Home > Book discussion > Book discussion: Mere Churchianity, part 3

Book discussion: Mere Churchianity, part 3

Wherein the author, Michael Spencer, asks in the title of chapter 3, What If We’re Wrong About God?

Not to worry…iMonk stayed true to Jesus to the very end.

What he gave up was wrong beliefs about God that he was, and many of us are, encumbered with.

Those of you who have a copy of the book will read in this chapter Spencer’s ideas on false gods, including the ones of our own making that we call God.

Here’s an interesting quote by Spencer: “My project to clean out my God closet and start over with the essentials leads me to Jesus Christ, God’s ultimate and amazing self-description.”

Starting over apparently involves losing perceptions you had of the Savior in your early years, in favor of true ones that you realize over time. It also involves tearing up your preconceptions of how God would act in given situations, just as Jesus Himself acted in ways contrary to how the religious figures of His day thought the Messiah would act.

In fact, He tore up those preconceptions and replaced them with his truth: “Jesus wouldn’t leave their ideas of God alone until he was their idea of God.”

Imagine that. It’s like He was saying, Don’t look to what other people think I Am, look to Me to know Who I Am.

Following Jesus, Spencer says, was embracing the “life of a man who enlisted in an ongoing God revolution.” A revolution that blasted through His followers lives “like a tornado” until “Jesus. The Tornado himself” was the only one left standing.

The disciples, Spencer argues, had a difficult task in throwing away all of their preconceived ideas of the Messiah in order to embrace Jesus of Nazareth as the real deal. But if they had to do this, why would we not?

Moving on, Spencer argues that we as followers of Jesus have a mission to “remove all idols, repent, renew our minds, and reform our lives.” Spencer then goes into asking what would his reaction to anything be after following Jesus for three years…and if Jesus reflects what it looks like to follow Him, “then what should the Christian life look like?”

Basically, Spencer argues that Jesus is the one and only standard for the Christian, and if we want to know what the Christian life should look like, and what a follower of Jesus should do in a given situation, we have to look to Jesus, and only to Jesus.

We live the Christian life in community, with other Christians, and we are dependent on personal transformation by Jesus Himself to live out His way of life.

Spencer’s subsequent comments make me think of the messed-up, very human Christians famously referred to by Brennan Manning as Ragamuffins. People who need a holy and radical God to empower them for a holy and radical life, and other like-minded, human, broken people who know they’re messed up and broken and know they need a powerful Savior.

Spencer is looking for a place where he can follow Jesus and not get kicked off the island when (not if) he messes up. He needs the church, to live life with and to learn from as he follows Jesus. He needs other followers of Jesus who themselves look to Jesus for His example, and not to religion. He needs great grace to start over again after he messed up the day before.

All the while keeping his eye on Jesus, and becoming like Jesus.

  1. BrianD
    July 15, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Many thanks to Jason Blair at Boars’ Head Tavern for kindly mentioning my blog series on Mere Churchianity.


  2. Another Voice
    July 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    if we want to know what the Christian life should look like, and what a follower of Jesus should do in a given situation, we have to look to Jesus, and only to Jesus.
    Maybe I’m just in an argumentative mood today, but what then is the purpose of Paul and the other apostles writing all those epistles that are in fact “what we should do in a given situation”

    I am not discounting what we learn from the gospels by examining Jesus. But Jesus lived and taught under the Law of Moses. SOME of what He said has nothing to do with church context (do you tell someone healed by God to show himself to the priest…when someone asks you how to gain eternal life do you ask him to cite Moses back to you…etc.)

    We have to be cautious about going a little overboard in my opinion.

    I blame the ‘red letter Bibles” 🙂

    The whole thing should be in red. 🙂 It is all the word of God.

    In all seriousness, we do have some in Christendom who have discounted Paul’s words as if they are inferior since they are not Jesus words. I have even heard a CC pastor say that a Christian’s daily reading should always include some verses of Jesus’ words. I ask, why?

    Now, I trust this will not be grossly misunderstood to somehow think I am degrading the study of the gospels or the words of Christ therein. That is NOT the point.

  3. BrianD
    July 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I don’t think he’s arguing to discount Paul and John and Peter. He’s saying, if you’re going to follow Christ, look to Christ as your primary example.

    Still waiting on Chaplain Mike Mercer for Spencer’s definition of evangelicalism, by the way. I’m thinking iMonk never really gave one, and assumed that his readers all knew what it was or never got around to writing it.

  4. Another Voice
    July 15, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Brian, I’m sure you are correct. I look at that quote though “only Jesus” and get a little troubled. Even if Spencer didn’t mean it, it sure could be construed in a manner as stated above.

  5. BrianD
    July 15, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I see nothing wrong with looking to Jesus as the standard and accepting that all of the New Testament is His word to and for us to follow.

  6. Another Voice
    July 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I see nothing wrong with looking to Jesus as the standard and accepting that all of the New Testament is His word to and for us to follow.
    Of course. I see nothing wrong with that either. Is that what Spencer meant, because he didn’t write it in that quote. 🙂

  7. BrianD
    July 15, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Any quotation by Spencer is in quotations.

    Having read Spencer for the last few years I am confident that is what he would affirm.

  8. Another Voice
    July 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks BrianD…and rest assured, I have no desire to bag on the deceased. He is not here to clarify or defend himself. I appreciate these summaries of yours, and will note more closely when you are quoting him directly, and when you are giving your own summary.


  9. BrianD
    July 15, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    De nada, AV.

    The biggest thing I struggle with here is how much to write about.

    I don’t want to spoil the book, but you can’t discuss it without mentioning parts of it. And I don’t want to merely regurgitate MS, but ask questions of the readers to spark discussion and also add a few observations of my own that hopefully will add to the discussion on the topic.

    It isn’t that easy to pull off and not mess up somewhere. Especially when the author isn’t here to clarify or defend himself.

    But hey, someone’s gotta talk about this book. Just because the big wig Reformed and attractional guys are ignoring it publicly doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of discussion…so let us be the ones to spark it.

  10. Em
    July 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    i received the “Good News” from an evangelist; “received” as in finally-understood it and found it the best life-line anyone could throw you. I had rejected Christianity and Jesus all thru my childhood – in that day it was fashionable/acceptable to dismiss the grammar school students once a week (month?) to attend the religious training of choice (for us it was Protestant, Catholic or Jewish). As it was presented then, i knew i couldn’t “do” it. We were all (almost “all”) good or pretended to be until we were old enough (thru puberty) when most peeled off. The women who faithfully presented Christianity to us in the basement of the Methodist Church probably sewed seeds – God bless them. The evangelist who made his living spreading the Gospel was another tool God used.

    We, the Church are all fishermen (or maybe, most of us are the “bait” – dunno) and no one enterprise is “The Way.”
    Sadly, the churches think that they have to get us into their programs; they have to “save” us.

    Show me The Book! Show me Christ Jesus! I hate being manipulated and that is or, hopefully maybe has been, today’s specialty, isn’t it?

    Thing is… I know it was God who chased me down and caught me. Grandpa’s faithful prayers enter in there somewhere, too…

    thanks for making me ponder this morning, Brian 😀

  11. BrianD
    July 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Em, glad to help. Thanks for reading!

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