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Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess

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Overview

Churched details an American boy's experiences growing up in a culture where men weren't allowed to let their hair grow to touch their ears ("an abomination!"), women wouldn't have been caught dead in a pair of pants (unless swimming), and the pastor couldn't preach a sermon without a healthy dose of hellfire and brimstone. Matthew grapples with the absurdity of a Sunday School Barbie burning, the passionate annual boxing match between the pastor and Satan, and the terror rapture movies-while growing into a young...
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Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess

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Overview

Churched details an American boy's experiences growing up in a culture where men weren't allowed to let their hair grow to touch their ears ("an abomination!"), women wouldn't have been caught dead in a pair of pants (unless swimming), and the pastor couldn't preach a sermon without a healthy dose of hellfire and brimstone. Matthew grapples with the absurdity of a Sunday School Barbie burning, the passionate annual boxing match between the pastor and Satan, and the terror rapture movies-while growing into a young man who, amidst the chaotic mess of religion, falls in love with Jesus.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

These two vivid memoirs, in very distinct voices, recollect childhood in the context-well, in the clutches-of all-encompassing religion. Wilson's fierce determination and passion characterized her first memoir, An Unreasonable Woman, about her David vs. Goliath fight against a polluting Texas chemical company. Now she delves into her childhood in a hardscrabble Pentecostal shrimping family, surrounded by fire-and-brimstone preachers, radio evangelists, tongue-speakers, snake-handlers, and her own relatives-believing women and fallen-away men. Wilson's prose is breathtaking in its dexterity and blunt poetry, as when she recounts being conscripted as a scout to accompany her grandfather and Aunt Patty, under cover of night, to break into a game warden's riverside shack in pursuit of an incriminating gun. Wilson evokes in her rural Gulf Coast setting an exotic place at the intersection of transcendence and squalor, coated in oyster dust and the conviction that God saves (the Pentecostal believers, and no one else).

In contrast to Wilson's intensity, Turner offers a gentle, amused-and slightly bemused-recollection of his own Christian fundamentalist upbringing. His story begins on the day his four-year-old, formerly Methodist self gets affixed with a clip-on necktie and whooshed off to a new, independent Baptist church and ends, more or less, the day he receives an award at his high school graduation for being "Most Christ-like" (out of a class of four). In between, the author reflects on his pastor's overly loud sermons, his own struggle with the sin of dilly-dallying, and the foibles of growing up in a family that would, for instance, celebrate Christmas by throwing apoorly-thought-through birthday party for Jesus, featuring a cake with 33 lit candles. As reflected in his subtitle, Turner, who has written several books on Christian life, came through the experience with faith intact. Churched would have benefited from more exploration of how and why, but it is a solid, poignant, and funny memoir nonetheless. Both books are recommended for public libraries, and Wilson's is essential.
—Janet Ingraham Dwyer

From the Publisher
Churched is funny, poignant, and surprisingly moving. In this deft story of his fundamentalist upbringing Matthew Paul Turner proclaims the good news: that even church can't drown out the message of Jesus.”
Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread

“Turner’s churched lives in that elusive space between whimsical memories of an innocent youth and cringe-inducing flashbacks of life growing up in the church. Like a visit with long-lost relatives, churched reintroduced me to characters anyone who grew up in the church will find familiar, and I was surprised to find that I was glad to see them. Sweet-hearted, funny, and honest, churched had me reminiscing about the little boy searching for God that I once was and gently reminded me I still have some miles to travel.”
Dan Merchant, writer/director of Lord, Save Us From Your Followers

“Thanks to churched, Matthew Paul Turner’s vivid, often hilarious account of his childhood, I realized that not having grown up in evangelical culture is less of a handicap than I previously thought!”
Andrew Beaujon, author of Body Piercing Saved My Life and writer for the Washington Post

“Turner crafts an amusing field guide to fundamentalism that’s both a gentle lampoon of hypocrisy and misplaced fervor, and a model of how to survive being ‘churched’ without cynically rejecting the good with the bad, the Founder with his followers.”
Anna Broadway, author of Sexless in the City


