A Review of “Recovering Redemption” by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer

recoveringThe Lord has used the ministry of Matt Chandler and the Village Church to bless me immensely over the years. While I got burnt out on and frustrated with Mark Driscoll, I never felt that same level of frustration with Chandler. His preaching has encouraged and influenced me greatly over the years. And the church he helps to lead has been a blessing to me as well. The recovery program that Michael Snetzer heads up at The Village has been the inspiration for the ministry we lead at Cornerstone. So, when I saw that Chandler and Snetzer were writing a book based on their ministry I was very excited. Content-wise this is a good book, but not everything translates seamlessly from practice to page. While Recovering Redemption has a good goal, it suffers from poor presentation.

Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer have witnessed first-hand the transforming power of the gospel in the lives of the most broken and hardened people. Their ministry at The Village Church is the inspiration behind this book, which aims to give readers a “gospel-saturated perspective on how to change.” Whether your brand new to the gospel or simply in need of revisiting it this book is for you. Much like Chandler’s previous work, Explicit Gospel, this one can give even Christian readers a fresh look at the gospel and its implications for their lives. Throughout the book the authors continually highlight the ways in which we attempt to redeem ourselves or cover ourselves, pointing us always to the sufficiency and effectiveness of Christ’s work for us. This is definitely a gospel-focused work on the process of change.

The book is essentially broken down into two parts. The first half of the book addresses the theological foundations for change. Here the authors highlight the gospel components of creation, fall, and redemption. They emphasize our moral and spiritual inabilities, the need to humble ourselves before God, the doctrines of justification and sanctification. In very accessible terms they break down doctrine to point us to our desperate need for and dependence upon Christ. They are not afraid to speak of practical efforts on our part to submit ourselves to sanctification and work out our salvation, but they keep the focus primarily on Christ. While other recovery programs focus on changing behavior, Snetzer and Chandler are far more interested in helping us see the need for changed hearts – which only the Spirit of God, himself, can provide.

The second half or the book examines our role in recovery. Here the authors address the various issues that stall our recovery progress: guilt and shame, fear and anxiety, endurance, reconciliation and amending, confronting and forgiving, and pleasure. In each case they are exposing potential sins and temptations, and turning readers towards the testimony of the Scriptures for help and realignment. Ultimately, the authors want us to focus on recovery for the sake of Christ, not simply for ourselves. Again, the gospel is our power to change and our motivation to change.

The content in this book is solid. As one who has been pastoring addicts for the last four years I have seen the difference the gospel makes in the process of recovery. Recovering Redemption aims to communicate this fact throughout its 211 pages. It can, however, often be frustrating and cumbersome in its presentation. The book is riddled with grammatical and stylistic issues. It labors metaphors to the point of annoyance and often mixes metaphors. One minute we are discussing how self-salvation is a morality play, and then randomly these efforts are like buckets (25-26). Occasionally grammatical problems become distracting too, sentences with no subject and wrong forms of “to.” I found myself often frustrated with single sentence paragraphs, sometimes multiple such paragraphs in a row, colloquial and even condescending expressions. These seemingly innocuous mistakes mounted up page after page to be ultimately very distracting. The book, which offers such a helpful focus on the gospel, could have benefited from more thorough editing.

As much as I have loved and benefited from The Village Church and its pastors, I was largely disappointed with this book. Its content is good, but its presentation is so frustrating that its content gets muddled. Of all the resources available on “gospel-saturated” change, this won’t be the one I recommend. If Chandler is usually so easy to listen to, this book is a chore to read. Recovering Redemption just isn’t as quality a product as I had hoped it would be.

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