If I were to judge a book by the amount of dog ears there are on the bottom right hand corner (where I like to mark pages I especially like) after I finish it then Michael Spencer’s Mere Churchianity might just be one of the more thought-provoking, interesting and challenging books I’ve read in some time. Simply put: it’s hard to tell where the dog ears begin and end.
Though I wasn’t a regular visitor or commenter on the late Michael Spencer’s Internet Monk blog, I was definitely what you would call an admirer of his work who was shocked and saddened when I learned of his untimely death. Like Messy Spirituality was for Michael Yaconelli, Mere Churchianity serves as a parting shot from Spencer, full of the kind of passion and energy that makes for a challenging and enlightening read written especially, as Spencer puts it, for “people on the inside who are about to leave or have already left.”
I wouldn’t characterize myself in either of those categories, but what led me to dog-ear so many pages was that I am on the inside as a staff member at a church and I struggle regularly with what Spencer terms churchianity, a brand of Christianity that is more about the church as an organization than it is about following Christ.
“The evangelical church seeks to serve everybody and their many interests, so it’s not difficult to find Sunday-morning preaching that covers every topic imaginable while making no mention of Jesus at all,” Spencer writes.
Criticisms of the church and the way it has and can go astray aren’t hard to find and Spencer doesn’t hold back on criticism but it’s not just a case of throwing stones. Spencer’s passion for following Christ and following His commandment to go out and make disciples is evident throughout the book and his criticisms are constructive. It doesn’t, to me anyway, come across as shock value finger-pointing or stuffy arrogance.
This isn’t to say that Spencer’s take on things and style isn’t at times jarring or that I’m completely in agreement with his take or approach on things. Re-reading through some of the many dog-eared passages, I find myself being stretched all over again by his words and challenged to take a hard look at myself and my role in building the kingdom of God.
“The disciples had to discard more false notions, incomplete teachings, erroneous assumptions, and long-held absolutes in three years than most of us will in a lifetime,” Spencer writes in a chapter entitled What If We’re Wrong About God? “But if we are followers of Jesus, as they were, then shouldn’t we be forced to reevaluate these same things in our lives and in our thinking?”
Though it’s not destined to be the classic that C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity is, Mere Churchianity is certainly a worthwhile read from a man who certainly seems to have made the best of the shortened time he was given with us.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by its publisher.