I received a pre-release review copy of Unchurching from Speakeasy. As soon as I heard of it I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on a copy because I am a huge fan of Richard’s ‘Church Anarchist’ animated videos. If you have never seen them before, I highly recommend clicking here and checking them out. They are short, easy to understand and great at communicating simple truths about the differences between organic churches and institutionalized ones.
Richard’s book, much like his videos, reveals that he is a great communicator. I have probably read around 20 books on what it means to be the church, most of which were from the perspective of house/organic churches and I am glad to say that this is not just more of the same recycled information again. Unchurching adds fresh perspectives to the conversation while still covering the essentials as to what it means to be the body of Christ here on earth. One of the main themes in the book explores what it looks like to live in community and how to pursue that using the biblical illustration of the church as a family. He also takes a look at the priesthood of all believers, how institutional churches actually stifle it and how we can rediscover it once again. Two main ideas stuck out here for me; firstly, Richard’s perspective on how the 5-fold ministry equips the body for ministry is out of the box and refreshing. Then secondly, his treatment of the subject of men and woman as equals is fantastic. He takes us beyond the usual quibbles over headship and goes right back to Genesis starting with the first man and woman revealing God's original intentions for them.
I won’t go into his explanations here but I will comment that for the church to truly be one and for the priesthood of all believers to be fully realized I think Unchurching is a great catalyst for believers who are seeking to take a step in the right direction and realize it as more than just a doctrine that we give lip service to.
What I found to be most insightful and unique to this book though is the discussion around the institutional churches identity and how it is affected once it has taken the step to incorporate itself. There is a little bit of a history lesson showing where corporations come from as well as some legal talk explaining what corporations are. In essence, a corporation is a fictitious person that exists in perpetuity, so, when a church incorporates itself, it is the corporation rather than the congregation that legally becomes a church. What that boils down to is that you can leave a ‘church’ as can every other person who attends it and yet still have a 'church' in theory (even if it's just an empty building) which is alien to how scripture speaks about the community of believers. Richard then asks the questions, has the church in the process of gaining limited liability and tax exempt status sold its birthright? And what does the church lose when it does not value its identity? Regardless of how you answer these questions they are important ones to be asking.
I enjoyed this book even though it is, as the author states himself, meant for a specific audience. This book is primarily meant for those who are ‘unchurching’, not because they have given up on God but because they sense there is something more to being a community of Christians than attending certain programs in specific buildings on specific days. Unchurching is not about ‘unchurching’ at all but about pursuing a deeper relationship with God and those around us. Only those who are looking for that already will probably see it in this book and that is probably how it is meant to be anyway.
Unchurching has not being released yet, I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy for review purposes but you can read a sample portion of the book as well as keep up to date with news related to the official release by clicking over here.