"The Power of a Whisper" by Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels, The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God. Having The Guts To Respond. Zondervan, 2010. 273 pgs. 

Thanks to the Willow Creek Association for sending me a free copy of this to review.  Doubly thank you as it had to be done outside the pre-set system (since it only allowed people from the U.S.A. to register). 

Whisper is a book about hearing the voice, or the whispers, of God and obeying.  The title really does say it all.  Hybels begins by encouraging the reader to believe that God does still speak to us and that we ought to listen and obey. He goes on to explain how you can know it is God's voice, what you can do to hear God's voice, and the different ways in which God whispers to us.  For this last point, Hybels has four chapters: Light for Dark Nights of the Soul, Promptings for Parenthood, When God Speaks Through Others, and Whispers that Change the World.  He concludes with a chapter exhorting obedience. 

Hybels offers a clear and compelling picture of what a life of obedience to God can look like.  He is absolutely right to point us to the fact that our God communicates, that He longs to affect our lives, to speak to us and be obeyed.  This is a topic we need to talk about more, that could be, and ought to be, a reality in the lives of many believers, but for some reason it is oft forgotten.  So, thank you for writing this book.  

However, for better or for worse, I ended up reading this book alongside of Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen.  As such, my opinion is somewhat jaded.  To be honest, I am more of a Nouwen kind of guy than a Hybels kind of guy. Firstly, the majority this book is stories.  On top of that, he has an entire chapter (#3) which is basically a collection of even more stories.  It got to be too much. I mean, I like encouraging stories, I  really do.  But when the message of each of the 10 chapters could be summarized in 3-5 pages (total 30-50), and the book is over 250 pages... too much.  Secondly, I found it all very simplistic.  In some places, this is good and necessary.  There is no point in making the simple complicated.  Still, in the middle of Hybels chapter on how to know when you are hearing the voice of God, I wanted to ask: What about Abraham? God whispered to him to sacrifice his only son... that command would never have made it through Hybels 'grid', and yet Abraham obeyed and it was credited to him as righteousness.  Thirdly, and lastly, there is too much focus on justification by success.  Hybels gives the nod, several times, to the difficulties of listening to God and the sacrifices that may be required, but for him the story always ends well.  And often, this 'ending well' is the ultimate proof Hybels needs, and holds up to the reader, to show that this whisper was indeed from God.  What about the whispers that lead to the cross?  The martyrdom after which others take up our work? Or the quiet life whose affect may never be fully appreciated because the fruit is generations away? I understand why Hybels chooses the stories he does; they are compelling, interesting, and who wouldn't want to have a story with that ending?  But, in so doing, Hybels subtly promotes our cultures values under the guise of blessings from God.  

Conclusion: 3.5 Stars.  Conditionally recommended.  Read with caution, in that you are getting mostly stories, and you are getting a very rosy picture of carrying your cross and dying to your self.  

1 comment:

wca said...

Andrew- Thanks for the review! I like that you note:
"This is a topic we need to talk about more, that could be, and ought to be, a reality in the lives of many believers, but for some reason it is oft forgotten." We hope this book is a reminder that God DOES still whisper to us.

Thanks for the post and thoughtful comments.