Crabgrass and Oak Trees- A Review

5 Apr

As soon as I read the back cover of Crabgrass and Oak Trees, I knew it was going to be fresh and life-giving.

Crabgrass and Oak Tees is a beautiful book about what the church is.

It’s hard to see the church as beautiful at times. We’ve all been disillusioned, hurt by hypocrisy, jaded.

In our escape from “churchianity” into something more natural and life-giving,  it is normal and even trendy to focus all that the church is doing wrong.

But as I began to read Crabgrass and Oak Trees a sense of peace and relief began to grow and entangle its way into my heart, because I saw a glimpse of what the church is doing right.

Author Jonathan Almanzar begins by sharing a memory of his childhood, a Sunday School assignment to draw a picture of the church. After drawing a massive Oak tree, his teacher was impressed, and the image stayed in his mind for years.

A symbol of strength and security. Ageless and mighty, towering over the rest of creation.

Years later, he drove through Kansas after a tornado. When he saw the disassembled oak trees strewn about the ground, his ideal collapsed and the metaphor in his mind began to shift. Maybe the oak tree wasn’t the best picture of the church after all.

When the winds and the storms rage, the strong fibers of the tree had no bend which caused them to snap.

“But there was something that didn’t budge. Something tiny, almost powerless. Something that had been trampled over, devoured, cut down, fed to animals, and looked on with general disdain. Crabgrass.”

Almanzar goes on unpack the analogy of a church that is “grassroots” instead of corporate, giving in secret instead of broadcasting, focusing on inside-out transformation instead of an emotional show.

Page after page there are breath-taking stories of “normal” people being  Jesus in their communities.

My favorite story was about a dying church in a small town in the Rocky Mountains. The church was an old oak tree that had once stood in splendor, but was now rotting from the inside out. A few of the leaders got together for a retreat, and began to be open and honest about the condition of their church. They begin to confess and realize that their focus had been more on their twelve million dollar building addition and less on the homelessness, drug abuse, and domestic violence of those who lived beneath the church’s shadow.

They began to change things. With a church population of mostly retired elderly, they began giving from what they knew. Not just money, but time and skill. They taught classes on life skills, parenting, budgeting, and various trades, enabling many families to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. They started a feeding program- not just an ordinary soup kitchen, but a cafe with real delicious choices of food, completely run by volunteers in the church. This group of elderly ordinary folks from a “dead” church, changed their entire town.

The book is full of earthy, tangible snapshots of heaven coming to earth. Lives transformed. Whole communities brightened. A world being shown the love of Jesus.

This is the church.

I recommend this book to anyone who may need to be reminded that the church is indeed Jesus’ natural plan for the world. And it is beautiful.

You can read a free chapter here:


Author’s blog:

Thanks to Jeff Goins for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

One Response to “Crabgrass and Oak Trees- A Review”


  1. Grace My Feet- Life Changes, Writing & Itineration « - October 1, 2011

    […] Loudly. This project is by Jonathan Almanzar, the same talented writer who co-authored the book, Crabgrass and Oak Trees, which I reviewed earlier in my blog. Teach Your Daughters is collaboration of stories of oppressed […]

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