Authors: Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman
Publisher: Windblown Media, Moorpark, CA, 2008
No. of pages: 191
Reviewed by: Bryan Norford
The book claims it is almost impossible to find authentic life in Jesus in the organized Church. Written in the first person, Jake meets up with a mysterious John—Jake wonders if he is a reincarnated apostle John! The meetings are always spontaneous, John arriving unannounced at opportune and inopportune times in Jake’s life to teach him a “better” way.
John teaches Jake that his pastorate at a large local church is unsatisfying because it is self-serving. It serves Jake’s need for an income, and the church serves the needs of the members for acceptance and fellowship—a “mutual accommodation of self-need.” The process is mostly performance oriented for both the leaders and the led, and dedicated to maintaining the church’s existence. John considers the institutional Church provides “love with a hook”: acceptance if one conforms to the local church’s standards—a system of “shame-management,” with all the shoulds and oughts keeping adherents in line.
John makes a valid point. Many are disillusioned with church difficulties, and have dropped out. The church does not produce life, life creates the church. While he admits that not everyone is swallowed by the system, John generally considers the organised church is geared to security and personal comforts incompatible with following Christ. Authentic relationship with Christ is only found with others seeking an intimate Christ-relationship.
How John plans to achieve this without some organization is not clear; at best, it occurs at informal gatherings, not structured services. When or how it happens, or even if it happens, is at Christ’s leading. John seems to believe in freewheeling groups, which may or may not meet at any particular time; in which people come or go on a whim, and has a capricious consensus from hit or miss indeterminate groups of seeking individuals.
Thus, uncertainty runs like a river through the book. John is always sure that the organized Church will not provide authentic Christian living, but he rarely suggests how to obtain it. “You’ll know it when you see it” seems to be his determining value. John’s instruction on what Jesus requires is never backed up by actual scriptural quotes. In the whole book, only one paragraph lists five verses at random on God’s provision for the believer.
John elevates the mystical and denigrates the practical in the Church. Seeking the individual walk with Christ at the expense of infrastructure impoverishes the Church and the world. Much Christian work, missions, social relief, clinics and hospitals to name a few, require organizations large or small. John’s rejection of organized Church leaves much of Christ’s mission incomplete and the world an infinitely poorer place.