Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to be a Christian Without Going to Church by Kelly Bean

There seems to be a growing unease with the organized church. Studies show that Christians are leaving the church. The encouraging news is that they are not leaving their faith.

The author is one of them. She served in church for more than two decades and knows the importance of the visible church. “Now, as a non-goer and cultivator in an ever-evolving Christian community,” she writes, “I also believe there are healthy, visible, doable alternatives to the traditional church.” Becoming a non-goer can lead to life-giving, world-changing, growth-inducing, community building life.

She shares her own experience, explores what “church” means, and why people are leaving the church. She shares many stories of people who have created meaningful post-church experiences. She looks at possibilities of forming community and passing on the faith without the structure of the church. She gives practical suggestions for mentoring and connecting with others. Most have had to venture out of their comfort zones.

She suggests that non-goers may be part of something new happening in Christianity. It is an expression of Christianity that is integrating belief into life, evidencing real spiritual formation from real life experiences, and forming authentic relationships through community building. It is an exploration of the meaning of belief apart from church activity.

Bean's book is a good look at how Christians are committing themselves to be the church in new (and sometimes old) ways. It is an encouragement for those frustrated with their organized church experience. It is also a wake-up call to pastors and denominational officials. It reminds them people are leaving their churches, not because they are leaving the faith, but because they are leaving what they consider to be an irrelevant organization.

Bean's book includes numerous examples of Christians committed to exercising their faith outside of church activities. I found it very encouraging. The statistics of church attendance in decline can be depressing but this book gives one hope that Christianity is alive and well and being exercised on the street corners and in the living rooms of our communities.

This is a good book for non-goers. Bean has given many practical ideas for creating intentional communities and instigating action to share the good news of the gospel. It is also a good book for those thinking of leaving the organized church as it encourages movement toward alternative faith expression.

Kelly Bean served at Cultivator of third Saturday organic community which gathered in her living room for 24 years. She is co-planter of Urban Abbey, an egalitarian inter-generational intentional community in North Portland. She is co-founder and Executive Director of African Road, an International NGO working in collaboration with African leaders who are creating community collectives. Find out more at www.kelly-bean.com.

Baker Books, 241 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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