Book discussion: Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer, part 4
This week’s discussion on Chapter 4 of Michael Spencer’s book Mere Churchianity, titled A Christianity Jesus Would Recognize, is where the author defines what he means by the phrase Jesus-shaped spirituality.
Here, he gives a definition. It is a “way to talk about three things that deeply matter, even to people outside the church:
- Having a genuine experience of God
- Figuring out how a life gets transformed”
Spencer then asserts that people who have left the church are not ones who have completely left the faith. Jesus is still attractive to them, to know God would be the greatest gift one could receive in this life, and the church is no reason to become “hopelessly cynical about God.”
He talked and wrote about Jesus-shaped spirituality, he says, “to help people stop being sabotaged by religion and start thinking about Jesus again.” To the point where he “press(ed) Jesus as the center of the conversation.”
Moving on, Spencer returns to his idea of what someone would be life after spending three years of their life with Jesus. Here, he does so by asserting that “most Christians” aren’t comfortable with the concept of Jesus defining pretty much everything we think, are and do.
Spencer brings up illegal immigrants – who very much remain in the news even now – as his example of the different ways that Christians “invented a spirituality that has Jesus on the cover but not in the book.” The various ‘answers’ he gives as representative of the evangelical church fit it almost perfectly; his answer to that is simply, look at Jesus.
Yet, the church doesn’t look to Jesus. Instead, it looks to “political pundits shock jocks, and culture warriors to tell us what to do.”
This leads into Spencer’s question of whether the church we are a part of looks like the church of Jesus’s day and reflects His example…or if it reflects what those who profess to be His disciples want it to be.
He clearly does not believe that the church reflects Jesus, though he reminds us that we have myriad examples of Jesus teaching and guiding His disciples, how he developed them into leaders, what they did in His presence and away from it, and on and on.
After giving more examples of how the church interprets the teachings of Jesus in the modern day (all of which reflect the self-centered view Spencer believes evangelicalism holds), Spencer speaks to those who have left the church. And he gives a couple of provocative quotes:
“I seriously doubt that what you are walking away from resembles the movement Jesus started….I (guess) what you walked away from bears a superficial resemblance to the way of Jesus…(and) bears more than a passing resemblance to one of the religious systems that Jesus repudiated.”
“For many of you, leaving the church may have been the most spiritually healthy thing you ever did.”
Please keep in mind a couple of things:
- Spencer is referring to the church at large here in the U.S., not necessarily to your church.
- He himself was a member of a church in his last few years on earth, so it was not as if he stopped going to church.
His critiques here are of the evangelical world in general, the one where Jesus junk and superstar pastors preaching on beds about sex in massive auditoriums that look like the Christian version of the mall seemingly eclipse the Lord they claim to serve.