to identify themselves with persecutors of Christians and the lack of obedience brings the same result of persecution: “people are denied access to Jesus” (29).  These kinds of motivating statements are spread through the book and each chapter even ends with a set of questions that helps the reader to ponder and think about the material in their context and situation. This strength is what makes the book convicting and life changing.

Conclusion

This book is for every Christian, and every Christian should read it.  I completely agree with what Brother Andrew says in the forward, “Warning: this is a difficult book.  Not because it is hard to read, but because it makes me uncomfortable.  Radically uncomfortable!” (xix). I do not know about Brother Andrew, but the reason this book made me uncomfortable is because it opened my eyes to see challenges and barriers involved in reaching people for Jesus in difficult places while I was failing share Jesus with people I know.  Nik opened my eyes to help me see how most of us in the west are failing.  Our perspectives are off.  Our zeal for the mission of God is often waning.  For many churches, boldness in the faith is almost nonexistent.  Our un-willingness to give up what we want is causing us to be unfaithful in our mission to lead hell bound people to Jesus for life both in the states and overseas.

On top of this, I am much more equipped to reach Muslims and Hindus for Jesus and to work, through the spirit to bring about church Planting Movements in the hardest to reach areas of the world.  I understand with more clarity how to thrive in a place with intense persecution.  Equipped with the insight of this book, we as Christians can be smarter and more effective in bring the unreached to the gospel so that they may be saved.  What an amazing book this is!

Book Review by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren

You can buy this book here.

You can buy his book, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected here.