Book Review 25: “Everybody Always” by Bob Goff

In a book with no Bible verses cited anywhere, Bob Goff (an honorary consul for the Republic of Uganda to the United States, in addition to being a lawyer and adjunct professor) writes a simple, entertaining but doctrinally deficient read with Everybody Always. A person who finds my posts helpful asked me to review this book, hence this review.

SOMETHING TO NOTE

Bob Goff is not a pastor. That being said, he has spoken at many churches, including two recent conferences (Thrive and Hillsong), said conferences taking place at churches (in Hillsong’s case it is more a corporation than a church). Pastors do come under stricter judgment (James 3:1). Goff has actually spoken during church services (a.k.a., sermon time, a time when God’s Word is supposed to be opened and rightly exegeted; when Law and Gospel get preached, etc.). As a result, it was a bit difficult for me to review this book without thinking of Goff as a pastor. One thing is for certain: he does have much influence in the world (and a phone number/email available to all; more on that later). Therefore, it is important to see what this book says and how it compares with biblical Christianity.

THE REVIEW

In the prologue, Goff notes what he did with the money from his first book, Love Does (p. vii). In concluding the prologue, he makes a statement that basically gives a preview for the rest of his book (p. ix):

It’s hard to believe Jesus loves…all the difficult people we’ve met just the same as you and me. Yet, the incredible message Love came to earth to give was that we’re all tied for first in God’s mind. While we’re still trying to get our arms around this idea, God doesn’t want us to just study Him like He’s an academic project. He wants us to become love.

Goff’s statement needs some adjusting. First, “Love” (I’m thinking he meant Jesus here) did not come to earth to give the message “that we’re all tied for first in God’s mind.” Instead, Jesus Christ came to earth to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; Matthew 1:21; John 1:29; see also Romans 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Second, Goff gives no reason for why Jesus wants us to become love. This is basically law with no Gospel. Unfortunately, this is a theme that occurs throughout the book.

After the prologue come twenty-two chapters, and epilogue and some acknowledgements. The book is not divided into parts (not a bad thing; this is simply matter of fact). The chapter titles do not really have any unifying theme. They basically result from illustrations/stories that Goff tells (and he is a good storyteller).

In the first chapter (titled “Creepy People), the reader finds Goff’s (essentially) idea behind the title of his book, as follows (p. 3):

“God’s idea isn’t that we would just give and receive love but that we could actually become love. People who are becoming love see the beauty in others even when their off-putting behavior makes for a pretty weird mask. What Jesus told His friends can be summed up in this way: He wants us to love everybody, always — and start with the people who creep us out.”

It is important to understand who Jesus’ friends are. Jesus states in John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (NASB). It is also important to understand that Goff’s statement is a summation statement. While I do not believe Jesus told His friends verbatim to start loving the people that “creep us out”, Jesus does emphasize “love” throughout Scripture (Matthew 5:43-48, 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-33; Luke 6:20-45; John 13-15; see also Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5; Ephesians 5; 1 Thessalonians 5; 1 Timothy, 1 & 2 John and Jude, to name a few). It is of my understanding that Goff’s audience in this book consists of born-again believers (penitent believers trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins), a.k.a. friends of God (Acts 4:12, 16:31; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:11; Romans 10:1-21; Galatians 3:2; Romans 6:23; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Ephesians 2:8-10; Matthew 3:8; Titus 3:8; John 3:3-21). This is important to understand because much of what Goff states can definitely be misinterpreted if the reader thinks Goff is addressing both the regenerate and the unregenerate. While Goff does not state verbatim who his audience is, it is of my opinion he is addressing the regenerate based on his summation statement of what Jesus told His friends (said friends obviously being regenerate). This book review has that framework in mind.

The first eighteen chapters of this book basically stand on their own as individual chapters stories. The last six are basically one story (and a good one). Goff tells about his personal experiences very well, using good details in simple language. Doctrinally, this book falls short of what biblical Christianity says. I divide the rest of this review into three parts. First, I note some noteworthy things from the first eighteen chapters. Second, I note some noteworthy things in the rest of the book. I then offer a concluding paragraph for the review.

