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Together Magazine's Big Review Extra of 'All Things New' by Pete Hughes

Together Magazine's Big Review Extra of 'All Things New' by Pete Hughes
Review by Clem Jackson

I began reading this book just as the lockdown began, giving me plenty of time to get through the 336 pages. And I needed that time because this isn’t a book you can sit down and read in one sitting. It needs time and thought containing, as it does, much to ponder.

I had (wrongly) imagined this book was going to be the story about the growth of Kings Cross Church (KXC) in London which the author started in 2010 together with his wife Bee. That is a story worth telling too, and we get glimpses of that story here – the provision of a building, a gift of £50,000 to help the church get started, and growing a community from scratch.

The book has been a long time in gestation for, as Pete Hughes says, he started it just after he was ordained in 2008. It emerged from his promise at that time to ‘proclaim afresh [the Holy Scriptures] in each generation’. One of the top priorities on starting KXC was ‘to help a generation that was becoming biblically illiterate to fall in love with Scripture’. All Things New takes that fresh look.

Hughes wants us all to discover (or re-discover) the ‘daily discipline of reading and engaging with the Scriptures’ and in reading the book I found myself doing just that. There are many links between the Old and New Testaments and I was minded to check some things out as I read; not because I doubted what I was reading but because I’d never made the link before. Hughes has set me off looking at my study Bible and a couple of commentaries again.

I found his linkage (p 133-134) between the first Exodus (Moses) and the second (Jesus) as outlined in Matthew’s gospel really enlightening – and that’s just one example. There’s a whole section on the relationship between earth, paradise and heaven which I found informative and he also looks at tricky areas such as substitutionary atonement and universalism with some sound biblical research.

There’s a whole section around the issue of discipleship which might be quite challenging for many in the church, but makes sense. Hughes says ‘Firstly, discipleship gets reduced to theological education, and therefore being with Jesus and becoming like Jesus gets replaced with knowing stuff about Jesus’ (p243). ‘As a church leader I find the constant temptation is to emphasise programmes for church growth rather than emphasise becoming like Jesus’ (p246). 

There’s something prophetic about the book too inasmuch that, although written before the current pandemic was even imagined, it speaks very much into the current crisis and our response to it. Some of what Hughes is alluding to in this book can now be seen being worked out in these days. Different ways of doing/being church; connecting with people in new and different ways; proclaiming the good news of Jesus in a suffering world by being ‘salt and light’, practically showing the love of God. All Things New might indeed be a rallying cry to the church.

All Things New has at its heart a model of creation, de-creation and recreation. God creates, man de-creates (destroys) and Jesus re-creates. For this re-creation to continue we need to become more like Jesus rather than just knowing about Jesus. ‘What would Jesus do’ takes on a new meaning. Rather than the church being shaped by the culture we need the church (i.e. you and me) to be more involved in shaping the culture. As we continue to hear voices speaking about a ‘new normal’ in the postpandemic era, can we dare to imagine that this new normal might see the stirrings of a new culture?

Hughes states, ‘the more you care passionately about the renewal of culture, the more you will long for revival’ (p259). He relates how significant moves of God over the ages ‘only took place when both the culture and the church were in crisis’. Perhaps we are in, or approaching, such a time.

For me, the most telling part of the book comes towards the end where he writes, ‘The cultural moment we find ourselves in is creating a deep spiritual longing … People are desperately looking for an alternative story’ (p325). Given the vast numbers of people tuning in to online services during the lockdown (our own church has almost double the number of people tuning in to those who usually turn up on a Sunday) can we grasp the opportunity to connect; can we help to make all things new?

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