Do you remember my post on this book? Well I have long since finished it but have yet to put my comments about it. And now I realize I NEED to return it since I've had it so long!
I have been increasingly cynical of the what I call "marketing of Christianity" that I am getting at my own church and that seems so common in a lot of churches. It's like they are trying to convince people to DO it, like they try to convince them to buy pop. To me it seems to be "seeker-friendly" churches that have gone too far and are starting to lose what the real relationship with Jesus is all about in the first place. Now - I am not criticizing my church in everything, but have felt this blah feeling of lack of depth for awhile. And maybe it is my own blah-ness compounding it because the people I know there, I love. But what happened to talking about holiness and more depth. I understand the difficulty a preacher must have trying to appeal and teach to all levels of an audience, and our preacher is a good one! He is Bible preaching, Jesus teaching.... but after picking up this book, it makes me feel like Jesus needs to sift the goats from the sheep.
The authors are pretty blunt and critical in some of their observations about different churches they visit. The atheist who is along for the ride and for his opinion has some insightful and very real things to say that about 99% of the time I agree with him on. The lack of sincerity or the way church is done the same everywhere- a couple songs (whatever style), a message of some sort, collecting money, and some sort of greeting, all within an hour or 2. I want more!! I want to not go to church, but to be THE CHURCH. And I know that is sometimes a struggle for me too, so who I am to criticize how they do church since I'm not there helping "plan it."
Anyways enough of my soapbox.... here's some mind provoking quotes from the book for you:
He talks about "defending the space" not just the faith, and knowing all the right answers and apologetics, but the space that exists between any 2 people when they trust each other. "Fro some reason Christians continue to believe that we can talk people into following Jesus. That's why we think we need to memorize the right words or even our own story. We all know the impact it has on us when someone listens to us. This simple act is so rare that whoever practises it (even poorly) is immediately set apart in our minds as someone we would like to spend more time with. Defending the space means we practise listening."
"The final ministry years are the tip of the Incarnation, the visible interaction of humanity and divinity, but the first 30 are just as vital to understanding what God looks like when he is living a life more like the one we live. Defending the space involves embracing the ordinariness of our lives instead of pretending to be something we're not. When we practise leading with weakness rather than strength we let God be the strong one."
"Jesus didn't just teach principles, he taught practices. He gave people something to do. He didn't just each about forgiveness, He told them to forgive their debtors. He didn't just talk about love as a concept; He told people to love their enemies. He didn't just tell people to think about changing their behaviors; He told them to repent."
"Jesus never intended His movement to become part of the religion business, but it has. Consequently when you ask people about their relationship with Jesus, they might begin with something personal, but are likely to add the name of the church they attend, who their pastor is and the unique attributes of their belief system. Today a shift is taking place in our culture-people are more and more comfortable talking about their spirituality and less about their beliefs or religion. This should not be an obstacle for followers of Jesus since he had no interest in religion."
OK I know that was a bit long but..... now you don't have to read the book unless you really want to know what he thinks of Saddleback or Willow Creek. Some really good stuff even with all their constructive criticism of the N. American (well I guess only American- which I found quite different than the Canadian version, but we're similar). Makes me think about how much I do that is religion and just bearing the image of a "Christian" and how much I do that is Jesus and bearing only His image. I'm a long way off, so maybe this atheist has helped me realize more that we're all just people to be real with. I've been getting a lot better at listening than I used to be, but asking good questions-- I want to be better at, to initiate some interesting discussion without feeling like I have to defend anything- HE can defend Himself.