I have been going to church my entire life. I am a pastor, my father was a pastor, and his father a pastor before him. The weekly rhythm of Sunday worship and midweek Bible study is the only rhythm I have ever known.
And, truth be told, I’m a bit tired of it. Perhaps you are too. If so, take a look at Todd Hunter’s new book, Giving Church Another Chance.
Todd Hunter grew up Methodist, converted at Calvary Chapel, was in on the startup of Vineyard Fellowship, spent a few years doing alternative church, and is now a priest of the Anglican Mission in America. He’s seen and done a lot of different styles of church. The experience hasn’t made him cynical, however; but it has highlighted his felt need for Christians to rethink what they’re getting out of church.
As I read Giving Church Another Chance, three things stood out as most relevant for me.
First, the need to connect church with the real world: What does going to church have to do with the rest of my life? For many years, I was an associate pastor. For three years, I was a senior pastor. Now, I work for my denomination and just attend church. But in all three cases, there were (are) sometimes when I leave a Sunday morning worship service and have no idea how to answer the question of relevance. I have been immersed in an experience of divine transcendence, but I have no idea how it applies to the other six days of my week. Hunter shows the relevance of the church’s spiritual practices to life.
Second, the need to move from beliefs to behaviors. I am an intellectual type of guy. I love to read, write, and argue. And so, my constant temptation is to live in my head. But knowing the Bible is not the same thing as doing what it says, and if the Apostle James is to be believed, doing it is what counts most. Hunter focuses on practices, showing us how can live out what we learn on Sunday mornings: doxology, Scripture, sermons, offering, communion, and benediction.
Third, the need to move from consumption toward mission. This is similar to the point above, but it has an angle toward the evangelization and discipleship of others. Hunter calls this “doing faith for the sake of others.”
Truth be told, I had a hard time reading this book. Hunter’s writing style is simple and clear, but it wasn’t jibing with me. I can’t really explain why not. But as he wrote, I kept identifying myself in the story he was telling – especially regarding the points mentioned above – so I kept reading.
And I’m glad I did. Attending church is a way of constantly reminding yourself that it (life, etc.) is not about you, that you don’t know everything, and that you can learn from the practices of the faithful who have gone before you. It is, in other words, a discipline of God’s grace.
P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com profile page.