BOOKS: Give Up the Purple

I wish I was a bibliophile, like my wife Lis. She is an avid reader and can devour books in a heartbeat, while I take my time and invariably do not finish reading what I’ve started until many months have passed. But occasionally, God will put in my path a book that I cannot put down, because it reaches in and touches my spirit and soul. ‘Give Up the Purple’ is one such book.

Julyan Lidstone is no stranger to Burning Issues readers, his article on ‘God on the Silk Road’ was in the March 2024 issue of the magazine. He speaks from many years of experience working as a missionary to many people groups across Asia, including evangelism in India with Operation Mobilisation and 15 years church planting in Turkey. In all, he and his wife Lenna have been immersed in the Muslim world for over 40 years.

Julyan has a calling to see the Kingdom of God established in Muslim hearts, but his ministry experience down the years was one of seeing poor church leadership time and time again. Leaders could be more concerned with controlling their flocks and not being questioned over their authority, of being ‘honoured’ with their high status which, over time, they were then loath to give up. All this hindered the progress of the Gospel amongst the least reached peoples of the world and for Julyan, a solution needed to be found.

He turned to the scriptures, looking for a biblical understanding that would “…correct faulty understandings of leadership in all cultures, addressing the weaknesses and blind spots of west as well as east.” A few years ago, Julyan realised that Jesus and Paul lived in an environment which was not dissimilar to that of the Middle East today. The apostles too worked in this same culture, when brand new Christian churches sprang up and thrived and leaders helped spread the Good News across the lands. So how did they succeed when many of today’s leaders have not?

“The heart of this book shows,” says Julyan that “from the New Testament, how first Jesus, and then his apostles, subverted the dominant cultural values, in order to raise up leaders who could turn their backs on worldly authority and honour, and instead, give their lives to nurturing countercultural communities that were ‘turning the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6). By embracing the disgrace of the cross, Jesus set an example which changed the world view of his disciples, making them willing to suffer the dishonour of being regarded as ‘the rubbish of the world’ (1 Corinthians 4:13). Their remarkable achievement was to start a movement that succeeded in transforming the Roman Empire.”

This is where this book strikes a deep chord with me. I have often traveled to the Middle East and looked out from my window as evening fell. The green lights of many a mosque would appear and, as folks would enter to pray, I often asked God “what about them, Lord? How do they get to hear your Gospel?” Julyan’s insightful analysis of the Muslim culture helps to answer those questions, as well as pointing us squarely at the examples Jesus sets when he taught the disciples ‘how to be’ in the Kingdom. Thus, Jesus is the model we need to follow when reaching out to all peoples.

Overall, I found this to be a stunning book, which goes well beyond shedding light on issues of authoritarian leadership in honour-shame cultures. There is much packed into its 88 pages, as it addresses much about living the Christian life. It is not just for church leaders to read, but all Christians everywhere.

Give Up the Purple – Julyan Lidstone Langham Global Library ISBN-10: 1783686812
Reviewed by: Stephen Stewart
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