15 July 2009

I Lose, You Win

by Frank Turk

We're taking a break from Paul to Titus this week to review a book which, in one sense, breaks my heart -- and in another sense, makes me very happy.

The "breaks my heart" sense is that, like what appears to be all bloggers writing for blogs north of 2000 daily readers, I've gotten the acquisition call from a publisher you'd recognize, and I was working on a book -- no deal yet but the agreement was/is that after the book was presentable they'd help me get it over the hedge of the proposal, across the back yard of finishing, and into the glistening suburbia of published books. No contract, but active interest from the acquisitions people, which is better than I was at last year or even last quarter.

But this book -- Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck -- turns out to be exactly the book I was writing. You know? So it was a great idea, I just had it 2 years too late. Back to the drawing board.

But in the very real and more-fulfilling "this is exactly the book I was writing" sense, you get to read the book for yourself and get infected by the right attitude toward the bride of Christ which is the church. The bonus for Christian publishering is that they don't have to risk publishing a book I would write which, let's face it, would vex many people and embarrass many more.

So what's so great about this book? Well, first of all, Ted Kluck is one of the great things about this book. I love the way he writes. Get this:
Church isn't boring because we're not showing enough film clips, or because we play an organ instead of guitar. It's boring because we neuter it of its importance. Too often we treat our spiritual lives like the round of golf used to open George Barna's Revolution. 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 found hard for life, and who contended earnestly for the faith. Not just a nice guy who occasionally noticed the splendor of the mountains God created, while otherwise just trying to enjoy myself, manage my schedule, and work on my short game.
You know: Booyah. Take your faith seriously enough to treat it as if it was more important than something. Anything.

And the other great thing about this book is Kevin DeYoung, who may be the most vivacious baby-baptizer in the world:
We all have different callings. Some may be drawn to pro-life issues, and others to addressing global hunger, but let's make sure as Christians that our missional concerns go father than those shared by Brangelina and the United Way.

What makes the church unique is its commitment, above all else, to knowing and making known Christ and Him crucified. True, the biblical story line is creation, fall, redemption and recreation. But the overwhelming majority of Scripture is about our redemption, how God saves lawbreakers, how sin can be atoned for, how rebels can be made right with God.
This book is not for sissies, and it's also not written over anyone's head or down from some lofty confessional soap box. Here are two young guys who are great writers, very good thinkers, lovers of people, and humble servants to God's word, seeking to call people out of the world and into Christ in the only place God's people normally are found. (watch what happens to that in the meta)

The list of endorsements of this book is as long as my arm. If you find it stuck on the shelf somplace spine-out, you'd probably buy it based on those endorsements. But here you have a book which, in a way far better than I have done in my few years in the blogosphere, hammers out the gracious necessity of the church for the believer, and points at convictional reasons for you people to go and find a church, join together with a church, worship God in a church, and be part of the church.

Read this book, repent of your past neglect for these things, and rejoice that God will for give you. You won't regret it.


Boerseuntjie said...

Now to find "approved workmen"- Overseers-shepherds and their Coomunities of Grace Gospel people who care for the same things...

May Providence, by means of our Evangelistic love for already dead souls, dead "churhes" (Knowing the meaning of the the term "CALLED OUT ONES"/Elect ones), CALL OUT the people of our LORD to procliam His merciful UNMERRITTED (As opossed to our Merriting His Justice and Wrath), grace to sinners of the worts proportions (Humanly speaking).

My soul is vexed within me as I consider "the narrow gate" with the "Few" who are here in the United Kingdom. There is much harlotry in the outward Synagogues of the churches here and we must become more zealous in Evangelism (Jeremiah) and as Watchmen (Ezekiel), so that our LORD may by His Spirit of grace and truth - Convict according with His Devine Law, and Incline the hearts of His Chosen people to Himself by the gift of Faith and Repentance, to be applied in fruits of such kind.

