By Alex Preston
Faber & Faber. 326 pages. £12.99
ISBN 978 0 571 277 582
Everyone who is involved with running any of the evangelistic courses that are currently available should be aware of this book.
Not necessarily read it — it isn’t a very good book and at times not at all wholesome. But, given the subject matter, we should be aware of the book’s existence and alert to its destructive potential. Its author, Alex Preston, has clearly been on an evangelistic course himself, and as a result has written a cynical novel which focuses on the intertwined lives of four leaders, each in their own way dysfunctional, who are involved with running a popular ‘Course’ designed by a dynamic vicar. Even if the ‘Course’ turns out to be run by a cult, Preston understands many of the underlying principles of evangelistic courses, and indeed the way that many of them are populated by those from privileged educational backgrounds with good jobs, especially in the London area where the book is set.
Reading the book reminded me how carefully we need to eschew ‘disgraceful, underhanded ways’ (2 Corinthians 4.2) as we seek to proclaim the good news about Jesus. The ‘Course’ is manipulative, not least in the central place of music in trying to convey the presence of God. It also highlighted the deep need for integrity. The lives of the leaders, who are frequently portrayed as abusing alcohol and sex, simply do not correspond with the teaching of Jesus or are controlled by his Spirit. Indeed, central to the rather thin plot is the attempt to conceal the truth to protect the ‘Course’.
I wouldn’t waste your time reading this book. But do be aware that it has recently been published and may well be read by people who are coming to your evangelistic courses, or indeed may not come because of it.
tutor, PT Cornhill Training Course; member, Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon, London