09 July 2014

Book Review: Real Church: Does It Exist? Can I Find It?

Sometimes, after we have made it through the first few pages or chapters of a book, the only thing that keeps us going is the reputation of the author. For me, Real Church: Does It Exist? Can I Find It? (2009, Thomas Nelson) by Larry Crabb was just such a book. I have read nearly all of Dr Crabb's books and had  the honor of receiving spiritual direction from him. It would not be too much to say that he has been one of the most important influences upon my thinking about church, relationships, and life. But when I began Real Church, I found myself uncomfortable. In the early pages of the book, he boldly claims that he has essentially grown tired of church and really doesn't want to go church. When I read his words, several different things stirred in me. I still like going to church. Every week, so I have a hard time relating when he says he doesn't want to be there. I also found myself pondering the more general question, "is he allowed to say that and still call himself a Christian? I mean, is it okay?"  (Dr Crabb has a way of writing things honestly that most people are reluctant to voice). I have to admit, if this book was written by a different author, I don't know that I would have continued beyond the first few chapters. But this was Larry, a man whose wisdom I have come to value. I am glad I persisted.

After writing about what makes him uncomfortable with the modern church, he sets out to explore what church could be, a community of honest believers, sharing in one another's struggles over the long haul, all while giving glory to God. The picture he paints would be radical to most churchgoers; for example, he proposes spending ten minutes at the opening of church with everyone journaling about where they are at in the moment (their red dot) and then inviting people to share. Radical, but refreshing.

I suspect if you are accustomed to the American status quo, this book may unsettle you, but give it a chance. What Dr Crabb is envisioning could be transformative.

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