Barney Coombs, “Dealing with what life throws at you”

Before I went away, I was reading Barney Coombs, Dealing with what life throws at you, (2004).

Coombs is someone unknown to me.  But apparently he was one of the “fabulous fourteen” of charismatic leaders in the UK during the 70’s.  He aligned himself with the stricter group led by Bryn Jones from Bradford, classified as “Restoration 1”[1], whose vehicle was the Dalesweek bible week (on which I myself was converted in 1979, as it happens).  Derby Community Church is aligned with Coombs, and I was led to look at a sample volume of his work to get an idea of what sort of thing he teaches.

The book is very sound.  Clearly Coombs has a great deal of pastoral experience, and it shows.  Unfortunately I finished this book just before going to Iceland, so the impression has faded rather.  But I noted various interesting points as I read.

He highlights that “failure” can be anything but.

Firstly, we can never afford the luxury of self-pity. …

Secondly, never give up hope.  Even if it seems that you fail at almost everything you attempt to do, you could yet leave your mark on history.  …

Thirdly, determine to be convinced that through all the failures of the past, you have been acquiring invaluable wisdom.  Those failures can be stepping stones to success.[2]

There are sections on bereavement and rejection, full of good sound practical advice for the Christian.  I wasn’t reading it in order to seek help, but I can see that it would help.

The centre of the book is chapter 7.  Unfortunately Coombs has allowed himself to use some strange terminology here — “scandalized” –, which means that anyone reading the chapter must mentally retranslate the terms whenever he encounters it.  His point in this chapter is that we can become prisoners of what has happened to us. 

The book, in other words, is a good, God-centred piece of work.  It is not primarily aimed at people like me, nor, I suspect, most Christian readers of this blog, but then neither was the New Testament.

All books coming out of that movement tend to feel “harsh” to me.  There is an abrasiveness at points in what is said, as if the object is to make people feel uncomfortable in order to get them to submit to the discomfort.  But it is possible that this is merely how working-class Christianity actually is, and has to be in order to be heard by people who are not particularly educated nor particularly sensitive.

If this is the standard of work in those churches, they are to be commended.

  1. [1]By Andrew Walker in his analysis, Restoring the Kingdom.
  2. [2]p.22-23.

3 thoughts on “Barney Coombs, “Dealing with what life throws at you”

  1. The bit about “you can still leave your mark on history” in point two, would suggest that the failures in point three are not sins or failings of charity or other virtue, but worldly failings (career or the like). Is that what he is talking about?

  2. No, he wasn’t talking about worldly success, so much as addressing people who feel that their lives have been a complete failure. So he was using some examples of well-known people (Winston Churchill was one) who failed repeatedly yet still became who they were meant to be. The material is pastoral, meeting people where they are, in other words. It was a good book, and spiritual without being useless.

    Interesting blog – thank you!

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