Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality [NOOK Book]


Have you left the church in search of Jesus? 
Studies show that one in four young adults claim no formal religious affiliation, and church leaders have long known that this generation is largely missing on Sunday morning. Hundreds of thousands of “church leavers” have had a mentor and pastor, however, in Michael Spencer, known to blog readers as the Internet Monk....
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Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality

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Have you left the church in search of Jesus? 
Studies show that one in four young adults claim no formal religious affiliation, and church leaders have long known that this generation is largely missing on Sunday morning. Hundreds of thousands of “church leavers” have had a mentor and pastor, however, in Michael Spencer, known to blog readers as the Internet Monk. Spencer guided a vast online congregation in its search for a more honest and more immediate practice of Christian faith.
Spencer discovered the truth that church officials often miss, which is that many who leave the church do so in an attempt to find Jesus. For years on his blog Spencer showed de-churched readers how to practice their faith without the distractions of religious institutions. Sadly, he died in 2010. But now that his last message is available in Mere Churchianity, you can benefit from the biblical wisdom and compassionate teaching that always have been hallmarks of his ministry.  
With Mere Churchianity, Spencer’s writing will continue to point the disenchanted and dispossessed to a Jesus-shaped spirituality. And along the way, his teachings show how you can find others who will go with you on the journey.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Spencer, who blogged as the Internet Monk until his untimely death earlier this year, offers a harsh assessment of institutional Christianity-"churchianity." He speaks to the millions who, according to surveys, have changed religions or left them altogether. He takes special aim at evangelical megachurches and prosperity gospel preachers, though he also doesn't spare those who link Jesus to the flag or sociopolitical causes. None of this, he insists, has anything to do with Jesus, who was Jewish (not American), hung out with people others rejected, and made disciples instead of buildings. He advocates "Jesus-shaped spirituality," which can be found in service and scripture and, most important, won't necessarily make you smile, because it can be hard to practice. Like so many critics of the current state of institutional Christianity, Spencer is a lot better at describing the problem than solving it; his indictment gets a little repetitious at times. But his tone is folksy and passionate without ranting. The book is his last word, and stands as the sincere testament of a Christian humble enough to admit and even embrace his flaws.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
Praise for
Mere Churchianity

“This is a book you’ll treasure and go back to over and over again. It’s convicting, funny, and wise. And even if you wince, it’s profoundly biblical. Meet the real Jesus and you’ll never be the same. And not only that, you’ll rise up and call me blessed for having told you about it.”
—Steve Brown, professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando), author, and teacher on the Key Life radio program

“There is an anxious question in the air: does church contribute anything positive to following Jesus? If you are asking this question, the late Michael Spencer is someone who felt your pain. If you have left the church to follow Jesus, and if you find him, Jesus will lead you to a community of fellow followers—call it what you will. Mere Churchianity will guide you along this path.”
—Bishop Todd Hunter, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, author of Giving Church Another Chance

“Michael Spencer was a self-described ‘post-evangelical’ Christian. He pointed out what already was obvious to many: that too often, churches practice ‘moralistic, culture-war religion.’ And sadly, their members are ‘church-shaped’ rather than Jesus-shaped. Almost prophetic in his railing against the prosperity gospel and efforts to turn God into a ‘convenient vending machine,’ Spencer’s book offers a timely and difficult reimagining of what living as a person of faith really means.”
—Jennifer Grant, journalist, columnist for The Chicago Tribune

Mere Churchianity expresses a brilliant empathy for those who are disillusioned with—and distant from—what evangelicalism has become. At the same time, Michael’s writing is a clarion call to evangelicals to stop obscuring Jesus and his gospel. This book asks the most challenging question of all: does the body of Christ resemble Jesus?”
—Jared C. Wilson, pastor, author of Your Jesus Is Too Safe

