There is no book out there that I have read about a community of believers that really shaped me and changed my perspective on the church as a community like this book. The title tells it. We are at times uncomfortable especially if you are part of a multicultural church (not that you do not feel uncomfortable with the mono-ethnic church), you feel it more in my opinion.
McCracken in his book makes this point in many ways that we experience awkwardness. And because of awkwardness, we tend to move away from the church (the community) and look for another community of believers who will make us feel comfortable. The danger is that the focus becomes us and this tends to lead to consumerism. “Consumerism is chronic dissatisfaction. We’re always on the quest for more and better, hoping for new heights of satisfaction. The “dream church” is always a potential out there; the grass is always greener at the trendy new church in town”.
As McCracken says we are always looking for a dream church but, there is no perfect church. “God’s idea of church is far more glorious than any dream church we could conjure”. He further states that the church is “about becoming like living stones that are being built up as a spiritual house focused on and held together by Jesus, the stone the builders rejected who became the cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:4-7)”. The church is not built with the focus of how to make us happy, but it is God who is building the church, he is the one who is keeping the church together.
The why he wrote this book “the comforting gospel of Jesus Christ that leads us to live uncomfortable lives in him. It’s about recovering a willingness to do hard things, to embrace hard truths, to do life with hard people for the sake and glory of the One who did the hardest thing.” The book is helping us to see that being part of a church is not easy and it is okay for it not to be easy. We are to embrace the reality of the church. And the reason for going through the trouble of being part of a church is for the glory of God and for the gospel’s sake.
One of the reasons for recommending this book is that McCracken is gospel centred. He keeps bringing us to the gospel. The other thing is that he is very practical. He is using real-life examples. Every believer should read this book because it explains why things are the way they are in our churches and that because the church is the way it is, we should not leave the church.
The book has 14 chapters.
Chapter 1: embrace discomfort
The Christian journey is difficult, following Jesus is not easy and if you want to grow you need to come out of your comfort zone. “Attending church has been difficult and full of personal discomfort, but also probably the most spiritually enriching churchgoing season of my life. Nothing matures you quite like faithfulness amid discomfort”. We need to embrace discomfort.
Chapter 2: the uncomfortable cross
“Everything uncomfortable about Christianity begins with and returns to the cross”. This is a good reminder to us (believers) that it is part of us. The cross itself is not something that is comfortable, so expect discomfort.
Chapter 3: uncomfortable holiness
“We’ve become too comfortable with our sin, to the point that it’s how we identify ourselves and relate to others”. We need to look to Christ and continue looking to Christ. Sin is not gone, we still struggle. But we are called to be holy. Being holy is not something that we do on our own, it is something that God helps us with through his Holy Spirit.
Chapter 4: uncomfortable truths
There are biblical truths that have been and are stumbling blocks for some people and sometimes people in the church. “Following Jesus means accepting truths that are uncomfortable in today’s world”. And the church is filled with people who are struggling with some truth in the Bible and that can bring discomfort.
Chapter 5: uncomfortable love
“Jesus calls his followers not only to love truth but also to love others, radically”. Love is not a feeling it is a commitment. Being part of the church means commitment, it means loving people that are hard to love.
Chapter 6: uncomfortable comforter
Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit, but for many “the role of the Spirit is a source of controversy and unease”. Because we are all coming from different backgrounds with different experiences of the Holy Spirit, at times believers do not know the role of the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 7: uncomfortable mission
“We are called to the mission” and the mission is not comfortable. Talking to others about God is not easy otherwise we would be doing it every single day.
Chapter 8: uncomfortable people
People are sinners and self-serving, and yet “for Christians striving to be a church, overcoming people problems and bearing with one another in love is essential”.
Chapter 9: uncomfortable diversity
“It’s uncomfortable doing church with people who are very different from us. But unity amidst diversity is one of the greatest testaments to the power of the gospel”.
Chapter 10: uncomfortable worship
“Everyone has a preference about style of worship music, prayer, liturgy, etc. Yet putting aside personal preferences and embracing unified, God -centric worship is part of what it means to follow Jesus together”. Not many believers are willing to give up their way of worshipping God through music or church setup.
Chapter 11: uncomfortable authority
“Reluctance to submit to authority is the reason many people abandon church or create their own custom spirituality”.
Chapter 12: uncomfortable unity
“The church must wisely embrace the challenge of unity in spite of its potential landmines.”
Chapter 13: uncomfortable commitment
“The perfect church does not exist but committing to a church in spite of its flaws is essential—and worth it. Churchless Christianity is an oxymoron”.
Chapter 14: countercultural comfort
“There is comfort for those who follow Jesus, but not in the sense that a consumer society defines comfort”.
In conclusion, Christianity is uncomfortable. The hope that we have is the gospel. The hope that we have is looking at Jesus. Jesus lived with people knowing their intentions. For example, he knew that Peter would deny him, yet he did not chase him away. He carried the cross when he could have just asked an angel to carry it. He could have done something to avoid the cross. But Jesus submitted himself to the will of his Father. And we need to submit ourselves to the will of God. The church is God’s plan for this world, and the church is filled with saved sinners who are also struggling just like us with sin.
One thought on “Book Review: Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenges of Christian Community by Brett McCracken”
Good review, keep it up. Having been in the church and in church groups. I’ve come to find it worrisome as Christians are reluctantly enjoying their comfort zones with sin, with absolutely no difference from non believers. Believers of the Cross are not submissive at all. If you caution a non believer together with a believer on the same issue, you will see harvest in a non believer’s life and stagnation in a believer’s life. If believers could get out of their comfort zones, believe and act more than we criticize, fornicate, gossip, embezzle etc, only then we would have a healed healthy church, home and government.