A Brief Review of
Embodying Our Faith:
Becoming a Living, Sharing, Practicing Church.
Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.
“My prayer is that God will use my words, humbly and fearfully offered, to help us live more authentically as apprentices of Jesus, deeply loved by the Father, and sent by and with him into the world. To God be the glory”.(17) .
I have a feeling that this prayer, which the author lifts up in the preface, will be answered as this book is read, discussed and digested among the people of God in the days to come.
I, for one, am very thankful for those in our day and time who have a gift of discernment in looking critically at our culture and the church’s life within that culture. Tim Morey appears be one of those voices, calling the church to be the church – to engage and challenge our culture with all the wisdom and power God has made available to us. Even though this book grew out of a dissertation, it is not stuck in the highways and byways of academia. It is written out of experience and observation, and it is easy to be caught up in the writer’s passion and longing to see the church become all she was called to be.
Critical thinking does not come naturally to many of us. If you are included in that group, I would say that you will find Mr. Morey’s introduction very helpful in taking a hard look at our culture and assessing where it was and where it is now, and even more importantly, taking a hard and honest look at the life of God’s people, the church, as she thinks and acts within this culture. After reading the author’s explanations and insights, words like modernism, post-modernism, pluralism, deconstruction and other such descriptions of our time and culture don’t seem so scary and beyond our realm of understanding. They actually begin to make sense. He reminds us that just as missionaries sent beyond our borders need to have an understanding of the culture they are entering into in order to be effective, we need to have an understanding of our culture in order to engage and challenge. In what ways has the church allowed herself to be formed and shaped over the past years by the culture rather than Scripture? For those of us who have been thinking about these issues over the past few years (and many within the Christian community have) there isn’t too much new here in the author’s opening pages; but for those among us who haven’t really taken the time to consider the importance of thinking about these things, this book is a good place to begin. Whereas many look at our culture and feel hopeless, despairing, and unhappy at what seems to be the church’s new place in our post-modern times, the author looks around and sees opportunity. “I believe this is a great moment for the church. The church, now relegated to a marginalized role in society, has the opportunity to recover its vocation as God’s missionary people.” ( 38)
In the first chapter, cleverly entitled “Show and Tell”, the author shares with us what he thinks an “embodied apologetic” might look like and why he believes it is not only critical, but Scriptural.
How desperately our world needs to see the incarnation of Christ lived out among His people in very real and tangible ways. “By this I mean an apologetic that is based more on the weight of our actions than the strength of our arguments. This is an apologetic that is high-touch, engages people relationally, ordinarily takes place in the context of an ongoing friendship, and addresses the need inquirers have and the questions they pose. It provides the weight to our answers that reason by itself cannot.” (40)
How did we get to the place where “church” is the building around the corner rather than the living, breathing, active body of Christ? Exactly when did we begin to see the church as existing to meet our needs rather than us – the church – existing for the sake of the world? At what point did we become not only vendors of religious goods and services but consumers of them. When did just believing all the right things become the correct response to Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him? Mr. Morey speaks well to the church in our day and time.
In building what He says should be our “embodied apologetic”, he presents us with three basic directions that he believes should be the building blocks. First, our apologetic should be experiential (with a warning attached: “In the modern evangelical church…experience is suspect, risky at best and deceptive at worst. Granted, experience alone is not a reliable guide, and should not be divorced from either the revelation of Scripture or reason.”). Secondly, our apologetic should be communal. “The message of Christ will be more readily accepted when it is embodied not just in an individual but in a community of Christians who are committed to being shaped into the image of Christ, loving one another and serving their world.” (p 52). Our communal apologetic is necessary for our experiential apologetic. The validity and truthfulness of our experiences are fleshed out within the community and, better yet, “my story can become our story”. Thirdly, our apologetic must be enacted. “When the church lives as it is called to live, the world receives a powerful apologetic: a glimpse of what it looks like when God reigns in the world.” (56). The author lays those three challenges out before us in very concrete and specific ways throughout the book, along with paths we might take that would lead us in that direction.
I very much appreciated the last pages of this book, a chapter entitled “Enacted Faith,” as the author tackles the issues of justice and poverty and our call to be people of compassion. Some of the Scriptures he shares from Psalms and Isaiah are my favorites on this issue. “Scripture portrays Yahweh as the world’s rescuer and redeemer, one who brings relief to the hurting and justice to the oppressed” (167-168). The church in this country has struggled through the years in bringing together social action and what we have always thought of as “evangelism”. As we enact and embody our faith, are they not one of the same? “God’s mission is not merely to disembodied souls, but to whole people.” (178).
Some of the chapters seemed a little choppy in places but this book for the most part is readable and easy to understand. It joins a great list of books written over the past several years addressing what I think is one of the most critical and foundational issues for the church in our culture today…God’s call to the church to truly be the church and to live incarnationally in the midst of the world around her. All else must flow from that.
Thanks, Tim Morey, for the thoughtful and prayerful work that went into this book. My prayers are with you and the community of believers you are a part of as you endeavor to live out the truth you set forth and wrestle with in this book. May you truly be a living, sharing, practicing church. May God shape all of us in that direction.