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Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation Paperback – July 30, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
First-time author Cunningham is a 20-something who feels ambivalent about and alienated from the church. In 14 letters, she vents her frustrations, telling the church why she is dissatisfied and letting other disgruntled Gen-X and Gen-Y readers know they are not alone. Her generation digs technology, but still craves human intimacy and community. They value "authenticity" and thus are suspicious of churches where worship seems too polished, too "preplanned," too self-consciously cool. The Holy Spirit may move some people to leave their local church, and Cunningham thinks that's okay, as long as they find Christian community somewhere else and refrain from gossiping about the members of their ex-church. The book is not wholly devoted to complaining; Cunningham also highlights the aspects of church life that give her hope. She loves the resiliency and flexibility of the church. And she loves Jesus, who was simultaneously anti-institutional and deeply committed to the church. Cunningham's epistolary format is ironically gimmicky, drawing from the same wells as the inauthentic church services she critiques. Questions at the end of each chapter will help small groups who want to use this book as a jumping-off point for discussion, but ultimately, there is little here that hasn't been said before.
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From the Back Cover
Dear Church is a series of letters from a twenty-something to the global church she’s not always sure she wants to be a part of. The author’s story awakens the voice of a younger generation whose attendance in the church is dropping, yet she encourages the church that their Christian faith is still alive and well. In the end, Dear Church tells a story that will be familiar to every age group: the story of overcoming disillusionment and staying the course. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Sarah's writing was well researched and enjoyable to read, with personal stories that illustrated many of her points. I appreciated that her writing was based heavily on experience and not just speculation or good ideas that don't have any time-tested proof of accuracy. As much as it can be disheartening to admit that many 20-somethings are disillusioned, Sarah offers keen insight and hopeful suggestions without simply deconstructing.
So many in our nation and around the world are lost and the church seems blind. I pray this book will open the eyes of the blind and repentance can come through the church into the world.
Sarah is one of those authors where you forget you're reading. It's more like she's sitting there across from you, sipping her skinny cappucino, eyeing your almond croissant and you're listening to her but knowing she's wondering whether she should've gotten one of those too. When you tell someone about one story or another (and you will because they're irresistable) you're really going to tempted to start it with "You know what Sarah told me yesterday?" I'm telling you, she's in the room with you; it's weird.
And not only are you in the same room, you're in the same boat. I mean it's like she's got her finger on your emotional pulse. She has. You'll love how she delights in your strengths; you'll squirm as she accurately describes your foibles. She's been there. And she's in the process of moving on past cynicism and disillusionment. She hasn't arrived yet, but she's moving on. And she shows you where she's going and look, there's room for you too. And it might mean leaving your church and starting something new and it might not. There's the pay-off. Here's how to tell if the book is for you: You are asking yourself one of these questions and Sarah doesn't give you the answer but helps you ask the rest of the questions as well: Is it time to leave? How do I leave without running away? How could I possibly stay without faking it?
Here (I can't resist) is one of the things Sarah told me last week: "...When we draw pictures of 'the church' for our children, we want those images to look less like a steepled building and more like the latitude and longitude lines embracing every inch of the globe." (p. 108).
I have read your letters and I must admit that I was very surprised. I was surprised by your brutal honesty. I was surprised by your assessment of the church. I was surprised by your hopeful ending. But most of all I was surprised by my reaction. I can understand your situation--I too am a life long Christian. In fact, I entered life the same year as you, but that is not all that we have in common. We have shared similar experiences of disillusionment and frustration with a church which fails to meet our expectations. I must admit that my first response to your letters was skepticism and even a little bit of outrage. Like you, I stayed with the church despite her flaws, but it wasn't easy. After years of arguing with my friends who have walked away from Christianity, defending the church has become a part of my identity. So, you can understand my indignation when you stripped off the church's pretty outer garments and laid her flaws bare for all to see.
Yet, as I read through your letters, your pain began to resonate with something deep inside of me. Your schizophrenic experiences of trying not to be ashamed of the church (because true Christians know that we shouldn't be ashamed of the gospel), while at the same time flinching when someone mentioned the "c" word in the real world rang especially true with me. They reflect my own experiences and feelings toward the church--a mixture of love and disappointment. Just last week the speaker at my church used the aforementioned verse to chastise anyone who would be uncomfortable holding an altar call every Sabbath. A part of me wishes that life were so black and white, but another part of me knows that it is not. Am I being too influenced by the secular culture? You don't seem to think so. Although you are freely willing to admit that part of our culture needs sanctification, you also affirm the good in it. You acknowledge that we are overly idealistic, impatient, and maybe a little too consumed with questions, but you also affirm that we bring honesty and transparency to the church.
That is when I realized that your letters were not merely rants about the shortcomings of the church. Rather, they are heartfelt desires poured out on ink. They are not just a list of complaints--they are guides to solutions. Despite all your negative experiences with her, you still love the church. Your love for her hums a melody throughout the first few chapters and breaks forth in full harmony in the last three. Yours is a responsible rant, because your final letters propose solutions to the problems we have for too long ignored. This is not a spur-of-the-moment complaint dropped in the suggestion box. It is a carefully prayed over message that brings out some wise suggestions of getting over disappointment with the church.
This is not to say that I agree with everything you have written. I do have a couple complaints (I am a Gen Xer after all). First, it seems that you put very low importance on doctrinal truth. It is true that many battles in the church are fought over insignificant details. However, that does not mean that we should never cause a ruckus. God wants his people to lovingly stand up for truth found in the bible. In addition, you seem to oversimplify the issues involved with unity. You seem to suggest that the great number of denominations is a problem that needs to be fixed. However, that type of trite observation does not do justice to the bigger issue of how to deal with heresy and abuse of power in the church. Should a group that is being maligned by those in power stay within the church merely to create an appearance of unity? Perhaps if people and churches were perfect these problems could be resolved without schisms, but as you yourself have pointed out, neither are.
Perhaps the problem is not in what we disagree on, but how we disagree.
We can disagree and we can debate as long as we show courtesy, respect, and love to each other. Perhaps when we actually listen to one another we will all learn something new. For that reason I hope that many more people will read your letters. Though they may not agree with everything that you have written, I hope that they will read them with a measure of love. You have begun a dialogue on a topic that has been silent for too long. Perhaps your letter will open the door for more letters or emails or phone calls. Perhaps other disillusioned twentysomethings will read them and be prompted to return. Perhaps powerful fortysomethings will read them and be moved to adapt. And perhaps then our disillusionment will be surprised by hope.
A Hopefully Surprised Reader
Most recent customer reviews
With witty humor and in a cleverly constructed format, Sarah Cunningham writes a series of letters on her generation's disillusionment with the church.Read more
Here is a book well worth reading. Sarah Cunningham is the conscience of her generation.Read more