When we learn to love the church in spite of its awkwardness and our frustrations, we become less like isolated consumers and more like a covenantal community, committed to one another and to the gospel of Jesus Christ, through thick and thin.
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.
I'm thrilled to announce that on September 30, 2017, I will release my third book: Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community. Crossway is publishing the book, and the wonderful Russell Moore (!) has kindly written a foreword. I'll be sharing a lot about Uncomfortable in coming months, but here's a bit about it to give you a sense for the general concept...
The following 21 challenges are in no particular order and are by no means exhaustive, and they are largely (but not exclusively) reflective of an American evangelical context. I also should note that each of them represents not only a challenge but also an opportunity. The church has historically thrived when she is tested rather than comfortable.
Writing to a group of early Christians in Corinth, the Apostle Paul famously said, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Christ crucified was “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (v. 23), a foolish thing and a sign of weakness. In the ancient world a cross was not something decorative to put atop buildings or wear, diamond-studded, around one’s neck. It was a barbaric method of slow death.
“I Saw Christ Crying in Hermès.” That’s the name of the new single from little-known indie artist, Slow Dakota (real name: PJ Sauerteig), a Fort Wayne, Indiana-based singer/songwriter who often explores themes of religion in his lyrics. Listen to the song here. If you haven’t heard of Slow Dakota or if his style isn’t particularly palatable to you, that’s OK. It’s sort of the point actually.
I grew up attending Baptist churches in the Midwest--the kind where men’s quartets sing gospel songs as “special music” but no one dares raise their hands during a worship song. For most of my 20s I attended a Presbyterian church where things like Maundy Thursday and Advent candles were a big deal. These days I consider myself Reformed and read books about Thomas Cranmer for fun. My ideal church service would involve the Book of Common Prayer, an organ, eucharist and a sermon out of a Pauline epistle that referenced everyone from Augustine and Spurgeon to Marilynne Robinson and N.T. Wright. In my dream church the “peace” would be exchanged every Sunday, ashes imposed every Ash Wednesday, and G.K. Chesterton discussed in the high school youth group.