I will admit that I chose this book to review based on the title alone. It sounded strangely familiar. Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to a Jesus-Shaped Spirituality by Michael Spencer is a book written to challenge believers to allow Jesus Christ to shape and form their spiritual formation and mindset. Spender is better around the blogospehere as the Internet Monk, where he has been blogging since 2000. I found myself agreeing entirely with him at times and disagreeing passionately at others. These reactions to his book were the same reactions I had in reading his blog for several years. Spencer’s style of writing is passionate, whimsical, thoughtful, engaging, and provocative.
Spencer’s audience for this book is those who have left the church or are considering leaving. He challenges them not give up on Jesus Christ. He asks these who are on the fence to not judge Jesus on the often times hypocritical and judgmental actions of the “church” that are not accurate reflections of the life of the Son of God. Spencer asserts that the church today is guilty of turning Jesus into some sort of genie-in-a-bottle, culture-warrior, political activist, and relationship guru that is here to wait on us hand and foot. As churches turn Jesus into their ideal, who they want and need him to be, those looking for a spirituality that is shaped and formed by the Jesus of the gospels, they abandon the church and seek Jesus elsewhere.
There were some things I liked about this book and some things I did not. I liked the fact that Spencer brought the concern and reality to the forefront. The reality, whether we want to realize or not that the church gets in the way sometimes of people seeing Christ. Spencer challenges believers to get back to the main point of the gospel: Jesus Christ. Allow His life and earthly ministry to challenge us and shape us. Allow His teaching to mold us His death, burial, and resurrection to define us as Christ followers. What I did not like about this book is that Spencer makes the case, whether intentional or not, that a believer can grow spiritually without belonging to a local body of believers. As a pastor, I will be the first one to say that he church is not perfect. However, the church is the bride of Christ. I see it as an impossibility to love Christ and want nothing to do with His bride. Spencer seems to be saying that because the church is not perfect, nor useful, then it is not necessary.
I would hope that this book is successful is reaching believers who may have abandoned the church to not quit on Jesus. I hope the mixed message does not get in the way.