Believe me to be Providentially cut of from the Body is a most painful and horrific experience, especially as we are made to be in the Community of Spiritual Israel - One people with One purpose.
May our LORD use us to be faithful and empower us to do His will in these sin sick bodies and world.

Your fellow bondslave for the glory of our Triune YAHWEH Alone,

donsands said...

Nice review. Thanks.

I'm thinking "DeYoung & Kluck" one day will be as famous as "Lennon & McCartney", or maybe "Abbot & Costello".

Can't wait to get a copy of this book.

DJP said...

Now I'm all atwitter for "DeYoung and Kluck Meet Frankenstein."

stratagem said...

Just the title alone is going to drive Dan Kimball and other so-called progressives, nuts. So I already love the book!

Solameanie said...

Maybe you should go back over several years of blog posts, piece them together in some coherent thread and try to publish that. Judging from what I have seen, there are plenty of gems that you've written that deserve to be printed, bound and published.

Go for it!

BTW, my "verification" word for this was "butgisms." I think we're going to have to have a chat with Blogger.

Joanna said...

Thanks for the recommendation. Will add that to my "must read" list

DJP said...

I feel your pain, Frank.

Bro, perhaps we could each do a post staking out everything we might ever want to write a book on within the next fifty years, should the Lord tarry.

Then, whenever anyone writes on those subjects, we can sneer and snort "Wannabe!"

David said...

Thank you for your continued work on behalf of the local church, Frank.

Maybe the book will catch on like "Prayer of Jabez" and you can cash in on "Why We Love the Church" paperweights and windchimes.

Mike Riccardi said...


I actually had the exact same thought, but then JT posted Kimball's blurb for the book:

"Jesus loves the church. Yes, the church is imperfect, and we have made mistakes. But if we love Jesus, then we will love what Jesus loves. This book moves us to a thrilling portrait and future of what the church that Jesus loves and builds can look like and the hope we can bring to the world."--
Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus But Not the Church

Maybe it drove him nuts enough to a better position than he originally had? I'll take it.

stratagem said...

I wanted to invent the electric light bulb and the internet. But sadly, I found that Edison and Gore had beat me to it!

Frank Turk said...

Part of the interaction between DeYoung and Kluck & Dan Kimball is in this book. It's interesting to read where Dan Kimball is today vs. Where he was when he interacted with TeamPyro on this subject. I would call it a generally-positive trajectory.

John Doe said...


I may read the book just so I have the right to speak about it, but gleaning from what you found worth posting is not making me run to the first bookstore...

Unless a significant emphasis is placed on calling out the desperate lack of expository teaching/preaching in today's churches (or, heavens, even briefly explaining what it might look like and why it should be the staple diet)- I see no compelling reason to indulge in more 'exciting revelation' of what church is *really* meant to be "to me".

But I thank you for your post.


stratagem said...

So from what you've quoted, it sounds like Kimball is rightly defining the church as Christian people. Yet the title of his book seems to suggest that non-Christians would "like" the church if all was right with the church. I can't quite understand that, since Jesus said just the opposite would be true?

Arthur Sido said...

I am not as unreservedly positive about this book.

None of the benefits or defenses that Ted and Kevin give actually necessitates the institutional style of church we have. It is such an ingrained tradition in western culture that we cannot even fathom that the default position might not be correct. Saying that Barna is wrong with a couple of choice quotes lifted from his books is one thing but putting together a coherent defense of organized religion is a tougher nut to crack.

I thought the basic premise of the book presents a false “either-or” distinction. If you love the church, you love the institutional church. If you abandon or even question the institutional church, you don’t love the church. So either you love the institutional church or you don’t love “the church”. But somewhere betwixt the hierarchical, program driven institutional church and the hang out at Starbucks or play golf George Barna model is a different view that may not be as traditional but certainly seems more faithful to the practice of the early church with a simpler but still intentional church meeting.

For a review with a rather different conclusion….


Fusion! said...

