“Searching for Grace” by Mick Mooney is an online comic strip that follows that relationship between John and a mixed-up preacher called Pastor Moses. John loves Jesus and is looking to join a relational church community. But somehow he finds himself in a church environment characterized by structured programs, smoke generators, and ambitious young leaders who only speak Christianese. The people are friendly but they’re unreal, religious nutcases. They’ve organized Jesus right out of their services…
Running this circus is the ambitious ringmaster Pastor Moses. Pastor Moses is obsessed with three things: spiritual authority, leadership, and vision. He has big dreams and he expects those under him to help him realize those dreams. The trouble is Pastor Moses is so-caught up in religiosity that his dreams don’t make much sense: “The church must church the unchurched into church because churching unchurched is what the churched must church.” If you don’t have a clue what that means never mind, neither does Pastor Moses.
I started reading Searching for Grace about a year ago and I have found it to be painfully funny. Painful, because I was often reminded of how I used to do church, and funny, because once you strip away the pretension anyone can see the folly of manmade religion. Judging by the response to his cartoons, Mick Mooney has really tapped into something here. I suspect the reason his cartoons work is because we see ourselves in the characters, whether its Pastor Moses regurgitating jargon he’s read in a leadership manual, or one of his flunkies working their way up the ministry ladder, or John wondering just what he’s got himself into.
Lest you get the wrong impression, I should add that Mick is no mocker. You may wonder at how he comes up with stories that are familiar to us all, but you’ll never get the sense that Mick is a burnt-out Christian looking for a little pay-back. He is simply poking fun at something that inherently foolish – playing church. His talent is getting you to laugh at all the nonsense that goes on in church without writing off the poor misguided souls who are doing it. I mean, Pastor Moses is one deluded individual but, strangely, I still kind of like the guy. His church is staffed by a bunch of crazy people but I kind of like them too. I can understand why John hangs around this motley crew. They’ve sort of become family.
Some time ago I suggested to Mick that he turn his comic strip into a coffee table book. He’d probably had this idea for a long time already but it strokes my ego to think that my suggestion prompted him to write Searching for Grace: Joining the Church. This book, which has just been released and can be got from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, gives the back story as to how John ended up at Pastor Moses’ church.
So how did John end up with all these religious loonies? I’m not going to give anything away except to say there is a cameo at the end from God Himself. It’s really cool.
You’re going to have to use a little discretion in deciding whether this is the perfect book to give to your pastor for Christmas but there is something in here for just about everyone else. For long time fans of Searching for Grace this book will answer many questions. For first time readers this book is a neat introduction to the thrice-weekly strip.
I only have one gripe with the book: It’s shorter than I expected. I appreciate there’s a lot of work that goes in to producing these strips and most of those you see in the book are brand new. But I hope that the next book in the series (one a year Mick?) is bigger. That said, I don’t know of anyone else in the grace movement who is consistently producing art work of such high standard. If you’re a fan of the visual arts and want to encourage those who are exploring creative ways to spread the message of grace, then buy Mick’s book.
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