How do I know if this church is the right fit for me? Should we stick with this church or move on? How is this church going to meet my needs? If you have ever asked these questions, you need to read this book!
There have been a few times in my life when I was faced with the decision to choose a local church, mostly due to moving to another state for ministry purposes. And honestly, I caught myself asking these very same questions. I wanted my local church to meet my needs and massage my comfort-zones and my preferences. I wish that I had this book as a guide along the way!
McCracken holds nothing back with this convicting and challenging exhortation to embrace the uncomfortable aspects of church and community life for the sake of maturity and growth.
The truth is, Christianity is made up of uncomfortable truths, uncomfortable people, and uncomfortable realities. This is the faith that we embrace, one that upholds the discomfort of the cross of Calvary as the cornerstone and our salvation, the discomfort of hard truths that fly in the face of cultural preferences and assumptions, and the discomfort of living a holy life in a morally bankrupt world. But these very realities are what characterize the church, the body of Christ.
McCracken breaks the book into two different sections, first looking at our uncomfortable faith that embraces the cross, holiness, truth, love, the Holy Spirit, and mission. All of these areas challenge us to live outside of our comfort-zones. For instance, one of the most impactful chapters for me in this section was on holiness. There is something about the Christian culture, especially these days, that focuses on the value of authenticity, the “I am a broken, sorry, poor wretch, please look away” type of approach. We are being true to ourselves and feelings and being “real.” Though we do need a right view of our sin and brokenness, this is as far as it usually goes. We have a tendency to create a culture where it is cool and fresh to be vulnerable and authentic, accepting each other and embracing each other in our sin, but not moving on from there to lives of holiness and obedience to the Lord. McCracken claims that true authenticity “comes when we collectively push each other, by grace, in the direction of Christ-likeness” (p. 65).
This is uncomfortable, because it is much easier to embrace each other in our brokenness rather than moving on to holy living.
The second section of the book speaks into the uncomfortable church that is made up of uncomfortable people, diversity, worship, authority, unity and commitment. Often, we have preferences, especially with worship in the local church, that could easily impede our growth if they get in the way. The people that make up our local churches are often very different from us, and people that we would not normally fellowship with anywhere else if we had not met them in the local church. This can make things a bit uncomfortable, but is this reason to move on? Is there a church out there that is a better fit?
These questions always creep back into our minds, but McCracken levels these thoughts by asking a question in response:
“What if the biblical approach is actually that we should fit ourselves into the life and mission of the local church, adapting ourselves to the family and filling the gap where needed, even if it means we are the ones who have to change” (p. 128)?
The challenge of Christian community is real, but we are to embrace this challenge rather than run away from it. It is not about us. It is about the glory of God manifested and expressed through the body of Christ that happens to be made up of awkward, uncomfortable people loving each other, committing to each other, living in biblical unity, and pushing each other towards Christ.
The challenge to view the church this way is essential. This is a great book to get these convictions sparking, to push us in the right direction.
The book ends with the question: “Will you commit to joining and sticking with a church, not because it is a good fit for you, but because it is fitting you to become more like Jesus?” (p. 185)
Read & Repeat