For the recent SBS conference Helen and I attended in Montana, we were asked to read three books that were a reflection of three major topics one speaker was going to cover. Due to the length of the books and the cost, I was only able to read two of them: Quitting Church by Julia Duin and Holy Fire by R.T. Kendall.
Quitting Church was a look at the trend of people leaving the church in the West, and an investigation of the reasons behind why those who claim Christianity are often uninterested in attending a local church. As a journalist, Duin’s writing is very approachable, making the book a quick read. Quitting Church contains both stats she had researched, and stories she had collected from people who represented those statistics. The book was written in 2007 and was re-released last year, so many of the reasons for people “quitting church” have been discussed at length in other books since the first release of this book. The big issue seemed to be that the seeker-sensitive movement has created churches that are miles wide but inches deep. Additionally, the movement towards mega churches have left many feeling alone in a crowd. What interested me most was the chapter on women leaving the church. It seems that many women are “quitting church” because of the barriers that continue to exist for woman to participate in the ministries of the church. The book spoke of how women who exercised clear leadership giftings in their workplaces, are not permitted to participate in leadership in the church, which discourages their willingness to attend in the first place. One of the great joys of my work with YWAM has been watching the God-given gifts in my wife being exercised and encouraged, and I can understand how it would be unappealing to participate in a church that bars your service solely because of gender. In the end, I found the book offered many criticisms and little in the way of solutions. Throughout the book I also felt that Duin longed for a time that has passed in the history of the church in the West – a sort of nostalgia without suggestions of how to move forward. On the whole, Quitting Church has encouraged me to think more deeply about how to foster a healthier situation in the faith community I am a part of.
Holy Fire offered an argument for the activity of the Holy Spirit, refuting cessationism. Cessationism suggests that the Holy Spirit does not and has not acted in supernatural ways since the age of the Apostles. It was a much more academic read, but a thorough look at the issue. Kendall is in an interesting position writing this book, as he holds to much of the Reform theology common to cessationists, but speaks from personal experience about the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our generation. His closing argument is that when the work of the Holy Spirit (as seen in the charismatic movements of recent years), connects with solid Biblical teaching, there will be a revival on a level not yet seen in church history. Having grown up in a charismatic church, I have been taught much of what Kendall writes about, however having moved away from the charismatic movement in more recent years until coming back into YWAM, it was helpful for me to open up again to the work of the Holy Spirit through the filter of a Biblical worldview. I still see a lot of the abuses of the charismatic movement, but like Kendall, I hope that soon we will see the walls standing between those who fear the abuses of the charismatic movement, and charismatics, coming together and changing the world for God’s glory.
These two books look at big topics relevant to the Evangelical world right now; if you’re interested in these issues, I would recommending these books.