There was a time in my life that I was frequently heard to say something like, “I love Jesus. It’s the church I can’t stand.” After my husband finally rebuked me for the sentiment, The Lord took me and Jonathan through an intense period of studying what the Church is and what a church should look like. He used it to radically change my view of the Church from one of barely disguised contempt, to a deep love and appreciation for the beauty of the Bride of Christ.
Because of that, I was excited at the opportunity to review Loving the Church by John Crotts. The doctrine of the church has been the subject of a great deal of works through Church history, but has fallen out of favor lately in our individualistic western Christendom. I was encouraged to see a contemporary book calling the people of God to love the very thing for which Christ gave His life. I eagerly “opened” the digital document and dived into the pages to see what John Crotts could say to a contemporary audience to encourage us in loving the Church.
Written in a hybrid of fiction and exposition, Crotts attempts to personify the many views of church through fictional characters meeting together in a coffee shop. The characters express their views and ask some questions in a conversational manner, and the balance of the chapter discussion is a study answering the questions raised by these “everychristians.” It is not a new approach to this sort of study, and while it is not my favorite style, I understood why Crotts may have chosen to employ a more personalized flavor to the subject. After chapter three, the coffee shop discussions faded into the background for me, and I scanned them before reading the “real chapter” in depth.
Crotts covers his subject in 12 chapters broken down into two sections: what is God’s family, and how you fit into God’s family. His intention, according to the acknowledgements, is to offer a sort of survey of the key ideas, encouraging folks to explore further on their own. It is certainly a very broad strokes study, broader in some areas than in others, of a complex and detailed subject.
While titled, “Loving the Church,” I really think “Some Thoughts on the Church” may have been a better title. After reading this, someone wanting to withdraw entirely from the church may be willing to re consider their stance; but there is little in the book itself to draw someone to a deep and abiding love of the church. The content of the book was devoted far more to the expressions of the visible church than to the mysteries of the invisible one. In a study of the Church, there are two lenses through which we can truly perceive her wonder and beauty. The first is the doctrine of our union with Christ, and the second is the expression of that throughout history. This book alluded to the first very casually in a few sentences and ignored the second all together.
I was disappointed in “Loving the Church.” I felt that the subject matter, as deep and rich as it is, and as truly integral to our Christian life, deserved more.