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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: The Father Heart of God, by Floyd McClung

Floyd McClung, The Father Heart of God (Eastboure, UK: Kingsway, 1985).

            Floyd McClung is a leader in the Christian church who has been associated with the missionary organization Youth With a Mission.  I know that I can first remember hearing his name in the mid-1970’s, although, at that time, I knew little more about him than what I just said above.  At the time of the writing of this book, he was working in Amsterdam, and much of his work was with young adults who had been on drugs, had abusive family experiences, and had been immersed in western hedonistic secular “culture”.   Since I am generally writing from a simple church perspective, I will say that YWAM, without promoting it, has worked quite closely to that point of view during its history, as far as I can see from where I am at.

            This book is about more than the title suggests.  It starts with the obvious: that in the Bible, God refers to Himself as our heavenly Father, and we humans, being made in His image, were created in the male gender to reflect those fatherly qualities.  Due to sin, many fathers have reflected vacant, abusive, and distorted images of what a father is to their children, who, therefore, reflect these experiences in a negative way towards their image of who God is.  McClung first deals with this distortion and what should be the analogy between a father and God’s character.  One major example is the parable of the Prodigal Son, how sin grieves God, but God allows us to make what He knows are bad decisions, and how He, like the father in the parable, is waiting for our return, as God is love.  McClung then deals with how God heals broken hearts.

            About three-fourths of the way through the book, McClung moves to another analogy of God as Father to the spiritual fathers, the leaders in the local bodies of believers.  Once again, the Christian leader should be an imperfect, but good example of the qualities of God for both believers and others around him or her.  Of course, there are situations of failures (1985 was a year of highly publicized failures of well known personalities connected to the Christian faith).  The last quarter of the book deals with that subject in a way that is both sensitive, covers a wide variety of mis-leadership, and practical advice on dealing with it on the non-leaders level.  Given that McClung was working as a missionary, and working with YWAM, which is independent of any denomination and was heavily dealing with the changes in western culture at the time, he deals with the special situation of the missionary organization.  This part of the book reflects much thought and discussion between McClung and others he knew struggling with these same problems, and writing and rewriting the ideas expressed until what he expresses is just right for dealing with this subject, and not just the dominant examples of the time of this writing.

            The first couple of chapters feel like something I’ve heard multiple times in sermons.  The last quarter of the book is excellent guidance on a touchy subject that over the years has been all too often avoided, oversimplified or dealt with incompletely.

            Here in the U.S., this book is still in print.

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