“Matthew Paul Turner’s memoir has the insight of Anne Lamott and the comic honesty of David Sedaris. His stories force us to wonder which of our Christian beliefs and practices come from scripture and which spring up out of our own preferences and fears.”
Rob Stennett, author of The Almost True Story Of Ryan Fisher

“Finally! A bona-fide humorist in the North American church! I might be tempted to say Matthew Paul Turner is Christendom’s answer to David Sedaris, but Matthew stands on his own without the comparison. A memoirist who doesn’t take himself or the world too seriously, but still manages to write profoundly and beautifully, Turner gave me a belly-laugh on almost every page. If you grew up believing ‘being conformed not to this world’ meant being the weirdest kid on the block, churched will be the funniest book you’ve read in years!”

Lisa Samson, award-winning author of Quaker Summer, Embrace Me and Justice in the Burbs

“With his homespun humor and eye for living detail, Matthew Paul Turner’s churched invites readers to rethink the quirks of Christian culture for the sake of uncovering that which is lastingly good and worth holding dear.  Turner’s work is a refreshingly gentle discussion of faith and culture with the potential to spark meaningful conversations.”
Pete Gall, author of My Beautiful Idol

"If you didn't think Jesus-loving fundamentalist kids were very funny, Matthew Paul Turner proves you wrong."
-- Jason Boyett, author of Pocket Guide to the Bible and Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse.

“How can a book be so stinkin’ funny and yet so poignant at the same time? Matthew Paul Turner found his voice! After reading churched I wanted to hug him and then toss out all of my son’s clip-on ties.”
Jennifer Schuchmann, author of Six Prayers God Always Answers


“Who knew that a journey through faith and fundamentalism could be so painfully funny? I laughed out loud many a time while reading churched. Matthew Paul Turner manages to channel both boyhood innocence and wry retrospective through this fast-moving account of growing up with Jesus in late twentieth-century America.”
Mike Morrell, TheOoze.com

“A funny, heartfelt portrayal of one man’s attempt to find true meaning despite his upbringing among fundamentalists who taught him that Azrael–the cat from The Smurfs–was an agent of Satan. The true miracle of this book is that its author never manages to lose his faith.”
Robert Lanham, author of Sinner's Guide To The Evangelical Right

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307458018
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/15/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,083,121
  • Product dimensions: 8.02 (w) x 5.32 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Paul Turner is a blogger, speaker and author of The Coffeehouse Gospel, Provocative Faith, Beatitude: Relearning Jesus, the What You Didn’t Learn from Your Parents About… series, and several other popular books. He has written for Relevant, HomeLife, Christian Single magazines and was the former editor of CCM magazine. Matthew and his wife, Jessica, live in Nashville, Tennessee. He can be found online at www.matthewpaulturner.com. 
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Read an Excerpt

Prelude

The man’s shoulder was inked with a tattoo of Jesus breathing fire out of his mouth, which I concluded to mean one of two things: the man was going to offer me the opportunity to be born again in the hot fumes of a firebreathing Messiah or he planned to kill me and make it necessary for me to be born again.

Like any “good” American, I had already been born again–since childhood I’d pretty much been on shuffle and repeat–but I still feared either scenario. I couldn’t stop looking at the man’s shoulder. His Jesus was green and faded, and because of a small mole, it appeared as though my Lord and Savior had a foreign object dangling from one nostril. Then the man looked at me from the opposite end of the sauna, tightened the towel around his waist, and said, “How are you, man? My name is Jim.”

I didn’t say anything at first. His question sort of paralyzed me. Would he pull a small Gideons Bible from somewhere underneath that towel, look up a bunch of frightful verses in Romans, and then ask me to get down on my hands and knees and repeat after him? I wouldn’t do it. Not in a sauna. Not just wearing a towel. Besides, I had sworn off being born again again in this decade.

