Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Review: Your Church is too Safe

Your Church is too Safe
Mark Buchanan

I was thrilled to hear about this week's blog tour for Your Church is too Safe and signed up the moment I heard it was coming down the pike.  I go to a very "unsafe" church, you see, and I was going to be the excited "amen" yelling choir to whom Buchanan was going to preach in this book.  The farther I got into the book, the more I realized that even my crunchy little inner city, multiethnic, socially driven church is too safe.

It's not that Buchanan sets out to say all churches are dull and lazy and he's certainly not saying we should all be out on the streets passing out Bible tracts (in fact he spends some time suggesting that tracts are not really a very great evangelism technique.)  Rather, today's western church has lost its momentum.  Where has the contagious spirit of celebration gone?

The back cover says "With surprising insights from Scripture. . ."  Maybe it's just because I'm in seminary or because my parents expected me to actually read my Bible as a kid, but I didn't find any of the insights surprising.  The insights that are shared in this book should not be surprising for Christians, but that could be the real point here.  We've tucked away the parts of the Book that challenge us and deal with the stuff that makes us feel all warm and cuddly.  The problem is that the last time I checked, we do not serve a warm and cuddly God. Part of growth is being willing to step out of your comfort zone and do something new.

Before you bristle up and back off because that sounds super awful, Buchanan is also not suggesting that we all start hanging out in biker bars in order to reach out to the "lost."  He spends a good amount of time talking about "in-between" places.  Those are the places where normal relationships are built and people are drawn to a life that looks different.

For any church that feels it's lost steam or doesn't want to lose steam, this is a great book.  And this is not just a read for the pastor, elders or other leaders.  This is a book for Sunday school or small groups.  This is a challenge to all the congregation.  Your Church is too Safe is not just a book about leading your church into a dynamic, contagious, Christ centered, but is about being a "dangerous" person in the context of your church.  Church leaders can get great things from this book, but so can the laity as well.

One of my big beefs about much Christian writing today is that Jesus gets watered down or lost in the shuffle. Jesus is not a motivational speaker.  Jesus is not a nice bonus in what is otherwise a rule book.  Jesus is what it is all about. Buchanan does not lose sight of that in his writing.  Always Christ is at the center of the church. This shines through on every page and I am deeply appreciative of that.

I have found a new author for my list of favorites.  I'm pretty picky, too.  This book is powerful, engaging, theologically sound and challenging.  Should you pick up a copy?  Yes.  Can you borrow mine?  No.  It's on the "no lending" shelf because I don't want to take the chance of it not coming back.

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