Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review: Giving Church Another Chance

Late last year I read my pastor and Bishop Todd Hunter’s first book, Christianity Beyond Belief in which he argued for the importance of entering into God’s story and living as Christians not merely for cleansing from sin, but further for the sake of touching the lives of others with Christ’s love. That is, being a people set apart by God for the sake of the rest of the world, just as Israel was intended to be.

Recently, he released his second book, Giving Church Another Chance: Finding New Meaning in Spiritual Practices and it is a book well worth picking up. There is a large group in our society, even within Christianity, who have become disenchanted with church. Todd was one of these, he went through a “de-churched” phase, experimenting with various alternative forms of Christian worship, but then, at the end of this journey, he found himself as an Anglican Bishop. For those of you who don’t know, Anglicanism, which has its roots in the Church of England, is a high liturgical church, with bishops, priests, and formal organized prayers. What happened? Well, you’ll have to read the book to get the full story, but in short Todd discovered the role of the liturgical church as a tool for spiritual formation. He came to realize that church is not “what it’s about” but rather a place of spiritual refreshment for Christians, a center for our lives from which we go forth to bless the world.

I still have some of the problems I had with Christianity Beyond Belief, namely the stylistic simplicity (especially the use of quotations from The Message paraphrase of the Bible) but as before, I feel these aesthetic complaints do not reflect on the importance of the content.

Ultimately, I don’t think this book is as important as Surprised by Hope but it’s a wonderful tool for understanding Todd’s vision and I truly believe that the “re-practicing” of church advocated by Todd in this book should at the very least be examined by all Christians (especially the section on the Eucharist), but especially those who would tear down centuries of tradition on the basis of their own limited experience and personal interpretations of scripture.