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Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality Paperback – June 15, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Spencer, who blogged as the Internet Monk until his untimely death earlier this year, offers a harsh assessment of institutional Christianity-"churchianity." He speaks to the millions who, according to surveys, have changed religions or left them altogether. He takes special aim at evangelical megachurches and prosperity gospel preachers, though he also doesn't spare those who link Jesus to the flag or sociopolitical causes. None of this, he insists, has anything to do with Jesus, who was Jewish (not American), hung out with people others rejected, and made disciples instead of buildings. He advocates "Jesus-shaped spirituality," which can be found in service and scripture and, most important, won't necessarily make you smile, because it can be hard to practice. Like so many critics of the current state of institutional Christianity, Spencer is a lot better at describing the problem than solving it; his indictment gets a little repetitious at times. But his tone is folksy and passionate without ranting. The book is his last word, and stands as the sincere testament of a Christian humble enough to admit and even embrace his flaws.
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Praise for
Mere Churchianity

“This is a book you’ll treasure and go back to over and over again. It’s convicting, funny, and wise. And even if you wince, it’s profoundly biblical. Meet the real Jesus and you’ll never be the same. And not only that, you’ll rise up and call me blessed for having told you about it.”
—Steve Brown, professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando), author, and teacher on the Key Life radio program

“There is an anxious question in the air: does church contribute anything positive to following Jesus? If you are asking this question, the late Michael Spencer is someone who felt your pain. If you have left the church to follow Jesus, and if you find him, Jesus will lead you to a community of fellow followers—call it what you will. Mere Churchianity will guide you along this path.”
—Bishop Todd Hunter, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, author of Giving Church Another Chance

“Michael Spencer was a self-described ‘post-evangelical’ Christian. He pointed out what already was obvious to many: that too often, churches practice ‘moralistic, culture-war religion.’ And sadly, their members are ‘church-shaped’ rather than Jesus-shaped. Almost prophetic in his railing against the prosperity gospel and efforts to turn God into a ‘convenient vending machine,’ Spencer’s book offers a timely and difficult reimagining of what living as a person of faith really means.”
—Jennifer Grant, journalist, columnist for The Chicago Tribune

Mere Churchianity expresses a brilliant empathy for those who are disillusioned with—and distant from—what evangelicalism has become. At the same time, Michael’s writing is a clarion call to evangelicals to stop obscuring Jesus and his gospel. This book asks the most challenging question of all: does the body of Christ resemble Jesus?”
—Jared C. Wilson, pastor, author of Your Jesus Is Too Safe

“If you are satisfied with the way the church does Christianity in America, then you should back slowly away. However, if you are willing to be challenged, and maybe even infuriated, by Michael Spencer’s analysis of evangelicalism, then read this book. You may or may not agree with him, but you will be forced to think and hopefully pray about how we engage those who have left our churches.”
—Dave Burchett, author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People

“Every Christian, regardless if they’re engaged in church or not, needs to read, discuss, and reread Mere Churchianity. Reading this book is like the best of Brennan Manning, Anne Lamott, and Philip Yancey all rolled into one literary experience. This is the best, most easily relatable book about following Jesus that I’ve read in at least ten years. What Michael left behind in words is nothing short of a gift.”
—Matthew Paul Turner, author of Churched and Hear No Evil

“In this highly anticipated manifesto, Michael Spencer wrote for a generation that is struggling to figure out what it means to live out Jesus-shaped spirituality. Michael was familiar with the burdens of the dominating religious, political, and cultural norms that suffocate our everyday existence. Mere Churchianity delivers, and its message will live on through people who can’t help but be changed by it.”
—Andrew Marin, author of Love Is an Orientation, president of The Marin Foundation

“As someone who has been writing for years on the supremacy of Jesus Christ and its relationship to his church, I found the Christ-centeredness of this book to be profoundly refreshing. We have lost a choice servant of God in Michael, but heaven is the richer. I’m thankful that he left us this excellent contribution.”
—Frank Viola, author of Jesus Manifesto, Reimagining Church, and Finding Organic Church

“You will look far and wide before you find another Christian who speaks with as much honesty, insight, and foresight as Michael Spencer. I am very careful about the Christian books I recommend, but this one definitely makes the list. I am excited to have a book I can give my non-Christian friends that accurately portrays Jesus.”
—Jim Henderson, author of Evangelism without Additives, Jim and Casper Go to Church, and The Outsider Interviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: WaterBrook; 1 edition (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307459179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307459176
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #955,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason W. Blair on June 3, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is one of the best and most challenging books on Christian discipleship I have read. If you have (or have nearly) burned out on "church," or if you have suffered emotional or spiritual abuse at the hands of those who put church before Jesus, this is for you. If you have walked out on the church, but still look for some connection to Jesus, this is for you. Michael Spencer gives no pretense, no bull, and no judging people as second class citizens to a perceived spiritual in-crowd. He simply offers Jesus and his invitation to life and fellowship.

