“These days, spirituality is hot; religion is not. Community is hip, but the church is lame”.
If you’ve been into the Christian bookshop lately, you’ll have seen the shelves full of books with titles like Quitting Church, Life after Church and They like Jesus but not the Church. The basic idea in most of these books is that institutional church and organised religion don’t help one experience God or grow more Christlike. In fact, the books often take it a step further – church-as-we-know-it actually hinders one’s spiritual growth.
It’s in response to the explosion of these kinds of books that DeYoung and Kluck make their contribution, Why we love the church: In praise of institutions and organised religion. Their mission is to put forward a biblically-rooted, theologically-robust endorsement of The Church and the local church – and I think they do a great job. As someone already committed to and thoroughly enjoying involvement in their local church, I was probably the choir being preached to in reading this book, and I guess my prior convictions about the importance of meeting corporately for worship (including singing), the place of hearing the Word preached faithfully and often in the life of the Christian, and some of the other elements in the traditional worship service have been affirmed and strengthened. They are honest about the church’s shortcomings, they spend time understanding why the idea of an institutional church does not appeal to many, and they dig into Scripture and offer a well-rounded and balanced ecclesiology (theology of church). So I appreciated the book where it was positive and affirming.
I was not so keen on the fact that much of the book was reactive and written as critique on those authors and bloggers advocating a churchless faith. Numerous quotes from 3 or 4 authors in particular were pulled apart and otherwise critiqued, and I guess I don’t have much of an appetite for that kind of finger-pointing.
That being said, ideas and philosophies and theologies ought to be rigorously tested and, if necessary, corrected in the light of scripture. So good on DeYoung and Kluck for doing that for us here.
The book is written for four groups of people – the committed, the disgruntled, the waffling (uninvolved and quietly dissatisfied) and the disconnected. As a church-goer (or ex-church-goer) you’ll fit into one or other of these groups, and you’ll know others in other groups. Whether you can’t wait to get to your next Sunday morning service or you’re disillusioned and on the verge of flirting with the idea of a churchless faith, I would recommend this book as a useful contribution to the conversation.