Book Review: Why We Love The Church

Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

The last few years have seen a glut of books about the church… and honestly, most have been ripping on her pretty hard. Truthfully, there are too many to name, and too many to possibly answer. But the big idea from guys like George Barna, Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, and a host of others, boils down to this:

The church has lost it’s way, and everything needs to change. So let’s blow it up and do something different.

For many, it’s experimenting with disorganized religion, where there’s no authority, everyone speaks and no one really learns anything. For others, it’s abandoning corporate gatherings altogether in favor of possibly having a spiritual conversation on the golf course or at Starbucks.

What Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck offer in Why We Love the Church is a passionate, biblically centered, God-honoring look at the Church—and why, for all her warts, we need to love her as much as Christ does.

In his chapters, DeYoung addresses the topic from four areas: The missiological, the personal, the historical and the theological. In  this, DeYoung is helping readers to develop a solid doctrine of the church. This is an understanding we sorely need, because I think very few of us really understand what the Church truly is and what is to be her role.

I particularly found the historical view of the Church interesting, as DeYoung deftly defangs many of today’s common criticisms of the Church. Be it Columbus’ journey to America, the Crusades, Slavery or the alleged pagan origins of preaching (according to Frank Viola, who really needs to read his Bible  more), he provides answers and a wealth of information that many of us would be surprised to learn. One quick example: Did you know that as early as the seventh century, several Christian leaders, including the Venerable Bede, taught that the earth was, in fact, round? In fact, according to Jeffrey Burton Russel (from whose quote the following is adapted), there was near unanimous scholarly agreement that the world was spherical during the first fifteen centuries of the Christian era, and all doubt of this had disappeared by the fifteenth century (see pp. 128-129).

DeYoung concludes the book calling us back to an increasingly forgotten doctrine, the loss of which is, perhaps, the reason why we’ve lost our love for the Church: The doctrine of original sin. The root issue for all of our issues with the Church is sin, because the church is made up of redeemed sinners, all seeking to put their sin to death. But just as Paul reminds us that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7), if we truly love the church, we need to bear with the Church “in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ and hope for her glorification. I still believe the Church is the hope of the world,” writes DeYoung, “not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head” (p. 226).

Co-author Ted Kluck’s chapters were a very different sort of read. Kluck’s style is very much the everyman-journeyman sort of tale, wherein he lays out why he loves the church—even when it’s hard. He shares his family’s struggle with infertility, which is difficult enough, but only made more apparent when one is a member of a Reformed church where the average family is 6.5 children and most every woman is pregnant at the same time. He shares his interaction with John Marks, a man who was raised in the church and became an atheist. Marks, along with Christian filmmaker friend Detweiler, made the film Purple State of Mind. He shares insights from Chuck Colson, whose words for those who would meddle unnecessarily with doctrine are sharp, and from Art Monk and his son, whose faith has impacted his son in a way that I think most of us who are dads all desire. Perhaps the most impactful for me was his epilogue, a letter to his 5-year-old boy, Tristan. An excerpt from this:

Church isn’t a magic pill you take, that punches your ticket for heaven. Nor is it a glorified social/country club you attend to be around people who talk/think/look/act like you do. It’s a place to go each week to hear the Word of God spoken, taught, and affirmed. It’s a place to sing praises to our God, even if those songs do sometimes feel a bit awkward. It’s a place to serve others. It’s a place to be challenged. Sometimes you’ll feel uncomfortable with those challenges, because sometimes your life will need ot change. This has been the case with me. (p. 203)

The Church is difficult. The Church is challenging. But the Church is where we all come together to learn, praise and serve our great God and Savior.

I love the Church. Do you?


Title: Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion
Authors: Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
Publisher: Moody Publishers

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  • http://www.searchingtogether.org Jon Zens

    I think this review needs to consider some perspectives a bit more deeply.

    On the surface, the impression is given that if you critique what calls itself “church,” you therefore don’t love it as you should. But our Lord critiqued seven ekklesias and the bulk of them received some pretty stern words from the Head. And we have no doubts that Jesus loved those ekklesias. Having read many contemporary critiques of “church,” there is no doubt in my mind that the authors speak out of a deep love for the church. One can see the love Frank Viola expressed at
    http://frankviola.wordpress.com/2009/08/18/why-i-love-the-church-in-praise-of-gods-eternal-purpose/

    The summation the reviewer gives of books calling for a thorough re-examination of church life is very loaded and lop-sided. “The church has lost it’s way.” Well, you know, there is a lot of evidence from many varied sources that this is true. Thousands are leaving the institutional church, and thousands are “leaving the ministry” every year. Something’s wrong. Something indeed needs to change.

    “So let’s blow it up and do something different.” This remark is a caricature, not an accurate summary of what such books are saying. These authors are calling for people to re-look at the New Testament and aspects of past history to see if perhaps we haven’t missed a better way.

    To describe gatherings outside of the institutional church as “everyone speaks and no one really learns anything” reflects bias and not objectivity. Is the implication that the only way people really learn anything is if one person – “the pastor” – speaks?

    The pagan origins of the traditional sermon were carefully documented in Barna & Viola’s Pagan Christianity. A scholarly work by David Norrington. To Preach or Not to Preach? The Church’s Urgent Question (Paternoster, 1996) also shows how the sermon emerged in the course of history. Thus, to dismiss the notion that the traditional sermon had dubious roots, and to suggest that Frank Viola needs to read his Bible more, is, again, a pretty shallow analysis when substantial arguments have been submitted. One could wonder if the reviewer or authors DeYoung and Kluck have read Pagan Christianity, for Barna/Viola believe in preaching and teaching very strongly, but they made a distinction between those as they appear in the NT and the modern sermon. It is the latter they were calling into question, not preaching and teaching.

    We evangelicals appear to be a bit inconsistent. We affirm that the New Testament is vital for teaching regarding our individual Christian lives, but it would seem that in our practice we often show little evidence of concern about its relevance for our corporate church life together.

    One big assumption perhaps needs to be revisited in this discussion: is all that all that calls itself “church” actually ekklesia? Does every group that has a building, a pastor and pews truly constitute what Christ had in mind when he said, “I will build my ekklesia”? I don’t think so. Ralph Neighbor reminds us, “I think it is theologically correct to say that if a group of Christians who assemble don’t have certain characteristics as their criteria and their foundation, they aren’t a real church in the biblical sense.”

    When one affirms that “I love the ekklesia,” I’m not convinced that statement can be equated with loving all the brick and mortar institutions out there in the American landscape that call themselves “church.” An awful lot of what is associated with “church” has little to nothing to do with the ekklesia Christ is building as portrayed in the New Testament.

  • Daniel

    amen to everything J.Z. said….

    all I could think when I was reading the words:

    It’s a place to go each week to hear the Word of God spoken, taught, and affirmed. It’s a place to sing praises to our god, even if those songs do sometimes feel a bit awkward. It’s a place to serve others. It’s a place to be challenged.

    was, “The church is not a place!”

    If we allow ourselves to believe that we need those special religious places (and all the infrastructure that goes into them) in order to teach the Word, to serve others, to praise God, or to be challenged, then we are settling for a very weak and limited life as the Body indeed… We are settling for a “Body” that relies on the same workings and methods as the World, rather than on the power and wisdom of God…