I maintain a Google document going each year that keeps track of the best music, movies, books, and TV I've enjoyed that year. Sometimes I even take note of best restaurants and food experiences. As we close the book on 2017 and as I prepare to create a blank 2018 Google document in a few days, here's a look at what made the cut in my favorites of 2017.
For a few months in 2003-2004, the Hubble Space Telescope zoomed in on a seemingly blank, small spot in the sky. To the naked eye it looked like a speck of black emptiness. But once developed, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image showed that inside that small, randomly selected patch of sky, over 10,000 galaxies could be seen.
I wrote Uncomfortable to remind Christians of this: that in spite of the awkwardness, the challenges and the discomfort of local church life, it is worth it. The discomfort of it is how we grow, as we lean not on ourselves but on the Holy Spirit at work within us, supernaturally doing things in and through churches that by all fleshly accounts should not and could not happen.
One of the assumptions of my new book Uncomfortable is that church is hard.Discomfort, frustration and pain are inevitable. But another assumption of Uncomfortable is that these are not necessarily reasons we should leave a church. On the contrary, I argue in the book that discomfort in church community is actually a huge part of how we grow.
In preparation for writing Uncomfortable I wanted to get a sense for what proves most uncomfortable about Christianity in real churches today. I emailed a number of pastors from around the world and asked them about what aspects of Christianity or church life proved to be especially uncomfortable, challenging or offensive in their particular congregations and contexts. Here are 10 of the responses I received.
Instead of celebrating the fact that Christianity has contributed good things to the world for two thousand years, the increasingly unpopular church feels the need to talk only about the bad things she has done. Rather than drawing from her rich heritage of time-tested tradition, today’s church chooses to adopt last week’s fashion so as to be relevant again.
I know plenty of Christians who get far more excited about mission “out there” than they do about their own personal holiness: passionate church planters whose marriages are a mess; progressive Christians engaged in social justice but disengaged from their own spiritual vitality. But mission and morality are not two separate categories.
My new book, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community, comes out the last week of September but is available for preorder now. If you are curious about what others are saying about the book, below you can read some of the very kind words that have been offered as endorsements of the book.
The reality of God’s family is that people have different backgrounds and personalities and opinions. They will clash. It will be messy. It’s a huge challenge committing to a family like this, but it is not optional. We must lean into and embrace the awkward conglomeration of people who comprise the church.
Places shape us. They seep into our bones and grab hold of our hearts. As much as we live our lives digitally these days and find connections in the vast placeless spaces of the Internet, the reality is we are embodied beings who are wired to shape and be shaped by specific, physical places. Biola University has been a profound place in my life.