Reflecting on Thanksgiving, I think I am most thankful this year to have found a church that I can attend without feeling hostile or defensive. We’ve already been at this church about a year now, and it is such a relief after about 5 years of church struggles. On that note, this post will be a book review.
ReChurch, Healing your way back to the people of God. By Stephen Mansfield. Tyndale, 2010.
The author makes it clear what this book is not. It does not take a counselor or psychological approach. He suggests some other books if that is what you are looking for. “Counselors nurture souls. Coaches teach skills. I’m your coach.” While being sympathetic to the very real pain that people can suffer after being mistreated or wounded by the church, he is also straightforward. Perhaps you could describe his approach as tough love? I personally need and appreciate this type of approach, so the book really worked for me.
The book has 7 chapters, and I’ll mention some of them. One chapter reviews church history and Christians from the past that endured mistreatment by fellow Christians. The point is that you are not alone, and others before you have experienced similar. This alone can be comforting. Yet, rather than sink into hate or cynicism, God can use your pain in a redemptive way – as in the examples offered in the chapter.
Another chapter reminds us to have a realistic view of other Christians. None of us are perfect. We are in a process of transformation that won’t be complete until the return of Christ. “Every Christian has a capacity for the most magnificent Christ-likeness. Yet, every Christian also has the potential to commit the most disgusting and horrible acts of the flesh. This is the reality of the Christian life and we fool ourselves if we think otherwise.” The author isn’t tying to depress us, but simply give us a dose of reality. If we think church will be a place where everyone will always behave in a saintly way, we are bound to end up disappointed and hurt.
You are also encouraged to closely examine the circumstances surrounding your wounding by the church, and look for lessons you can learn. A series of 5 questions will help you do this. Hard times can make us better. Note the word can. Hard times can also make us worse! This is why we need to carefully evaluate our experience, and may even need to humbly admit that our “enemies” were right about some things. “It is a great art of living to be able to hear truth in the mouth of your enemies.”
Another worthwhile chapter was entitled “The Throne Room of Your Mind.” He tackles the tough subject of forgiveness. Forgiveness…easy to talk about, but harder to do. You are also urged to consider your trigger points. What is it that immediately wounds you or makes you want to strike back at another? This will be different things for each of us. But these things are like bait that pull us into the trap of offense. We need to be aware of our trigger points because Satan can use them to pull us into sinful responses. “Much that distinguishes maturity from immaturity – and happiness from misery – is how you respond to the offenses that life insists on dealing out to us all.”
The final chapters are entitled “Truths for getting whole” and “Coming home.” The author has some helpful ideas as you look for a new church home. Again, some analysis is in order. Look back over the church choices you made in the past – both the successful ones and ones that did not go well – and learn from the experiences. Do you note any patterns? Perhaps you have some expectations that were unbiblical or unfair? If so, you don’t want to start looking for a church in the same unbiblical way again.
I hope my overview of this book doesn’t make the author’s approach sound tougher than it actually is! The author does have sympathy. He also was wounded by the church and shares a few details of his personal pain and frustration. I was encouraged by the book, recommend it to you, and hope it might help as you attempt to redemptively deal with pain inflicted upon you by fellow Christians and make your way back to church.