Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer
"Fining your way back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality" is what Mere Churchianity is all about. In over 200 pages Michael Spencer, aka. Internet Monk attempts to show us our need for us to become more Christo-centric. He also wrote the famous essay in the Christian Science Monitor called "The Coming Evangelical Collapse". This book is the only book Spencer wrote before dying of cancer on April 5, 2010. Frank Viola, author of Jesus Manifesto, says "As someone who has been writing for years on the supremacy of Jesus Christ and its relationship to his church, I found the Christ-centeredness of this book to be profoundly refreshing. We have lost a choice servant of God in Michael, but heaven is the richer. I'm thankful that he left us this excellent contribution."
Spencer introduces the book with "The Dairy Queen Incident". This title immediately got my attention since Dairy Queen is also in my home town and I also eat there quite a bit after services. Texas is DQ country. At any rate, he recounts a story of him as a youth pastor while his youth group and he frequented the local DQ. As is often reported, sadly, the youth group was not very friendly and damaged their witness. Later Spencer received a letter from a girl who worked at the DQ. The note, among other things, noted "your youth group invaded and abused our restaurant...you probably don't know that I am a member of you church, but for the past year I have been an atheist...Christians like you have convinced me that God is a myth, an excuse used by religous people to mistreat others..." The letter says much more but you will have to buy the book to find out!
The atheist here makes a great point. It is a stark reality to those who forget the Christian life is not about human lordship but Christ Lordship. As humans we make a mess of things when Christ is not Lord. In the book Beyond Opinion Alister McGrath notes, " One of the fundamental factors leading to the rise of atheism is a perception that belief in the divine does not lead to a morality that is clearly superior to that offered by secular culture.” (pg. 25) It is important that the modern church move towards a more Christological focus not only in theology but also in practice.
Spencer notes, "American Christianity has evolved into a movement that Jesus would not recognized if he were to show up next Sunday." (Spencer, pg. 24) More than likely Spencer is right. Many churches would probably expel Christ or Paul if they were to show up on Sunday. Our Western sensibilities would be incensed. He also notes that the "evangelicals are in the midst of a kind of exodus...Evangelical churches haven't lost a culture war or forgotten how to be relevant. They have become a movement that has so little to do with the centrality of Jesus..." (Spencer, pg. 25) Without naming names Spencer calls out the "motivational speaker" type pastors that are telling audience how to "improve their lives with a positive attitude and relentless efforts to be nice...this pastor leads millions of people every week to believe that Christianity is about you getting everything you want the way you like it so that you you you you.." (Spencer, pg. 29) You get the point here, right?
Some readers may see this book as radical and well they should. No one usually agrees with EVERYTHING they read either. We cannot underestimate our dilemma though. It is a radical change we need. A radical turning but in the direction of Christ and His Lordship over heart and culture. Spencer says "Christianity can be spelled out in a few words: Jesus is God. Lord and God." (Spencer, pg. 35)
We need personal transformation by the authentic Christ of Scripture. Not a prosperity gospel or a blab it and grab it religion. We don't need another pastor telling us about a positive mental attitude every service either. Spencer notes that he is "swimming in a sea of mediocrity, worshiping in a church captivated by consumerism...I need some truthful talk--not safely scripted chitchat--about what it means to follow Jesus...I need to see and know real human beings who have walked the path of hard choices and hard times in order to remain faithful to Jesus." (Spencer, pg. 45)
If you want to be challenged, read this book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Press as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."