Reappearing Church Review

Book Review: 

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

Mark Sayers is a cultural commentator, 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, the co-founder of Uber Ministries, and the co-host of This Cultural Moment, a podcast with John Mark Comer. Mark lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife Trudi, daughter Grace, and twin boys Hudson and Billy.

Book Summary
In Reappearing Church: The Hope for Renewal in the Rise of Our Post-Christian Culture, Mark Sayers gives his reader a quick crash-course on the history of revival in the world and offers a playbook on how the church can faithfully pursue and plead with God to do it again in our day. In this, his follow-up to Disappearing Church, Sayers offers a thorough and hopeful dealing on what it looks like for the church to pursue revival, to serve as a faithful presence within an increasingly anxious and hostile culture, and how to do it in an entirely Christian way, in humility and utter dependence on God.

Opening the book, Sayers identifies what he calls the “secularist renewal myth,” or the lies that our culture is telling us about the good life and how to get there. Using that as a starting point, he then begins discussing what the pattern of Christian renewal looks like and proceeds to lay out the pathway to seeing such renewal occur in our day. Sayers contends that, historically, the process of God renewing and/or reviving a people has involved Him progressing them through a series of phases. During a period of decline, God creates 1) Holy Discontent in a people, begins a process of 2) Preparation, compels this people to develop a posture of 3) Contending who then develop 4) Holy Patterns, and, finally, a 5) Remnant is born, all of which moves a person, a church, a denomination, a region, and/or a country into Renewal. Along with laying out a renewal pattern, this section introduces the reader to a handful of practices that Sayers believes can help usher the church towards embodying this idea of being a faithful witness to a culture gone wayward – it’s an effort at reorienting the reader around that which is true rather than the implicit cultural myths that are so subconsciously formative. Sayers offers the sort of instruction that simply serves to convince the reader to open his/her hands and receive from the Lord. It’s a dance, a two-step, that involves active pursuit and hopeful, pleading, humble dependence. And this is the dance that Sayers is inviting his reader to join with.

Mark Sayers is truly gifted. I’m not sure there’s another person in evangelicalism who’s better equipped and more gifted to serve in the space that Sayers currently occupies. This and his previous books are such useful resources for the church, we should lap them up with regularity. That said, I found Reappearing Church to be a bit more challenging and, candidly, frustrating at certain points, much of which revolved around the structure of the book more than anything else.

While there are treasures to be found in this book, its layout and structure made it quite challenging in a lot of ways. It seems like the book’s layout is built in such a way as to cater to a culture addicted to Twitter posts and headlined, bulleted articles. Literally, on every page, there are multiple bold headlines, callout quotes, bubbled principle statements, and the like. As I read, I felt like I was constantly being interrupted by a new section and/or a new thought, such that it was exceedingly difficult to get into a reading rhythm and, I would say, difficult for the author to follow a thought to its end. Each successive section felt thoroughly incomplete. For a book that pleads with the reader to rebut against culture with redemptive practices, its format seems to implicitly do the opposite – rather than calling the reader to sustained attention, it offers a sort of narrative ADD, bouncing from one thing to the next with an unhelpful rapidity. So, though the book’s content is valuable and helpful, it seems to me that its layout stands as a challenge, at best, and a barrier, at worst, to extracting its value. I will continue to read everything Mark Sayers writes, but I do hope that his next book adopts a more traditional format.

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