I just finished reading the most recent DeYoung/Kluck collaboration (they previously teamed up on Why We’re Not Emergent). My only previous experience with either writer was through DeYoung’s blog and hilarious book on finding the will of God (“without dreams, visions, fleeces, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.). I was excited by the subject matter (as evidenced in the title) and the praise from theological heavyweights such as J. I. Packer, Al Mohler, and Mark Dever. This book is well-informed, balanced, readable, funny, and God-glorifying.
The basic premise of this book is that there is no such thing as a “churchless Christianity.” The authors are clear that they are trying to correct the common notion that Christians do not need “organized churches.” In fact, the Scriptures indicate that organization (i.e., structure in corporate worship, leadership, etc.) is essential to the health of a church.
“Community” is a buzzword among modern evangelicals, but many “emergent” (whatever that means) types are unwilling to be shaped by a community of believers that does not mimic their particular hipster style. It is essential that each believer be a part of a church that is full of imperfect Christians. The result of old and young coming together to worship despite differences of opinion regarding musical style and church architecture is mutual edification and personal sanctification.
DeYoung and Kluck are particularly critical of modern Christian “revolutionaries.” Christianity, they argue, needs more “plodding visionaries,” that is, people who are concerned with obedience to the gospel and faithfulness to the commands of Christ. Giving up on local church because it does nothing for you or because you can find a deeper spirituality somewhere else is, frankly, narcissistic and contrary to the commands of Scripture.
I was thankful for the historical perspective the authors provided in two areas: (1) They clarified the oft repeated maxim that “Christians have done terrible things throughout there history.” While this statement, they say, is true it is not absolutely true without qualification. For example, while race-based slavery was condoned by some Christians it was also abolished largely because of Christian abolitionists. (2) The authors also busted the myth of the early Christian utopia. You and I have both heard the call to be a “New Testament church.” There are few problems with this statement. On the one hand the Bible is full of terrible churches rife with division, heresy, and immorality. On the other hand, just because something is not mentioned in the Bible does not mean that is impure (e.g., buildings, pews, etc.).
The authors argue that the most important reasons to love the church are because it is the God-ordained means for the proclamation of the gospel and the sanctification of believers. Good reasons that stand in stark contrast to the modern Christian’s “what’s-in-it-for-me” mentality.
This book is an admirable attempt to correct many problems in modern evangelicalism. Despite claiming a robust ecclesiology, this book is far from comprehensive. It has barely a mention of issues such as covenant membership and ordinances.
The authors demonstrate a great balance in their personal understanding of the church’s relationship to God and culture. However, they set up a false dichotomy between “emergent-types” and “traditional-types.” The authors unfortunately caricature “emergents” as a modern incarnation of the liberal social gospel. This dichotomy is unnecessary. One can be concerned with a true gospel and a culturally appropriate presentation of that gospel.
Though I understand the intention to defend the “traditional” church, I am still uncomfortable with the language of church as “institution” and the authors consistently assume that particular incarnations of modern church are Biblical and healthy.
On the whole this book provides balance to contemporary tendency to “church-hate.” While neither comprehensive or without fault, the authors are clearly attempting to glorify God and obey the Scriptures. Love Jesus and love his bride.