Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Book Review: Mere Churchianity

The late Michael Spencer, better known in the blogging word as the Internet Monk, has provided an important new perspective on the rapidly shifting understanding of the church that is gripping the Western world and shaking its traditions with his final salvo, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus Shaped Spirituality. Michael aims this book at a somewhat unique audience. Rather than a book targeting defenders of institutionalism (of which they are many) or those advocating for a simple/organic/house church model (and there are also plenty of those), Michael Spencer is aiming his book at those who have quietly slipped or are slipping out the door. I walked away from the institutional church several years ago and have been pretty vocal about it ever since but many other Christians are fed up with a “church-shaped” Christianity that seems to have forgotten about Christ but are leaving in droves in relative silence.

In his usual way, Michael takes aim at many of the sacred cows of the church and proceeds to tip them over. Throughout the book he draws a distinction between a church-shaped spirituality and a Jesus-shaped spirituality. What many church leavers have realized is that often the traditional church-shaped Christianity that is assumed in America leaves out one very important person: Jesus Christ Himself. Michael has a knack for writing in a way that stirs people up, mostly in a good way, and he is in rare form with this Mere Churchianity.

Many of the things that rubbed me the wrong way when Michael was writing his blog crop up in this book. I think in places he treads pretty close to some serious doctrinal errors while trying to make a bigger point. There are times when the sarcasm and snarkiness get a bit over the top (written as someone who has been known to engage in snarkiness and sarcasm now and again). The book meanders a bit and sometimes seems aimless or repetitive which is to be expected from a blogger turned author. In spite of some issues, it is an excellent voice in the conversation, a voice that needs to be heard and that shakes the foundation

Above all, Mere Churchianity is a serious intrusion, and often an unwanted one in many corners, into the safe and comfortable church shaped world where Christians dwell. I doubt many people who like the church-shaped spirituality of the institutional church will be influenced by this book, especially since they are unlikely to read it! I do think that many Christians who are on the margins of the church, on the outside looking in and not comfortable with what they see, will find great comfort and encouragement here. This is a book for those who see more to the church than pulpits, pews and handshakes in the foyer. I would encourage you to read Mere Churchianity but be prepared to put it down in anger more than once!

(I received this book as part of Waterbrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program free of charge in return for an unbiased review)


betty newman said...

I think I will read this book. I am one who is still in the church, but some days am only staying "kicking and screaming!" I have felt a calling to become a "Lay Minister" but alas, am getting nowhere with the DS and DCOM. My passion is for "the unchurched, the de-churched, and those disallusioned by church". In the UMC particularly, there can be no change in the church, until change is "allowed" by the DS and the Bishop. In the meanwhile, I keep praying...

Arthur Sido said...

Betty, I think you would find this book very helpful based on what you are saying. Certainly though, keep praying.