“Hello.” I spoke carefully, still not ready to trust a person who had a flaming-tongue Messiah on an appendage. “My name is Matthew.”

“Good to meet you, Matthew. Man, I don’t know about you, but I have had the craziest day.” Jim stared at me as he talked. I think he was making sure I paid attention. “I didn’t even work out today. I just came right to the sauna.” He stretched his arms and then massaged his left shoulder, pinching Jesus’s face with his fingers.

I live in Nashville. The stereotypes about this town are true. Everyone is or has been a musician at some point in their life. Most of us who live here will carry on long conversations with people we don’t know. When it rains here, the majority of us forget how to drive and become fully capable of killing ourselves. And everyone here has asked Jesus into their hearts at least once, if only to fulfill the requirements for getting a Tennessee driver’s license.

But if I was going to stay true to the Nashville way, I would have to ask Jim to explain his “crazy day.” That’s not considered nosey in this town. He fully expected me to ask.

“What’s been so crazy about your day?”

“Oh, just work, man. One of those days when you wonder whether or not you should have gotten out of bed.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m an associate pastor at the Pentecostal church just up the road.”

“The apostolic one?”

“Oh, you know it?”

“It’s sort of difficult to miss.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. And it’s about to get bigger. The deacon board just approved a ten-million-dollar expansion. Some of the members think we need a new connection center. I think it’s a waste of money, but what are you going to do? So Matthew, are you a Christian?”

“I love Jesus. Does that count?”

Jim laughed as though he understood what I meant. At the time, I was going through a period when I didn’t like telling people I was a Christian. I didn’t want them to be scared of me, fearing that I would invite them to church or a “rock concert” starring Kutless. And I didn’t want them blaming me for the war in Iraq. Simply telling people I loved Jesus seemed like a cop-out to some of my friends, but often it kept me from having to own the sins of evangelicals in places like Kansas or South Carolina or two miles up the road at Jim’s Pentecostal church.

“You know, man,” said Jim, “I moved here a couple of years ago from Connecticut, where it’s–in my opinion–spiritually dry. I thought moving here would make being a Christian a whole lot easier.”

“Easier? Why did you think that?”

“Because Nashville is the Christian Mecca.” Jim made air quotes with his fingers when he said, “Christian Mecca.” I’m sure he did it so I wouldn’t assume he believed Nashville was Mecca or that Mecca was Christian.

Among Christians, air quotes are a form of contextualization. I’m partial to using them myself, mostly because they prevent somebody from taking a potentially rash or exaggerated statement and using it against me. “Wait just a minute,” I can say to my antagonist. “I totally threw air quotes around the words big fat loser when describing the pastor. That clears me, man. I’m clean.”

While they’re not biblical, air quotes seem to sanctify insults and debatable theology like baptismal water sanctifies a baby’s forehead.

But I understood Jim’s point. While I’m quite sure religious people in places like Chicago and Detroit don’t kneel southward when they say prayers to Jesus, I have met a good number of vacationers who come to Nashville because this city is a big ol’ John Deere buckle in the Bible Belt.

“Seriously, think about it, Matthew. Do you know of any other city in America better known for its fear of God?” Jim wiped sweat off his brow. “I don’t think I do.”

I thought for a second. “I hear Colorado Springs is rather fearful.”

“I’m sure that’s true. But I doubt it’s Nashville. I’ve been told this town has more churches per capita than any other city in America.” Jim nodded. “Honest-to-God truth, Matthew, that’s what I’ve been told by a number of people, and I can believe it.”

I believed it too. No doubt we have a lot of churches in this town. But since I’ve heard the same statistic used in reference to Dallas, Birmingham, and Orlando, I’m not sure it’s scientific. But scientific matters don’t hold much weight in Christian cultural claims, so it probably wouldn’t count even if proven.

