“The Final Assault” is a novel by Steve Smith. It is a novel with an agenda, as is made clear by the title, sub-title, foreword, and post-script. Smith wrote the book in hopes of aspiring Christians to take up missions, though not just any missions. The entire book is centered on one verse in Matthew: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (“ethne”), and then the end will come” (24:14). Smith specifically wants to see Christians involved in witnessing to “unreached people groups”.
First of all, I want to recognize the amount of work which has gone into writing this book. Smith has certainly taken time to think out a well developed story line and flesh it out into a full length novel. The book begins with a couple of different stories which are only later tied together. The second storyline provides suspense and the driving factor behind continued reading. This storyline is full of action and mystery within a political setting.
Unfortunately the novel’s agenda is its biggest weakness, both directly and indirectly. The primary storyline of the KPF missions group is boring through the first half of the book. But the Smith’s bias rubbed me the wrong way even beyond this. The impression one gets is that his entire view of Christianity is filtered through the one previously mention verse from Matthew. It seems that the primary character in the book, Christopher Owen, reflects Smith’s own views. He passion is to see Jesus’ “second coming” happen in his lifetime. Because of this verse in Matthew, he believes that the “second coming” hinges on Christians evangelizing every people group. While he says that Christians can’t bring about Christ’s return, he believes that it has been delayed and is being delayed because all people groups have not been evangelized. Along with this, he expresses the belief that this one thing should be the obvious focus and goal of all Christians.
God has obviously given Smith a passion to witness to people of various ethnic groups who have not heard about Jesus. I have no problem with this. However I feel he makes the classic mistake of believing every Christian should have his same passion. I agree all Christians are called to be priests and to be active Christians. I just don’t equate “priest” with “missionary to foreign lands” as Smith seems to do. I believe that Christians who do not share in Smith’s passion will likely feel alienated by his bias as I did. I feel that the book would work better if the main character had this passion without believing that all Christians should share his exact passion. I would be much more open to supporting him if I didn’t believe I was expected to feel the same way he does.
Aside from this, there is much I like and agree with in the novel. I believe that Christians should be taking their faith seriously. I also strongly believe in the model of church planting movements, whereby many small churches are planted quickly with the expectation that they will plant more churches. (Smith is also coauthor of a book on T4T or Training for Trainers which is a part of a major church planting movement in Asia.) The best part of the book is that which follows the first group of missionaries in China. While some may find this section difficult to believe, my impression is that this section most reflects Smith’s actual real life experiences. Of the whole book, this is where the inspiration lies. I personally feel that it would be most inspirational if it focused mostly on this part of the story. The book fades away from this, in my mind, more believable section and heads further into the fictional story after this. There are few detailed stories from KPF teams in the field after this middle section of the book.
Smith has made a valiant effort, yet he is still an amateur novelist. The story is at times unbelievable or too predictable. The major incident which happened to the first KPF team was emotionally moving. (I’m being unspecific here so as not to include spoilers.) Yet the book gets out of hand toward the end. The unbelievable parts, especially the end, place the novel firmly in fiction and outside of reality. However I believe the most inspiring parts are those that, while fantastic, can be imaged within the realm of possibility. Again, I believe the story in China in the middle of the book fits this best.
Overall, because of the weaknesses, I can’t give an entirely positive review of the novel. Nevertheless, I was curious enough to finish reading it. I believe those whom have a similar passion to Smith will like the book. I can also see God potentially using it to develop this passion in some people. However, many whom God has given a different passion will not be particularly moved by the book.