Book Recommendation – Being the Bad Guys


Being the Bad Guys: How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn’t | Written by Stephen McAlpine (The Good Book Company, 2021, 144 Pages).

How should we live, love, and communicate in a world that no longer appreciates or even tolerates us, but increasingly hates us? Some of us, immersed in culture war conflicts, have forgotten that we are called to love our neighbours. Others of us are so weary of culture war rhetoric we pretend there is no conflict. McAlpine provides a much-needed update to our mission context and outlines a God-glorifying agenda for the church.  

Though the world accuses the church of being obsessed with sex, sexual identity has become the world’s “new religion.” Transgenderism is shown not merely to be internal confusion, but a false gospel: I can re-make myself into a new creation through technology and free will. Any rival gospels (such as the biblical Jesus’ claim to be King of kings) must be eliminated because they stand in the way of me being my own saviour. 

If you are assuming we are still in a 1990s coffee shop, contextualizing the Scripture for post-modern pilgrims, think again. Our new context is angry, truth-resistant, and uber confident. The new economy is more about social conditioning and behavioural manipulation (think social media) than the marketing of goods and services. Christians are being discipled by a far-from-neutral culture that insists that self-fulfilment is the highest good. But in a world where alleged progress is obtained through deeper levels of transgression, we are called to live as people of the future that has already arrived. 

Taking us to Genesis 1, McAlpine shows us that not only is sex binary, but all creation is also binary! His easy-to-read yet deeply probing primer on our current cultural conflict clarifies the church’s purpose: not to regain some Eden of the past but to announce the new creation by loving God and our neighbours well. What this requires of the church is repentance. When the church was culturally powerful, we often failed to use our power to help the powerless. Instead, we worshipped the idol of personal comfort and promoted narcissistic pastors. Rather than bemoaning our victimhood, we should welcome the waves of true victims, the lonely people being chewed up and discarded by a me-first culture. This book is not a critique of the culture so much as it is a critique of the church, and even then, it isn’t ultimately a critique but a call to fall in love again with the real Jesus. “If Jesus had cut the negative people out of his life, he would have been left by himself. Instead, he went to the cross for the sake of exactly those people.”

Opening the biblical book of Haggai, McAlpine urges us not to escape into safe retreat centres, nor pursue our best life now, but to be blessedly different. “When we show undeserved forgiveness in ‘cancel culture’, in which every indiscretion—past or present—is pounced upon … we are sending powerful signals to those who would otherwise reject us for our views on sex.” He packs the book with practical suggestions for churches desiring to reach their neighbours with the gospel. We discover the book of Daniel is filled with workplace advice. I was particularly taken with the reminder that when Daniel prayed towards Jerusalem, he was praying with the eyes of faith towards a ruin of dead stones. How much more can we pray in the name of Jesus who has risen from the dead! The book made me wrestle with the question: how am I discipling fellow Christians for life in Babylon?

I don’t want to give away the ending, but chapter 8 (worth the price of the book) envisions how to be in the world but not of it. Perhaps we’ve forgotten that in following Jesus we signed up for suffering, that the gospel is itself shaped by suffering. Rather than becoming angry with our circumstances, let us ask, “How is God using this season for His own purposes?”

Hear more from Stephen (both of them) at RTC’s Preaching Conference | Stand Firm: Lessons from 1 Peter on September 23-24.