Even if Nashville doesn’t lead with the most churches, I’ve always said that one of this city’s chief exports is Jesus. God’s only Son gets shipped, bused, couriered, radioed, televised, faxed, e-mailed, and, if need be, dropped like a bomb from twenty thousand feet in places all over the world because of what happens here in Nashville. In many ways, we are God’s command center. His Pentagon. His newer Jerusalem.

With a push of a button, we can have a million Bibles dropped in a remote location in China. With a phone call or two, we can get a person carrying some very good news to show up on your doorstep, like Publishers Clearing House. The only catch is, you have to die before you’re able to afford that mansion you’ve always dreamed of.

Jim and I walked out of the sauna to cool off. He sat on one of the benches, and I went over to the water fountain.

“So tell me why you thought moving to Nashville would make it easier to be a Christian,” I said.

He laughed. “Because Christians are everywhere. I thought it would be amazing to be in a city where Jesus is as much a part of the culture as Dolly and Cracker Barrel.”

I laughed. “Okay, I get that. I’ve probably been there at some point in my life.”

“I also thought it would make being a pastor a lot easier. I mean, back home I would never have had this kind of conversation with somebody at the gym. Here, it happens every time I work out. It’s almost annoying. Sometimes it feels like we’re playing church. It’s difficult to explain.”

“But I understand what you’re saying.”

I’d been looking for a way to ask about the tattoo, but with no open window, I just blurted, “Jim, you have to tell me the deal with the tattoo.”

“You mean you don’t like it?” He laughed. “Man, I was young. I guess it was my way of sharing the truth about Jesus without having to say anything.”

“And that truth would be what? That Jesus is a flamethrower? Puff, the Magic Dragon?”

“Dude, I was an idiot back then. Now, I’m embarrassed to go to a public pool where people who don’t know me can see me without a shirt. I’m scared to death somebody will take it seriously.”

“I kind of did. It’s one of the most awful tattoos I’ve ever seen. I’d call that ‘doctor’–you know, the one who advertises on 107.5–and have that thing removed.”

I headed back to the sauna for another round. For a few minutes, I sat there alone, thinking about my conversation with Jim.

I wasn’t a pastor, but I had been to church more times than I could count, and I had lived in Nashville for a while, so I knew something about what he felt. At first, this town feels like a shot of faith in the arm.

When I first moved here, I thought it was energizing to be a part of a community where you were odd if you didn’t believe in Jesus. I felt at home. Even alive at times. But I started thinking about it too much, which led me to wonder if I was just filling a role in a Stepford-type reality.

Jim opened the sauna door, stepped inside, and sat down. He didn’t say anything, so I didn’t either.

My mind wandered back to a service I attended at one of Nashville’s largest churches a year or so after moving here. I hadn’t really wanted to go, but a friend begged me. “It’s our annual Harvest Festival on Sunday,” he told me. “You’ll love it. Please come. God always shows up on Harvest Sunday.”

Against my better judgment, I agreed to go with him. I didn’t want to miss an event that God had in his Day-Timer. Taking our seats in the balcony, my friend said, “They’re expecting something like fifteen thousand people. An extra service had to be added. Just think about how many people will be saved today.” He shook his head like people do at the circus while watching the trapeze act or when Spider-Man shows up. My friend was anticipating acrobats and special effects.

By the time the choir filled the loft, the room was packed, and the orchestra began playing an old hymn. I knew the song from the first notes.

“Bringing in the Sheaves.” I used to sing it when I was a kid. Back then, I knew every word, but I didn’t understand what they meant until much later.

The choir began singing the first verse.

Sowing in the morning,
Sowing seeds of kindness…

Hearing that old song reminded me of the time my father and I went to a neighbor’s farm and picked a bushel of sweet corn right off the stalks. The farmer had a lengthy driveway. As we drove over the bumpy gravel, Dad pointed out a golden wheat field.

“That wheat is ready to harvest, Buck.” My father’s eyes brightened any time he saw a ripened field of wheat, corn, or anything edible. “You know, when I was a kid, harvest was one of my favorite times of the year. Workers came from all over the county and helped us bundle up the wheat into sheaves. It was such an important day for us, sort of our payday. I remember Daddy being so particular about his crop, making sure those workers got every piece of wheat in that field. He’d get so mad when somebody wasn’t doing a good job; he’d go behind the workers and pick up whatever they left.”

