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Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion [Paperback]

Kevin L DeYoung , Ted Kluck
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Moody Press,U.S. (1 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802458378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802458377
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 189,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You'd be stupid not to fall in love too! 2 Feb 2011
The best review I can give is to share some quotes:

"Church isn't boring because we're not showing enough film clips, or because we play organ instead of guitar. It's boring because we neuter it of it's importance."

Wow. How true is that. Often, especially when we're thinking about contextualization, we can neuter the power right out of the Gospel. Quite a warning.

He continues with regards the way he hopes his life is viewed when he's gone:

"...At the end of my life, I want my friends and family to remember me as someone who battled for the gospel, who tried to mortify sin in my life, who fought hard for life, and who contended earnestly for the faith. Not just a nice guy who occasionally noticed the splendour of the mountains God created, while otherwise just trying to enjoy myself, manage my schedule, and work on my short game."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Andrew Davison 10 Jun 2011
This is terrific defense of the place of the Church in the works of God by two American evangelicals. It is popular rather than academic but well rooted in their Reformed tradition. Christians of all perspectives would have a lot to learn from this book. It is well written and bounds along in an informal style. It could reasonably easily be read in one sitting.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  58 reviews
66 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Churchless" Christianity? 20 July 2009
By Paul D. Adams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Some time ago a dear friend and fellow ministry partner sat down with me and strongly yet lovingly urged me (and my wife) to go back to church. Even though he intimately understood why we left our traditional church, my friend sincerely believes that it is good for us and for the church that we be connected to a local body of believers. Since that time, we have been praying about and occasionally looking for a church that we believe fits the biblical qualifications of what a church is and does.

A variety of "good" reasons have come up why we think that we don't need to be involved in a church to be the church. In some ways these reasons justify us being "churchless" Christians (Note the equivocation of "church" here. In this post, context should make it evident how "church" is used; primarily "church" means "traditional church."). Many of our reasons are addressed in Why We Love the Church and, after reading a review by my good friend Louis at Baker Books, I decided to read the book by DeYoung and Kluck. To say the least, I was surprisingly encouraged and challenged.

This book is a candid, balanced, biblically thoughtful, historically informed, and pastorally sensitive corrective to radical Christianity that says "NO!" to traditional church. Honestly, many of my ideas and feelings about traditional church have been not only addressed but adjusted at several points.

At first I was reluctant to begin this book because of past hurts and pains with traditional church.
Lord knows we have some deep pains (as you may) with churches. Not 20 pages in to the book and it seemed this would be just an apologetic for "church as usual." Statements like "I might as well have a basement without a house or a head without a body as despise the wife my Savior loves" (p. 19) made me uneasy, to say the least. After all, isn't "despise" strong language? Must every gathering of believers be tied to or connected with a traditional church model lest they be accused of "despising" the church?

Thankfully, after moving into Chapter 1 it became apparent that Kevin DeYoung's analysis (I'll reserve comments to his chapters only) has most to do with the church being the champion of Gospel proclamation, rather than a mere change agent of society couched in biblical terms like "missional." His call for the church's faithfulness to believe, rely on, accurately proclaim and live out, pray for, train up families in, and trust God for the Gospel is hardly a point that I (or any responsible Christian) could argue. DeYoung insists that "proclaiming this message of redemption is the main mission of the church, even more than partnering with God to change the world." Spot on, Kevin...spot on!! This book does not discourage transformational efforts in our communities and around the globe; only they need to be under the priority of Gospel proclamation. Even though not being in a traditional church for some time, my wife and I have always maintained: If we do not put the central message of Christianity at the heart of every activity, then all other efforts carry little weight at best and certainly have zero eternal value. After finishing this chapter, I had to keep reading.

Chapter 3 speaks to the relevance (or irrelevance) of the church. Church is boring, outdated, too big, abusive, inauthentic (fill in your own nomenclature). DeYoung challenges these charges while admitting some truth to them where appropriate. The audience here is individual churchless Christians asking that we consider what is really being rejected: the church or the faith; one institution (traditional church) for another (homeless shelters); genuine joy in the Lord if it does not share a cynicism toward church; an opportunity for growth by sticking with an imperfect church? Although my wife and I clearly have not nor could ever leave the faith because of an imperfect expression of it, I had to prayerfully consider the other questions.

