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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Why Bother With Church?" (Sam Allberry)

TITLE: Why bother with church?
AUTHOR: Sam Allberry
PUBLISHER: Purcellville, VA: The Good Book Company, 2016, (96 pages).

In a postmodern world, most people think that the Church is no longer relevant to society. They believe that the Christian faith is no different from other religions. In fact, they even think that people would go to heaven in more ways than one, as long as they are good people. At the same time, there are those who had gone to Church and had become disappointed. Then, there are also those who believe that the Church is another of those religious social club that cares only for its members. The reasons not to go to Church are many, which is the basis of the question: Why bother with Church? The simple answer to the title of this book is this: The people and the Church need each other. It is hoped that by the end of the book, readers would be persuaded to the extent that they would be asking instead: "Why on earth would I not be bothered with Church?"

In six chapters, Sam Allberry, a pastor at St Mary's Church in Maidenhead, UK, argues that Church is more important than we thought. Chapter One is about "What is Church?" He points out several distinctiveness of Church. It is about a particular gathering of people; an outpost to point people to God; a family that cares for people; and the bride of Christ. He addresses the common accusations hurled at churches that have done more harm than good. On the one hand, the Church need to acknowledge the flaws and mistakes of the past. This is because the Church is comprised of sinful people too. At the same time, those who throw stones need to take a step back to recognize that there are lots of good that the Church have done in society.

Chapter Two deals with the personal "Why do I need Church?" Simply put, there can be no lone-ranger Christians. We are all called and baptized into a family of God. Whether it is through desiring Christ; serving Christ; or being Christlike, we need a body of believers in order to facilitate that. Chapter Three lists several characteristics of what a good Church looks like.

  • Church people learn from the Bible and put that into practice
  • Church people devote themselves to working together
  • Church people worship in song and in truth
  • Church people grow both numerically and spiritually
  • Church people will learn to prioritize the above four things (apostolic teaching; partnership; worship; and growth) as key areas to focus their activities.
Chapter Four is about the practical side of running a Church. Leaders are critical, which is why elders and deacons are to be tasked with the running of the Church. Allberry gives us a brief overview of the different ways churches are run. The Episcopalians have a bishop to oversee the connectional structure. The Presbyterians look upon the elders to make decisions on behalf of the Church. The independent elder-led churches endow power and authority on the elders. The congregational structure lets the congregation themselves have the final say. There are helpful descriptions of the duties of the pastor; the disciplines of the Church; and other questions with regard to gender; leadership style; and so on. 

Chapter Five talks about the ways to "survive the Church." In places where churches are seen to be boring, we are reminded that church is not about us getting something out of it, but how we can give to it. Where members had been hurt in the Church, we learn humility to forgive and the love to pray. Where people had been burned out in Church service, they need to be reminded that God cares for them, and they should take time out so as to rest and recover. 

Chapter Six is about the responsibilities of being a good Church member. Through regular attendance, involvement, prayer, service, giving, devotion, and submission to authority, we learn that the future of the Church is far more hopeful than the hype the world offers. 

This is a really helpful book to right people's perspectives about Church. There has been too much negativity and cynicism surrounding the Church and Church people. Sometimes, it would seem that the most hypocritical and selfish people are inside the Church! That is not true. Hypocrites are everywhere. Even non-Church goers need to be reminded that they are not necessarily better than Church goers. Who on earth other than Jesus is not a hypocrite? Who has never sinned? Who has never committed a wrong? The root of the problem is sin, not the Church. Christ himself had died for the Church. If God so loved the Church, should we not do the same? After all, the Church is not about a building. It is a community called the "People of God."

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of The Good Book Company and Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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