My friend’s pastor only mentioned the word harvest once during his sermon. He didn’t talk about wheat fields and never mentioned a sheave. He asked, “Have you given any thought to what will happen on Judgment Day?”

Then he directed the sermon toward the members of his church. “Church, souls are being lost every single day. Why? Because we aren’t doing our job. We aren’t out harvesting God’s crop. People are going to get left behind because of you and me.”

I sank back into my pew, my heart feeling anxious. I’d heard that same message a million times, it seemed, but rather than making me feel hopeful, on that day the Good News scared me. I thought about my grandfather. Even he didn’t want to leave any wheat in the field.

I could only imagine God feeling the same way.

Jim jarred me out of my thoughts. “You think this is what hell feels like?”

“You talking about the sauna or living in Nashville?”

He smiled. “The sauna.”

“Then I doubt it. I like this too much.”

“Well, I guess I’d better get going. I have a meeting with my pastor tonight. He’s convinced that I don’t speak in tongues.”

“And that’s a problem?”

“Of course–we’re Pentecostals. It’s what we do.”

“Sounds like your church might have a little baggage.” My grin faded. “But who am I to judge? I’m still unpacking my own.”

Excerpted from Churched by Matthew Paul Turner. Copyright© 2008 by Matthew Paul Turner. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photo-copying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents


Prelude 1 God's New Digs 11 The Fundamentals 27 Easy Like Sunday Morning 43 Haircut 57 Twelve Minutes 71 Jesus in Black and White 87 You're a Big Boy Now 95 To Hell and Back 105 You Know Where Liars Go 123 Brought to You by the Letter D 135 Seven 147 Fertile Soil 157 Satan Rules! 171 Win a Soul, Win a Prize 189 Piano Boy 201 Benediction 213
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Funny but a bit choppy

    Its funny and very enjoyable but sometimes a bit choppy. Sometimes it felt like there should be some point but no point was made. Other times it felt like there wasnt really a point, just an amusing collection of memoirs in the vein "Stuff Christians Like."

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  • Posted July 24, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    In his book, Churched, Matthew Turner does an extraordinary job describing how church looks through the eyes of a child. Maybe church does not look exactly the same to every child, but the way a child makes his judgments about church are generally the same. And Turner hit the nail on the head. While doing such a fantastic job he also had me rolling in the humor of it all. And it would seem that my wife enjoyed it too; I had to pry the book from her hands after I spent several minutes looking for it (swearing that I put it "right here"). Anyway, the book is awesome to say the least. I'm generally a more serious minded reader which almost prompted me to select another book. But by the end of "Churched" I realized that I had indeed stumbled upon a very serious minded book. It's as funny as can be from start to finish. However, Turner uses the humor of the whole "Holy Mess" to actually bring to light some of the most serious issues of Christianity. Yep, I said it. The most crucial issues are those issues one deals with in his/her own mind and heart and how they perceive Christianity based on what they have learned and experienced. And church is where most of this begins and then springs into life every day of the week. So pick up the book, read the book, laugh, cry, and in the end be brought to some serious soul searching as you consider your spiritual journey and the entire "holy mess" as you journey to growth in Christ.

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  • Posted June 9, 2011

    Ever wonder what your kids will think looking back?

    Warning: Some of you will laugh at this book realizing where you have come from, and some of you will burn it having never left.

    Have you ever stopped and wondered what your kids will think when they look back on their childhood? In particular, their view of your "Christianity" and the Church you raised them in. Kind of scary isn't it?

    Well this book may just make you all the more anxious. Matthew Turner takes us on a meandering stroll through his childhood and the influence faith and church has had on his life, in his book "Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess." Growing up in an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church and its Christian School, he shares with us the "normal" life of child raised within its walls and teachings.

