Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher by Rob Stennett


Have you ever read a book and you weren't sure how you felt about it? You liked it, but then again...

That's kind of how I feel about Rob Stennett's new novel, "The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher". I liked it, but then again...

Ryan Fisher is a real estate agent looking to really make a name for himself. Trouble is, he isn't doing very well at achieving his goal. Then, low and behold if he doesn't discover a way to finally succeed.

After watching a late night news special on evangelical Christians in America, he gets a "vision ala Ryan". Why, all these nice Christian people need homes, right? And he, Ryan Fisher, is just the man to sell them those homes. But how to reach that prime market?

Doing his homework, Ryan discovers the Christian Business Directory, and finds that if he places an ad, along with a Christian fish, business will boom for him. And it does.

Soon Ryan and his wife Katherine find themselves attending a local church, primarily for Ryan to drum up business and to see his potential clients in their natural habitat. But what ends up happening is this feeling of "I can do this!" welling up in Ryan's...um...soul.

Ryan and his wife sell all they have and move to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and work hard at creating a church empire...which begins early on a Sunday morning at the local Chuck E. Cheese. Despite its most humble roots, The People's Church eventually grows into a mega church phenomenon that catches the attention of Good Morning, America, the Today Show, and even Oprah.

One problem...Ryan isn't even a Christian, and he's the pastor.

I loved the characters, and I got the satire. So, on the one hand, I loved the book.

But again, I loved the characters, and I got the satire...and in a way the book broke my heart.

Even though this is a fictional account, just the thought that a man with a desire to succeed can watch all the televangelists and read all the books (not the Book), know a few Bible stories and be relational...and build a church that people long to attend...

Well, what does that say about us? What does that say about the American church, and believers as a whole? Are we so busy playing church that someone who doesn't have all the "trappings" can reach people better than we can?

Maybe that isn't the message Mr. Rob intended, but that was a message that was loud and clear to me. Ryan's success didn't come from his seminary training, or his deep theological knowledge, or his exegesis of Scripture in its original languages...

His success came from doing what Jesus did...relating to people, meeting them where they were, and then helping them move to where God wanted them to be. And it seemed Ryan understood that better as an unbeliever more than we do as believers.

How long can he keep up the charade? What will happen between Ryan and Katherine? Will living a lie finally permeate everything about Ryan's life? And do either of them finally become genuine believers in Christ?

You'll just have to wait until June 2008 to find out! "The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher" releases from Zondervan, and I encourage you to pick up a copy. Mr. Rob's story has humor, heart, and you might learn a few things about yourself, your church, and just how God really wants us to minister (rather than "do" ministry).

In the meantime, I'm giving this one four out of five bookmarks with a business card as a charm...to remind us we're not in the "business of church", but instead to be about the Father's business!

Happy Reading!



Kim said...

Deena -
This sounds intriguing in many ways. Just from your review, I can understand the premise of the story the author is trying to tell. Truly, we need a wake-up call to get some folks out of the pew and truly involved on the front lines of ministry. Those padded pews, wonderful music and programs for all ages have lulled many into a false sense of what the Christian walk is all about.

What scares me a little is that I've seen this message in a lot of forms lately, and I hope folks don't think they can just "do away" with church in their lives and do something else. God designed the church for a specific purpose, we need to find a balance that gets us out of our comfort zones and reaching out to those with genuine needs.

Sounds like this book may trigger some discussion!


Anonymous said...


This review is fantastic. I think taking a look at how church is done and what it means and how we reach people is one of the core messages of the book. And this complex issue. I hope like Kim said this does stir up discussion.

And I've never been called Mr. Rob before so I hope this does stir up some discussion.

Rob Stennett

Jon Carter said...

Hi Deena, I liked this review a lot. The thing I liked most about the book was how everything was a double edged sword. As much as you roll your eyes at Ryan, you find yourself rolling your eyes at the way we do church. You brought that out really nicely. I reviewed this book too. Thought you might like to read it. It's nice to find a thoughtful reader's site. I'm going to come back to your blog often.