Book Review: Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer
Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. Michael Spencer. WaterBrook Press, 2010.
Something is very wrong in the church. People have been noticing, and getting more vocal about it lately the last few years. The Church hasn’t been matching up with what Jesus set it out to be. The Church has supplanted Christ as the ultimate interest of worship and concern. Hence the term Churchianity, which reflects this shift in mind.
It’s under this view that Mere Churchianity is written. Michael Spencer observed that what is on the label often doesn’t match up with what is being presented. He observes the number of “church leavers” that are going away in order to find Jesus – something with more integrity, authenticity, and honesty than the Jesus presented in most churches.
Spencer begins discussing the disconnect that the average church goer has with Jesus, due to the connection to their church organizations. People are conformed to them, and not to Jesus. Besides this, they become very prideful, unable to see their poor actions reflecting against Jesus despite the clear evidence witnessed by others.
The author points out that people often have a picture of God defined by their own ideas, concepts, and preferences. The answer is following Jesus Christ, One who can not be controlled or defined by others. This Jesus the one that we allow to shape us, not organizational policies or other things.
The book then presents a discussion of how a differing Jesus is presented today, resulting from the cultural confusion and church manipulation that has happened over the years. This has clouded the correct view of discipleship via rules, tradition, and culture. Spencer then points out that Jesus is not restricted to these churches or by these churches and is working in the world in His own will. The author’s answer to break out of this discipleship to church organization, reading the Bible for yourself is presented. Additional qualifications and conditions are often placed upon faith, making it works-based. This encouragement causes people to lie to themselves and others about the state of sin in their lives. Discipleship to church organization, dictated by programs and policies, is contrasted to discipleship to Jesus, which involves relationship and observation (learning by doing). In other words, Spencer points out that an association with a church does not a Christian make, no more than association with a garage makes you a car.
Spencer then describes the human element: The conditions of being involved in an organizational church setting involves a fear of individuality and encouragement of conformity. Those looking for authentic faith then admit defeat and leave rather to live life as a hypocrite. Discipleship looks very different in one who follows the organizational church than who follows the real Jesus.
The author covers a lot of ground in the 18 chapters he has written. Using an observational style, he will challenge you in a number of respects about the nature of church, versus the nature of real worship and service to Jesus. You will have a lot to think about in the course of this book, whether you agree or disagree with Spencer’s assessments. His assessments are often spot on.
Given Spencer’s observational style of writing and the amount of content, his book would benefit by organizing the content and making the points clearer. In addition, Spencer encourages a Personal Jesus based on worldly moral relativism at many points (for example p 76-77) in his book. It seems as many times, Spencer, as well as the previous author, fails to appreciate the gravity of sin and the nature of holiness that should exist in the life of the Jesus follower and in the life of the holy Church. As well, Spencer presents a nihilistic faith with respect to the sins of those who follow Christ (p 146).
Overall, this book is very valuable as an entry point to understanding some of the things that are wrong with the church. It echoes many of the points made here at the Society of Phineas and brought up some others for possible reflection. However, the lack of organization in the writing will cause you to have to read certain passages a number of times to understand the concept that Spencer is trying to relay. Spencer will give you much to ponder as well.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
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