I’ve always wanted to be able to quote Larry the Cucumber with sincerity and authenticity. Bob Hostetler has given me the chance with his newest book, Quit Going to Church. “I laughed. I cried. It moved me, Bob.” If you don’t get the joke, go watch Veggie Tales “Dave and the Giant Pickle”. I’ll wait to finish the review until you get back.
Back already? Good. I continue…
My experience is that relevant books don’t share brand new revolutionary ideas. Rather they resonate and affirm brand new revolutionary ideas that have been percolating in our minds. The books that we enjoy the most crystalize and put into words nebulous thoughts that we’ve had before, but hadn’t articulated. “Quit Going to Church” is just such a book.
The first chapter is also the title chapter, kind of like the title track on an album. As you consider the apparently contrarian title and read the first book it becomes apparent that Bob is setting the table for those of us that have been in church for a while. Bob doesn’t seem to intend this book for those who are dissatisfied with church, but rather for those of us that have been operating on auto-pilot. While reading the first chapter I was reminded of a phrase that we’re fond of around here, “Just because you’re in a church building doesn’t mean that you’re part of the church that God is building.”
It was in chapter two that I cried. No, really, I cried. The picture of prayer toward the end of this chapter is alone worth the price of the book, but please read the whole thing.
Chapter three? That’s where I laughed. Trust me. Read it. If you follow Bob on twitter (which I strongly recommend), then you know that his books won’t leave you in want of laughs, chortles, snorts and guffaws.
And thus “Quit Going to Church” flows. One chapter after the next challenges many dear, and might I say idolatrous, beliefs that we have held about Christianity for centuries, but aren’t found in Scripture. And Bob doesn’t lack in Scriptural support in the points made. It’s refreshing to see so many Biblical addresses in the footnotes. Some readers may be put off by the author’s use of Hebrew, Greek and sources that may seem pedantic. I offer the encouragement that Bob puts the cookies on the bottom shelf so that even I can reach them.
For those that have attended one of Worship Concepts Network’s “AWEthentic Worship Experience” conferences, you will recognize why “Quit Going to Church” resonates with me on many levels. The chapter “Quit Sharing Your Faith” reveals how we often view “pre-saved” persons as commodities rather than as people. “Quit Volunteering” echoes our own “Differences between slaves and servants.” Chapter ten is “Quit trying to Be Good”…wow, simply wow. And “Quit Enjoying Worship” is hereafter on the Worship Concepts Network required reading list.
Bob is well read and it is evident in this offering. Many of the themes in “Quit Going to Church” will be familiar to well-read Christians. But Bob is successful at unpacking many of them in a new light. I confess that Bob quotes some sources, pastors, and authors with whom I have serious theological differences. However, we can often learn the most from those with whom we disagree. To my regular blog readers, who might be put off by certain “names” that are bandied about in unflattering terms by evangelicals, please receive their words as you would themselves as persons…in Christ’s love. Just as not everything that we say is “good”, not everything said by those with whom we disagree is “evil.”
If there is one place where “Quit Going to Church” doesn’t resonate with me, it’s in “Quit Living in the Center of God’s Will.” When addressing God’s will for our lives and living “by faith” there is the risk of sharing stories of victory and saying, “Look, it worked there. So and so stepped out in faith, defying all reason and sanity, and God delivered the victory!” The final chapter here is more balanced than most in this regard, but it still draws on a story of victory. When I read such accounts and interpretations I want to ask, “What about those in Hebrews 11:35-40? What about the martyrs? What faith did they lack that they didn’t get to see the promise fulfilled?”
Bob is clever and creative in his approach and the Bible story that he uses is unique. In order to avoid a “spoiler alert” I’ll simply say that he continues a contrarian approach. However, the protagonist in the illustration maintained his faith and was victorious. Frankly, I want to hear from those that were “defeated”, those that didn’t see the promise fulfilled in their lifetime, and remained faithful.
OK, that’s out of the way. Now go read Bob Hostetler’s “Quit Going to Church.” Each chapter concludes with a specific and practical prayer. Read each chapter prayerfully and to paraphrase Larry the Cucumber, “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. Where you need to be firm, God will shore up your foundation. Where you need to be moved, God will draw your heart toward His.”