So you don’t want to go to church anymore
I discovered a freely downloadable book by Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman written under the name Jake Colsen. I read "So you don’t want to go to church anymore" in a couple of days. It is nice being able to read and review a book that I really enjoyed and it wasn’t sent to me by a publisher.
I was challenged by this book because it takes a completely different track than the typical emerging church fare I’ve absorbed in the last few years. The central theme is less about church and more about our relationship with Jesus. Most of the book is written as conversation between two people, not unlike MacLaren’s "A new kind of Christian." I’ve always enjoyed this style of writing as it puts theology in a real world context and it presents more than one point of view at the same time.
I believe the authors make several good points in this book. They do a good job revealing how seemingly innocuous practices can manipulate people in to religious performance. These methods mould us in to performance driven people pleasers. We get subtly deceived in to playing a game rather than building God’s kingdom.
Every time we use an external system to motivate people towards a spiritual end we run the risk of obscuring the spiritual reality. For many spiritual growth isn’t much more than establishing positive habits based on biblical principles. We use awards and social approval to reward these good habits. Unfortunately when we do this people end up serving the ideals of a sub-culture when they think we are serving Jesus. When circumstances become difficult or the influence of that sub-culture is removed the whole framework comes down like a house of cards. Given this pattern it is easy to see how a church culture can become hypersensitive about certain kinds of sin but completely complacent about others.
The book keeps pulling the reader towards a more sincere and substantial relationship with Jesus.
The authors view church organization as a huge culprit in distracting people from a real life giving relationship with Jesus and others. They even deconstruct some of the unhealthy motives behind the house church movement. While I enjoyed the book I see a disconnect between the picture of church they paint with that I see in scripture. There does seem to be a little more organization in the New Testament than the completely relationship based fellowship they present in the book.
The challenges I’ve taken from the book are found in the following to questions: When I structure things am I facilitating sincere devotion to Christ or am I steering people to perform religious exercises to meet others expectations? Will people come out of this with a sincere devotion to Christ and a pure love for others or will they be motivated by guilt or fear?
I recommend that people read the book. I enjoyed the freshness of the perspective. They keep bringing things back to Jesus and I really appreciated that. It can be downloaded for free from here. One of the authors can be heard regularly at "The God Journey" podcast.