"The Historical: One Holy Catholic Church," Chapter 5 is a pointed response to some of the churchless books (which I've purposefully not read because my own cynicism has been sufficiently caustic at times) charging the traditional model with "pagan" forms of doing church. One of the net deductions of DeYoung's research (and that of well-known scholar Ben Witherington, see here, here, here, here, and here) is that whether surrounded by four walls with paid staff or neighborhood gatherings and home Bible studies, we cannot escape pattern and structure. Thus in some sense, churchless Christianity may be cutting off its rebellious nose to spite its radical face.

The last section of this chapter, "A Sorry Bunch of Christians," has some keen psychological insights into how traditional-church-sucks types enjoy apologizing for the sins of the church rather than sharing in the Body's burden as a family. This is worth considerable reflection and shows a great deal of maturity from the rather young DeYoung pastor of only 32 years.

Chapter 7 hit me the hardest. "The Church of Diminishing Definition" lays down solid responses to "churchless Christianity." Rather than a "minimalist ecclesiology," DeYoung argues for a "sharpened understanding" to the distinction between invisible and visible church. Admittedly, the visible church is an imperfect reflection of the invisible church, but "instead of using the invisible-visible distinction as a way to avoid church commitment, church-leavers would see the distinction as an impetus for patience with the [visible] church" (p. 163). As such, "we'd be more like the Reformers who never used the distinction to undermine the place of the organized church, but to emphasize the spiritual essence of God's gathered people...[which] needs to be made visible." Other important contributions in this chapter include:

"Though individual believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit as temples of God, only the church constitutes the body of Christ."

"...to say the church is the people of God is not the same as saying that wherever the people of God are there you have a church."

"The church manifests itself in churches. And churches do certain things and are marked by certain characteristics."

"The `revolutionary' understanding of the church is right in what it affirms....but wrong in all that it leaves out."

"The Bible simply does not teach a leaderless church."

"We cannot throw out the pastoral office just because we prefer a `flat structure' or just because some pastors are goons."

"The priesthood of all believers does not negate the need for authority structures in the church." (p. 184, footnote 36)

Perhaps the strongest statement here, from a senior pastor of a mid-sized church no less, and one that clearly shows a striving for objectivity and balance is:

"If house churches have good preaching, good leadership, good theology, intentional discipleship, appropriate structures, rich worship, and administer the sacraments and practice church discipline, then I don't care if they meet in my basement. House churces aren't the only way to do church, but done right, they are a way" (p. 179).

The epilogue, written by DeYoung, basically makes an appeal to the Reformed (and in my estimation thoroughly biblical) principle of total depravity. At first I wondered how he would tie in the first point of Calvinism with ecclesiology, but within a few pages it made perfect sense to me. In a word, the church is full of "sinning saints and sinning sinners." Consequently, we should keep our idealism in check and recognize that the Body of Christ, though redeemed for all eternity, is a work in progress. In fact, this is a common motif running throughout the entire book and clearly colors the authors' view on the nature and function of the church. In a candid moment, DeYoung remarks:

"This book is not meant to be an apology for nothing but more of the same; rather, it's a plea for realism. Things are not the worst they've ever been. The end of the church in America is not nigh upon us. There are grave failings in the church, in the evangelical church as much as anywhere. We need better preaching, better theology, more love for Jesus, more involvement in our neighborhoods, more evangelism, more crossscultural missions, more generosity, more biblical literacy, less worldliness, less trend-tracing, and better discipleship...But in the midst of our struggles, we need to guard against wild hyperbole. We need to exercise more caution before we pronounce the end of the church as we know it. We need a little more humility before we announce everything must change. And we need more wisdom before we reinvent the church for yet another time-let alone before we pitch her to the crub altogether."

