A Review: Why We Love the Church

Why We Love The Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion

By Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck

DeYoung, Kevin, and Ted Kluck. Why We Love The Church: in Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. Chicago: Moody Press, 2009.

Kevin DeYoung is coauthor of Why We’re Not Emergent and author Just Do Something. He serves as senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, across the street from Michigan State University.  He and his wife, Trisha, have four children.

Ted Kluck is coauthor of Why We’re not Emergent, author of The Reason for Sports, and an award-winning sportswriter.  He and his wife, Kirsten, have two sons and live in Michigan, where they attend University Reformed Church.”[1]

Summary:

This book has the purpose of addressing the disillusionment of those that have left the church, those that have redefined church,[2] and encouraging those that are discouraged about the local church.  More specifically it is written for: the Committed, the Disgruntled, the Waffling, and the disconnected.[3] DeYoung defines the church as: “I mean the local church that meets—wherever you want it to meet—but exults in the cross of Christ; sings songs to a holy and loving God; has church officers, good preaching, celebrates the sacraments, exercises discipline; and takes an offering.”[4] DeYoung gives four reasons that people do not love the church, they are, missiological, personal, historical, and theological.[5] The chapters are first, DeYoung, and then Kluck, both covering the same topic.  So there are two chapters on each of the four reasons.

Review:

At first glance the title of this book makes my postmodern instincts cringe.  Institutions?  Organized religion? I have found myself at times as part of the disillusioned camp that they are discussing in the book.  Even with my current seminary education I find that the illusion of a perfect local church still can creep up as an idol from time to time.[6] “These days, spirituality is hot; religion is not. Community is hip, but the church is lame.  Both inside and out, organized religion is seen as oppressive, irrelevant, and a waste of time.  Outsiders like Jesus but not the church.  Insiders have been told they can do just fine with God apart from the church.”[7]

At times DeYoung uses historical primary sources[8] and scriptural evidences, whereas the authors and theologians that he responds to use only cultural or secondary sources.[9] Much of DeYoung’s responses are filled with a high number of footnotes, whereas Kluck has few footnotes and writes from a narrative perspective. DeYoung uses a pastor-scholar level of writing on the other hand Kluck writes from a lay-person’s perspective.  The combination of this helps the reader to assimilate the content on two levels.

DeYoung quotes Richard Baxter saying, “some of our churches are pastored by unregenerate men. Even more have preachers who are either confused about the gospel or simply cold to it.”[10] It is clear that DeYoung and Kluck see most of the disillusionment is a gospel issue.  It is a misunderstanding of what the Gospel is by people in the church.

Why We Love the Church

Why We Love the Church

In approaching Gospel-centered social justice DeYoung states,  “The vision behind words like “missional” and “kingdom” often ends up reducing the church to a doer of good, noncontroversial deeds (e.g., no mention of pro-life concerns as important to community transformation) like every other humanitarian organization…There’s also the danger that we only champion issues that win us cool points.  Let’s be honest, no one we run into is for genocide or for sex trafficking or for malnutrition.  It takes no courage to speak out against these things…Some may be drawn to pro-life issues and others to addressing global hunger, but let’s makes sure as Christians that our missional concerns go farther than those shared by Brangelina and the United Way…It seems to me that proclaiming this message of redemption is the main mission of the church, even more than partnering with God to change the world through humanitarian relief and global activism.”[11]

While being proactively advocates for the church, both are realistic with their description of the church.  Statements about the church show this throughout the book. “In our self-esteem-oriented, easily offended, suffering-averse world, I fear that the church is too eager to be liked.”[12] This is the man fearing church.  “We’ve lusted after academic recognition and cultural validation.  We’ve fancied ourselves fashionable and looked around for the world to take notice.”[13] This is the academic, intellectual church.  “We need to get on our faces before God and ask Him to show us our sin. Where there is sin, we need to repent.  Where there isn’t, we need to keep doing church whether it makes us popular or not.”[14] This is the true reality of the Gospel-centered church.  Again DeYoung makes it clear that we all have imperfect churches.  “We all have things to learn and areas in which we need to grow.  The one constant is that we all need Christ, His word, His Spirit, and, not least of all, His bride.  If we are to make it in the world as a people and make a difference in the world as his people, we need the church.  We need the church in visible manifest and sometimes hidden beauty.  We need the church of individuals and of institutions.  Most of all, we ought to love the church—in all her organic and organizational mess and glory.”[15]

Conclusion:

I heartily enjoyed reading this book.  Over the span of three days I could not put it down.  In this day and age there are many authors “reinvisioning” or “revolutionizing”[16] ecclesiology.  If anything these authors are ending up with an unbiblical, sociocultural perspective, relying heavily on culture and not scriptural evidences.  If anything the answer to the question is not an “either or” but a “both and” in matters of ecclesiastical differences.  DeYoung and Kluck respond to these perspectives with a biblically grounded ecclesiology.  This book is clearly written with the pastor or layperson in mind and does well at reaching that audience.  I would recommend laypeople and pastors read this book.


[1] From the about the author section on the back of the book.

[2] DeYoung and Kluck tackle the unbiblical perceptions of the church, given by current trendy Christian authors.  Many of these books are popular with both the college and disillusioned crowd.

[3] DeYoung, Kevin, and Ted Kluck. Why We Love The Church: in Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. (Chicago: Moody Press, 2009), 15.

[4] Ibid. 19.

[5] Ibid. 16-18.

[6] I am and will continue to be part of the local church wherever I live and am proud to be a member of a local church.  Everything in the church I have grown up in says membership (the people of my age group in the church) does not matter; association with a corporation regulates freedom.  This constricts the person and with all the “bad” things that the corporation does (but in the case of the church does not stand for such “bad” things) there becomes no point for association.

[7] DeYoung, and  Kluck. 13.

[8] Such as the Didache, Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians, Ignatius’ Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, The First Apology of Justin Martyr, The Apostolic Traditions of Hippolytus, and The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.

[9] Case and point of this would be Viola’s “Pagan Christianity” that uses a majority of secondary sources not primary sources.

[10] DeYoung, and Kluck. 34.

[11] Ibid. 44-45.

[12] Ibid. 80-81.

[13] Ibid. 81.

[14] Ibid. 81.

[15] Ibid. 182.

[16] Barna, George. Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary (Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale, 2005), 36.

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Filed under Book Review, Church, Mueller, Theological Reflection

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