“If you are satisfied with the way the church does Christianity in America, then you should back slowly away. However, if you are willing to be challenged, and maybe even infuriated, by Michael Spencer’s analysis of evangelicalism, then read this book. You may or may not agree with him, but you will be forced to think and hopefully pray about how we engage those who have left our churches.”
—Dave Burchett, author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People

“Every Christian, regardless if they’re engaged in church or not, needs to read, discuss, and reread Mere Churchianity. Reading this book is like the best of Brennan Manning, Anne Lamott, and Philip Yancey all rolled into one literary experience. This is the best, most easily relatable book about following Jesus that I’ve read in at least ten years. What Michael left behind in words is nothing short of a gift.”
—Matthew Paul Turner, author of Churched and Hear No Evil

“In this highly anticipated manifesto, Michael Spencer wrote for a generation that is struggling to figure out what it means to live out Jesus-shaped spirituality. Michael was familiar with the burdens of the dominating religious, political, and cultural norms that suffocate our everyday existence. Mere Churchianity delivers, and its message will live on through people who can’t help but be changed by it.”
—Andrew Marin, author of Love Is an Orientation, president of The Marin Foundation

“As someone who has been writing for years on the supremacy of Jesus Christ and its relationship to his church, I found the Christ-centeredness of this book to be profoundly refreshing. We have lost a choice servant of God in Michael, but heaven is the richer. I’m thankful that he left us this excellent contribution.”
—Frank Viola, author of Jesus Manifesto, Reimagining Church, and Finding Organic Church

“You will look far and wide before you find another Christian who speaks with as much honesty, insight, and foresight as Michael Spencer. I am very careful about the Christian books I recommend, but this one definitely makes the list. I am excited to have a book I can give my non-Christian friends that accurately portrays Jesus.”
—Jim Henderson, author of Evangelism without Additives, Jim and Casper Go to Church, and The Outsider Interviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307459183
  • Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 529,985
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

During the years when he was blogging as the Internet Monk (, Michael Spencer was followed by hundreds of thousands of readers. He offered a lifeline to the spiritually dispossessed in his speaking, teaching, and writing. Michael graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College and earned a master’s degree in theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. For seventeen years, he taught Bible and served as campus minister at a Christian school in Kentucky. Michael passed away in April 2010.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

