Sunday, September 12, 2010
A Word I Don't Like
It’s the word I’m having the most trouble with in Michael Spencer’s Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. I almost wish he had used the word faith instead.
I’ll get over it. I’m actually he will, but the end of the book, enable me to rehabilitate the word in my own mind.
Spencer, having defined the problem the first four chapters of the book as one of church-shaped spirituality rather than Jesus-shaped spirituality, finally asks the question: What does Jesus-shaped spirituality look like? He’s going to spend the rest of the book answering that question, but he’s clear on what it is not.
It is not, Spencer says, a spirituality “measured by attendance figures, buildings and budget, all part of a spirituality that Jesus repudiated.” (That alone is enough to give every evangelical church in America great pause.)
It is not a culture-war spirituality, whose “kingdom is the eventual triumph of moral conservatism, and its spirituality is conflict and argument.”
It is not a spirituality of “emphasizing the Christian family as the central community in the Christina life.” Whoa!
And it is not a spirituality of worship experiences, of prophecy and seeking revival, of the “obsessive pursuit of doctrinal and theological precision,” or of health, wealth and prosperity.
Nor, I would add, is it a spirituality that equates Christianity with the United States and the Bible with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
If that’s what it’s not, which pretty well encompasses a lot of what we think Christianity is, then was it this Jesus-shaped spirituality that Spencer talks about?
He writes: “I’m looking for a spiritual experience that looks like, feels like, sounds like, lives like, loves like and acts like Jesus of Nazareth. It’s that simple.”
And starting with the next chapter, we’re going to see how Spencer begins to answer the question. And if it is, really, that simple.
(Nancy Rosback at Bend the Page has been leading us in a discussion of Mere Churchianity. Check her place for the various links.)