Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Larry Crabb's 'Real Church'

I must start by saying that this is a book that needs to be read in its entirety. Anything less and it would be easy to miss the larger message of what Larry is trying to poke at. I definitely enjoyed wrestling with this book and found myself feeling all sorts of things, challenged, depressed, irritated, challenged and comforted. Not necessarily in that order either. The first half of the book seems to be from a deep and dark place of discontent with the American, Western church of today. Larry spares no style or label of church as he pulls the rug out from under each one of them. He is not a fan of swinging the pendulum in any ONE particular direction, and he chops that tree down with brutal honesty. For the most part I think he is right on target and the church needs this feedback, BUT he also admits from the beginning that he does not spend much time in church and the churches he visits are Sunday pop ins. So he very easily could miss the heart or centrality of these particular churches. He also takes sharp aim at the wreck that is the consumer church, which he describes as people being addicted to themselves (for him it is being addicted to himself then). We want what WE want. Unhealthy for sure, yet this is very much front and center in today's American, Western church. BUT again, Larry has HIS way of laying out what HE wants in a church, which can be a little formula driven, in that the four things he wants seem to have to take place in HIS order and HIS way. For example, he wants community centered BEFORE mission, yet this dismisses the fact that a lot of people find the greatest connection points, and most meaningful, to be found in serving with and alongside one another. So does the order HAVE to be "spiritual theology," "spiritual formation," spiritual community," and then "spiritual mission?" I completely agree that ALL of these things should be present in a 'Real Church,' but that they also can be experienced together, mixed, but not necessarily ordered or formulated as Larry has them. With that, I truly enjoyed this book, and as a pastor, found it to be stirring in so many good ways. I would love to see the church in America, the West, change and move to greater health, and I think this book pushes us in a very positive direction. It is not highly practical and Larry does not lay out a specific game plan, but he does give excellent ingredients for healthy cooking. I believe if Larry finds more real churches, then he would still be less inclined to go, but it's because I believe he would be invited into a truth craving, formation applying, community centered and mission driven PEOPLE that are being the church. Which isn't found in a place, but is found in people, relationships, wherever and however they gather.

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