Death by Church

My friend Mike Erre, teaching pastor at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, California, and author of The Jesus of Suburbia, has written a new book (released early 2009) entitled Death by Church.

I love the title. I love the subtitle ("Rescuing Jesus from His Followers, Recapturing God's Hope for His People"). And the book itself ain't half bad, either.

Mike's book reminds me that he is way smarter than me. His frequent quotes from N. T. Wright, Stanley Hauerwas, and others remind me that he's more well-read than me. And the thoroughness of his reasoning reminds me that he's a better thinker and writer than me. Man, I hate his guts.

As Publisher's Weekly observed in its review of Death by Church, Mike makes the case "that the church needs to recover its communal, subversive, confrontational, countercultural truth-telling mission of incarnating the upside-down way of the kingdom of God." Though he sometimes drove me crazy with his use of the pronoun "we" to refer to himself, especially late in the book, he is at his best when speaking most personally and directly to the reader (for example, in the last chapter, "Jesus Wept: Apologies and Apologetics," and in the postscript to pastors and church leaders)--so much so, in fact, that I wish he had done more of that.

Death by Church is not for the casual reader. It's a serious book (though not without humor). And, ironically enough, though Mike rightly bemoans the consumerism that infects much of the Western church, the book's title and many of the chapter titles make the message of the book more appealing and accessible to--well, consumers. But that's okay. Consuming this book is an acceptable, even laudable, form of Christian consumerism.

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