Book Review: A Divine Confrontation


In May of 1999 Graham Cooke spoke at our church in a series of meetings. He referred to "wise master builders" as those who build, and don't merely bless. Too many leaders prefer to merely "bless" the work of ministry around them rather than invest their lives in building solid foundations. We settle for "power" and don't pursue "presence." We want results quickly and don't want to spend the time investing our lives in a solid foundation.

Graham's message came with great wisdom and much encouragement to a church that had experienced great power, but was beginning to crack under the pressure of being action oriented. It was time to look again to foundations and to focus on building relationships. It was time to find a new balance between the outward focus and the inward.

Graham's book is about the church in transition and is a prophetic message about new wineskins. Graham describes himself as an introvert, and frequently it is this personality type who are better able to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Graham is process oriented, and he says of himself that he loves the desert experience.

The book reads well if the reader is process oriented. Graham is like a master painter working on a canvas.. the paint is dabbled here, then there, and then back to work over here again. It can be a frustrating read for the structured mind. Repetition is frequent. One wonders how much stronger the work would have been with a good editor/co-author. Like many a sermon it could have been 30% shorter and been the better for it.

Yet... I wonder? It isn't easy to convey this type of message because the author is describing a a process which will be threatening to many. Furthermore, repetition is itself an accepted feature of public teaching. The book is not completely without structure, and perhaps the scattered approach will bridge the gap with some who otherwise would not have heard the message.

So what is the actual structure?

Order is always birthed out of chaos. When chaos surrounds us, the Holy Spirit broods over us...and God is creating a new masterpiece.

We cannot hold onto our old order and still progress to a new level of anointing. When a new paradigm unfolds before us, it will always take us back to ground zero. Paradigms do not build on each other; they replace each other. God loves this! We start again with a new dependency rising out of fresh inadequacy.

The book is 350 pages in length and divided into eleven chapters. Chapter 1 is "Discovering the Internal Catalyst" and addresses some very crucial questions such as, "What are we giving birth to?" and "Who are the midwives?" and "What causes barreness in church life?"

The answers aren't long in coming. Graham talks about the fivefold ministries as consultant gifts and states that apostolic ministry has three goals: "maturity, maturity, maturity!" He sets the tone by stating that we are easily subverted by our strengths and that forms that inhibit growth must change. At the end of the chapter Graham states his intention for the use of the book, "to prompt us to think harder about what we are doing in relation to church and ministry." He then summarizes chapters 2 to 11.

This is an unusual book. While I have pointed out that it is strong on process and weak on structure, its strength isn't overly subversive to its intent! It is chock full of jewels of wisdom and experience. What I appreciate the most about his vision is that he is a thoroughly lay oriented leader. Too many leaders in the church worldwide have been too focussed on their own importance. Graham would love to see that change! Here are a few more of his thoughts..

"When the old wineskin is dying, the new wineskin is created by people who are not afraid to be vulnerable.

"There is no status in the body of Christ."

"The whole nature of the ongoing vision within the work must rest on the fact that sooner or later we have to find out what God is doing in the lives of people He has brought into the work. Leadership is really about facilitating the development of people whom God has given us. Understanding and cultivating their personal destiny is a core aspect of the growth and fulfillment of the wider vision…. Corporate vision cannot be founded on one man's destiny.

"Our role as leaders is to understand the vision that the Lord is actually building into the lives of individuals, and then make room to see that vision flourish. Individual vision must be heard, understood, and accepted by the leadership of the church. We need to enable people to actually understand where their personal identity can fit in and complement the corporate vision of the church. The corporate vision will be expanded by various contributions. The detail of the vision will grow and be enhanced by the additions." P.97

"Initiators are breakthrough people. They are the people who are not afraid of change or a challenge; they are people who want to get on and serve God... Frustrated people are probably our best chance of building church. I would rather have 50 frustrated people than 500 apathetic ones. Most people are frustrated only because they care about something." P.101

This is a theme that comes up a half dozen times in different sections and in different ways.

Graham is primarily interested in the process of transition, and much of the structure that does occur is focussed in chapters 8-11. "Process Involves Crisis," is one of the headings in chapter 8. Graham defines three stages of transition: closure, conversion and commissioning. He does a good job of describring each stage and its essential elements. One can tell that this is familiar territory for him.


I've already mentioned that the strength and weakness of the book is its lack of structure. What else could have made this a stronger work?

There are two areas that need strengthening. I wish Graham had included a specific section that worked with biblical material. His book assumes a great deal and begs for a more structured theological foundation.

Christian Schwarz Secondly, more work could have been done on a framework for application. The work of creating transferrable principles is largely left to the reader. I am thinking of how nicely a framework like Natural Church Development could apply. A closing section drawing together some of the conceptual work being done in this area would have been helpful.

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Last Updated: February 24th, 2000