Hey friends! I hope your week is going great, because there are only 6 more days until Christmas! I am very excited as Matt and I will be flying to Oregon for the holidays. I can’t wait to
drink all the coffee spend time with my wonderful family and friends. But even more than that I am thrilled to meet my godson who was born a few weeks ago! #heisthecutest
While I’ve been extremely busy lately, I have enjoyed reading a book that has been on my list. Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community came at the perfect time as Matt and I transitioned into a new church here in Virginia. The author, Brett McCracken, is married to my boss from Biola and I knew even before reading his book that he is an incredible writer. He has two other books, but I decided to read Uncomfortable because I knew that I needed to be challenged as I went about finding and getting involved in a new church.
Brett’s book was both refreshing and challenging for me. He opens up by describing his Dream Church, which includes a sanctuary with “such great acoustics and layout that it would become a desirable venue for concerts, arts, and community events,” an adjacent roastery and restaurant, and a variety of clubs for writers, singles, athletes, and movie-lovers. At the end of his introduction, he notes,
I am a bit disgusted with how easy it is to describe in such detail my hypothetical “dream church.” It’s easy because this is how we’ve been conditioned to think. “Have it your way” consumerism is the air we breathe…Consumerism is about unlimited choice and unlimited speed. We choose exactly what we want, take only what we want from it, and move on. This mind-set has infiltrated the way we approach church: as a thing we can design according to our checklist of preferences.
I have been guilty of this consumeristic approach to church. Although I went to church regularly as a college student, I never really landed on one until my junior year. It was a large church that was comfortable, and if I hadn’t made an effort to get involved I could have come for 75 minutes every Sunday and left without anyone knowing. When we moved to Virginia, there were even more options for churches – there’s practically one on every block. But we decided to take a different approach: choose a few to try out and then pick one rather than church hopping for who knows how long until we found the “perfect one.” I’m glad that we jumped right into a messy, uncomfortable, and wonderful church.
In this book, Brett covers many aspects that can and should make church and Christian community uncomfortable, including:
- The cross
- The Comforter
What I appreciated most about this book is that unlike so much of our current Christian culture, nothing is watered down. How refreshing. For example, this statement really resonated with me:
One of the uncomfortable things about Christian love is that it isn’t always nice. It doesn’t always look like tolerance. One the contrary, love is sometimes about discipline and speaking truth, even when it hurts.
Today’s society believes tolerance is the end-all be-all. “I can have my opinion about God and faith, and you can have yours.” The alternative is name-calling and picking fights on social media, which isn’t helpful to anyone. Brett challenged me that loving others is not about tolerance, but speaking truth about Christ.
Another chapter that challenged me discussed uncomfortable authority. We’ve been conditioned to believe that giving up control over any decision is unthinkable, “but when one’s own personal narrative, experience of God, feelings, and desires provide the only authoritative framework for faith, faith is unsustainable.” Brett demonstrates that we need to submit to Biblical authority, the authority of community, and the authority of church leaders. “We need authority in our lives for the same reason we need community. Left to our own devices, we do not flourish. Contrary to the individualistic assumptions of contemporary Western culture, unbridled autonomy is not freeing. It’s a prison.”
A lot of this book challenged me in regards to how I think and what I believe about the church and Christian community. It made me ask myself, “Am I too comfortable in this church, in this community?” Because as a Christian, I’m called to be uncomfortable, to be different from the world around me. But it was also comforting to be reminded that although there is no such thing as the perfect church, I can look forward to the day when the Church will be made holy.
To wrap this post up, I highly recommend you check out Brett’s book and pick up a copy for yourself. It’s a great book to start off the new year and will challenge you to be more intentional about your community. It would be a great read for a community group! See you next time!