Prolific author Leonard Sweet has hit another one out of the park with his book, “The Well-Played Life.” I was sent an advanced copy by the author to read and review prior to the book’s release next year.
Sweet’s strength is his ability to cause people to stop and rethink words, ideas, and concepts that have been held onto without processing. By giving us a “Wack On the Side of the Head” (see the book by Roger von Oech), Sweet takes “work,” a concept often accepted without conscious thought, and moves it into direct reflection. By taking the twin themes of work and play, Sweet gives readers a “wack” with The Well-Played Life.
The subtitle of this book is “Why pleasing God doesn’t have to be such hard work.” I was drawn in by the refreshing and life-affirming message. Having a strong work-ethic passed down from generations in my family I can struggle at times with seeing my relationship with God as making sure I work hard enough. The Well-Played Life reads like a breath of fresh air to me by statements like, “you don’t work a violin.” I came away more convinced like any relationship, walking with God isn’t something I “work at” but rather a joy to “play at”.
On every page I can see Sweet's goal for readers to deepen a personal walk and relationship with Jesus. From the start- where he encourages readers to evaluate their quality of life by their quality of play, to a larger call for a theology of play; Sweet encourages his readers to dive deeper into a walk with God that is beyond rules and work to one of rest and play.
Sweet also finds space in this book to coin two new words, Godplay and Simplexity.
Godplay refers to people who make the world better simply by being in it. Used throughout the book, Godplay is a challenge to those who call themselves followers of Jesus: are we willing to enter into a life of play with God?
Simplexity is the combination of “simplicity” and “complexity.” Sweet attributes this to systems theory and states, “The term simplexity derives from systems theory, where simplicity is complex, and complexity simple. The more complex a system becomes the more simple it’s platform must be.” (pg. 193) Comparing this to Godplayers he states, “In discipleship, the more the soul grows, and grows up in the knowledge of God, the more simple our faith becomes.” (pg. 193)
In the main section of the book Sweet identifies three “ages” of humanity and encourages reflection and growth in each age. These ages aren’t necessarily genealogical rather they can be thought of as stages of play that can happen at any actual age of life. For the remainder of this review I will define these three ages and provide a quote from the book for each.
The First Age is made up of “Novice Players” (0-30)
Obviously, we start as a beginner, and like one learning to play the violin, novices take time to learn the basics of their craft. Similarly, Godplayers spend time learning their call and following Jesus in his mission.
To summarize this section, “The prevalence of love signals the presence of play. When faith becomes all about beliefs and works instead of relationships, then what we’re really in love with is our own thoughts and opinions and doings- not an image of God, but an image of ourselves.” (pg. 43)
Those in the Second Age are called “Real Players” (30-60)
The major role for this section is participation, living and playing out the call and mission to which God has called.
“Love is not work. Love is play… that requires a lot of practice. Now replace the word love with God in that sentence (because God is Love- 1 John 4:8)... and there you have this book in a nutshell.” (pg. 150)
The Third Age is called “Master Player and Game Changer” (60-90+)
This is the season of maturity, of fruit-bearing and legacy passing. This isn’t a time to sit in a rocking chair, but to continue with Godplay as a follower of Jesus.
“In a sense, Third-Age disciples are chaos chasers, because to trust the Holy Spirit is to expect anything and plan nothing. The Holy Spirit is anything but predictable.” (pg. 194)
This book also includes a study guide which would make this easily accessible for small groups.
I found a lot of personal life and joy in this work and would encourage anyone to pick up a copy when it comes out in early 2014.