I especially appreciated the balance brought by this book. Where the church has failed, the authors make clear their agreement and lament her failures. Where the church has succeeded, they shine a bright light on the Bride of Christ showing all her radiant beauty. Perhaps one of the most important principles that I came away with was this: It is only as the church of Christ that it can properly discharge her mission for Christ in proclaiming the Gospel. Her identity defines her function.

Thanks to DeYoung and Kluck for sharing their burden for the Bride of Christ.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great critique of the home/missional church movement 1 Nov 2011
By C. R. Mooney - Published on Amazon.com
If you were to stop someone on the street and ask them what the first thing that came to their mind was when you say "Christian," the top three answers would be Jesus, cross, and church. And why not? Two thousand years ago Jesus came to earth, died on a cross, and established the church to carry His good news to the world.

I would also contend that as soon as Jesus feet disappeared through the clouds as He ascended to heaven the arguments about how the church should be structured began. And two thousand years later, the quest for the "authentic" way to do church continues.

Unfortunately, it's popular today to say that church sucks. A growing number of people in the church will not only agree with this, but gladly tell you why. Really. So what are we to do about it?

Some say we should throw the ship that is the modern church out and build a new one based on what God originally intended before it was contaminated by "pagan rituals." Others believe that we are on the right ship, just our heading needs to be adjusted to get us headed to port.

In "Why We Love The Church" Pastor Kevin DeYoung and coauthor Ted Kluck take a stand against what they believe is an "anti-church" movement and make the case for why the institution of the church is not only necessary to the Christian faith, but is what God designed from the beginning.

The first half of "Why We Love the Church" is a critique of the home/missional church movement and why they believe so many are leaving the traditional church for these other church models. Their emphasis is that the main objective of the church is not self-help, social justice, and casual group meetings, but to preach the Gospel and make disciples.

In the latter half, DeYoung and Kluck build a scriptural basis for institutional church. The home church movement tries to get away from the church offices and structure for a more pliable and casual form. Yes the disciples and early church met in homes, but Jesus clearly set church structure in order when "He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (Ephesians 4:11-12)"

"Why We Love The Church" is an excellent rebuttal to the "leave the church" movement, but I think too much of the book was aimed toward the negative. Instead of focusing on why they love the church, DeYoung and Kluck use nearly half the book explaining why they think George Barna (author of "Revolution" and "Pagan Christianity"), Frank Viola (coauthor of "Pagan Christianity"), and the home church movement have it wrong. It's the equivalent of trying to sell me a new Ford by telling me why I shouldn't buy a Chevy.

The next portion is devoted to "why the church?" Here DeYoung and Kluck show the biblical basis for the institutional church. Once again this information is vital to understanding why we have church in a building with deacons, elders, and pastors, but it still avoids why they love it.

While they admit that the church with four walls has plenty of room for improvement, they show how it's the body of which Christ is the head. It's not just a place we show up to once a week and socialize over a cup of coffee and a doughnut, it's the place "...you plant your flag and say, `This is where I'm a Christian.'(p146)"

Finally, in the last two chapters, we finally see why they love the church. If you want to skip all the history and argument for the church as it is today, jump straight to these.

The first is a letter from Kluck to his son Tristan. It's a passionate plea for his son to see past some of the nonsense that is bound to happen in churches full of imperfect people, and to remember why God established a church. It's the place we go to worship together, to learn together, to do life together. It's a place where we find family, and not always the lovey perfect family, but the messy get your hands dirty with each others family. It's a place and a people we are committed to.

"Why We Love The Church" is an excellent read, and something I recommend to gain a better understanding of why we do church the way we do, but maybe a more fitting title would be "Why We're Not Home Churchers," similar to DeYoung and Kluck's first book, "Why We're Not Emergent."

As for me, I love the church too.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christ loves his bride - After reading this, you will too. 10 Aug 2009
By Matthew Robbins - Published on Amazon.com
It's trendy these days for Christians to claim to love Jesus and want community with other believers, and at the same time ridicule, insult, and abandon Christ's bride, the church. In response to these inside attacks from the likes of Leonard Sweet, William P. Young, and George Barna, authors Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck (of Why We're Not Emergent fame) seek to defend the traditional ideas and practices of the church in their newest book, Why We Love The Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion.

