I have a number of friends who have been hurt by the church and, as a result, have left in search of something different. For some, the search is for something more pure, more true to what they see as the mission of the Church. For others, the search is for something more open, more accepting, and more loving than they experienced the Church to be. Others I know are on the brink of leaving, or have recently returned after a period of journeying away from the Church.
These are the people the late Michael Spencer wrote for in Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. Spencer writes honestly both about the failures of the church and about his own failures, arguing that “It may continue to shock people when I say I don’t believe in the god I used to believe in and when I encourage others to clean out the falsehoods and cultural garbage that has accumulated in their own ideas of God” (3). While his honesty may be, as he admits, shocking to some, Spencer also writes with a hopeful and positive vision for what it means to have faith and follow Jesus.
The heart of the book distinguishes between the “church-based life” from “Jesus-shaped spirituality.” While, in general, I do not know if pitting the Church against Jesus is the most helpful tactic, I appreciated the care with which Spencer addressed the faults he has seen and experienced (and caused) in the institution of the Church. I also was thankful for Spencer’s recognition that the Christian faith is not a journey to be carried out on one’s own – but a communal endeavor where we might learn to see, offer, and receive grace from God and from one another.
Disclosure of material connection in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: I received this book free from the publisher, though the opinions I have expressed are my own.