Book Review: The Samaritan Project
In one of those "just-in-time" moments, I happened upon Rob Fringer and Jeff Lane's book The Samaritan Project (House Studio, 2012) just as I was preparing to preach on Jesus' epic world-upside-down parable that we often call "The Good Samaritan." It was a helpful resource, to say the least.
The book is geared more for a group experience, to be embarked upon slowly and digested. There is room for dialogue both with God through prayer and with others in a small group, but the real joy of this book would be if a group of people who are seeking to follow Jesus' call to "Go and do likewise" would give serious considerations to the present-day Samaritan crisis that we all face.
The book is set up to develop from the basic nuts and bolts of the parable (characters, context, etc.) into the present-day situations of poverty, race, and politics. An entire chapter is devoted to the political differences between us and learning to "Disagree Well" - a helpful and timely chapter in this election year. The insight that sets the book apart is found in the following quote regarding Jesus' question in response to the teacher of the law:
Jesus reshapes a question that was originally meant to justify its asker into a question that has the purpose and possibility to transform the asker. (37)
This is the heart of The Samaritan Project - every piece of the book is built for investigation, discussion, and questioning that consequently leads to transformation of the heart of the reader by the Holy Spirit. I commend the authors for their dedication to the movement of the book from the parable to the present and the applications they make are provocative and life-giving at the same time.
The one challenge for me, as a reader, is that if this book isn't used in a community setting and discussed with other people then there is a great deal that is missed. The flow of the book begins to fall apart if an exercise (discussion sections are called "Questions" and the sections called "Projects" include films and other media-based suggestions for further study) is skipped. This isn't the fault of the authors, and the written content is strong enough to challenge an individual reader, but the book seems incomplete when the exercises are not engaged to their full potential.
I would recommend this book to small groups, discipleship groups, preaching and teaching teams, or anyone searching for a challenging book on one of the seminal texts of in all of the Gospels.