In the introduction to the book, we learn they are writing to 4 different groups: The Committed (those faithfully attending and involved in a church), The Disgruntled (those who are part of local church, but becoming increasingly frustrated), The Waffling (the uninvolved and quietly dissatisfied), and The Disconnected (Christians or ex-Christians who have already left the church). Obviously the message towards each of these groups is different. Ultimately, though, the book is intended to acknowledge the church's faults while kindling a new love for our Savior's bride. Yes, there are improvements that need to be made, and much can be learned from why some people are leaving the church, but ultimately, the church is where Christians exist. If you love Christ, you will love what Christ loves, and Christ loves the church.

As with Why We're Not Emergent, the authors take turns writing chapters, DeYoung (the pastor) handling the more theological and historical chapters, and Kluck (the sports-writing layman) writing the more observational ones. Much of DeYoung's chapters consist of summarizing the ideas of "leavers" like Barna and Young. I really appreciate DeYoung's ability to remain irenic most of the time. He has an ability to disagree with his "opponents" in this book without taking cheap shots at them and gives ample space to communicating the opposing positions fully. He is also very skilled at articulating orthodox doctrine in a fresh way. I think his best chapter was the epilogue where he discusses original sin. The church has all kinds of problems, he argues, because it is full of sinners. Isn't that kind of the point? How can we expect the church to be perfect when Christ hasn't returned and we're all still sinners? He quickly points out that this doesn't excuse all the problems, but it should help explain some of them and help us be patient with the church's flaws.

My favorite chapters from Kluck were chapter 8, where he discusses life in his church. I could see many characteristics of my own church, some good, some bad, but that's life together in the body of Christ. Additionally, Kluck's short letter to his son really hit me as a new father. It made me love my church and kindled a determination to communicate that love to my children.

Whichever of the 4 groups you currently find yourself in, you should read this book. It's honest. It doesn't gloss over the fact that churches mess up. Some do downright strange and ridiculous things sometimes. The book does, however, present biblical, historical, and practical evidence that the church is where the Christian life happens, for better or for worse. Christ loves his bride, and you will love her more after reading this book as well.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Give Up on the Church! 22 Mar 2011
By John Gardner - Published on Amazon.com
The back cover reads, "These days, spirituality is hot; religion is not." The last decade has seen countless books published by those who have left the church, and who encourage others to do so as well. Many who have grown up in church are disenchanted, disillusioned, and otherwise disinterested in attending church services.

In response to the dearth of anti-church literature that has hit the shelves in recent years, Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck have written this book to four groups of readers: The Committed (faithfully attending and involved), The Disgruntled (committed but frustrated), The Waffling (attending but uninvolved and dissatisfied), and The Disconnected (those who have left the church in their quest for God). DeYoung is a pastor in East Lansing, MI, and Kluck is an author who is a member of DeYoung's congregation. The two men alternate chapters, approaching topics from different angles. Both are gifted writers, balancing theological insight with wit and humor throughout the book.

The book addresses four primary reasons given by church-leavers, responding at each point with reasons why the visible, institutional, organized church is still the appropriate place for the believer. These four reasons are "Missiological" (the church isn't accomplishing its mission), "Personal" (I've been hurt by Christians or by the church), "Historical" (real or perceived crimes committed by the church throughout history), and "Theological" (different definitions of what the church should be).

Neither author denies that many of the criticisms are valid, and that there are some very real problems which must be addressed; they simply argue that running away from the church is not the solution, and caution against many unseen problems with the critiques themselves. The church is not perfect, but it's also not nearly as bad as most of its detractors believe it to be.

In fact, one of the primary reasons people get so fed up with the church is that they have unrealistic and unbiblical expectations of what it should be able to accomplish. We have a tendency to have the expectation of a perfection unattainable by those who Luther called simul iustus et peccator -- at the same time justified and sinner. The Bible is clear that one day Christ's church will be perfected, and there will be no more war, disease, death, or any of the other effects of the Fall, but it is also clear that this will only happen when Christ returns. Until then, the church is populated by sinning sinners, who will make mistakes and fail to live up to the standard set by our Lord. However, the church is also the chosen vehicle by which Christ's kingdom is announced to the world.