CHAPTERS 1-18 (PP. 1-176)

One thing worth noting (among a few) in this book is Goff’s not using Bible verses anywhere while, at the same time, talking about stuff Jesus did or said. For example, in chapter one, Goff states, “Jesus talked to His friends a lot about how we should identify ourselves” (p. 2). Where is the biblical text to back this? Also, Goff states, “Jesus came to earth and declared He would turn God’s enemies into His friends” (p. 8). Again, where is the text to back this? At face value, one cannot tell if Goff is being serious, making this up, or deriving his thoughts from a faulty view of Scripture.

Another thing worth noting is Goff’s claiming to receive direct revelation from God (it’s either that or his promoting the false “still small voice” doctrine). In chapter one he states, “We make loving people a lot more complicated than Jesus did. Every time I try to protect myself by telling somebody about one of my opinions, God whispers to me and asks about my heart. Why are you so afraid? Who are you trying to impress?” (p. 4). Given God speaks to us via His Word and not direct revelation (Hebrews 1:1-4), I doubt God whispers that to Goff. Goff’s statement here is too problematic to ignore.

In chapter three, Goff states, “We’re not supposed to love only our neighbors, but Jesus thought we should start with them” (p. 20). Goff’s not citing a Bible verse to back this (specifically the part about starting with the neighbor) weakens his claim. Unfortunately, this continues to be a habit in the rest of this book (it did not just stop in chapter one, the first time the reader sees this type of thing).

In chapter five, Goff uses some language regarding kingdom-building that seemingly oozes of the verbiage used by the New Apostolic Reformation, a non-Christian movement that distorts the Gospel (p. 41). Later in the chapter, in the context of valuing the practice of telling people what are they are becoming (which is basically a subtle version of scratching itching ears), Goff states our job is (pp. 47-48):

“to just love the people in front of us. We’re the ones who tell them who they are. We don’t need to spend as much time as we do telling people what we think about what they’re doing. Loving people doesn’t mean we need to control their conduct. There’s a big difference between the two. Loving people means caring without an agenda. As soon as we have an agenda, it’s not love anymore. It’s acting like you care to get someone to do what you want or what you think God wants them to do. Do less of that, and people will see a lot less of you and more of Jesus.”

It is definitely important to love the people in front of us. However, for the unbeliever dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), we do need to spend at least some time telling the unbeliever what God’s Word says and where he/she would go if he/she continued in an unrepentant life in rebellion to God (Romans 2:8-10; Revelation 9:2; 19-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:14-46 Mark 9:43; Isaiah 66:24; Luke 13:22-35; 16:19-31). Simply affirming the unbeliever and telling him/her what he/she is becoming is far from loving, especially if no Gospel is preached.

In chapter twelve, Goff states, “The beautiful message of Jesus is His invitation to everyone that they can trade in who they used to be for who God sees them becoming” (p. 112). No biblical text states that verbatim. Furthermore, 1 Timothy 1:15 states clearly that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Finally, this beautiful message is summed up perfectly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (NASB):

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

Some would see Goff’s statements compared with Scripture and say that Goff is essentially preaching a different gospel, given his emphasis. Furthermore, nowhere in this book did I find anything about repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

In chapter fourteen, Goff states a few things that are problematic to say the least (p. 136):

“What we actually want is that extra nudge of confidence from God and the opportunity to move forward courageously to do those things we already know how to do. What a shame it would be if we were waiting for God to say something while He’s been waiting on us to do something. He speaks to me the loudest on the way. Simply put, if we want more faith, we need to do more stuff.”

I have to ask the question; if God is waiting on me to do something in order for Him to say something, wouldn’t that make me more powerful than God? Wouldn’t this limit what God can say all because of my not doing something? Goff’s statement is nothing short of heretical. God is not limited by what we do or do not do. He is in heaven and does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3).

Also, where is the biblical text that states we must do more stuff in order to get more faith? Once again, Goff’s making statements without citing a biblical text represents his achilles heel throughout the entire book. When he does quote a biblical phrase (as he does on p. 137 with Zechariah 4:10, without citing the passage), he does so in a narcigetical, out-of-context way (like he does in that instance).

