“It is almost like attending lectures about swimming and mistaking the lectures for swimming lessons.” – Richard Jacobson, Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity
It was a little over about two and a half years ago that I went through one of the darkest, most painful times of my life. After serving over 10 years in the ministry, I got burned out. I stepped down from my position as the senior pastor.
It was extremely heart breaking. I had served in that church for 10 years. I loved these people. I loved serving them. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do. However, it was something that I needed to do.
I let the denomination know. They wanted to bring someone else in. Instead, the council decided after being in the community for 75 years that they wanted to shut the doors. And that’s exactly what they did! The denomination ended up selling the property to the Jehovah’s Witnesses (no lie!)
For well over a year things were starting to feel wrong about this thing that we call church. At the time, I could not put my finger on it. All I knew was that the church that I was reading about in the New Testament looked nothing like the church that I had just given 10 years of my blood, sweat, tears, and time to. Everything felt fake. Nothing felt real about “church” anymore. And I really did not want anything to do with it.
But I knew that Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. He knew that it wasn’t perfect! If he couldn’t forsake it, then how could I?
It was then that I started to do some unpacking. Maybe it was more of a deconstruction? God had put some crucial people in my path and one of them was Richard Jacobson.
At the time Richard Johnson had this website called, “The Church Anarchist.” It was filled with blogs and video illustrations (I call them cartoons!) that really seemed to confirm everything I was finding wrong with the church.
He was a former pastor, like myself. The way that he presented the problems as well as the solutions was refreshing. He did so without any anger or hate towards traditional church. It actually came from a place of love and grace.
This was what I needed. Not someone to fuel my fire. I was angry at the church. I didn’t want to be angry. I was tired of being angry! The Holy Spirit used Richard’s ministry to help me find peace and to “show me a more excellent way.”
So when I found out that he was writing a book, I got so stinking excited!
Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity is a book that I wish someone had put in my hands two and a half years ago. Just like his blogs and videos, Richard’s book is truly written from the place of grace and love.
Richard starts of by telling a bit of his own story. It gives you a glimpse into Richard’s background. You know where he started, you know where he’s been, and you know how he got to where he is today.
From there, the book is split up into four parts:
Part 1: Spiritual Community
Part 2: Spiritual Parents
Part 3: Church Incorporated
Part 4: Church Outside the Box
In Part 1, Richard delves deep into the doctrine of the Trinity. Through Scripture, he shows God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit working together in community. He then goes on to explain our role (the church) as an extension of that community.
In Part 2, there is a heavy focus on parenting, family, and discipleship. One of my favorite parts of this whole entire book is found in this section when Richard breaks down Ephesians, Chapter 4. I have never heard it taught like this before and to me it seems revolutionary. Yet, at the same time, it’s heart breaking because I know that given our traditional church model most ministers and other church leaders would never support this basic Biblical model of discipleship.
In Part 3, we really start seeing things being broken down. Richard does a lot of comparisons in this chapter. The most damning comparison is when he compares the modern church to a corporate entity. Once again this isn’t done from a place of anger or hate. Where most would make you feel their wrath in their writing, Richard approaches this very softly and with a LOT of grace!
He does a really solid teaching on the priesthood of all believers—something that’s rarely ever taught in traditional churches. While many ministers will tell you that they believe in the priesthood of all believers, it’s simply not something that’s actively encouraged within their own congregations.
But what really caught me by surprise in this book was that Richard tackled the issue of gender inequality in the church. He peppers it all throughout this book, but in this section he really brings it all together and hits it hard!
This is something that I greatly appreciate. I’ve been looking for a long time to biblically articulate my thoughts and feelings on gender inequality. By speaking on gender inequality in the church, Richard has helped me find my biblical voice on the issue, which is important for us. Why? Because you cannot have the priesthood of ALL believers if you’re excluding a certain segment of those believers from the priesthood, or you’re undermining their significance!
But on a lighter note, he also goes into great detail about veal. To be honest I’ll never look at veal the same way again.
Finally, Part 4 is where Richard, after tearing it all down, builds it all back up and brings it to a conclusion. Remember my talking about how the Holy Spirit used Richard to help “show me a more excellent way?” This is where he does that for you, the reader!
Overall, Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity is fun, simple, and easy to understand. Richard Jacobson has a real gift for communicating very clearly and concisely. He doesn’t go over your head with anything. He has packed this book with sound biblical teaching and insights that will be sure to challenge and stretch you.
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a “more excellent” and authentic way to be in Christian community—than what the traditional church has to offer.
I give this book 4.75 out of 5 stars. #MustRead!
For more information on Richard Jacobson please visit him online:
To purchase Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity, click here: Amazon
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