212 of 225 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2008
I finished the book in about two days. A very good and intriguing read. Perhaps the greatest thing that I have taken away from the book is a reminder of both the complexity and simplicity of Father's love.
I have read several of the comments written about this book, and I can't help but wonder if the majority of them have still missed the central message of the book and the gospel itself: Everything is about the Father's love.
A search of scripture will quickly reveal that the Father is much more interested in our unqualified fellowship with him than making sure that our ecclesiology is correct.
I read the book and immediately wanted my wife and all others I know to read it too. My hope was that they would get the same revelation that I did. Unfortunately, Father doesn't work that way. Father understands that this thing called "Christianity" is a journey not a destination. As He leads us, He desires intently that we remain in fellowship with him. His holiness is not subverted merely because we we forsake structure and seek him as a loving father, rather his holiness is magnified the tighter we cleave to him.
Paul wrote in Galatians that is was for freedom that Christ set us free. Not so that we can be burdened again with the yoke of the law; or as this book alludes, institutional religion. To be sure, in nearly every body of believers there are those who love the Lord with abandon and who deem it a privilege to be on this journey, seeking more and more about His person. But there are also those who seek their own gain and labor to perpetuate the institutionalism of the establishment. Serving the "church" for the sake of the "church." Doing away with "church" was not the goal of this book; rather it was about focusing on Father's love and leading--however that may look.
Let's not miss the proverbial forest for the trees. Gal 5:6 (NIV) "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." If we remain focused on Father's love for us, then our motives, actions, speech and direction will follow his leading and will be centered upon him. We won't need regulations, bylaws and rules because the driving factor is Father's love. When we miss the mark (sin) his forgiveness and grace readily abound. We then use our forgiven, grace-infilled lives as testimonies of Father's love.
If a fictional book can shift our focus to Father's love--great! If a Sunday morning service can shift our focus to Father's love--awesome! If a movie, car accident, children's book, documentary, tragedy, illness, or whatever can shift our focus to Father's love than praise be to God! The goal is Father's love. Period.
Look for Him to reveal His love as you read this book and know that He has promised that He will reveal it to you. Blessings on your journey!
213 of 228 people found the following review helpful
This book is perfect for people who have been alienated by the Christian church and/or by Christians, but also for people who are happy with the Christian church. It is actually a book about how to be in love with Jesus, and how that can manifest in today's church environment. I am sharing this book with everyone I know who is a Christian, and will read it again myself.
It doesn't matter what your denomination is or what your beliefs are; if you want to return to a "first love"-type relationship with Jesus, buy and read this book. You will not be able to put it down.
It is written as a novel, with a mysterious character who may be the disciple John, and a burnt-out pastor as the main character, Jake. Pastor Jake's life is suspenseful over the four years that the novel takes place, and the changes that take place in his life and in his thinking are riveting.
I read this in one day and am sharing it with my daughter, friend, and husband on our vacation. It will deliver an experience---a memory recreated in the present, if that makes sense---of the closest moments you have had with God.
If you are offended by or disillusioned with Christians, and especially if you are out of church altogether, it will help you to deal with what has happened to you. It may or may not bring you back to the institutional church, as this is totally irrelevant to the book---it's about how we've substituted church for Jesus, and in doing so, missed the best thing of all.
76 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2006
A must for all tired, oppressed, work-driven, bored Christians who lead a joyless existence. Many know that a drastic change is needed in their Christianity, but few know what to do or what the real problems are. Many will be blessed and encouraged by this book, others will be furious and denounce it as heretical or rebellious. If you are happy with your church, thank God and don't read this book. Others fed up with dead religiosity will read it and rejoice. Those who have marvelled at the life and vibrancy of Christians in places like China after reading books such as "The Heavenly Man" by brother Yun will find this book helpful in their path of pursuing more of Jesus.
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
This is likely one of the best books I have ever read and I'll tell you why.
I've been all about the Church for most of my life. I've been a pastor, a denominational official, a Church Administrator, an Elder, a Chairman of the Board and while I'm not currently in a formal Church Ministry role, I'm finishing up a Master's degree in Organizational Leadership and writing a Master's Thesis on Leadership Styles and impact within the organization of the Church.
On some levels, I'm sick and tired of the organization of the Church. Many of the criticisms leveled at it for being impersonal, political, manipulative, disingenuous and full of petty people are unfortunately true. There are literally millions of people who comprise the walking wounded who have brushed paths with many Churches and have sworn that they are never going back to such a place because it is full of hypocrites and toxic people.
I understand that. I'm reminded of the man who said all the things above to his wife and ended up with the comment, "And I'm never going back there again." His wife responded, "But you have to go back. You're the Senior Pastor ......"
For all who have felt this way, this book is for you.
Through the masterful use of dialogue in the context of a fictional setting with a pastor who has been wounded, this book touches on all these themes and brings the reader through to the end with an alternative view of Church.
It's not about the organizational Structure. Some imagine that if we just structured the Church right the problems would be solved. I can vouch from a level of involvement that exceeds many, that sadly this is not the case.