    He humorously, and sometimes disturbingly, tells of the events and people who stand out in his memory. Whether it is his standing on the pew cheering for his Pastor as he boxes with Satan (complete with red suit and red horned mask), or his fervent prayer that the second coming wouldn't come before he lost his virginity (after marriage of course), he speaks of everything with honesty and amusement.

    Churched is Matthew working through his past, while searching for his future. Though it all, his faith and love for Jesus is certain, it is his place within the Christian community that he struggles with. Where does he now fit in, since leaving a place where fitting in was the defining characteristic? Many have found that there is a strange comfort in legalism, when you fear the uncertainty of freedom. He willingly shares his fears, as we journey along side his quest for belonging.

    Churched is fast paced, humorous, and delightful to read. If you grew up in a church like his, or attend one now, you will see yourself and many of those around you within these pages.

    I'd like to thank WaterBrook Press for sending me this free copy for review.

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  • Posted March 18, 2011

    Memoir, Not Answer-Book

    That description intrigued me. Many of us who grew up "in the church" could write our own memoirs, detailing the journey with insight and plenty of hilarity. With that in mind, I wondered what Matthew Paul Turner had to say about his own experience, and, more curiously, how he decided to resolve it, remember it, and move on from it.

    At the end of the chapter called "Prelude," Turner remembers telling a man that his (the man's) church "'might have a little baggage.' [Turner's] grin faded. 'But who am I to judge? I'm still unpacking my own.'" Readers should take this as a warning sign. Churched is a memoir, and leaving that jewel at the end of a prelude only means one thing: Turner is about to unpack all over you. And he does, with wit, humor, and at times a necessary seriousness.

    Churched is a quick read, filled with remembered thoughts of what it was like to be a young boy and then a young man growing up in a rules-oriented church, trying to figure out what Christianity is really all about. I enjoyed it from that aspect, that we all must, at some point, look back on our own journeys (though maybe not write a book about them). As I approached the ending, I was ready to see how Turner had used all of this life stuff to become the man he is today. That's where things took a turn.

    In the final chapter, I hoped that Turner would tell readers that he decided to dive into his Bible and discover what church is supposed to be about, and then headed to church to help others form a more Christ-like view of church as well. Unfortunately, it seems that Turner's journey taught him to be more laid-back, but perhaps too laid-back. Instead of turning to Scripture (something he is unsure about anyway), Turner decides to go with his instincts and feelings, to appreciate his unafraidness at the new church he and his wife joined.

    Is that bad? Not really. But in an age when church brings a wash of strange feelings over every person who grew up in one, I expected a memoir about church to be more conclusive. Maybe that just shows that people still can't figure it out; I'd venture to say, that people still can't come to their senses and turn to the Biblical definition of church.

    Churched is certainly a thought-provoking, laugh-inducing, sentimental memoir of "One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess," as the subtitle says. But don't look to it for answers on how to unpack your own church baggage, or you may be greatly disappointed.

    Notice: I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah. I was not paid to review this book, and all opinions in this post are my own.

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  • Posted March 11, 2011

    Growing up as a Fundamental Baptist

    Churched is a quick, light, and humorous story about a boy growing up in a fundamentalist baptist church. In this story, pastors give sermons with plenty of hellfire and brimstone and their world is defined by plenty of do-and-don't-s. The writing style is formatted as almost a memoir and the overall story is thought provoking.
    Although I am not a fundamentalist baptist, I found a lot of the stories in this book to completely relate to my experience growing up in the church! All his stories had me laughing heartily. I remembered experiencing some, knew friends who experienced others, and completely believed the rest could have happened! I do have to admit that a lot of the stuff went right over my head, like many of the allusions to the personalities or looks of some apparently popular people.
    Some of the parts that had me chuckling were the stereotypes to the different sections of faith, like the Catholic and Presbyterian, and the ways God and Jesus were used to influence Matthew to do so things. He had to have his hair cut short because "Jesus doesn't like men having long hair," always made sure to save Jesus a seat on the bus, and kissed the bible. These parts make me wonder what small superstitions I had about God when I was younger, and also if maybe the odd little things my sisters do are fueled by something of the kind.
    I think I'd enjoy reading more of Matthew Paul Turner's books, and I'll definitely add this book to my bookshelf.
    A free copy of this book was provided to me by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing for review purposes.

