14/12/2013

Church: Why Bother? (by Philip Yancey)

Looking for something relatively light-weight on our Christian shelves, I picked this book up. I like Philip Yancey's writing, and this is a short book - only 100 pages. It's on a topic that really doesn't go away - how important is 'the church' (whatever we mean by that word) in the life of a Christian?

It's nearly eight years since I first read 'Church: Why bother?' which is subtitled, 'My personal pilgrimage. I don't think I've come to any conclusions or found any answers to the underlying large question, and hoped this book might help me focus better, perhaps providing some straightforward and Biblical solutions.

Unfortunately, it really didn't. Not that I had any problems with the book; it was very readable, with some personal anecdotes charting the author's upbringing in a fundamentalist and racist church, his move right out of church life for a while, and his gradual return and increased commitment. He gives plenty to think about too: the importance of support within the Body of Christ, and the necessity for being part of a community for all kinds of good reasons, even when one is an Introvert.

He also demonstrates how important it is to accept each other as the flawed individuals we are, to love rather than criticise those who make mistakes, or sing out of tune, or give boring monologues. And I totally agree with almost everything he says... except that he doesn't answer the question that torments so many: is it important - or indeed necessary - to attend a particular congregational meeting on a Sunday morning every week (or as often as possible).

If it's possible to experience Christian community in small groups, and other activities, and if we feel closer to God on our own, or with just one or two people and if we can contribute to the life of the Body without actually being present on a Sunday morning, is it actually constructive for those who find the whole structured service thing tedious and irrelevant?

This question really wasn't answered; the author makes what felt to me like an illogical assumption, that 'going to church' was synonymous with 'being part of the church'. For many, the two are quite different.

Still, the writing is good, and there are many good points made so I thought it still worth re-reading. Recommended in a low-key kind of way for anyone interested in this topic.

Note that this book, first published in 1998, is still available on both sides of the Atlantic, and can now also be bought in Kindle form.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews

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