The church will never be perfect in this age because I am not perfect.
What is needed is a new view and understanding of the Church. This book does an excellent job of illustrating where hope lies.
I recommend it highly! 5 Stars.
300 of 381 people found the following review helpful
Jake Colsen is the author of So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. Jake Colsen does not exist. Rather, he is a pseudonym for the combined work of Dave Coleman and Wayne Jacobsen. You may recognize Wayne Jacobsen as one of the founders of Windblown Media, the company that published a little book called The Shack--a little book that has gone on to sell well over a million copies. As The Shack has found international renown, it has pulled in its wake Windblown Media's two other titles, both of which are written or co-written by Jacobsen.
So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore is a story about a man named Jake who is an associate pastor at a fast-growing mega-church. In the book's early pages he encounters a man named John whom he comes to believe may just be the Apostle John. Overhearing what John teaches he realizes quickly that his Christian faith is almost hopelessly rote and anemic. "Although I had been a Christian for more than two decades, I had no concept of who Jesus was as a person and no idea how I could change that." This book covers a span of months or years which sees him grow from a pastor of immature faith to a man of wisdom and mature faith.
The book is framed around continued encounters with this character John. In fact, almost every chapter begins with Jake thinking or worrying about a particular issue, only to have John quickly and mysteriously materialize. John helps Jake overcome his fears and his questions and then disappears to leave him to think about and to implement the things he now knows.
The predominant theme of the book is issues surrounding the local church. The overall teaching is that the church as most Christians understand it is a human institution designed primarily to gain and to protect power. The Bible, according to the authors, does not teach that Christians should be part of any kind of institutional church. This is not to say that we should leave mega-churches to join smaller house churches; rather, we should abandon this kind of church model altogether. While the authors do not clearly or precisely share what Christians should or can do in its place, it seems that it would look something like this: "Instead of trying to build a house church, learn to love one another and share one another's journey. Who is he asking you to walk alongside right now and how can you encourage them? I love it when brothers and sisters choose to be intentional in sharing God's life together in a particular season. So, yes, experiment with community together. You'll learn a lot. Just avoid the desire to make it contrived, exclusive, or permanent. Relationships don't work that way." By the book's closing pages, Jake has left the church and now meets irregularly with an irregular group of people from his community. This is presented as being a form of authentic spirituality that is closer to the biblical model than that which is practiced by the vast majority of Christians today. It is the better alternative to church as most Christians know and experience it.
Of course I would be drawn to this model, too, if my church was anything like the one Jake comes from. His congregation is much like a drunken fraternity. The pastor is an angry man who holds tightly to his power, who expects people to lie to protect his reputation and who is having an abusive affair with a vulnerable congregation member. The members of the church are petty and divisive, heartlessly shunning those who disagree with them, demanding immediate restitution for any perceived wrong, persecuting children who do not properly memorize their verses, and fighting for positions of prominence within the local church. Overall, the authors give an exceedingly negative portrayal of the local church. It is a portrayal that includes all the stereotypes so treasured by those who hate Christianity. The church members are hopelessly ignorant, able to recite chapter and verse but knowing nothing of the "heart" of Scripture. Hence even two lifelong pastors react with apparent shock when they learn that "church" in the Bible primarily refers not to an institution but to a people (as if no Protestant has ever bothered to distinguish between the visible and the invisible church). Against this brutal portrayal of Christian community, the authors present their alternative. And needless to say, it looks awfully good in comparison.
While So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore is theological fiction, the reader may well note that there is little reference to the Bible. Because it is fiction we might not expect to see direct references to particular passages (and, indeed, we do not) but there is little by way even of indirect references. John assumes a certain knowledge of Jesus and common sense spirituality and uses this as his bridge to the hearts and minds of the reader. Rather than saying, "The Bible says this..." he tends to say, "This is what the church is like... Doesn't my version look better?" And of course, with such a dysfunctional church in mind, it really does look better. He looks to the New Testament church on occasion, but is awfully selective, taking only those elements that further his case.
Though Jacobsen does occasionally affirm that institutional churches may do some good, the theme of the book comes through loud and clear. In the appendix Jacobsen says, without any apparent trace of hyperbole, "I can tell you absolutely that my worst days outside organized religion are still better than my best days inside it." And from cover-to-cover, the book is heartlessly negative towards the local church. Christians should, and perhaps even must, withdraw. But the case is made through emotion and through false comparison. Those who hold closely to Scripture may affirm some of what Jacobsen teaches in this book, but they must reject its overall message.
58 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2008
This book was recommended to me by a new acquaintance. The title threw me at first. I really was expecting a book that was presenting some new church model or method, of which I had no desire to embrace. After a few chapters, I was pleasantly surprised. The author describes with accuracy what takes place in many churches. Though not greatly polished in writing style, the author does paint a picture that is painfully true in many cases.
The character in the book named John, does a good job of reminding Jake of the primacy of following Jesus, not some man-made method. The intimacy with God that John describes is refreshing. His emphasis on patience and trust in a sovereign God (my words not his) is a good lesson for all Christians.
