Book Review: Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

After Caleb Kaltenbach’s parents divorced when he was a child, they both eventually came out as gay and entered into relationships with people of the same sex. His mother became a strong advocate for the LGBT community, so Caleb grew up marching in Pride parades and engaging in advocacy campaigns himself. He learned to despise Christians, because of how they treated the LGBT community during such events. While in high school, however, Caleb was invited to church and became captivated by Jesus. After a period of time, he chose to follow Jesus, which led him to study and revise how he approached LGBT issues. Now a Christian pastor, Caleb desires for Christians to engage LGBT peoples with grace and compassion while still holding to the orthodox teachings of Scripture.

Throughout Messy Grace, Kaltenbach weaves his family’s story in with the message of the Christian gospel. Nearly every chapter begins with a personal story that leads into a passage from Scripture, then concludes with another kind of practical connection pertaining to the focus of the chapter’s message. Kaltenbach also includes questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter.

Overall, this book was rather underwhelming for me. I picked this book up, because I was intrigued by Kaltenbach’s own experience. Though Kaltenbach tells his story, he basically only tells a portion in order to set up his main point. It feels, at times, like a disconnected teacher who has to conclude every story by saying, “The moral of the story is…” I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it were only constructed differently, so that each chapter didn’t feel like a tempered sermon. I also would be more interested in a kind of biography or memoir about his experience rather than an instructional book for practical living.

My final takeaways:

  • Messy Grace is most beneficial for Christians beginning the process of learning to engage LGBT communities. Kaltenbach writes, primarily, for Christians who need their worldview shifted because of their predisposition to reject LGBT peoples. Thus, for someone with zero LGBT friends or someone who needs to start with their first book on the subject, I think Kaltenbach’s is an excellent choice and would be a real winner.
  • For Christians who have been immersed in studying how to care well for the LGBT community, this book is mediocre. Kaltenbach does not say anything new, nor does he go very deep. Though I did not glean a whole lot personally, I’m glad I read it, so I know what other laypersons may be reading and can recommend a starting point for beginners.
  • Though I consider the book just okay, I AM very interested in the video series that Kaltenbach is releasing for small groups. The preliminary videos I’ve seen appear to be well-produced and dig deeper into the topic. You can find this series here: https://www.cityonahillstudio.com/messygrace

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Book Link

*A special thanks to Waterbrook Press for giving me a complimentary copy of Messy Grace in exchange for my honest review.

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