I recently wrote a multi-part blog series entitled "Big Church" in which I shared my worries about rapid growth models of local churches and their success measures based on weekly attendance. As a result of this, one of the folks in my Bible study group suggested that I read So You Don't Want to go to Church Anymore by co-authors Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman. The story begins with an associate pastor of a large-growth "mega-church" named Jake Colsen who is feeling more than a bit disillusioned in his position. The pressures and demands of keeping his church "machine" going and growing are taking their toll on him and he is feeling hollow inside and more than a little disconnected from relationship with his Lord. At that time he stumbles upon a man named John, whom Jake suspects may be the apostle of Jesus. By talking with John, Jake comes to understand how perfunctory his life in Christ has become.
The book is divided into 13 chapters spanning four years in Jake's life. Each chapter is framed around some issue or worry that is getting in the way of his knowing and trusting in God. John then mysteriously appears to give Jake some necessary advice and wisdom. He then disappears for a stretch to give Jake time and space to think things through and to overcome his fears and to implement new approaches into his life.
The overriding theme of this book that comes up in each chapter appears to be an indictment of our conventional notion of church. Several reviews that I read harped on the fact that the authors seem to be saying that spiritual closeness with God cannot be found in church. Churches are too big, too impersonal, too human centered. But I think that misses the true message of this work of fiction. I think the authors are merely trying to espouse living a spirit-filled life and that we should seek to build fellowship more than in our single worship hour each Sunday. It is only when we keep our focus consistently on Jesus that we will find him and be able to follow him most effectively.