But I would caution any reader of this book. The character of John is a fascinating man, and is rarely, if ever, offensive. But he does lead Jake (and the reader) to think less of the local church. The reader is left to think that our individual lives with God is far superior than any corporate gathering. If there are occasions to interact with other believers, then that is a bonus, certainly not something to seek out. I would suggest that our individual lives will never reach its full spiritual potential UNTIL it loves and lives in the fellowship of a local church, where you can know and be known!
My struggle with this concept is that is appears to miss the beauty of the Bride of Christ. I'm not convinced you can love the bride-groom without loving the bride. The church universal is wonderful, but obviously Christ desired believers to be connected to a local body as well. I read the book of Acts (and the rest of the epistles) and see the body worshiping together, sharing together, and even experiencing church discipline together for those who need restorative correction.
I admit that the church is full of hypocrites, sinners, and those who do not demonstrate genuine faith. For that, the church will be held accountable, especially leadership. Also, most local churches are guilty of over-programming everything and getting little result for the money and effort put in. The church ought to embrace relationships with each other and God far more than it does. But to say the church is simply a man-made institution that is unnecessary (my interpretation of the book) is going way to far.
I would rather see the church as a place that we come together to worship our God, which is the overflow of our individual and family worship that we have encountered all week. And together we will accomplish all that God desires. It takes the whole body to accurately display the glory of God in our world. Christ didn't just die for individuals, He died for the church. And each individual ought to be eager to join with fellow believers to evangelize, establish, and equip each other and the world.
Let this book be a stimulus to embrace God, but do not let it deter you from His Body in a local church!
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2007
For those of us "professional Christians" who have been in ordained ministry, this book is paradoxically a major challenge and a "breath of fresh air". It portrays a realistic encounter that challenges many of the assumptions that we were taught in our formal classroom training and later in our ministry affiliations and experiences. I heartily recommend this book for any pastor who wishes to understand what is happening in today's world and for any Christian pilgrim who seriously desires a deeper relationship with the Heavenly Father.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2006
This is an incredible book. It's not long, but is incredibly powerful. It gently looks, in a fictional setting, at why so many Christians are discouraged, or fed up church, but without in any way criticising the Church as such.
Jake, the main character, relates a series of conversations he has with someone called John, and experiences many struggles as he tries to understand better what it really means to live in a meaningful relationship with God day by day.
Not everybody will relate to Jake, and not everybody will reject all forms of structured church. Nor should they - this isn't a book telling anyone what to do. As such as it's an excellent antidote to many of today's ultra-structured 'how to' books on living the Christian life or growing purposeful churches.
All in all, I highly recommend this to anyone as probably the most thought-provoking short novel I have ever read.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2007
This was one of the best books I have ever read on relating the reasons people go or don't go to church. I couldn't put the book down. I am passing the book on for others to read. It really gets you thinking.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2008
The strong message that Jacobsen and Coleman work to convey results in an extraordinarily dialogue-heavy novel. Jake Colsen and John are the only two characters described at any length; neither of them achieves personhood but rather serve as mouthpieces for the points of the authors. Other features common to compelling writing are weak as well: scenery, engaging plot, authentic relationships etc. This is a book on a mission, and that mission does not include striving for excellent fiction writing.
As the characters interacted with John, he was often portrayed as an all-knowing wise man; the one with all the answers. I was quite irritated at the somewhat mindless way in which the characters would ask John to reframe their own experiences according to his own understanding of God. They seemed to ask him how they should think, how they should feel, and I saw much more of this than I saw of them turning to Jesus Himself.
Lest we toss the baby out with the bathwater, there are redeeming features that we must catch sight of in this novel. Through the application of Jacobsen's understanding to a specific, fictional Christian we are able to see how these beliefs might work themselves out on a practical level. Jake leaves the organized church and is led to pursue a less formal, more relational, spirit-led walk with God and other believers. The sharing of this message alone - that Christian's are the church regardless of where they fellowship - makes this title interest-worthy.
While setting the stage for Jake's departure from an organized church John points out the ways in which institutional structures tend to bind rather than free; tending towards religion over relationship. These concerns are certainly valid and have been experienced by many seeking to follow Christ. Unfortunately these points are used to build a less than subtle inference that casual fellowship is better than an organized congregation. The door is left open for believers to remain in established, formal groupings but the attitude is that this is a lesser form of fellowship. In truth, Christians are called to many positions in the body of Christ. Whether called to an institutional setting or to casual, small-scale forms of fellowship, the key is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit above all else.
Despite my reservations, I would like to see So You Don't Want To widely read by members of the body of Christ. Christians are often too hasty to declare that a brother or sister has lost their faith, is a backslider or a prodigal when they fail to establish membership in a local congregation. The body is much larger than we can see and far more diverse than many imagine. What a joy it is to release each other to walk in freedom with the author and finisher of our faith whether that walk leads us to a mega-church, house church or loosely knit community of friends.