Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 256 pages – ISBN: 9780849918841
As it has often been the case, it is so again… I have fallen “head over heels” with the vision that is portrayed in this book, Becoming a True Spiritual Community. Over the past few years there has been something almost providential in the way books have come up on my “radar.” The timing of where my thoughts and passions are running and the intersection of the subject matter of the book when it falls into my hands has occurred on more occasions than I can attribute to sheer coincidence. It is the case again with this book by Larry Crabb.
For forty years I have had an on-again-off-again relationship with the Christian Church that exists in North America. My primary experience has been with Protestant Evangelicalism, but my knowledge of the Christian church has extended beyond the boundaries of that circle in the most recent decade. What I have experienced in my forty years of churchianity has not been what I would describe as good and that experience of “not good” resulted in seasons where I danced intimately with the church and other seasons where there was no relationship at all. I accept the responsibility that is mine where my heart and my attitude were incompatible with the Christian church, but I can’t help but think if the church were living up to the organism it is described in the Bible there may not have been the tension between us through the years… there may never have been a break in our relationship at all. I wonder…
So, what is it about this book, Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be, that I find so wonderfully endearing? Before I answer that, let me point out that this is a republication of a book formerly published under the name of The Safest Place on Earth. As far as I have been able to discern, the books are the same. Now, back to the question, what is it about this book?
Becoming a True Spiritual Community ranks as one of the most honest assessments and characterizations of the American church that I have ever read. Saying this I must also clarify that there is no “church bashing” or vitriolic rhetoric that demeans the church. The words are honest and written from an attitude of love for the church, but they are candid, blunt, and revealing. As Crabb reveals some of the shallow façade supporting the contemporary church he does so with painfully honest self-examination that draws the reader into journeying inward to make similar examinations of their own spirituality… sometimes exposing our own shallowness, pride, ego, and selfish desires. This process of exposing and examination continues through part one and into part two of the book before the tide begins to turn and the hopeful beauty of the church and spiritual community that God desires for us is revealed. There are allusions to this hope in the first half of the book, but the crescendo builds to a gloriously hopeful ending beginning at the halfway mark around chapter nine.
The book is full of personal anecdotes and many metaphors gleaned from classic and contemporary literature from the disciplines of spiritual formation. There is also a very thorough discussion guide at the end of the book that would prove itself invaluable for a group study.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I’m sure timing has much to do with my excitement, but I also know that my desire for spiritual community as described by Dr. Crabb has been my passion for at least twenty-five years. I am reinvigorated and encouraged by what was written in this book and will recommend it as one of the top reads concerning the study of ecclesiology (the Church). I look forward to sharing the thoughts contained in this book with others and being a part of the communities that will be formed out of those discussions.