Analog Church | Book Review


Jay Y. Kim’s Analog Church had the misfortune of hitting bookstores at the precise moment American churches were rushing to go digital due to COVID-19-related shelter-at-home orders in many places across the nation.

Bad timing aside, the book’s message is timely. “People are hungry for human experiences,” Kim writes, “and the church is perfectly positioned to offer exactly that.” The longer people shelter at home, the more that hunger will grow, and the greater the Church’s opportunity will be.

But will churches be able to satisfy that hunger? Kim worries they won’t. (His worries long predate the current crisis.) The reason is not that churches use digital technology. Rather, it is that they often embrace digital values, which Kim enumerates:

  1. Speed. We have access to what we want when we want, as quickly as our fingers can type and scroll.
  2. Choices. We have access to an endless array of options when it comes to just about anything.
  3. Individualism. Everything, from online profiles to gadgets is endlessly customizable, allowing us to emphasize our preferences and personalities.

Kim acknowledges that digital technology has made “major contributions to the improvement of human experience.” Sheltered at home with my family, I can confirm that a speedy internet, multiple iPads, and an array of online entertainment choices vastly improved our experience of confinement. Additionally, digital technology made church services and small groups accessible to believers who couldn’t walk through their church doors.

And yet, those digital values also have a downside. In Kim’s words:

The speed of the digital age has made us impatient.
The choices of the digital age have made us shallow.
The individualism of the digital age has made us isolated.

Digital values are good if you’re talking about consuming things. If you’re talking about making disciples, however, impatience, shallowness and isolation are nonstarters. Consequently, Kim warns: “Leading our churches headlong into digital spaces in hopes of creating an easy-to-consume Christian product severely diminishes our ability to meaningfully impact the culture around us and invite them into more meaningful spaces.”

Because of this danger, Kim encourages churches to “lean into analog opportunities” in three areas: worship, community and Scripture. He captures the basic difference between digital and analog with this couplet: “Digital informs. Analog transforms.”

Both information and transformation are important, of course — the former as the means, the latter as an end. But, as opposed to analog, digital has the quality of seeing rather than being. (These are my words, not Kim’s.) Seeing pictures of Yosemite, for example, simply cannot capture the wonder of being there.

So how does this information-transformation distinction apply to worship, community and Scripture?

By worship, Kim means the public gatherings of Christians characterized by “songs and sermons,” two forms easy to represent via digital media. The danger of digital worship is that it takes place in your head, not your whole body. Seeing others sing or preach isn’t the same as being in the room where it happened. An observer isn’t a participant.

The being-there quality of analog applies even more to community. “Digital technologies are exceptional and efficient when it comes to the exchange of information,” Kim writes, “but they are abject failures when it comes to the exchange of presence.” We may speak of “online communities,” but that is a useful fiction. Communities must commune, not just communicate.

The gospel didn’t come to us as a movie played on the screen of heaven, after all. It came as Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, who gathered around himself a community called His “body.” Digital technology cannot do this. It cannot reproduce the embodied character of community.

Finally, Bible. Digital technology provides tremendous tools for Bible study. I use YouVersion’s search function all the time, for example. The problem is that a search-function approach to Scripture is reductive.

Consider that God did not inspire the Bible as an answer to a Google prompt, “What does the Bible say about ______?” Instead, over the course of 1,500 years, He inspired 66 books that tell a unified story: the gospel. Understanding that story requires reading slowly for “deep comprehension,” rather than swiftly searching for “self-help tidbits or small morsels of encouragement or inspiration for the day.” Unfortunately, this latter approach is how millions now “read” the Bible.

Kim concludes Analog Church by talking about Communion, which is so analog — “you can’t eat and drink together online” — that it is an antidote to digital values. Given the extraordinary circumstances of the current pandemic, some have experimented with “virtual communion” as a concession to short-term realities.

Pandemic aside, though, the long-term reality is that the Church is intrinsically analog. Facebook and FaceTime may supplement a church’s communication capabilities, especially in a crisis, but they cannot substitute for face-to-face experience. If we Christians fail to remember this, we fail to feed the very hunger our contemporaries so strongly feel.

Book Reviewed
Jay Y. Kim, Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2020).

P.S. If you like this review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review appears in the May-June 2020 issue of Influence magazine.

Leading from Your Gut | Book Reviewi


“I have a bad feeling about this” is not just a well-worn linefrom the Star Wars movie franchise. It’s also a gut-level experience many leaders have when making important decisions. It can be a positive experience too: “I have a good feeling about this.”

Leaders often ignore their gut when making decisions. They believe it’s best to base decisions solely on external data, not internal feelings. Dr. John Townsend thinks that’s only half right: The premise of Leading from Your Gut is this: “Great leaders succeed by harnessing the power of both the external world and the internal world.”

Townsend is a New York Timesbestselling author, leadership and organizational consultant, and psychologist. He is founder of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and offers counsel from a Christian perspective. Most of the examples in the book come from the business world, but Townsend also shows the relevance of his advice to ministry and other non-profit forms of leadership.

Leading from your gut is leading by intuition. Our intuition is not always right, of course, but it’s not always wrong either. Every leader can recall specific instances when the data pointed one way and their gut another, so they followed the data, only to have the negative results prove their gut right. I certainly can.

Why does this happen? Because leaders have developed an intuitive feel for things based on long experience that they can’t always provide reasons for. The gut is nonrational, in other words, but not irrational. Along with developing the ability to interpret data correctly, leaders need to hone their intuition. To help them do that, Leading from Your Gut outlines thefive aspects that shape a leader’s internal world — values, thoughts, emotions, relationships and transformation.

In my opinion, the chapters on emotions alone are worth the price of the book. “Your emotions have a function, a purpose, a role. When you understand this role, you can harness your emotions to lead others well,” Townsend writes. They “exist as a signal to you. They alert you that something is going on, something you need to pay attention to and deal with. That somethingmay be an event outside of you or one inside.” He then goes on to describe the signal function of both negative and positive emotions, and how recognizing the signals can change the way you lead.

Leading from Your Gutdoesn’t absolve leaders from their responsibility to lead from the data. To be successful, leaders should know their “business,” whether it is making widgets or making disciples of all nations. But they should also know themselves.

Book Reviewed
John Townsend, Leading from Your Gut: How You Can Succeed by Harnessing the Power of Your Values, Feelings, and Intuition(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. I wrote this review for InfluenceMagazine.com. It is crossposted here with permission.

Understanding Generation Z | Influence Podcast


Over at InfluenceMagazine.com, I interview David Kinnaman of Barna Group about its new report, Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation. In my opinion, this is an excellent report for pastors–especially youth and KidMin pastors–and parents who want to understand the water in which their Gen Z kids swim.

You can follow Barna Group on Facebook and Twitter. I always find its research to be thought-provoking and helpful.

Episode 125 Notes

  • 00:00 Introduction of podcast topic
  • 00:32 MEGA Sports Camp ad copy
  • 01:10 Welcome to David Kinnaman
  • 01:47 Why pastors and other church leaders should pay attention to generational research
  • 04:00 Demographics of Generation Z
  • 07:18 Big themes of Barna’s Gen Z report
  • 12:10 Nominal Christianity vs. biblical worldview
  • 15:51 Diversity of race/ethnicity and gender/sexuality
  • 21:22 Materialistic values
  • 25:04 Best practices for ministry to Generation Z
  • 27:55 Gen Z and Barna Trends 2018
  • 29:04 Conclusion

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: