Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread - Proverbs 30:8

Friday, November 20, 2015

Garden City by John Mark Comer / book review

This book was a bit different than most. The style of writing was hard to get used to. It’s written in a very ‘blog-ish’ style that gets a little melodramatic at times (frankly, it got annoying). The book is filled with one sentence paragraphs and no paragraph indentations. The page layout is more akin to a list of proverbs or bullet-points than a storyline. Yet there was a story, and a good one at that. The use of three word sentences and ellipses were excessive. I had to learn to ignore the fact that it read more like a cell phone texting conversation than a book. Yet, putting aside the stylistic issues, I found the content to be insightful and useful. In particular, I liked Comer’s description of Sabbath, how it can be observed from a practical point of view, and its spiritual implications. I found the new kingdom theology of the book refreshing. So few Christian leaders embrace and communicate the literal new heavens and new earth paradigm that Comer reminds us of. He explains that we were built for this planet, and that we have purpose and work to do here, now and in the eternal future. This vision of a new Earth and our vocation on it is an important message, and Comer explains it clearly and biblically.

I really liked the themes outlined in this book. However, I did struggle with the lack of complexity around the vocation topic. The book somewhat assumes that you know (or can know) your role or vocation and that you will be most content when you are doing it. Although that is likely true, I would venture to say that most of us don’t know our true vocation (God help me if my present job, which did feel like a calling, is also my eternal vocation). The notion that vocation, skills, and one’s ‘art’ can change over time or may even be ultimately elusive seemed absent from the discussion.

At times  the author seems to get a bit ‘Oprah-esk’ in his encouragement that we follow our dreams. He writes; “You’re a king, a queen. So Rule the world. Chase the sun over the horizon and drag the rest of us with you. I’m behind you all the way”. While I appreciate his sentiments and encouragement for Christians to seek out their potential and thrive rather than just exist or settle, a part of me kept wanting to rebut and say, ‘but Jesus didn’t call us to realize our dreams, or even be fulfilled in our work goals.’ There didn’t seem to be a real recognition that for most of us, our calling is simply endurance. It’s taking up our cross and sacrificing rather than finding contentment in our jobs or vocation. At times the call to chase our dreams or live out our potential just fell flat for me. Don’t misunderstand, Comer is no adherent to the prosperity gospel and early on he points out that the freedom to seek our purpose and vocation is a luxury that few but us spoiled Westerners have. Nevertheless, I would have liked more a deeper discussion of how we find our vocation and calling in conjunction with our other responsibilities.

Although I fully believe he has sound theology and sincere aims, it was hard not to think of this book as one written for wealthy hipsters who are simply bored. Ultimately I would recommend this book. Comer does a good job explaining the value of work and our role in developing and redeeming the Earth. I think his theology and hermeneutics are good and actually quite orthodox. If you’re looking for intellectual writing or graceful prose, pick up Dallas Willard or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but if you’re looking for a quick read that recaptures the work ethic of Eden and our duty to creation then pick up this book.

I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this review.


  1. My word for 2015 has been endurance, so your comment about it rang so true with me and the work God is doing in my life.

  2. Hmmmm, John Mark Comer. I knew him when he was a kid. I taught him history (not English).