The Dairy Queen Incident
This book began with an atheist in a Dairy Queen, thirty-three years ago.
I was a twenty-year-old college student and youth minister at a Baptist church in Kentucky. Most Sunday nights I took my rowdy and unspiritual youth group out for fast food as a reward for their endurance of church and Sunday school that day. A new Dairy Queen had just opened in our community, and I took the kids there for burgers or, if any of them preferred, soft ice cream.
We all loved DQ, so we stayed awhile. We bought our food, ate our food, and acted like a typical rowdy and unspiritual church youth group. The biggest stress of the evening for me, as the responsible adult, was some kid dumping an entire shaker of salt on a table. Having attended public schools and spent my share of time in school cafeterias, I thought nothing of it. I just left the mess for the help to clean up. We had paid for our food and, as far as I knew, departed the DQ without serious incident.
On Wednesday morning I received a letter from a girl who was working at the Dairy Queen the previous Sunday evening. I don’t have that letter today, but I have never forgotten its basic message. Allow me to paraphrase:
Mr. Spencer,
You don’t know me, but I am Jane Doe, and I work at the Dairy Queen on Hartford Road. I was working the front this past Sunday night when your youth group invaded and abused our restaurant for an hour. You probably have no idea how rude they were and how much time and trouble their behavior and destruction of property caused our business because, like every other youth minister I see in our store, you are clueless about anyone who isn’t in your group and blind to the behavior of your students.
You also probably don’t know that I am a member of your church, but for the past year I have been an atheist. The reason is very simple: Christians like you have convinced me that God is a myth, an excuse used by religious people to mistreat others. As long as there are people like you and your youth group, I’ll never come to church or believe in God again. You are petty, selfish, and arrogant. I would rather be an atheist, no matter what the consequences, than have people like you accept me just because I was a “Christian.”
I know you won’t contact me, and you’ll probably throw this letter away and forget it, but just remember that when you and your youth group are being destructive and inconsiderate, there are people like me looking at you and making up our minds whether God even exists. If you are all I have to go on, he doesn’t and never will.
Jane Doe
Reading this letter, many of you are probably reacting much as I did: here’s some miserable, rejected girl with a chip on her shoulder, mad at her parents for making her go to church. She’s probably mad about other things in her life too and needs someone to blame. So she takes it out on the youth group and on God. C’mon, it was just a little spilled salt. Really, how self-righteous does a person have to be to blame the representatives of God for her own rejection and pain?
If you were thinking something like that, you may be right. Or you could be dead wrong.
To show you where my head was at, I didn’t go back to apologize.  I wrote her off as a sad, isolated atheist with issues. I probably told some of the youth group members about her letter and had a big laugh at her hypersensitivity. At the time, I was fully capable of taking a letter like that and waving it around during a sermon, using it as an example of how miserable atheists are. I’m sure it crossed my mind that the presence of Christians in her workplace may have brought her “under conviction by the Holy Spirit” for her unbelief. Surely she had no legitimate reason to criticize my youth group.
Back then, I was a paid expert in churchianity. I knew how to impress the home crowd. I used all the right words, and I knew what buttons to push to rally the troops. Sadly, I knew very little about Jesus and the life he calls his followers to live.
Lots of Christians are like I was. They would find it easy to blame an atheist for not acting like a Christian, while failing to act like a Christian in the presence of an atheist. I did such things too many times to recall. I used the girl’s honest, heartfelt critique as an easy pitch to hit in front of a clubby, misguided Christian audience. I bought into all the accepted assumptions: Christians are right, the other guys are wrong, and since we’re in the right, we have nothing to worry about.
I held on to that safe place of smug comfort for many years, and then I realized it wasn’t all that comfortable any longer. It has been more than thirty years since I read Jane Doe’s letter, and I still can’t get it out of my mind. Today I see her insights in a very different light. As a cocky, twentysomething preacher boy, I could easily write off a woman who didn’t believe the truth. But now, in my fifties and bearing the scars of life, struggle, sin, and loss, I respect that young atheist more than I do a long list of high-profile Christian leaders.
Jane Doe is emblematic of something I now believe very deeply: unbelievers see some things about life, integrity, and consistency much more clearly than Christians do.
On that Sunday evening in Dairy Queen, my youth group probably was out of control. They were likely rude to the help, possibly foulmouthed and insulting. They vandalized a saltshaker and made a mess for another person to clean up. I gave them a pass. I even thought it was funny. The prevailing tone of that evening was a selfish, unthinking party with all of us—adults and kids alike—caring a lot more about what we wanted than what another person might be thinking. And we didn’t care who would have to clean up after us. Our understanding and practice of churchianity endorsed such behavior.
We had fun that night, but did we invite Jesus Christ to the party? I don’t remember him being there. In fact, I don’t think he mattered to us at all that evening. We were taking a break from the religious stuff. The people working behind the counter? The guy who cleared the tables? The other customers? They might as well have not existed.
