"MERE CHURCHIANITY", by Michael Spencer

I’ll be honest, before reading “Mere Churchianity” by Michael Spencer, I didn’t want to like it. Actually, I wanted to hate it because I expected it to be another attempt by a trendy author advocating yet another spin to the emergent, liberal, social-justice-driven church model. I fully expected it to be a new book to encourage Christians to leave the church-as-we-know-it and adopt an organic, earthy, green Christian movement.

But it wasn’t. “Mere Churchianity” was exactly NOT what I had expected. Yes, Michael Spencer addressed many issues with the modern-day church, but his intent is not to bash the church-as-we-know-it. While this book is not his attempt to entice “leavers”, who happen to be his primary intended audience, back into the church, it is an attempt to convince them to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, and leave Christ altogether. Instead of leaving, Spencer encourages leavers to stay and be bold examples of what authentic Christianity, or what he likes to call “Jesus-shaped spirituality”, really looks like.

Spencer does this by asking people to consider the following question: “If I spent three years with Jesus, how would I feel about _____ ?” You name the subject: same-sex marriage, immigration, teen pregnancy, etc. Spencer gets in your face with this book, debunking some long-held notions about the way we Christians do discipleship with Jesus Christ.

Here are a few quotations that stuck out:

“The church I attend and the denomination I am part of, both of which claim to represent Jesus, are not Jesus. Jesus never asked me to give to an organization the kind of exclusive devotion he demands from his disciples.” (p. 69)

“Obedience is action, not merely a set of beliefs.” (p. 99)

“…there is no gospel for “good” Christians, because the Lamb of God was nailed to an altar for those who are not good and who are no good at pretending to be good.” …“The exhausting effort to be a good Christian denies Christ. If you insist on securing your own holiness and acceptability, you disqualify yourself from receiving anything from Jesus. He came to earth to save sinners, not good Christians.” (p. 135-136)

I’ve come to learn that when recommending a book to another person I cannot simply suggest, “Hey, you should check out such-and-such book. Instead, I now refer them to a very specific chapter. That chapter in “Mere Churchianity” is #12 in my estimation. By that point, Spencer has already presented a compelling position, and then lays the burden on believers with this weighty chapter entitled, “When I am Weak.”

In that chapter, Spencer deals with the fault of modern Christians who don’t want to deal with the ugly truth of life, especially messy Christian life. He writes, “[Christians] aren’t allowed to acknowledge their troubled lives…they can approach the church only with the lie that all is well.” (p. 149).

He deals with the very biblical dilemma of weakness, writing, “The human experience of weakness is God’s blueprint for calling attention to the supremacy of his Son. When miserably failing people continue to belong to, believe in, and worship Jesus, God is happy.” (p. 145) “It’s the cross on which Jesus meets us.” (p. 148)

When you read this book, you will be challenged. Your mind will be stretched, but not simply with black and white theological formulas. Instead, you will be encouraged and challenged to put your beliefs into messy practice, broadening your horizons to what “Jesus-shaped spirituality truly is.

“Mere Churchianity” is comprised of 4 sections with 18 chapters, running 221 pages total. I received this book free for reviewing it for Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. I give “Mere Churchianity” 5 stars!

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE feel free (with a little arm-twisting) to rate my review over here!!!

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