“City is about a moment. A moment that we all come together and our differences fall by the wayside. And love fills in the cracks and we turn our attention on what unites us. That’s what I envisioned when I wrote this song. City is about a moment, and that moment could be now.”
The first page of “City on Our Knees” by Toby “tobyMac” McKeehan features the above paragraph. It is the artist’s thoughts on what he describes as one of his favorite songs that he has written. But, it’s much more than just a song. It’s an idea; a belief; a mission.
The book he compiled with Todd Hafer and Rick Killian is a collection of true, inspirational stories. The stories range from prominent historical and religious figures, to charity and outreach organizers, to ordinary people like you and me who have done extraordinary things in the name of God.
Since the stories vary greatly in both subject and content, I’m going to stick to my overall impression and satisfaction with the book.
While “City on Our Knees” is largely credited as being written by Toby, he contributes very little in comparison to the size of the book. He wrote the prologue, which is five pages long, and begins each section (there are four) with a “tobyMac Blog.” These blogs are on average two pages long and feature Toby’s direct thoughts and beliefs on that particular section. I would have loved to have seen an entire book full of Toby’s own words, experiences, and encouragements. I understand that he is a musician and not an author, so I can’t expect too much. However, it would have been nice to see just a bit more from Toby himself.
Another aspect of the book that I loved was the verses and quotes at the beginning of each section. One can tell that these sayings, whether from the Bible or an influential person, were carefully selected to express the heart of each section. I found a lot of great verses to start a personal Bible study with, which is a major plus. The sections also included Bible verses and prayers at the end of many of the stories as well as at the end of a section.
The short stories are about what you’d expect from an inspirational book like “Chicken Soup”. The stories all have a theme about stepping out, making a difference in a person’s life or a community, and relying on God to use you for His purposes. Some of these stories are very interesting and gripping, while others can feel a bit too statistical and historical. Without any time to really connect with a particular person (as I said, each story is around four or five pages long), it’s hard to be really impacted by what is presented. That is one reason why I would have preferred Toby to share his experiences and stories, since I am already “emotionally invested” in who he is.
“City on Our Knees” is a noble effort by a person who truly believes in reaching out and making a difference. Listen to the song by tobyMac and you’ll see that. His attempt to bring the same passion in his music to a book was daring and bold. I’m not sure if he succeeded entirely, but a reader can’t really go wrong with a lot of the information available in the book. There’s something that everyone can take away, whether a new perspective, a new passion, or a new Bible verse to study. If Toby’s purpose was to, at the very least, incite people to think about stepping out and serving, then he did succeed.