Disappearing Church by Mark Sayers posits an interesting thought: We live in a culture riddled with "liberal Christian residue", our seemingly secular culture is basically Christian liberalism without the label of 'Christian' and without being considered 'religious' . By trying to be relevant by trying to appeal to the ever-changing culture around them liberal Christianity became so relevant that it's basic tenets became a part of the culture and thus the church 'institution' was irrelevant as the culture had already been won. Sayers illustrates it in this way, "" Like a team of suicide bombers who obliterate themselves yet irrevocably change the cultural atmosphere, liberal Christianity has essentially destroyed itself as an ecclesiological, institutional force, yet won the culture over to its vision of a Christianity reshaped for contemporary tastes."
The author explains that the modern 'church' has imbibed and taught a contemporary form of Gnosticism (his chart comparing ancient and contemporary Gnosticism to the Gospel is very interesting), "This new religion could be detected in an increasing obsession with the self, with personal development and the preference of spirituality over religion, and with therapy over communion with a transcendent God." The discovery of self is the religion of the day, even in many Christian churches the goal is self-satisfaction, self-fulfillment, self-discovery, a follow your heart mentality…etc. Sayers points out that it is no wonder people can leave church so easily without even finding another one as they can get the same teachings from the world. The book brings to light the idea of our day and age that personal spirituality is better and more holy than organized 'religion'.
Though I thought that Sayers insights into our modern culture were fascinating I do have some misgivings about the book. Sayers says some things that imply to me that he may consider Roman Catholicism a legitimate/biblical type of Christianity, and thus the people who hold those doctrines are Christians, that concerns me. He uses movie illustrations that I think were rather unnecessary and I didn't quite get what he meant by using the statement, "withdraw/return"…it's probably just me.
Overall though it was rather interesting, though I think it could have been better…it just seemed as though there was something missing, though I'm not sure what at the moment. But again, it is a very interesting insight into the 'disappearing' institutional church of our day and is quite thought provoking. I'll end, as I usually do, with one of my favorite quotes from the book:
"As Rolheiser comments, 'Our age tends to divorce spirituality from ecclesiology. We want God, but we don't want church.' However, the great flaw of our search for spirituality and faith minus church is 'the unconfronted life. Without church, we have more private fantasy than real faith….Real conversion demands that eventually its recipient be involved in both the muck and the grace of actual church life.' More than ever we need the limitations and glorious messiness of church…The mere fact that God chooses it, in the same way that He chooses us, humble vessels, is part of His grace that fools the wisdom of the world."