I had planned a blog post on a different subject. But I’ve spent most of the last week reading and re-reading Michael Spencer’s Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. The title is a nod – perhaps more than a nod – in the direction of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. But Spencer’s subject and thesis are very different – that people are leaving the church to find Jesus.
No, this is not a treatise in favor of the “emerging church.” Spencer experienced all of the ways one leaves the church –from belonging nowhere to considering Roman Catholic and Orthodox, to emergent and house churches and all the other possibilities that exist within a Christian context. And he doesn’t advocate not attending church.
Instead, he speaks to those who have left or are considering leaving the church, he explains why this is happening, and then he takes great care in pointing to a different way.
We attended a church for 15 years that – with great sadness and feelings akin to divorce – we left. Worship had begun to resemble entertainment; Bible study had been replaced by discussions of popular books; and success was measured by numbers. We weren’t the only ones who left; we were , in fact, at the tail end of an exodus that left the church financially strapped and spiritually depleted.
We joined a very traditional-type congregation. And then the same elements we had fled began to creep in. We’re still there, but there’s now this sense of having to deal with this all over again.
And then I read Mere Churchianity. It is perhaps the most hopeful work I have read about North American Christianity in more than a decade. That’s an odd thing to say about a book that basically says the North American church has replaced Jesus with …something else. But it is hopeful.
From 2000 to earlier this year, Spencer blogged at Internet Monk. He died from cancer in April, and several friends are continuing to carry on his work. And they should. What he did was and is important. It’s also very personal – for Spencer himself, for the people he wrote this book for, and for me. I’ve been profoundly affected by what he’s written.
I’ll be posting a few blog posts on the book and my own thoughts, beginning late this month and into August. I’m also working on an extended draft of a post for Christian Manifesto, which will be posted first.
For now I will say this: Michael Spencer knows what I’ve been going through for close to a decade, because he’s gone through it himself. He knows the pain and the isolation, because he’s lived it. And he cared enough about the rest of us to write this book.