Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Church in an Age of Crisis (book review)

The Church in an Age of Crisis is a sobering and wide-ranging look at where the Church is today in light of a rapidly changing culture. James Emery White covers 25 "New Realities" that Christians and Christianity are facing now. 

For White, it's about analyzing the culture so that Christians and Church leaders respond wisely. After all, White believes that the Church is the hope of the world (through Jesus Christ). Therefore, to be effective, knowing the times is essential. He hopes to open the eyes of Christians in America and beyond so that they are better equipped to be that hope for our world.

The 25 realities he writes about are divided into 5 broad categories:

  • Faith/Belief
  • Mindset/Culture
  • Marriage and Family
  • Media and Technology
  • Mission

The back of the book has a great description:

Functioning as both a telescope and a microscope, this hard-hitting examination of the future of the Church looks into the vastness of the world and into the minute recesses of our hearts...(White) calls us to look beyond the daily conflicts in order to see the much larger battle in which we are engaged, so that we might play our vital role in preserving and growing Christ's church in the coming age.

The author clearly has the gift of looking at lots of information and making sense out of it. Especially about things that matter. He covers a broad range of subjects and yet you feel like you're reading about what matters most. White really nails it here. He's done his homework.

White is clearly widely read. He regularly pulls stats, quotes and illustrations from a variety of popular and academic sources. He pulls from both secular and religious sources. He uses science, logic, history, philosophy and the Bible to help us get a comprehensive view of our current state. And he does this in only 201 pages (followed by lots of end notes).

White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC. He also has a terrific blog that this book reads like at www.churchandculture.org. He tweets from @jamesemerywhite. So he writes and thinks like a pastor. But lest you think that means he thinks small, think again. He writes about local and global issues. And he does so with grace and truth. 

I like the breakouts in the book. He'll repeat a list, statistics or a quote as a breakout that makes it easier to find later and reinforces the idea through repetition. The book font is small but not uncomfortable to read. Lots of spacing in the margins and other places makes reading a pleasure. 25 Chapters is not overwhelming since they're relatively short. 

I'll admit, at times I found myself tempted to feel overwhelmed at the challenge he describes. The evidence can be quite discouraging for those of us working to make a difference (I'm a pastor too). I found myself wanting answers and remedies. 

Fighting the temptation to start offering solutions, White stays focused majoring on the diagnosis without spending a lot of time on prescriptions. (Maybe a future book?) He does offer an afterword with encouraging words. But it's so brief I found myself wanting more.

I plan to keep this book close to me where I study as I prepare future messages. (Maybe I should get the ebook...) So many of the topics people deal with are covered here that leaders now have a terrific place to start in helping their people see where we really are in our culture. They need to think about these things. We all do!

So it's a reference book, an eye-opening wake-up call, and quick synopsis of the crisis in which the Church finds herself today all rolled up into one. A much needed voice of calm alarm for people of faith.

May this book find itself in the hands of many who care about our families, our churches, our cities and our world. I pray we don't get stuck in the diagnosis but start writing prescriptions (and applying those already written in the Bible) as people of faith seek to be "Salt and Light" (Jesus) in our world today.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a book review. I was not asked for a positive review. I chose to review this author because of the good experiences I've had reading his blog and previous books.