Book review: Stories That Feed Your Soul

I’m a chaplain and pastor by profession. As a chaplain, I have been asked to bring “a word” to a meeting of nurses, other chaplains, family members, community leaders, etc. Many times I don’t have a lot of time to prepare what I’m going to say. So I have been watching for something which gives me quality stories, with a biblical application, and more “meat” than the usual mainstream drivel of “Guideposts.”  (I’m sure LOTS of people like Guideposts. I find them insipid for the most part, and a bland, vanilla theology that makes me crazy. Your mileage may vary…)

So when I found the book Stories That Feed Your Soul by Tony Campolo, I was skeptical. Was this “souped up” stories from the usual source? Or would it be useful?

To my surprise, I found that this book will be useful for those moments where I need a good illustration for a chapel service, or a simple story for a group devotional. While written for Christians, many of the stories are useable for a nonsectarian audience. Each of the eight sections offers a quote from Romans 8 which explains the common theme uniting that section’s stories. Campolo has chosen eight themes from Romans 8 as his organizational structure. I imagine that were someone preaching exegetically from that chapter, they would find this book to be a gold mine of sermon illustrations!

I like the premise that Campolo offers for collecting and using stories that illustrate biblical truths. Jesus, as the master storyteller, used parables and tales to capture his listeners and drive home his points. In fact, it is clear from reading the Gospels that Jesus’ stories frequently disarmed, then convicted his listeners. The challenge is then brought to us – are we hearing how God is speaking into our life events, illustrating our own journeys? Better yet, am I journaling and recording the vignettes that God gives me?

There were two shortcomings which may or may not bother others who want to use this book. First, there are few references or positive examples of women pastors, preachers or speakers. Mae West and Mother Teresa are mentioned, but not your everyday, faithful women of God, teaching, leading and preaching to God’s people. As a feminist writer and preacher, I would have liked to see more stories in this area. I guess it is not an unexpected gap, since Campolo never strays far from his Baptist roots, (these are stories he has collected over his lifetime, after all!) Second, it would have been helpful to have stories included which fit into the liturgical calendar. There are numerous examples for the cross and the Easter season, but you have to go digging for them. The index is organized topically, not by scripture reference. A better index would be helpful, particularly since other Bible verses are included, not just Romans 8.

Overall, the book has enough pluses to make it an adequate, but not stellar, addition to your bookshelf.

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