Mere Churchianity, part 1
Note: I let the book discussion I started on Michael Spencer’s Mere Churchianity drop by the wayside. That was a regrettable act on my part, and I plan to resume the discussion. However, I want those who are interested to get caught up on the chapters I reviewed and discussed back in the summer. Here is part 1 of the series, reposted for your benefit.- BD
Michael Spencer was one of those guys saying things most people weren’t.
The Internet Monk often discussed topics, and his conclusions, regarding God, Jesus, Christianity, and the church that by default seemed uniquely his own. Relatively few of his peers seemed to be journeying down the same path Spencer was on, although by his sizeable audience quite a few readers seemed to be with him on that same journey.
You don’t find a lot of blogs like Internet Monk on the web, and you won’t find a lot of books like Mere Churchianity in the bookstore.
Mere Churchianity (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD) is the late Michael Spencer’s first, and perhaps only, book, and he leaves us with thought-provoking material that, again, few people talk about but everyone needs to consider.
What we’ll do here is, instead of a book review, do a discussion of some of the topics Spencer raises. And we’ll be doing this discussion in parts, and without spoiling the entire book. I would like you to purchase it if you can, and Spencer would have too 🙂
Part 1 (the thread you’re reading now) covers Chapter 1 (When Church Signs Lie). In the interest of keeping the blog articles fairly short, we’ll probably cover a chapter at a time.
Chapter 1 refers to seeing signs in front of churches that promise Jesus is there and will be there…and Jesus is not.
Many things are promised on those church signs – revivals, the mission of Jesus, helping the hurt, fighting the culture war.
While Spencer believes that Jesus is alive and active in this world, he (Spencer) has become skeptical that these churches are delivering what they claim. He takes on the prosperity gospel, Christian consumerism, near-total dearth of discipleship and the tendency to attach Jesus to whatever one’s agenda is in order to legitimatize it, as well as preachers who tie God’s work to their church’s schedule.
Meanwhile, numerous Christians, frustrated over not seeing Jesus in what the church has become, are leaving the institutional church, often after looking for any sign of God and seeing instead sign after sign of religion.
These people come from all walks of life, and have for the most part rejected religion but still maintain a spirituality that keeps them connected to Jesus, if not to the institutional church. Spencer compares them to the prodigal son, with the older brother caught up in ‘churchianity’. And Spencer asks if those who have left the church are doing so to indulge their sins, or to abandon the churchianity religion of the older brother.
This is where Spencer’s prodigal son analogy breaks down, because the son clearly wanted to indulge himself; many people who leave the church do so out of frustration, and pain, not so they can engage in unlimited sin.
Still, the analogy to the older brother is applicable here. The older brother seemed to be about rules, and what was proper and holy. Many churches seem to be as well.
As Spencer said, “In Jesus’ story, God forgives a major-league failure and throws him a part. Religion wants justice, but the Father knows what is needed is grace and mercy.”
Spencer clearly sees multitudes of Christians abandoning the religious, churchianity-type church institutions because they promise Christ and deliver justice, and lack not just the grace and mercy Christ gives His people, but Christ Himself.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself, and my opinions are my own and not those of the author nor the publisher. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”