While some time is spent calling out the problems with institutional Christianity, especially his own American Evangelicalism, that is far from the focus of the book. Nor does Michael hold himself out as some kind of guru making empty promises. Instead, he calls all to stop looking to the circuses and power plays used to guide or coerce people into loyalty to man-made institutions, and points them to Jesus. Mere Churchianity expands what Michael Spencer meant when he said, "If you are going to think about God, go to Jesus and start there, stay there and end there."

Though Michael died in April 2010, his first and only book serves to share the message he was getting at through ten years of writing at [...]. I recommend it without reservation to anyone who has even a passing interest in Jesus or Christianity.
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I had read Michael Spencer's "Internet Monk" blog for about a year and a half when word came that he had cancer. Still grieving this loss, reading Mere Churchianity loosed a variety of emotions.

What a wonderful gift to us, this book, such a pleasure to read more of his writings.

How very well he understood the conflicted emotions of millions of present-day Christians. He gets it! He understands why so many of us find it difficult to remain in churches where Jesus is treated as little more than a commodity to buy and sell.

How honest, how open, how refreshing the words as I turned each page.

How much I miss Michael, even though we never met.

How well he speaks to my own struggles. It was as though he wrote this book just for me. (I suspect many readers will feel the same way.)

With his honest, easygoing style, it was as though we were just talking, sharing a glass of tea on the porch or sitting at a ballgame. Him, telling his stories, understanding my struggles. And then there were lines that made me laugh aloud!

Through all his writings, on his blog and in this book, Michael always encouraged a life shaped by Jesus, as opposed to shaped by the church. The phrase he often used was "Jesus Shaped Spirituality." This is about discipleship to Jesus, as apposed to discipleship to a church. This is about living honestly as Christians.

Who should read this book?

This book needs to be read by all who have felt conflicted, rejected, neglected, abused, misused, confused by the church. Those who have felt isolated and alone in a congregation full of smiles. Those who have left or are leaving, or who are unsure why they are staying. Those who need Jesus, not church, at the center of their lives.
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I must have been living behind a virtual rock, because up until the point I received Mere Churchianity, I'd never heard of the Internet Monk, Michael Spencer. From the back cover, I learned that he was a mentor and pastor to "hundreds of thousands of `church-leavers.'" This had me both a bit intrigued and yet mildly concerned. While I am in no way a fan of the stereotypical American church (something perhaps a bit shocking for one training for the ministry), my call is more of one to reform the church and not leave it. Nonetheless, I was curious as to what Spencer would have to say.

The book is broken into four parts: The Jesus Disconnect, the Jesus Briefing, The Jesus Life, and The Jesus Community. The first part discusses how the church has left Jesus, and so as a result people have left the church. Spencer takes to task the mega-churches and celebrity pastors who - even if they don't preach a health and wealth prosperity gospel - live out the principles of American consumerism even over the principles of Christ. Spencer also satirizes the traditions of denominationalism, asking how we can be a united body of Christ if we can't even identify ourselves uniformly (and that's just in the first chapter of this part).

The second part continues Spencer's honest and frank insights. He urges us to remove Jesus from our modern culture and get to Jesus without the gaudy baggage of western Christianity. Part 3 lambasts Christians who talk the talk but don't walk the walk when it comes to living a "victorious life" in Christ. The chapter When I Am Weak is sure to be as controversial as it is powerful, as Spencer reminds us that - quoting Hermann Sasse, who was in turn paraphrasing Martin Luther - "Christ dwells only in sinners.
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I have been reading Michael Spencer's blog for the last couple of years. Prior to reading this book, I wondered if there would be anything in it that I had not already seen written by Michael in one form or another. Well, the overall message is the same, but the writing was fresh, well-organized, and I did learn some new things about Michael's walk on this earth prior to his death in April 2010.

Michael has such a passion for Jesus-shaped spirituality and I hope he inspires millions with his wonderful writing. There are so many great quotations I would want to share, but I will just use this one from page 203: "If you read the Bible, you know that Jesus-shaped spirituality lives in both worlds--the spiritual and the physical. Or to look at it a different way, the world is spiritual, even the physical realm. God is everywhere. When Jesus lived on earth, he blessed ordinary places with his presence. It's holy to help people with their very real, ordinary, tangible needs."
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