The Naked Church (by Wayne Jacobsen)

I’ve only read a handful of books by Wayne Jacobsen, but have liked them all in different ways. So when I discovered a couple more, inexpensively, on the Amazon Marketplace (though no longer in print) I ordered them and have just finished reading ‘The Naked Church’.

The book is intended for people who are feeling somewhat dissatisfied or burned out by church experiences, or who feel that Christians are no different from anyone else. It doesn’t point fingers or criticise; the author acknowledges that the established church comes in many shapes and sizes, and in many cases is an excellent way of helping people becoming closer to God.

However, the theme of his book is that there’s a great deal wrong with the way that the church worldwide functions today. Christians are not generally known by their love for each other. Evangelistic crusades may result in hundreds of people making ‘decisions’ for God, but rarely have much long-term effect. In the west, we are caught up in materialism, in maintaining expensive buildings and following routines and structures which, in many cases, move people further away from God rather than helping them to develop intimacy with him.

The introduction mentions the classic fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The author suggests that it is all too easy for modern Christians to follow false teaching, or turn up week by week for church services because that’s what everyone else is doing. Yet, he believes, a large part of the church - at least in the United States, where he lives and works - is ‘poor, blind and naked’, like the church in Laodicea to whom one of the messages in the book of Revelation was addressed.

Most of the book is written in paired chapters. The first of each looks at ways in which 20th century Christians are (the author believes) deceived, and the second looks at what might change. For instance, he compares modern structured church programmes with the communities that developed in the early church. He is careful to acknowledge that much of what we do nowadays can be useful, and that lives can be changed. Yet we are not radiating the love, passion and authority that was so evident in the first century Christians.

I found some of the book a little heavy-going, and rarely read more than one chapter at a time. This was first published in 1987 and would have been extremely thought-provoking then, although so many other writers have written on a similar topic that I didn’t find anything new. Still, reminders are good, and there was much to think about. The presentation was nicely done, and the contrasting chapter style worked well.

It’s not particularly easy to get hold of this book, although if you see it at a reasonable price it’s worth reading, in my view. Most likely to be read by those who are already struggling somewhat with Christian traditions or styles, but I think it could be of value to those in leadership who would like to see positive suggestions for change, described in an organised way.


Review copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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