Brief Reviews, VOLUME 2

Brief Review: WHAT IS CHURCH?. by Mike Bishop [Vol. 2, #19]

A Brief Review of  What Is Church? A Story of Transition.

by Mike Bishop

Reviewed by Jason Evans.

What Is Church? A Story of Transition.

Mike Bishop.

Paperback: Missio Dei Books, 2009.

Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

In the introduction to his first book, What Is Church? A Story of Transition, Mike Bishop writes, “The purpose of this book is not to try to answer that question in an academic sense. Nor is it an attempt to present a model for doing church…”

Well, geez, Mike! What is left for there to tell us, then!? I said.

But as I read on, I found a sobering, transparent tale of the journey one faith community made towards trying to get to the core of what it means to follow Jesus together. That is, afterall, what being the church is supposed to be about, right?

Like the early Anabaptists, Mike and his faith community seem to have a propensity for saying, “Let’s follow this age-old conviction to it’s logical conclusion in how we meet and live. No matter what it costs us.” Like he says, this isn’t an academic book such as John Yoder’s Body Politics. But it often reads like Yoder’s book applied. And a lot easier to read!

Don’t get me wrong, Mike does not call himself an Anabaptist. In fact, he speaks frequently of his evangelical Christian commitments and roots to the Vineyard movement. Which might be another reason why this book is so intriguing: he spends a lot of time not just asking what church is but questioning most modern, evangelical assumptions about church. In this regard, What Is Church? reads like David Fitch’s The Great Giveaway but again, applied in a particular context. And a lot more pithy!

It is clear from the book that Mike is a student of Todd Hunter’s. Hunter is the former executive director of Vineyard Church USA, is mentioned often in the book and wrote the foreword. He is known for his easy going, plain speaking way of communication. Mike’s writing has much of the same style. What Is Church? is approachable and enjoyable to read.

I consider Mike to be a friend and I have similar roots. So, decided to challenge my bias. I gave this book to my Roman Catholic lesbian neighbor to see what she thought. She loved it just as much as I did. I’m not sure what that says to you about the book. But I would encourage you to pick it up and judge for yourself.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
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