DeYoung writes:

"The fact of the matter is we are not going to 'transform the face of planet Earth to a place of justice, peace and equity, a place without suffering.' It's no coincidence that disillusionment is such a big theme in the church-leaving literature. Many of these passionate, well-intentioned youngish church-leavers have a vision for the world that is so unlike anything promised on this side of heaven that they can't help but feel disappointed and angry with the church for not getting the world where they think it could go."

The best part of the book, in my opinion, is its epilogue, titled "Toward a Theology of Plodding Visionaries." Here DeYoung posits that what is most lacking in today's churches -- and most responsible for our poor understanding of the nature and role of the church -- is a proper comprehension of the doctrine of original sin. The modern evangelical tendency to shy away from teaching about sin and man's inherent sinfulness has led to a generation with unrealistic expectations about Christians' individual and corporate ability to change the world. When these expectations go unfulfilled, cynicism and disenchantment toward the church often result.

What we need instead, as DeYoung rightly states, are "plodding visionaries": humble, grace-filled believers with a biblical understanding of both the limits and the possibilities of the church and of individual Christians, who live lives of "long obedience in the same direction." Far from being boring and insignificant, the lives of such visionaries are marked by the joy of their salvation and exultation in God's glory. They realize the immense privilege it is to be vessels of mercy; a part of the Body of Christ, his beloved bride, the church.

In summary, this is an excellent book, and one which has helped me to overcome some of my personal frustrations with the church. I pray that many more would have a renewed love for the church as they come to see afresh the way God's glory is manifested in the church, and to see the irony in the arguments of those who claim to be followers of Jesus but will not follow him in love for his bride. As the book concludes: "Don't give up on church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me."

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." ~ Ephesians 3:20-21
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why I love the Church (more than I did before reading this book) 17 May 2012
By E. J. Boston - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Perhaps it goes without saying that this book touches on some highly controversial issues for Christians--and I do wonder if the only people it convinces are those predisposed toward its convictions. I should hope this is not the case, but as I am not an objective reader I cannot say; skimming through other reviews seems to indicate essentially that the book was good and helpful or that DeYoung and Kluck do not take the emergent arguments seriously (and their tone is condescending). Dan Kimball, a well known emergent himself, endorses this book--but Kimball is only one of the many faces of Emergent Christianity. Ultimately, a review can only reveal so much and it is up to the curious reader to read the book and decide for himself.

Book thesis: We hope that this book might have some small effect in helping people truly love their local church no matter how imperfect it may be and serve in it faithfully for the long haul.

DeYoung and Kluck work well together, alternating every chapter save the last few, and providing a rounded view of the institutional church--why it is what it is, why it is not what others say it is, and why they love it. DeYoung offers a more academic, research-oriented approach, attempting (and I believe successfully) dismantling emergent arguments and offering grounded reasons for the institutional church. DeYoung utilizes quotes from authors throughout in order to show their point of view--and the common ground between those authors; of course, in such a book, quotations are brief as one cannot quote entire books within another, but they are not taken out of context or construed into a straw-man. Kluck, on the other hand, hardly quotes those who have left the church, but rather shows his own interactions with the church and how they have had a profound impact on him. Kluck's personal side balances out DeYoung's academic (but still relaxed) presentation and shows that you don't have to have a PhD to reasonably love the church (and vice versa). The thesis is supported throughout the book as I was repeatedly encouraged and drawn to worship God who is wise and merciful and who has seen fit to place me in good, biblical churches--one in high school and one when I moved away to college. I truly do love my church, but this book certainly helped me to love it much, much more, despite all its imperfections.

This book was eye-opening as I learned what really happened in such oft and ill-spoken events as the crusades and slavery; it was convicting as I realized that I often do place too much emphasis on my own selfish desires when it comes to the church; it was insightful as it showed that the church is both organism and organization; it was humbling as it reminded me that the church will not be perfect--even in a house church; and it was a timely, helpful book for me to read as I finish school, and will be moving to a new place, being involved in a new church, and learning to worship God more and more day after day and week after week.
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