For The Love of Church

In their book, “Why We Love the Church,” DeYoung and Kluck ultimately seek to realign its church readers (committed, disgruntled, waffling, or disconnected) back towards the biblical understanding of church and the need for active involvement within the church.  These are great purposes to have!

As there were a few good chapters within this book, and some sound points & rationale, I did have several cautions and disappointments:

  • The book didn’t have a strong, incremental flow or feel of “story.”  This mostly has to do with each author rotating chapters.  The thought is that DeYoung writes for the academics/theologians and Kluck writes for the easy-going humorists.  This approach makes the book too fragmented and choppy, as they would benefit more from the hard work of seeking a collaborative, team-writing approach for each chapter.
  • Due to the issue stated above, there are about 2-3 unnecessary chapters within this book dealing with:  experiences at a pastors conference, churches apologizing for past mistakes, stuttering interviews with guys like Chuck Colson, taking The Shack too seriously, and snapshots of a few traditional churches doing “missional” things, …all seeking to make unnecessary and overcompensating points.
  • As I tend to have a hard time with the cynicism and arrogance of some of the “emergent” writers, I found it ironic that DeYoung and Kluck would have the same cynicism and arrogance to defend their “traditionalism.”  For those that feel the “message is the medium” it may make it hard to hear some of the good things DeYoung and Kluck have to say.  (I am as cynical as the next guy…but when it is in a document that has been read and re-read, and then edited by the publishing company whose slogan is confidently, “The name you can trust,” it is a little surprising.)
  • There is a danger in taking a few extreme authors of the “emergent” camp and assume they fully represent others simply desiring a more relevant and “culturally contextual” church.  To over-generalize any naysayer or change-agent as an “emergent fanatic” who thinks “church” occurs when they sporadically watch a NIN video with a few friends seems extreme and pigeonholing.
  • There is an almost unconscious mixing of theology and methodology.  While DeYoung and Kluck do an admirable job showing that to be “a church” is more than just being “two or more” gathered anywhere and doing anything, it goes too far subtly giving fixed methodologies as theological prescriptions.  As the book talks about the need for “preaching and teaching” it does so with the rigid methodology and/or vehicle of the audible monologue, instead of thinking culturally-contextual with the deliverance of a “sermon” through film, avatar, experiential learning activities, etc.  As the book talks about the need for some structure or order within the church (which I agree), it doesn’t provide a platform to show new or innovative organizational structures and leadership styles, bowing to the current and normative regime.
  • DeYoung and Kluck give everyone’s consistent caution towards the emerging church ensuring that the gospel is more than action, but also words.  However, in defending their stance they lose sight of the Jesus who taught us not only through verbal proposition, but divine action.  To say Jesus talked little about doing good and mostly about “trusting in Him as the only way,” without factoring in all of the good action he conducted, seems imbalanced and short-sighted of the holistic, incarnate Christ.  Yes, we want a balance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy…of both word and deed.
  • As I agree we must uphold our attainable, ultimate Truth (scripture) as plodding visionaries, it downplays the usefulness of other “truths” within our society that can benefit the effectiveness of the church.  To take other “truths” and filter them through our ultimate Truth isn’t pluralism or being “trendy,” but being a follower of Christ using sound stewardship of his or her tangible and/or intellectual resources.

Overall, I felt this was a decent and potentially helpful book for those that have “given up on church” or feel “their way” of doing church is “thee way” (while also correcting some of Viola’s missteps). But unfortunately this book also indirectly affirms churches that remain entrenched in their traditionalism to the point of losing relevance, contextualization, & ecclesiological effectiveness for the sake of tradition.

In a strange way, as DeYoung and Kluck call out the current disenfranchised as having idolatry towards “authenticity” (a fair assessment for some, and probably me), I wonder if they in fact have unknowingly assumed an idolatry towards the “traditional” church, (versus a church that embraces the same orthodoxy, affirms the traditional church, but then strives for a very unorthodox methodology).  In their call for unity around some essential cores that make up “a church,” they in turn have squeezed away the rich and beautiful diversity of practice that the church so desperately needs.  Unity doesn’t mean uniformity.

More cautions than compliments, but a helpful read and reminder of our Christian essentials.

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~ by Dave Smith on December 30, 2009.

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