Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fallen by Matthew Raley

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"Fallen" is Matthew Raley's debut novel, and quite a stunning debut it is. Giving us a glimpse into church politics and the darker side of ministry, Matthew writes with a genuine voice and paints a chilling picture every Christian needs to guard against.

Jim just happened to glance out the window of his office when he spies a local pastor getting out of a car in front of the local coffee bar, The Bean. Problem is, the driver of the Mercedes isn't Pastor Dave's wife.

The dilemma: Jim is the chairman of the board at the church where Pastor Dave is pastor. And Jim has watched the church "throw away" members who have fallen into sin. So how does he handle what he has seen, and what impact will this incident have on the church and on the community?

In grace and mercy, Jim goes to Pastor Dave and attempts to get clarity on what occurred that morning. What he ends up with is a convoluted web of deception and lies that have been going on for years.

How did they get to this point? What transgression led to the ultimate betrayal of a wife, a church, and a friendship? And how should the church respond to believers who fall into sin's web?

Matthew Raley's novel is not a light read. It is a story that impacts deeply, especially in light of the most recent scandals in the media regarding large and well known churches and leadership. In "Fallen", the question of pastoral authority and accountability are discussed at length, and it is easy to see where this fictional church went the wrong direction.

I eagerly anticipated this novel, and I wasn't disappointed...but I was left dissatisfied. Matthew asks a lot of good questions through his story, but I wasn't sure he gave us any answers. The end of the novel left me feeling a bit bereft and lost.

Which I would imagine is how a church family would feel after enduring something like this. We must pray for our church leadership. We must hold them accountable to Scripture, and not take everything that comes from the pulpit as gospel truth until we have examined Scripture thoroughly for ourselves.

Even though the ending lacked closure for me, I still found "Fallen" to be an engaging story that is relevant to our time. I commend Matthew Raley for writing this provocative story, and look forward to more of his writing in the future.

I'm giving "Fallen" four out of five bookmarks, with a set of praying hands as a charm, to remind us all to keep our pastors, their families, and our church leaders in our prayers.

Happy Reading!

Deena

1 comment:

G.Wiens said...

Matthew Raley has written a courageous, timely novel about a church chairman who discovers his popular pastor may be involved in an adulterous relationship, only to find the truth is that and worse.

At once a compelling read, a lesson on husbandry, a study of church leadership, and a gospel primer, this novel will be valuable for pastors, church leaders, and laypersons. Anyone involved with biblical counseling in these matters should add it to their homework assignment list.

This is not a perfect novel, as Jim's introspections are a little overdone at points. But Raley is an excellent writer, and his gift with language even make these passages easy to read.

As for the matter of "closure" that some reviewers see as missing: this work is excellent fodder for discussions among church leadership and in adult fellowship groups. For this novel to be most useful, the closure issues need to be raised and addressed by its readers. I recommend that group leaders assign this book, then develop a list of questions and observations that can help guide their study and application.