Barratt, Sara. Love Riot: A Teenage Call to Live with Relentless Abandon for Christ. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI. 2020. 208 pages.
When I entered vocational ministry as a youth pastor, I intentionally set out to not be all about pizza parties and silly stories. While my youth group has enjoyed a nice slice of pizza and laughed at tales told, that has not been the focus of their time with the church. Their time under my teaching and in our conversations has centered on what it means to follow Christ. My goal has been and is to challenge these young people to know the cost of following Christ, not going along to live complacent lives. Yet, I know as a youth pastor, teenagers need to hear from more than just the voice of another adult; they would benefit to hear from a fellow teenager who has walked with biblical conviction in a compromising culture. That is why I am glad to introduce you to Sara Barratt and her first book, Love Riot: A Teenage Call to Live with Relentless Abandon for Christ.
Fight for a Generation with Love
Sara is someone who has experienced the teenage years at the time of her writing this book. She is aware of the particular temptations and tests that occur during that stage of life. Within Christian circles specifically, she has witnessed the apathy among teenagers. She wants to face that head-on and fight for her generation. Fight for them with love. To share with them the love of Christ and to call a generation to love others with the love of Christ.
Sara sections her book into five parts: (1) The Call, (2) The Change, (3) The Challenge, (4) The Crux, and (5) The Commission. She addresses the problem upfront and then spends the bulk of the book talking about falling in love with Jesus and following Him even when it is uncomfortable and unpopular. Yet, the vision is much bigger than individual application; a movement is in view. A riot of sharing and showing the love of Christ!
A Counter-Cultural Approach
In the discussion on media in chapter 12, Barratt emphasizes the applications she puts forth are not meant to be done legalistically but as a counter-cultural approach to the compromise and conformity we see in our culture. Her discussion in that chapter is characteristic of the whole book. Sara encourages teenagers to not treat Jesus like they handle Facebook, and she pinpoints their comforts, like free Wi-Fi, to challenge them to step outside of their comfort zones for Jesus. The practicality of the book, too, shines brightly at the end of each chapter with “Going Deeper” questions. She calls for this application in a way that does not come across as a checklist but something done out of love for Jesus Christ. This is seen clearly in chapters 8 and 9 as Sara exhorts and equips teenagers what it means to spend time with Jesus and how to dig into God’s Word. All the practical applications from Sara flow out a love for Christ.
A Little Clarity
Sara does a tremendous job clarifying for teenagers what it means to follow Christ. Yet, there is one statement she makes on following Christ that needs greater clarification. As she discusses the call Jesus gives to His disciples in Mark 8, she remarks, “He was asking them to follow Him in all ways, no matter what, event to the point of dying the same death for Him that He would die for them” (Barratt 75). While I believe I understand what she is getting at, if the reader is not discerning, they could incorrectly interpret her statement that the disciples could die for the exact same purpose as Jesus did for them. Jesus’ death for His followers was as a substitutionary sacrifice in the place of sinners. Jesus died for their (and our) sins. Therefore, while His followers can die for the sake of Christ, they cannot die for anyone’s salvation. To be sure, I don’t believe Barratt is making any such assertion, but if someone is not careful, then they could incorrectly read it in that wrong way.
Stirring Affections and Igniting a Movement
The minor critique aside, Love Riot by Sara Barratt is a book to stir teens’s affections for Christ. As hearts are stirred in stepping out of comfort zones and living for Christ, this book has the potential of igniting the movement of a love riot, the very point of the book! If you are a teenager who is tired of complacency and wants to commit to following Christ, then this is the book for you! Likewise, if you are a parent or youth pastor who wants to encourage young people to leave behind apathy and grow in their affections for Christ, then pick up a copy of this book for your teenager!