An atheist girl, having left the church behind and now looking back with eyes and ears sensitized to the Christian game, saw through our act with sobering clarity. She tried to do me a favor by telling me I had lost touch with Jesus. An atheist girl cared enough to tell me that my credibility as a Christian was zero, because there was nothing of Jesus about me and my students. All we had was distasteful pretense.
It took an atheist to tell me, perhaps for the first time, that I was not a Jesus-shaped person, no matter what I claimed to believe as a Christian. But I was so sure of what I believed, so convinced of the rightness of my religion, that I chose to ignore the truth she spoke.
When you read the title of this book, you might have thought it’s a book for Christians, and that’s fine, because I am a Christian. I have no doubt that Christians want to hear what I have to say. However, this is not a Christian book in the time-honored tradition. I’m not going to tell Christians to be nicer, care more, help other people, be generous, try to forgive, do more for God, and so on, so that we can be better witnesses for Jesus.
I have good reasons for staying off the standard Christian-book path. It was churchianity—the “do more, be better, look good for God’s sake” variety—that turned me and my youth group into a room full of jerks. So if you’re a Christian, by all means read this book. You will find an approach to following Jesus that doesn’t ask you to do more while pretending to be righteous. I think you’ll like it.
But I’m not writing to church members who are happy where they’re at or to Christians who are heavily invested in the success and propagation of the church as an organization. I’m writing instead to those who may still be associated with the church but no longer buy into much of what the church says. Not because they doubt the reality of God, but because they doubt that the church is really representing Jesus.
I’m writing to people on the inside who are about to leave or have already left. I’m writing to those who are standing in the foyer of the church, ready to walk out, yet taking one last look around. They haven’t seen the reality of Jesus in a long time, but they can’t stop believing he is here. Somewhere. And they’re unsure what it will mean to strike out on their own.
Mere Churchianity is written for people who have come to the end of the road with the church but who can’t entirely walk away from Jesus. In the wreckage of a church-shaped religious faith, the reality of Jesus of Nazareth persists and calls out to them. I’m talking to those who have left, those who will leave, those who might as well leave, and those who don’t know why they are still hanging around.
And I’m writing to the outsiders who might be drawn to God if it weren’t for Christians.
Jesus-shaped spirituality has nothing to do with churchianity. Following Jesus does not require you to pledge allegiance to a religious institution. In fact, the track record of Christianity as an organization leads us to ask: What would it be like if Christianity were about Christ? What if all the pieces were in place and Jesus was the result? What if Christians were becoming more—not less—like Jesus? What would atheists see if Christianity were something Jesus himself would recognize?
That letter from the girl who worked at Dairy Queen contained an invisible paragraph. It would have been easy to see it, if I had bothered to look. The invisible paragraph says this:
You see, Mr. Spencer, even though I’ve left the church and the faith you are pushing, I still know a bit about Jesus. Christianity ought to be about Jesus, and with you, it’s not. It’s something else entirely. If Christians were at all about Jesus, if they were enough like him that even a visit to the Dairy Queen would be a place to serve Jesus and love people, then I might have some hope again that the church isn’t full of liars. But Christians like you make me never want to hear about Christianity again.
When I was growing up in church, we were constantly being told how important it was that people “see Jesus in us.” We sang those words, and the preacher preached sermons using that theme. Being a “good witness” for Jesus was the constant bottom line.
Looking back at what formed me spiritually, I’m confronted with an incredible irony. While we talked about presenting Jesus to the world around us, unfortunately the following was true:
• We had almost no idea what Jesus was like. We did not study him. We did not ask questions. We were arrogant and certain.
• We assumed that being in church would make us like Jesus. Church programs and events filled our days, and everyone assumed that more church equaled more Jesus.
• We seldom studied anything in the Bible with the purpose of seeing how it connected to Jesus. The Bible was approached and taught as a collection of atomized verses, and no one ever linked its many parts to its one great theme: Jesus and his gospel.
• We often were ungracious and unloving to people who didn’t believe what we did. Incredibly, we sometimes dished out mistreatment in the name of Jesus.
• We knew very little about what Jesus was doing on earth besides dying and rising again two thousand years ago. We were certain that being his followers meant that we didn’t do the things sinners did. When anyone suggested we might be self-righteous, morally corrupt Pharisees, we were offended. After all, what did the critics know? They weren’t
• We assumed that Jesus bought into our idea of what was important in life. All anyone had to do was read the Bible to see that we were in the right and everyone else was wrong.
From that, you can see why it was easy to go to a Dairy Queen on a Sunday night, act like an ungrateful gang of spoiled suburban brats, ignore the people who served us, leave a mess behind, and still feel we were authentic representatives of Jesus because we were “good church people.” Here is the truth: Far from being Jesus-shaped Christians, we were church shaped. In fact, we were deniers of Jesus. We were frighteningly close to being Judas.
The girl working behind the counter pointed all this out to me more than three decades ago, but I wasn’t listening. Today I’m paying attention, and this book is my repentance. It’s a good time to get started.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Publisher's Note ix

