Book Review: Reckless Mercy by Carl Tuttle

This review is of Reckless Mercy by Carl Tuttle. Carl was an early church leader in the Vineyard church movement that experienced not only his own brokenness but also the redemptive reckless mercy of God. This read is a raw, candid and transparent story of God's grace at play in Carl’s life.

In 2015, I was invited to attend an event featuring Carl Tuttle. Carl was speaking at Sanctuary (a Vineyard Church) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. My schedule did not allow me to attend, but thankfully I connected afterwards with Carl Tuttle (and others) at a local restaurant (Mick's All American Pub). In many ways, it was an encouraging and memorable night for me.

Carl has been a well-known pastor and worship leader for decades. He composed many worship songs and modern hymns, including; Hosanna, The House of the Lord, I Bless You Lord, I Worship You, All the Earth Shall Worship, and many more. Many of the songs composed and recorded by Carl Tuttle have charted and appear in ‘best of’ collections. 

This worship leader’s story starts as a kid in a rough situation in southern California. It was there that his upbringing led him on a journey for meaning. That journey ultimately led to him becoming a follower of Jesus, after his sister introduced him to some ragamuffin Jesus followers in a local Southern California Quaker Church, sometime during the mid-1960s. Specifically, his journey to faith at this Quaker Church was the result of a relationship with John Wimber, another musician who had worked with artists such as the Righteous Brothers, before also encountering Jesus. 

By the mid-1970s, a small group from that Quaker church, and some other individuals, had begun meeting in the house of Carl Tuttle’s sister. Carl quickly emerged as an early worship leader of this group, leading this ragtag and wounded group of Jesus followers into God’s presence through what were simple and intimate songs of vertical confession and praise. As the group grew, under the care of John Wimber, they unknowingly would become one of the earliest (and perhaps most important foundations) of what would become a new Spirit-filled church movement. That group would become not only Vineyard Anaheim, but it would also send out countless leaders and church plants to create a new network of churches known today as Vineyard USA. Throughout the next twenty years, this movement would spread out and across the globe with much of the same DNA from that small group meeting and singing together. The influence of this group created a movement of individuals who shared a desire to touch the heart of the Father (God) with intentionality and intimacy. Over time, Carl moved from worship leader to church planter, and eventually to pastor. In many ways, Carl was always at the side of John Wimber. As Wimber began to retire, and release others into ministry, John walked with Carl as he transitioned to become the Lead Pastor at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim. 

When I connected with Carl, that night in 2015, he shared glimpses of his upcoming book, Reckless Mercy. That night his glimpses captivated me until the book’s release. In Reckless Mercy, an autobiography authored by Carl, I find him open and transparent about his woundings, story and struggles. Carl not only had some un-dealt with trauma, but he also had some deep rooted insecurities and character flaws that were buried deep. All of these issues and realities were on an inevitable collision course that led to a violative and devastating meltdown in Carl’s life, right after he steped into pastoring the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim, which was the helm of a movement. After this meltdown, Carl traversed through an inevitable lonely and dark night of the soul.

This short and simple book may be far from exhaustive, but it is a humbling, informative, challenging and encouraging look at how the reckless mercy and grace of God, never stopped pursuing and compassionately caring for Carl in the wilderness. The reality is if that is true for Carl, it is true for you and I as well. 

This book explores the early years of Carl’s life and Vineyard USA. It does not avoid or downplay the notable fall from grace in which Carl experienced - as the pressures of life, ministry, and his marriage came crashing down simultaneously. In those years, many inside and outside of the movement watched in judgment, horror and confusion. Thankfully, Carl’s story shows how God compassionately redeems our broken, bruised, battered and banged up realities for the glory of God’s kingdom. In a move of reckless mercy, God took Carl’s story and transformed it into a beautiful testimony. As a book, Reckless Mercy serves as a contagious, courageous and consistent reminder of God’s deep and compassionate mercy for us, despite however our brokenness tries to define us.

In Reckless Mercy, Carl Tuttle writes; 

“My world came crashing down around me in 1997. It was entirely my fault. While it was an utterly devastating experience, followed by equally devastating years of slow rebuilding, I also realize that it was a beautiful act of God’s reckless mercy toward me that brought me to such a place.”

As pastors and leaders, I believe that Carl’s book will encourage and challenge us to understand “Jesus is Enough,” in new and deeper ways. This read will encourage and challenge you to rediscover what truly defines who you are. Personally, this book helped me to see that the best chapters of my story are yet to be written and I must be responsible to tending my roots and identity. I also believe that perhaps the best chapters in the stories of Carl Tuttle and the Vineyard Church movement are also yet to be written. For those influenced by or invested in the Vineyard, Carol Wimber’s Forward to this book is prophetically encouraging and hopeful.

Once I started reading Reckless Mercy, I couldn’t put it down. I am confident that this book will trigger some unhealed areas in your life, as it did for me. Carl reminds us that “broken shards of a life can be reassembled into a story of love and mercy that needs to be told.” That’s reckless mercy and God’s mercy is reckless because it pursues after us even when our lives and situations seem unredeemable. 

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