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  • Posted February 10, 2011

    Not what I expected, but entertaining nevertheless

    Recently I read Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess by Matthew Paul Turner. My expectations and what I found in the work were vastly different. Once I changed my mind set and began looking at the book for what it is, I found myself coming to enjoy this humorous work. When I first read the title and the brief descriptions of Churched, I was quite interested in the book. As a children's ministry leader, I am always on the lookout for works that provide some insight into children's perceptions of truth and spiritual truths that arise from them. As I began reading Turner's memoir, I encountered a towel-wrapped man relaxing in the sauna of a Nashville gym. In this condition, Turner describes his uncomfortable conversation with another towel-clad gentlemen sporting a "tattoo of Jesus breathing fire out of his mouth." (Turner, p. 1) How's that for an attention grabbing opening scene? The opening conversation serves as an introduction to Turner's reminiscence of his spiritual journey as a child growing up in a Fundamental Baptist church. I found myself coming face to face with situations that led me to question exactly what the book's purpose was. Most memorable for its humor and its shock value was the description of the pastor's piano-playing wife, Mrs. Laura Nolan. Turner states, "I only knew her [Mrs. Nolan] as the woman in our church who made walking in high heels a reason for even the holiest of Baptists to stop reading their Bibles and stare. My first thought upon seeing her hips shift gracefully back and forth as she moved from her chair to the piano bench was that she looked exactly like Farrah Fawcett." (Turner, p. 34-35) By this point in the book, I decided it was COMPLETELY necessary to remove any thought that this was going to be helpful in children's ministry, and simply read the book for what it was -- a personal memoir. And that became the key to my enjoyment of this book! Churched is filled with charming, humorous and heart-felt anecdotes that will resonate with many readers as Turner explores issues of sin, death, personal evangelism, and boring sermons. Hidden among the funny and occasionally shocking comments -- the kind that make you ask yourself if he really just SAID that -- are some gems of spiritual truth that encourage and challenge. I think Turner himself gives the best advice to his readers on how to approach his book in the memoir's final chapter, "Benediction." In an introductory conversation with Pete, the man who will become his current pastor, Turner describes himself as the author of "Christianish" books. Churched is not intended to be a work that will spark great theological debate or provide new insights into Scripture. Rather, it is the fun-filled and honest memoir of a man who has learned to laugh at his past and recognize that in spite of it all -- and because of God's grace -- he knows his Heavenly Father in an intimate, personal relationship.

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  • Posted December 18, 2010

    "Funny and full of humanity." -A.J. Jacobs

    In this book, Matthew Turner details his life growing up in an independent Baptist church and the journey he took to learn who God was, despite a holy mess. Being a student who has grown up going to a school that is independent Baptist, I could completely relate to some of Turner's feelings. ' Churched' is humorous, yet tastefully correct in stating the areas of independent Baptist beliefs. Quotes such as, "My teachers told me to watch out for roaring lions, disgruntled angels, women wearing low-cut blouses, and Billy Graham. Those were sure signs that Satan could be close," and "Nothing brought the devil to his knees like the words of the King James Version of the Bible. The old English verbs seemed to bruise Satan's skin more than the ones we used in normal conversation," give a humorous effect to reality. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those caught in religion who want to know God. Hey, and even you independent Baptists, give this book a try; it may change your perception of things and give you a fresh outlook on who God really is.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2010

    A little too full of Cosby-ish yarns for me. But that's just me.

    I was really looking forward to reading this book, because I expected more of a clever, insightful, slice-of-life autobiography (must have been the cover that misled me somehow).