Introduction: The Dairy Queen Incident 1

Part 1 The Jesus Disconnect

1 When Church Signs Lie 11

2 The Jesus Disconnect 22

3 What If We're Wrong About God? 33

4 A Christianity Jesus Would Recognize 47

5 What Does Jesus-Shaped Spirituality Mean? 58

Part 2 The Jesus Briefing

6 Jesus or Vinegar 69

7 What We Can Know About Jesus 81

8 Accepting the Real Jesus 93

9 What Jesus Is Doing in the World 105

Part 3 The Jesus Life

10 Jesus, the Bible, and the Free-Range Believer 117

11 It's a Bad Idea to Be a Good Christian 128

12 When I Am Weak 140

13 Leaving Behind the Church-Shaped Life 152

14 Jesus, Honesty, and the Man Who Wouldn't Smile 162

Part 4 The Jesus Community

15 The Good and Bad of Being Alone 175

16 The Evangelical Sellout 187

17 Following Jesus in the Life You Have 197

18 Some Help for the Journey 208

Epilogue 223

Notes 225

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Mere Churchianity

    Can I start a book review with the word "Wow?" Two pages into this book I had to go and grab a pen, because I could tell it was going to be that kind of book. Half of me feels I could just forgo a typical review and just post Michael Spencer's most gripping phrases.

    Author Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk) had worked in ministry most of his life as both a youth pastor and a senior pastor. Michael enjoyed preaching, but the rest of the pastorate wasn't his game, so he soon figured out that God had something else in store. Michael started his blog, The Internet Monk right after the November 2000 elections, and blogged regularly thereafter. The Internet Monk is consistently rated in the "top twenty Christian blogs" in the world.

    In 2008 Michael was awarded a sabbatical grant from the Louisville Institute to pursue his interest in "Contemplation and Balance in Life and Ministry." He was a seminar presenter and panel moderator at Cornerstone '08 and '09. He wasregular guest at Steve Brown, Etc. and appeared on The Frank Pastore Show and The Catholic Guy Radio program. Michael was interviewed on numerous radio programs and magazines.

    Michael's book, Mere Churchianity, was published by Random House/Waterbrook on June 15, 2010. Michael Spencer died on April 5, 2010 after a battle with cancer. His dream was to move to a little church near a pub with a minor league ballpark nearby, work with university students and cook Italian food for the mob. (ha ha)

    Michael Spencer might tell you that his book is for those who are burnt out on church - and to be honest, I have read a lot of "those kinds of books" and there are very few I have liked or could recommend. But Michael's book goes beyond complaining or finger wagging and he actually offers answers and practical advice. Here is a little taste of Michael's journey.

    "I can not support the organized religion option that is more concerned about statistics and size and image than it is about Jesus." (p.65)

    "Jesus asignment to the apostles was not to get people to respond to the altar call, but to make disciples of all nations." (p.99)

    "The exhausting effort to be a good Christian, denies Christ." (p.138)

    "You will learn the most about (Jesus) when you are standing on life's diving board and he's telling you to jump into the water that you've always avoided." (p.84)

    But this book is not limited to those who may feel disgruntled by organized religion, I think it's a challenge to any Christian disciple to try and transform their church into an agent of change. Michael asks us all to answer the question, what does it mean to follow Christ - and how does that journey translate itself into the body of the church? Can it really be boiled down to hymnals, baptism and potlucks? Or is there something more?

    My copy of Michael's book is heavily marked with the words that really touched my heart - often times I would have to stop reading and twitter a quote, or read a huge section out loud to my wife. I know that this will be a book I often refer back to and I am grateful for Michael's life and what he has given the Christian community.