Chapter fifteen features Goff’s misunderstanding (if not twisting) of Matthew 25:31-46 (a passage he discusses in the chapter while, at the same time, not citing it). The passage reads as follows:

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Notice the bolded words in that passage. Jesus is referring to a specific type of people in this passage (brothers of His, or more specifically His disciples). Goff, however, does not see this specification. As a result, he applies it to ALL hungry, thirsty and sick people (as opposed to just the disciples that fit that criteria; pp. 143-144). Furthermore, he adds to God’s Word when, speaking of the aforementioned people, he states, “Jesus knew this, and He said if we wanted to be with Him, we’d stop playing it safe and go talk to them instead of talking about them” (p. 144). Jesus says no such words in Scripture. What Goff has done is no light matter. Proverbs 30:6 states, “Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” This is a clear instance of “law with no Gospel” with an unfortunate side of adding to God’s Word.

In chapter eighteen, Goff often refers to the church as “our church.” However, the church is Jesus’ church, not ours (Matthew 16:13-20). Goff also gives a stance on judging that needs some….well….judging (p. 175):

What I saw when I was young was a church wide open in my palms. All the wiggling fingers pointed out toward the world. What is a huge turnoff to the world is when it sees under the steeple a lot of fingers pointing at each other. Every time we go to church and point fingers at each other, we betray Jesus with another kiss. At “our” church, we go there to meet Him, not to critique each other.

It is true that believers should not be pointing fingers at the outside world. After all, people dead in trespasses and sins are going to do what people dead in trespasses and sins do (Ephesians 2:1-3), They will sin like crazy. This means they will lie, cheat, murder and/or commit other various sins. They most definitely need the Gospel preached to them more than they need fingers pointed at them.

As it pertains to believers, however, believers do need to be critiquing what they see in church (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Jude 3; 1 John 4:1; Romans 16:17; Titus 1:5-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Matthew 7:1-6; John 7:24; 1 Corinthians 5:9-15; James 5:19-20; 2 Peter 2:1-3). This may involve naming the names of false teachers (2 Timothy 1:15, 2:15-18, 3:8, 4:10; 3 John 9; Galatians 2:11-14; 1 Timothy 5:20). As Todd Friel notes in this book I reviewed, Jesus contradicted Himself if indeed “we are not to judge anything” (p. 22). Given that all Scripture is inspired of God, who cannot lie (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Psalm 12:6; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Titus 1:2), there is no way Jesus contradicted Himself.

CHAPTERS 19-24 (pp. 177-219)

The last six chapters of this book basically represent a standalone story. In this section, Goff recalls his time with some witch doctors in Uganda. Specifically, he basically tells them he and those with Goff are not afraid of these witch doctors anymore (p. 186). He then tells of a boy named Charlie, a boy who was essentially left for dead (p. 187). Goff tells the story beautifully and with great detail. While he still engages in some of the things that make this book problematic (law with no Gospel, statements about what Jesus said without providing a biblical text, etc.), the story itself in these chapters is a good one.

Goff concludes the book with an epilogue showing another instance of his claiming to get direct revelation from God (pp. 221-223). He then gives some acknowledgements and a short “About The Author” page (p. 224-229). Finally, he leaves his phone number (yes, his actual phone number), email and other ways to follow/contact him on social media on the last page of the book titled “Connect With Bob” (p. 230). Not many authors leave a phone number at the end of a book (if any at all, aside from Goff, of course). This is rather commendable of him and consistent with his having a passion for people (said consistency demonstrated throughout the book).

CONCLUSION

As it pertains to storytelling, simplicity and clarity, Everybody Always is a hit out of the park. As it pertains to doctrine, this book is a dud leaving much to be desired (especially with its themes of “much law and no Gospel”, “statements of what Jesus said without any biblical backing”, “Goff’s claiming to get direct revelation from God”, etc.). Then again, Goff, as mentioned earlier, is not a pastor. While he has spoken during church services and at church conferences (something that pastors usually do, especially in the case of the former), it is possible he is not as well-versed doctrinally as the typical pastor who writes a book (or perhaps he is just as well-versed as the one with the title of pastor, which is bad-looking for the pastor). He is certainly well-versed in walking in the good works Christians are called to do (i.e., serving neighbor, visiting orphans, etc.). If he was as well-versed in watching his doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16), I would have no problem recommending this book. Instead, I cannot recommend it because doctrinally, it has too many problems.

GRADE: 2.5 out of 5

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