by Brad Duncan
Print Length: 248 pages
Publisher: Bradleyjeep Publishing (February 8, 2014)
Genre: Christian, Inspirational
My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0
Pastor Patrick Spakes is a huge success in the eyes of the world. He's the husband of a beautiful wife, and dad of two healthy kids, and leads a large growing church. It appears he's living a happy and blessed life, but appearances can be decieving. Serving the church has drained him to the point his family feels abandoned.
Christy Spakes loves her husband, but feels tired and lonely as her husband makes the church his priority.
Deacon Joe Smith loves the power and prestige he has acquired in his church being best friends with the church's pastor.
What happens when the popular Pastor of a growing church is faced with a crisis of belief? When life spirals out of control where will he place his faith? How will his well-to-do congregation respond to the challenge of sacrificing for God? First Fruits is the inspiring story of what happens when everyday people are challenged to give their very best to God.
Pastor Patrick Spakes was focused on gaining a record attendance each year at his beautiful Big Oak Christian Church. He is close friends with the board of deacons and especially the head deacon, Joe Smith, a wealthy business man in the community. The wealthy and influential board members spend time together playing golf and discussing programs to increase the attendance and income of the church. Pastor Spakes spends more time running the church like a business than he does caring for his own family. He does not see that his beautiful wife and two teen-aged children are feeling abandoned.
Although stressful, the morning of High Attendance, when the numbers from the membership drive are announced, provides Pastor cause to celebrate. But one of the church’s oldest parishioners, Sister Snyder, stops Pastor after service to give him an admonishing message of two Bible verses. Pastor jots them down but is too busy to even read them until much later. Any warning goes unheeded until a catastrophe brings the church down and pulls the rug out from under Pastor. As he takes a serious look at his goals compared to God’s goals he finally realizes he has been off track. He commits himself and then presents the 3T Challenge to the congregation. This begins to transform lives, while alienating a section of the church who do not like the new direction Pastor has chosen.
One of Pastor’s supporters, Hector and his family, live across town in a poorer neighborhood consisting of Spanish and other minority families. That community and the local church there are plagued with gangs and threats. Hector asks Pastor to meet with the local church leader to give him encouragement. Their meeting opens doors for both of them to grow and support each other. God works out circumstances to bless the Westside church which expands blessings to Pastor Spakes’ church too.
I really enjoyed the concept of the 3T Challenge, which I had not heard as expressed in this book. The story seemed real although it is a fictional creation. It moved in a natural way and, from my own fundamental faith, I found all of the non-coincidences quite believable. I enjoyed watching the new relationships develop between the two church congregations who found common ground in their faith and service in spite of their different social and financial circumstances.
This is an easy read that kept my attention and therefore moved quickly. There is heartbreak but there is the comfort only having hope in eternity can give. I was inspired by the story and most particularly by the 3T Challenge. I also enjoyed the Discussion Questions and think this would make a good group read. I recommend this to all readers. Those who walk in faith will find it uplifting and inspiring. Hopefully readers who may be searching will find the same and more beyond the entertainment value of the book.
I am grateful to have received this from the author for an honest review. This will be an "F" title for my Alphabet Soup Challenge.