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  • Posted March 1, 2011

    Churchianity or Christianity

    Ever wonder why Christians don't have power to change, could it be that they have too much Churchianity and not enough Christianity. This book won't be popular with Pastors and or church leaders whom churches stake a lot into their programs, size, and church life. The author Michael Spencer says that Churchianity, the height of the status quo religion is a far cry from Jesus -shaped spirituality. True faith that transforms, is revolutionary, and life changing isn't in a quest for a bigger church, a moral society, traditional families, nor a more detailed doctrinal statement. Jesus concern and His whole ministry emphasis was 0n a one on one basis.

    Most of Michael Spencer's ( The Internet Monk) statements won't be swallowed well by many Pastors and other church leaders. Here are some examples:

    * The constant emphasis on a victorious life or the good Christian life is the Antichrist as it pertains to the Gospel

    *For for too long Christians have been presenting the Gospel as a solution to trouble, when in fact it's
    a life long battle aganist one's own sin.

    * The exhausting effort to be a good Christian denies Christ.

    * Christianity has an adjective problem, which gives a false representation of Christianity & Christ.

    * Much of what passes for proclaiming Christ, is in actually, churches concern with attracting large
    numbers on Sunday, directing financial resources toward church budgets and showing Christians
    how to get in synch with church activities.

    If you are happy and content with Churchianity then you will hate this book, but if you are the type that says there has to be more to being a Christian then want you experienced you will love this book. The author's audience is for those Christians who have left or are thinking about leaving the church. I received this book from Water Brook Multnomah publishing for the review of this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 24, 2011

    Mere Churchianity

    I will admit that I chose this book to review based on the title alone. It sounded strangely familiar. Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to a Jesus-Shaped Spirituality by Michael Spencer is a book written to challenge believers to allow Jesus Christ to shape and form their spiritual formation and mindset. Spender is better around the blogospehere as the Internet Monk, where he has been blogging since 2000. I found myself agreeing entirely with him at times and disagreeing passionately at others. These reactions to his book were the same reactions I had in reading his blog for several years. Spencer's style of writing is passionate, whimsical, thoughtful, engaging, and provocative. Spencer's audience for this book is those who have left the church or are considering leaving. He challenges them not give up on Jesus Christ. He asks these who are on the fence to not judge Jesus on the often times hypocritical and judgmental actions of the "church" that are not accurate reflections of the life of the Son of God. Spencer asserts that the church today is guilty of turning Jesus into some sort of genie-in-a-bottle, culture-warrior, political activist, and relationship guru that is here to wait on us hand and foot. As churches turn Jesus into their ideal, who they want and need him to be, those looking for a spirituality that is shaped and formed by the Jesus of the gospels, they abandon the church and seek Jesus elsewhere. There were some things I liked about this book and some things I did not. I liked the fact that Spencer brought the concern and reality to the forefront. The reality, whether we want to realize or not that the church gets in the way sometimes of people seeing Christ. Spencer challenges believers to get back to the main point of the gospel: Jesus Christ. Allow His life and earthly ministry to challenge us and shape us. Allow His teaching to mold us His death, burial, and resurrection to define us as Christ followers. What I did not like about this book is that Spencer makes the case, whether intentional or not, that a believer can grow spiritually without belonging to a local body of believers. As a pastor, I will be the first one to say that he church is not perfect. However, the church is the bride of Christ. I see it as an impossibility to love Christ and want nothing to do with His bride. Spencer seems to be saying that because the church is not perfect, nor useful, then it is not necessary. I would hope that this book is successful is reaching believers who may have abandoned the church to not quit on Jesus. I hope the mixed message does not get in the way. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    Okay Book

    Things I thought after reading this book:

    1. It did not change my life.
    2. It did not change the way I viewed Christianity or Jesus.

    I've really been thinking about what being a Christian REALLY means these past six months. I reached points where I was ready to leave "religion" and pursue a relationship with Jesus by taking a break from the church (We could discuss this a lot considering I really wouldn't have left at all since Christians ARE the church, but I won't go into that). So I was really interested when I read about his book and read this:

    Have you left the church in search of Jesus?

