Christianity Should be Uncomfortable – excerpt
Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken is a book dealing with the consumer culture within Christianity. In particular, it focuses on the way we all want things that are comfortable. This affects the way we choose our churches, whether it’s based on kids programs, easy-going relationships, comfortable preaching, great lattes or cool worship.
Brett McCracken questions whether such an I-centred should be an emphasis in the Christian life. In other words, it asks to what extent does our culture influence our Christian life and that of the church. This is a great question to ask. The church as a whole has ignored how the culture has shaped its understanding of comfort in a pursuit of relevance and attractiveness. Uncomfortable is a timely re-examination.
Uncomfortable isn’t afraid to tackle issues like church shopping. This is refreshing in a culture which is interested in personal preferences and ‘what’s in it for me.’ We need this because it is too easy to leave a church when it no longer feeds or fits us.
Pastors need this book because it is tempting to shape our church around the needs and preferences of millennials and seek continued numerical growth. McCracken’s book shows why contemporary services, hip amenities, and Hillsong-esque worship isn’t enough capture a vision of the church as family and its place within society.
Uncomfortable is broader than I anticipated. It consists of 2 parts. Part 1 looks at the uncomfortable nature of the Christian faith. One of the author’s guiding principles is ‘When the Christian church is comfortable and cultural, she tends to be weak. When she is uncomfortable and countercultural she tends to be strong.’ McCracken notes we are tempted to make Christianity ‘cool’ instead of embracing the discomfort of the cross and foundational tenants of the faith. He argues that by embracing cool, we blend in and embrace blandness.
Part 2 of Uncomfortable was the stronger part of the book, and more what I anticipated. It dealt with the benefits of embracing discomfort within the local church community. He investigates issues of relationships, worship, diversity, and matters of authority and commitment.
Throughout the book Brett McCracken offers ideas on how followers of Jesus can embrace discomfort within their contexts. Not everyone will agree with his conclusions, however they do opportunity for reflection and self examination. McCracken also ties his ideas to his church ministry context which adds a refreshing touch of realism to his work, however at times his proposals could be fleshed out further by including examples from other situations.
Uncomfortable is a book the church needs today. It seeks to frame the ecclesial conversation around theology. Brett McCracken should be commended for this. Too long discussion of church has revolved around business models and that which is practical. Uncomfortable leads us to consider the community of God’s people by directing us to the Bible.
Overall, Uncomfortable is a book that will make you think. It will help you consider your rationale behind the church you attend. It will help you think about what is involved for Christian growth to take place. And it will allow you to see a vision of a thriving church community.
Uncomfortable is definitely worth checking out. It will make you think about what is important when it comes to church. The book will also challenge your own choices – what are aspects of your faith are based around comfort and consumption?
Christianity Should be Uncomfortable – excerpt
‘Church should be about collectively spurring one another to “be fit” to the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4-5). And this can happen in almost any sort of church as long as it’s fixed on Jesus, anchored in the gospel and committed to the authority of Scripture.” (p. 25)
‘Anyone who has ever grown in a skill – a sport, an art form, a job – knows that growth doesn’t come by ways of comfort. Growth happens when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and allow our confidence and assumptions to be shaken.’ (p. 37)
‘Christianity is not about seeking out suffering; it’s about seeking first the kingdom of God. It’s not about celebrating our pain and brokenness; it’s about celebrating our redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.’ (p. 42)
‘Following Jesus means putting aside our own desire to be God and allowing him to reign supreme in us and for us.’ (p. 48)
‘There is neither a perfect-for-me person nor a perfect-for-me church. In relationships and in faith, it’s about commitment rather than consumerism; finding ways to serve rather than desiring to be served; filling a need rather than finding a niche.’ (p. 50)
‘The Christian life is not a call to be true to yourself. It’s a call to deny yourself, or at least to deny those parts of yourself that are incompatible with the human type we should all aspire to imitate: Jesus Christ.’ (pp. 66-67)
‘The Holy Spirit given to the church at Pentecost (Acts 2) is the continuation of a Biblical theme of God’s presence. This includes creation (Gen. 1:26-28), the garden (Gen. 3:8), the tabernacle (e.g., Ex. 40:34-38), the temple e.g., 1 Kings 8:10-13, the prophetic hope (e.g., Ezek. 37:27), the “God with us” incarnation of Jesus (Matt. 1:23), the Word become flesh (John 1:14), Jesus’s promise of eternal presence (”Behold, I am with you always,” Matt. 28:20), and the new-creation promise of God once again physically dwelling with his people (Rev. 21:1-22). (p. 98)
‘Worship shapes us profoundly. It isn’t just an atmospheric adornment to the preaching of theology. It is the preaching of theology.’ (p. 151)
‘Uncomfortable church is what grows and stretches the body of Christ to be effective in the world. It may be seeker-unfriendly, but it will be friendlier to seekers in the long run because it will actually transform them.’ (pp. 187-188)
Brett McCracken’s webpage is brettmccraken.com.
Disclaimer: I have received a free epub copy of this book in return for this review.