    Bill Cosby and Dave Barry are very funny, but the stories they tell are not accurate, of course. This author tells lots of stories, but they're obviously greatly embellished for comedic effect. I thought it was kind of superficial, unfortunately. Maybe I'd have liked it better if I was falling out of my chair laughing, but... no.

    Not for me, but I'm sure lots of other people would enjoy it and would probably find it hilarious.

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  • Posted December 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Jesus and Pastor Nolan Want You To Buy This.

    I have for a while followed Matthew Paul Turner's blog, Jesus Needs New PR and always found it funny and true. When I first heard of his book Churched I instantly wanted to read it but did not get around to it until recently.

    The book is about Matthew's journey from being a Methodist to a Fundamental Baptist to a Believer. From a young boy's perspective Matthew, walks you through the cult-like churches known as an independent, fundamental, King James only, premillennial Baptist Church or IBC for short.

    He touches on topics such as his mother's obsession with pleasing the pastor, having the right Baptist haircut and the smell of the churches floors. At more serious times he comes short of fully giving an opinion on the numbers driven evangelism that so many of these churches practice especially when it comes to young children. At another point of the narrative he battles with being perfect and accepted by Jesus and a strangers wisdom concerning God's love. Turner weaves humor, insight and practical theology together perfectly.

    In a nutshell the book is hysterical, accurate and unbelievable. The way Turner writes reminds me of Donald Miller or Anne Lammott, long comical stories with moral emphasis. While many who have never been to or known anyone who is fundamentalist Baptist will not fully trust everything he describes in the book I can testify that it is oh so true.

    Grab a copy of this book and read it over the Holiday season. If you are like me as I read my copy I instantly thought of a number of friends and family that would enjoy it as well, I am glad I read in time for holiday gift giving.

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  • Posted December 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Churched

    I requested this book because I had read Turner's work before and was entertained. He writes with a sincere style that shows his childhood innocence. Nothing is held back. The book deals with Turner being brought up in the fundamentalist baptist church and being exposed to various rules and fire-and-brimstone preachers. He doesn't come right out and say that he felt his church rules more than Jesus' love, but Turner has a way of conveying ideas without always just putting them down plainly. The writing is humorous. At times, he does poke fun at other denominations, but he does not seem hateful. He talks of Catholics as not knowing Jesus and worthy of hell (obviously ingrained into him as a child) but later says he almost converted to Catholicism as an adult (except he didn't care for the sitting, standing, kneeling, and cross-gesturing). I'd recommend this book, as well as his "Hear No Evil," which I have reviewed before.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2008

    Entertaining, Enlightening¿

    One kid¿s journey toward God despite a holy mess Matthew Paul Turner ISBN: 9781400074716 Waterbrook Press, 2008 5 stars Entertaining, Enlightening¿ Matthew Turner grew up in an extremely legalistic fundamentalist church. In his book titled Churched, he shares his experiences of a church where women could not wear pants and men could not have hair long enough to touch their ears. Christian contemporary music was a gift from satan. The Sunday School classes periodically had a Barbie burning. Turner¿s book will bring a smile to most Christian¿s face. He writes in a witty style that will delight readers and endear them to the characters. Despite the obstacles, Matthew Turner saw Jesus and fell deeply in love with him. Matthew Turner, you caused me to laugh. I can remember many of the same things, and we were not considered a fundamentalist church. I remember the scandal of a woman wearing pants to choir practice on a Wednesday evening. Heaven forbid if a woman tried to step foot in the pulpit. Long hair was a deadly sin as was dying your hair. I also found Jesus. However, I found Him at the church where I grew up. Pants and long hair are no longer sins. There is a praise and worship band and contemporary music. My church moved into the 21st century without compromising their Biblical beliefs. However, there is still a lot of grumbling about that Praise and Worship Music¿.. I love this book! It is entertaining, interesting, and delightful. It is spiritual and evangelical without an in-your-face attitude. Churched would make a great gift to your favorite Christian.

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