    But the book didn't meet my standards halfway. I found myself becoming bored and skipping pages. I loved the introduction, but it didn't hook me. I felt like there was a certian depth missing from the book that I was feeling in my heart.

    I'm sure this book has helped many non-Christians and Christians see the real Jesus. Spencer did an excelent job writing and has helped many people. I agreed with most of what he said and was hesitant to agree with the rest of it (I never recamend that you read a book and believe every word in there. Line it up with Scripture and see if it's truth before you swallow it hook, line, and sinker.)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2011

    Good for those questioning the relevancy of institutional worship

    I was drawn to the book "Mere Churchianity," by Michael Spencer (The Internet Monk), largely in response to the question: "Have you left the church in search of Jesus?" For someone like me, a relatively new believer who has been struggling to ascertain the relevance of institutional worship, it's a compelling question.

    Early on Spencer states that the purpose of his book is not to church-bash, then he proceeds with an itemization of the deficiencies and hypocrisies found in today's Evangelical churches - mega, small, even home churches have their share of issues.

    At first, I was surprised that, for all his complaints against Evangelical churches, Spencer remained a Baptist minister and teacher at a Christian school, presumably until his death in April 2010. On further reflection, though, I see it not as a contradiction to the point of the book, but rather an illustration of it.

    My impression is that his intended audience comprises people disenchanted with corporate worship, who equate faith with their church affiliation, and who are likely to abandon Christ if they leave the church. He contrasts his coined term "Jesus Shaped Spirituality" with prevalent Church Shaped Spirituality, and urges readers to get to know the Jesus of the Four Gospels, rather than the Sunday morning Order of Worship.

    The final chapters are dedicated to helping the reader discern and plug into the real Jesus community - those people in your church, your neighborhood, your town, who are living Christ's example. God works through His people, not man's institutions, but if you find and surround yourself with His people you will experience Christ no matter the shape, size or style of the building.

    Though my personal church-crisis is not one of faith, or of questioning the relevancy of Jesus, I found many kindred sentiments expressed in "Mere Churchianity" and recommend it for those who are struggling to grow a "Jesus Shaped Spirituality."

    Disclaimer: I received a copy of "Mere Churchianity" from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for free in exchange for this review.

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  • Posted December 17, 2010

    A Hard Look at the Church

    I am one of the "leavers" talked about in the book so this book and my review are personal. Fortunately the book is already divided into four sections because I need to divide my review also.

    In the first section, the author tries to explain why people are leaving the traditional church denominations. Unfortunately, the book takes on the tone of a rant. While the author gives a cursory criticism of all of the major denominations, he was especially hard on his own Evangelical churches. It reached the rant stage when he repeatedly criticized churches for not embracing the homosexual lifestyle and abortion. In the author's view, people are leaving traditional churches exclusively because of these social issues, and I think his view is misguided. There were also a few stories given as object lessons that were childish and the point was difficult to find.

    While I didn't like the first part of the book, I thought the last three sections were rich with information and insight. The author explains with clarity that an individual can leave the church, but not necessarily leave behind their devotion to Jesus. In fact, sometimes they need to leave the church to find Jesus. My favorite chapter title is "It's a Bad Idea to be a Good Christian" where he explains the importance of a gospel without adjectives. In other words, true Grace.

    Do you see Jesus in your church? If not, you may need to leave the church to maintain your integrity as a believer. I would recommend the book to those who have left or been driven out of the church. I also think those still in the church may be able to improve the vision of their church.

    I received this book free of charge for review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers.

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  • Posted July 19, 2010

    On the mark...

    Michael Spencer became deeply concerned about the state of the evangelical church and as a result started the blog Internet Monk. His untimely death has robbed us of a loving critic of the Church. He very clearly states his case and proposes solutions that are simple and biblical. Read this to be challenged in your thinking. I was and continue to be.

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