Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Book Review: Awakening

Dundee has played its part in our wider family story over the past few years, being the place of studies, of a wedding, and numerous visits. Anyone familiar with Dundee will probably be aware of the ministry and legacy of one young man connected with the city, namely Robert Murray McCheyne.

McCheyne was minister of St Peter's Church on the Perth Road, Dundee, the church where my brother-in-law is now working, so I've been interested in M'Cheyne for quite a while, having first heard of him at a Proc Trust Student Ministers' Preaching Conference five years ago. Awakening is the remarkable story of McCheyne, written by the current minister of St Peter's, David Robertson (of The Dawkins Letters fame).

The book is divided into twenty small, manageable chapters, each covering an aspect of the background, history, life, ministry and effects of McCheyne, and is a wealth of information and inspiring (and challenging) stories and nuggets of gospel truth and ministry practice. Robertson presents a well researched and readable biography, presenting a fair picture of McCheyne, steering clear of the hagiography (or exaggerated accounts of the lives of saints as can sometimes be presented), as he says: 'As the research progressed, I became amazed, angry and awakened. Amazed at the relevance of McCheyne for today, angry that the hagiography and ignorance about him has largely obscured that relevance and awakened to the wonder of the gospel.'

Some interesting aspects of his short life (he died before his thirtieth birthday) include his pastoral visitation model (visiting each house in a street through the day, then having a 'street' meeting in a large house or hall that evening), and the account of the revival which broke out while he was away in Palestine on a mission trip to survey the state of the Jews in Israel.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of this book (and one that sets it apart from other biographies of McCheyne) is that Robertson includes a question or two for meditation and reflection based on the subject matter of the preceding chapter, as well as a prayer. The book is therefore not just for information, but also for further reflection and application to our own situation in a more structured way than would normally happen.

While the book may particularly be appropriate for ministers, it would be a great read for all Christians (indeed, Robertson expresses a wish that even non-Christians may read it, interested in Dundee, and through it experience the gospel by seeing it lived by McCheyne). My 2004 copy was from Authentic Media, but it has recently been re-released (as in the picture) by Christian Focus Publications.


  1. re published with an additional chapter detailing the current work of the church i can give you a copy for free if you give me £10 ;)

  2. That's very generous of you to offer a free copy in exchange for the tenner! For one extra chapter I might just leave it for now... maybe ICM will have them on special offer some time soon!

  3. Hi Gary. Thanks for your review. I read this book myself last summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. Hope that you are well. George.