About the Book
Alex Alterman is a “mystery worshipper” – hired by churches to experience their worship services as a member of the congregation and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Grass growing in the parking lot? Unkempt bathrooms? Bad sound systems? These may turn away people as much as the singing and the sermon. To whom much is given, much is required.
But when Alex and his dedicated band of nitpicking zealots are hired to evaluate a Florida church and its prominent pastor, they are presented with a set of mysteries: Who hired them? And who hired their main competition? And why are they being shadowed by a couple of atheists running a dirt-dealing blog?
Oil spills, dwarf spies, choir room surveillance, church league basketball cheats and parking lot security all combine in a splendid caper that stretches from Wall Street to the beachfront. As Alterman’s group finds itself in the eye of the storm, the work takes on a new dimension as they untangle the reasons they believe in their work, and why they believe at all.
Set Your Fields on Fire by William Thornton, is unlike any book I have ever read, and the thoughts and emotions evoked are unlike any I have felt.
The premise of Thornton’s book is how a group of mystery worshippers (who knew these even existed, and they do!) are hired to help churches in areas where they are lacking or unknowing. However, there is so very much more to this story.
Everything within the covers of Set Your Fields on Fire serves a purpose – from the character’s names to the pithy and witty t-shirt slogans – and draws you deeper and deeper into the lives of the mystery worshippers, leaving you wanting more. In addition, as you read, you see yourself and your church in the final appraisal, and realize both are lacking.
Near the end of the book, Alex Alterman, owner of the mystery worshippers group, gives advice to one of his clients. He says, “. . . You’re trying to do the right thing, but you’re afraid of making a mistake. You know you have to decide, but you don’t want to make a wrong decision. Fear shouldn’t cancel out your faith. . . when Pontius Pilate sent Jesus away to be executed and washed his hands of Him, that was a decision. It was indecision, but it was still a decision. That’s the way people react today. They think there’s something special about Jesus, but in the end, they just send Him away.” Alterman succinctly nails the nature of our human timidity.
Set Your Fields will leave you pondering the book, your church and most especially, your own life long after you have read the last page.
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
William Thornton is an award-winning writer, journalist and a Sunday School teacher. He lives in Alabama with his wife and daughter.
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