Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Wednesday Book Review: Mere Churchianity

I've long been a fan of The Internet Monk blog.  I was quite saddened when Michael Spencer passed away.  He was one of the voices in the desert shouting things that weren't always popular.  While I didn't agree with everything he said, there was never a time I came away from a post offended or lacking anything to think deeply about.  When I heard about the publication of his book "Mere Churchianity," it immediately went on my "to read" list.  I decided to go out of my alphabetical self order this week and read this one instead of the next one by an author with a name beginning with "A."  Next week, I'll be doing another publisher review, but this is a "off my own shelf-do I keep or toss" review.

Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer

I will start off by saying that I am not the target audience for this book.  Spencer's book is geared toward those who left or avoided the church because of the image it projects in today's culture: those who realize that the church does not look as much like Jesus as they think they do.  Even people who know little about Jesus can see that the church often gets it wrong and that can be very off-putting.  I, on the other hand, have always been in the church.  There were a couple years when I was in my darkest times that I wasn't in church and it felt wrong.  I grew up knowing both the pros and the cons of being in church and even when my faith was not really there, the community and support of the church outweighed my impressions of hypocrisy and "fronting" in the church.

True to the style he wrote in on his blog, Spencer's book is though provoking and intelligent. It is also a book that many long time churchgoers will find offensive if read in the wrong spirit.  Read with a spirit of openness and learning, as well as a willingness to be wrong and wrestle with issues, this book will send you off taking a good long look at your faith and what it looks like (his blog has the same effect on people).  And that's just for the people who are in the church and aren't really the target audience of this book. 

To the non-churchgoer, Spencer quite frankly says (I'm paraphrasing here-this isn't a direct quote), "Yep.  The church frequently looks nothing like Jesus and that sucks."  And then he proceeds to discuss what the modern American church is getting screwed up and how it needs to change in order to look more like Jesus. 

Spencer brings up (why on earth are these controversial) topics such as why we should hand new Christians a Bible and let them read it instead of just telling them what it says and what to believe.  There are several quotes I want to embroider onto pillows or something:
  • ". . . that's one of the things I like about Jesus: he has a special place in his heart and in his plans for unlikely people.  He often uses an outcast t change and bless the world."
  • "And the biblical notion that the Holy Spirit might prompt a person while reading Scripture terrifies large numbers of evangelicals.  The Holy Spirit is great in theory, but when he starts actually doing things, you never know when the situation might get out of control."
Overall, I was not disappointed with this book.  I don't think there is anything groundbreaking that hasn't been said before, but it is all relevant and important.  This book is aimed toward people who are not in the church, but is thought provoking for those in the church as well. Often the church community gets so wrapped up in their own little "Holy bubble" that they fail to step outside onto the street and take a look at their church from the outside. 

This book will go back on the shelf as a "keep."  At some point, I'll probably pass it on to someone else to read and ask them to pass it on to someone else as well, rather than bring it back.  It is a good book and a book worth reading.

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