Book Review: Permission to Speak Freely

Well, a few months ago a commented here about my tendency to take stuff just because it was free, and I said I would try and not do it so much.

Well, I've slipped a little on that.  The end result being that I've got two book reviews for Thomas Nelson Publishers/Booksneeze that are due today.  Typically, there aren't due dates, but special books and book releases come along, and those have due dates. Then, of course, I just moved.  In fact, I only found one of the books due for review today.  Fortunately, I read it before the move.  This is not that review though.

This is a review for this book:  Anne Jackson's Permission to Speak Freely.  Cover image, with handy Amazon link if you want to buy it:  (yep, that is an affiliate link.  If you click that link, buy the book, you will generate the first money I have ever made blogging.  I'll get like 5 cents for sharing my 2 cents worth, which is a 3 cent profit!)

Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace

Anyway, what about this book?

First of all, though I have previously reviewed Mrs. Jackson's Mad Church Disease, and, to be honest, was a little harsh about it, I take what she has to say seriously.  Why?  Well, she's a pastor's daughter from rural Baptist churches, and I happen to be raising 2 of those.  As much as I am committed to being the best pastor I can be, more than that I am committed to being the best husband and father I can be.  I see Anne's story as perhaps a little like the "Watch for Falling Rock" signs in the mountains: if you see warning signs and get smacked with a rock, you were warned.  If I see, based on her retrospect, some warning signs in my family, I should watch for that rock.

Now, as to the book: this book is not for the faint of heart.  Really, it's not.  This is not one to hand to certain people in your church to help them be willing to open up.  It will scare the living daylights out of them.  Mrs. Jackson is honest about growing up in ministry, drifting, and returning to actively practicing her faith in God.  It's been a messy road so far, and she's younger than I am!

However, while there are some details here that might be ugly, it's shared well and to make a good point: where can we share our hurts, as Christians, if not in church?  And if you can't quite handle it in a book, you won't be ready for that much trouble in person.  The truth is, though, that many people will never be ready for it.  Most people in church aren't ready for this type of discussion in church.

I'd suggest, though, that the reader would be wise to seek people within their church body that they can speak freely with.  Build strong relationships through openness, and build them with people that you are unified in faith with.

If you understand that sometimes people in church aren't perfect, which you should, this book will hopefully be a help to you as you realize that, hey, neither are you perfect.  That collective realization, that the church is made up of redeemed sinners, and that sometimes we're not so good at showing the redeemed part, is necessary these days.  We need to talk about it.

Yet permission to speak, freedom to speak, doesn't always mean it's a good idea.  I'm reminded of the old Lewis Grizzard story about the church meeting where the preacher had gotten everyone revved up to testify about their sin, confess and move on.  Different people said different things, to which the preacher responded "Tell it all, brother, tell it all."  Then, one person popped up with something insane.  The preacher's response?  "I don't believe I'd have told that!"

As Christians, we're called to be honest with one another, and to bear one another's burdens.  Sometimes, the burden we need to bear is that not everyone needs to hear everything.  That's why I'd take away from Mrs. Jackson's book that we should seek out and build relationships that allow us to speak freely, rather than expect everyone to listen.  Not everyone can handle it, and, if we're serious about wanting others to honor our right to be weak, we should honor their right as well.

In all, read this book, especially if you're in church leadership.  However, I'd love to see this book studied side-by-side with something like Kevin DeYoung's Why We Love the Church.  It's too easy to read Anne Jackson and get bitter and flee from church altogether.  Let's not forget that it is possible to have a flourishing relationship with God and with a church.  It's just not always automatic.  (Kind of like learning and school: they should go together, but often don't.)



And read Disclosures! so that you are well aware that I buy very few books, because I get free ones like this for offering my honest opinion in reviews.  And those reviews are supposed to be shorter than this.


  1. I saw your name pop up on Booksneeze and thought, "Wait...isn't that the guy who said something about my age and my gender and my education and...?!" Haha. I know YOU didn't say it, you just were speculating on how the book would be received in the church circles you run in.

    But your review left an impression. :)

    Thanks for this review too...I love the church, and yes, sometimes, I hate the church (the thing it has become because of our pride and brokenness). I hope to always battle that because I think, in the end, that will only (hopefully) cause me to look in the mirror.


  2. Anne, you're quick on the commenting today!

    Yes, that was me. And I still have, and will keep, both of your books on my shelf in my office as a reminder of what I need to help keep whatever church I serve from becoming. It's disturbing what we do to each other.

    What's kind of funny is that I also have Andy Andrews's The Butterfly Effect to review, due today. It's about how the positive things we do make a difference, and can impact the world. I'm seeing from your book how the negative things we do can be destructive throughout the world.

    It's an interesting contrast.

    Meanwhile, I've just moved my family from my previous ministry field to a new, partly over lacking permission to speak, and because there was a growing issue over allowing my family to be, well, anywhere near normal.

    And back to the Mad Church review: yep, I heard those critiques. Kind of like hearing people insist they get a second opinion about their need for heart surgery because "that doctor was just too young to know what he's talking about." Yeah, and what did the old doctor say? "Let my young colleague do the surgery before you die!"

    That we would let some young colleagues do some surgeries before we die.

  3. thank you for your openmindedness. we may have fresh eyes, but we lack in experience. some people may have experience, but their hands are shaky and their eyesight is poor. it takes us all, i guess. ;)

    best to your new venture.


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