John White has passed along an excellent review of "The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church" by Reggie McNeal.
Following is John's review:
Reggie is a denominational guy. (He's a consultant for the Southern Baptists.) He is writing to traditional church people but what he says is highly relevant to house church people as well. His insights are shocking (in a good sense).
In each chapter, Reggie presents a "new reality" that the church must face. "Each reality requires the church to shift its thinking from answering the wrong question to pursuing the implications of a tough question." (p.xvi)
Here are a few quotes from Chapter One:
New Reality Number One: The Collapse of the Church Culture.
"The imminent demise under discussion is the collapse of the unique culture in North America that has come to be called 'church'. This church culture has become confused with biblical Christianity, both inside the church and out." (p. 1) JW - Wow! This is coming from a denominational leader.
"A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith." (p. 4) JW - Wow, again. And I thought I was saying some controversial things.
"Not only do we not need God to explain the universe, we don't need God to operate the church. Many operate like giant machines, with church leaders serving as mechanics. God doesn't have to show up to get done what's being done. The culture does not want the powerless God of the modern church." (p. 6) JW - I've got to meet this guy.
Wrong question: How Do We Do Church Better?
"The point is, all the effort to fix the church misses the point. You can build the perfect church - and they still won't come. People (in the world) are not looking for a great church." (p. 10) JW - Reggie says that most of the growth of megachurches represents people transferring from dinghies to cruise ships.
Tough Question: How Do We Deconvert from Churchianity to Christianity?
"In fact, many have observed that there is a spiritual awakening occurring in America. However, it is not informed by Christian theology, and it's not happening in the church." (p. 12) JW - We've been praying for revival for years in this country. Maybe God has begun the answer but our wineskins prevent us from seeing what He is doing.
"God is pulling end runs around the institutional North American church to get to people in the streets. God is still inviting us to join him on mission, but it is the invitation to be part of a movement, not a religious club." (p. 16)
JW - And that's just the first chapter!