Disappearing Church Review

Book Review: 

[The following bio was retrieved from Mark Sayers’ Amazon author page, which can be found here.]

Mark Sayers is a writer, speaker, and pastor who is highly sought out for his unique and perceptive insights into faith and contemporary culture. Mark is the author of The Trouble with Paris, The Vertical Self, The Road Trip That Changed The World and Facing Leviathan. Mark is also the Senior Leader of Red Church, and the co-founder of Uber Ministries. Mark lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife Trudi, daughter Grace, and twin boys Hudson and Billy.

Book Summary
In Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience, Mark Sayers, with his unique gifting around cultural analysis, discusses the state of Western culture and its impact on the church in the West, providing insightful and helpful commentary, encouragement, and hope for those who may find themselves discouraged by the state of the church and questioning where do we go from here.

He breaks the book into two primary sections: 1) Understanding our Craving for Cultural Relevance, and 2) Learning Gospel Resilience. It’s in these two sections where Sayers effectively provides a diagnosis of the problem (the church’s craving for cultural relevance) and the solution or treatment plan (becoming a more resilient people). Of course, interspersed throughout the book is Sayers’ trademark cultural insight, “weaving together art, history, and theology” to give his reader a thorough and well-rounded articulation of what’s going on in the church and culture, how we got here, and how we move forward faithfully.

If you’re trying to make sense of the madness swirling around western culture, this book will aid you in that quest.

Toward the end of the book, Sayers states plainly one of his primary aims in writing it, which is to encourage the church “to allow the unique pressure that we face, alongside submitting to God, to forge within us a prophetic posture” (153). If there ever was a time for the church to serve as a prophetic witness to the culture, now would be it. In this, I think Sayers has succeeded in preparing the church to practice this prophetic posture.

One of the more enlightening insights provided by the author is his insistence that one of the main, if not the main, heresies plaguing our culture (and even the church itself) is that of Gnosticism. From the autonomous, individual self to the online life to what he calls the “disincarnation of pleasure,” all of these have their roots in Gnostic thinking, which is the idea that knowledge or the spirit or the immaterial self is good and the body is bad, either comprehensively or, in our culture, this version of the body (the undoctored, unexercised, unattractive). Summing up a quote offered by Martin Buber, Sayers states that contemporary Gnosticism “could be detected in an increasing obsession with the self, with personal development and the preference of spirituality over religion, and with therapy over communion with a transcendent God” (52). If that isn’t an indictment of our culture, I’m not sure what is.

There is so much more that could be said about Disappearing Church, which I will refrain from writing and simply encourage you to grab the book. In doing so, and reading, I think you’ll find yourself uniquely equipped to make better sense of the strange days in which we live.

[I received this book free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]