With all the people reading The Shack, I’m surprised more people haven’t gotten into this book, one of only three from the same publishing company that produced The Shack, and featured in an advert on one of Shack‘s final pages. So I’m repeating the original review on this from April 19th.
It’s actually been a long while since I read a book in 48 hours. As it got closer to midnight last night, I said I would quit at the end of the chapter, and then found myself forging into the next.
The book is So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore and is credited to Jake Colsen, which is a pen name amalgam of the two authors, Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman.
As its title suggests, this is a book that comes out of our 21st century climate of restlessness with all things institutional. I’m not sure the title accurately pinpoints the intended market, either. It’s not a book for those who have given up — well, maybe some — but it’s also for those who have a deep longing for something more. The title also betrays the book’s style. This isn’t a how-to book; it’s actually written as a narrative story. Is it fiction?*
Based on a radio interview with coauthor Wayne Jacobsen http://www.drewmarshall.ca/listen2008.html I would say this is probably more fact than fiction. If anything, the message of the book is that the situation described happens all too often; a sense that institutional church simply is not working in the ways Christ would have it.
The story centers around Jake, an associate pastor at a local church in California, who is forced to confront some serious priorities, by a stranger named John, who, just to make things more interesting, may or may not be John the Baptist. Not, as in John the Baptist come back to life, and not, as in the ghost of John the Baptist; but rather as in John the Baptist who never died. But whoever he is isn’t central to the story; it’s the insights he brings to Jake’s situation.
“The problem with church as you know it, Jake, is that it has become nothing more than mutual accommodation of self-need. Everybody needs something out of it. Some need to lead. Some need to be led. Some want to teach, others are happy to be the audience. Rather than become an authentic demonstration of God’s life and love to the world, it ends up being a group of people who have to protect their turf. What you’re seeing is less of God’s life than people’s insecurities that cling to those things they think will best serve their needs.” ~p.71
And that’s one of the milder excerpts. Not everyone is going to like this book. In fact, some people get a weekly paycheck (that’s ‘paycheque’ for us Canucks and Brits) not to think about such things. And that’s just the point. Because Wayne Jacobsen was heavilly involved in the editing of The Shack, this is going to be familiar territory for some of you.
So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore is published by Windblown Media, which also publishes the #1 U.S. Christian book of the year** in sales — it’s hard to imagine anything catching it in the last half of 2008 — The Shack by William P. Young; a book which is also the subject of some controversy. If you or someone you know someone is getting burned out on going through the motions on Sundays (and beyond), this is the book to read. Because in going through the motions, we may have slowly lost sight of what Jesus is really all about, and what priorities really count.
*Or, we could ask, “Is The Shack a normal work of fiction, really?” Think about it. Is it your normal novel, or is it something more?
**Or, more accurately, “Christian book of the decade.” I don’t think Purpose Driven Life was this big.
Today’s book group question: There is no question mark in the book’s title. Discuss.