Frank, I felt the same way when their first book came out. They stole my idea! Oh well, I'm glad to be in good company. I too had hoped these two would write together again. I have also heard positive reviews of De Young's last book. I'm glad that ecclesiology is being taken seriously by today's generation and hope to see where some sober minded people like De young and Kluck go with it. I think after all the beatings the church has taken, it's time to hear something positive.

stratagem said...

Arthur, I think you've made a good point on your blog post, IF and only if, by "institutional church," the authors of this book mean:

brick buildings
people wearing robes
professional christians

I had assumed the authors intend the IC to mean organized religion in the sense that the NT defines roles for governing the local church - and nothing more. I saw the book as a defense against those who want to throw out the things I listed above (which would be of no real consequence) and also throw out the NT offices of Elders, Deacons, Pastors, Teachers, etc. In other words a defense against those who just want to be Christians but be accountable to no one.

But maybe I am wrong. If I am, then you are right.

Frank Turk said...

Arthur Sido's review said this:

The authors create a number of false dichotomies: Either the Bible or community. Either theology or fellowship. Either the hierarchical, institutional church or "Lone Wolf", churchless Christians. They tend to cherry pick the worst sounding quotes from authors, especially George Barna, and then mock them. They refer a lot to church fathers like Cyprian and the Reformers as well as contemporaries like John Stott, but there is precious little Scripture. That isn't to say that there is no Scripture referenced, because there are lots of parenthetical references. However, by and large when Scripture is referenced it consists of proof-texted notes that reinforce dogmatic statements defending preexisting traditions.

That may be the most reductive summary of anything I have ever read -- because in fact this book does not do this at all.

The primary way to read this book is not as an excerpt from a systematic theology. Expecting that from this book is a massive error.

The Challies' note of "reactive" (which Sido cites) is probably about right -- but that's the entry point of this discussion for about 99.99% of all people likely to read this book. Most people are not theologians: they are common Christians who are being infected with categorically-baseless ecclesiology -- specifically from Barna, whom Kevin DeYound essentially dismantles -- and the point of this book is to dismiss the idea that you can invent your own view of the church.

Boarding a plane. Must run. More later.

chopstickschan said...

Well, I think the "Pyromaniacs Approved" stamp on the front cover is cool and will help greatly with sales.
And for my further 2 kronurs worth, I think it is very encouraging to see a book written about this (even if Frank wasn't the author :). I have been to churches in several countries, in languages I barely or don't understand, and all kinds of styles, and it has been precious to me--because I went to worship the Lord, and He was always there! Most of the time, there were also other believers there--different, but one in the same faith. Yes, there should be great preaching--but I don't think that is the fundamental purpose of church. Neither is music. These are important parts of it (and there is so much more), and I am not downplaying their role (and the diligence that should be applied to it), but corporate worship and body life is, I think, what it is pivotally about. "...seeking to call people out of the world and into Christ in the only place God's people normally are found" hits it on the head. Thanks Frank!

geekforgreek said...

I've been reading through the book this afternoon, attempting to stifle my laughter so as to not disrupt the rest of the office. Not only is the book filled with a well-reasoned argument for the church and defense against the naysayers -- it is a fun read.

apostello said...

How refreshing! I'm glad a book like this has been written. Sadly, books like these aren't written for the Christian community anymore.

"We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are 'harmless,' and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are 'sideliners'--coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God un-challenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!" -Jim Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty

donsands said...

Great quote apostello. Thanks for sharing that. I borrowed that one, if you don't mind.

eastendjim said...

There are two kinds of people who walk into a church. Those looking for a reason to stay and those looking for a reason to leave.

From my personal observations, I have found that both kinds people generally succeed in their endeavour.

Tim W said...


You could always publish the same material in a faraway country. Say Australia... =) Unsurprisingly and sadly, there are many who 'disregard the body' here too.

Note: they love Americans here, so you'd probably sell like the proverbial hotcakes.

Given everyones' comments, I've got to get my hands on a copy of the book.

[At the risk of cheap humour] what were the authors' names again? 'DeKluck and Young'? Or was it 'DeYouck and Klung'?

In him