Book Review: ReChurch by Stephen Mansfield

Title: ReChurch: Healing Your Way Back to the People of God
Author: Stephen Mansfield
Publisher: Tyndale (2010)

“You are likely reading this book because you believe that you have been hurt by a church or you know someone who has,” writes Stephen Mansfield in his introduction to ReChurch: Healing Your Way Back to God.

Mansfield knows this all too well. A former pastor, he suffered a devastating experience with the church he pastored that left him embittered toward that church in particular and the Church in general. But his friends—some godly men who loved him too much to let him stay in that place—helped him heal those wounds. And in ReChurch, Mansfield shares the tough love he received.

Mansfield is a very efficient writer. He doesn’t waste a lot of time coddling readers and making sure everyone’s feeling okay. That’s not to say that he’s insensitive; rather, he is pastorally blunt as he serves as the reader’s coach through the healing process.

The first lie he attacks is our feeling of being alone in struggles; that because of what we’ve experienced, we can’t possibly be useful in God’s service. “It may be hard for you to believe this. . . . But this is a lie—unless you choose to live small. Unless you choose to give in to the bitterness and the rage. . . . The confirmation of history is that we are not called despite our wounding and betrayal; we are wounded and betrayed because we are called,” he writes (p. 39)

Next, he goes after our outlook on others. Have we been hurt because we have an unrealistic expectation of people, Mansfield wonders? “Will you hold the biblical view of humanity up against your situation and see that people did what they did because they are flawed and sinful beings? . . .[W]ill you own that you got all mushy and dreamy-eyed and you forgot what monsters people can be?” (p. 62-63)

Mansfield quite rightly understands that most of our issues with others are because we forget that we are still capable of great evil. Sin is still present and will be until the day we are finally and fully glorified in the presence of Christ. This was a great reminder for me because so often I get frustrated when people act in a way I believe they shouldn’t; the problem is, I forget that very often they are acting according to their nature—as rebellious sinners. It’s also helpful for me to remember that if I’m frustrated by others behaving in this fashion, should I not also be watching myself?

The next chapter asks readers to honestly evaluate their situation with five questions:

  1. Of the things your critics said, what do you now know to be true?
  2. How did you try to medicate your wounded soul?
  3. Were you clinging to anything that contributed to your church hurt?
  4. What did those closest to you do when you went through the fire?
  5. During the bruising season, what fed your inspiration and your dreams?

These are hard questions to look at in any situation, regardless of whether it’s a “church hurt” or any other situation. What Mansfield advocates in many ways is turning your critics into coaches. Learning from the situation to be transformed by it. “Facing the reality of the painful season when it felt as though you were in a sandstorm with no skin is the key to becoming whole now,” he exhorts (p. 84).

Perhaps the most meaningful chapter for me was “The Throne Room of Your Mind.” In this chapter, Mansfield pushes readers to look at what they’re honestly doing in their lives. Are they setting up their hurt, and sometimes their self-righteousness, as an idol? Are they worshipping that over the true God? And can we actually afford not to forgive? This was particularly convicting as I have a tendency to not want to forgive. To hang on to and hold that issue over the offender. To as one author puts it, become an offense, rather than simply being offended.

In other words, I’m terribly self-righteous in my anger.

The last two chapters deal with wholeness and reconcilliation. Mansfield gives readers a glimpse into a larger reality, suggesting to us that perhaps the hurts we’ve experienced haven’t been random accidents. Rather they have been events ordained by God to grow us in holiness. To trust that He will redeem every situation for His glory, and resist the lies that we tell ourselves that prevent us from seeing God’s “pure and complete work” in our lives unfold.

ReChurch is a terrific book and honestly not what I expected. Truth be told, I didn’t know what to expect. But if you’ve ever suffered a hurtful experience in the church, at work or in a personal relationship, the principles of Mansfield’s book are well worth heeding.

Life is too short to remain bitter forever. God loves His Church. And He wants us all to love the Church, too.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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