Much has been written about ecclesiology over the past few years. We’ve seen the rise of ministries like 9Marks, who have committed themselves to helping build healthy churches. But methodology inside of church is only part of the battle; the reality is, many are asking the simple question, “Why bother with church at all?’
Unfortunately we have witnessed a significant amount of people who are unchurched or dechurched, for a variety of reasons. Many think they only need a good podcast to be spiritually fed, while others have been burned and scarred by past church experience. The gamut runs wide, but the point is clear – the first question we have to answer is, does all this church stuff even matter?
Sam Allberry, associate pastor of St. Mary’s Church in the UK, has written a book in the Questions Christians Ask series that asks this specific question: “Why bother with church?” Allberry is a high-church guy, and the driving force behind that is that he thinks church deeply and truly matters, not only in how it meets our needs, but how we help it meet its needs as well. There are six overarching questions Allberry seeks to address inside this short little book:
- What is church?
- Why do I need church?
- What makes a good church?
- How is a church run?
- How do I survive church?
- How can I be a good church member?
I like the mix of the questions being asked here. We get to the heart of the matter, the significance and the “why”, but Allberry also addresses some important “how” questions. Allberry starts the book by essentially asking, why bother going to church on a Sunday morning as opposed to staying in the park? Allberry makes no bones about it; “Church is an effort” (9), as he will explain especially in the “how” chapters. But Allberry’s thesis also makes it clear, that “when we get what the church is, and whose the church is, we really won’t want to go to the park (or anywhere else) on Sunday morning.” (9)
Allberry uses a good amount of Scripture to back his claims. Making expositional sweeps through passages, primarily Acts, he lays out a foundation for how we should be thinking about church’s role in our lives, and vice versa. For example, in Chapter 3, Allberry spends time unpacking Acts 2:42-47, and the scene at Pentecost and how it identifies what makes a good church. It’s a great section that focuses on learning, partnership, worship, and growth.
Throughout the book, Allberry also addresses some more intense, specialized questions surrounding church. Some of the more hot-button questions about church involve why only men should be pastors, why church is necessary when historically they’ve been harmful, and the necessity for denominations. All of these questions, and more, are addressed at the end of chapters in grey boxes. Allberry, by design of the book and the series, not only is sensitive to the kinds of questions people probably have, but provides clear, detailed, and gracious responses to these questions, and with ease.
Overall, I think Why bother with church? is a brief but important introduction into the need for church, the goodness of church, and the nuts and bolts of church. If you struggle to see why or how church should fit into your life, or if you have some other confusions about why the Bible says certain things about church, you’ll find this book useful. This is also a great discipling tool, for the person who is reaching out to someone unchurched or dechurched, preparing us for the questions that are sure to come. Get Sam Allberry’s newest and enjoy his great blend of wit and weight in Why bother with church?
Note: I was provided a copy of this book by Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review.