Book Review: Giving Church Another Chance
By: Todd Hunter
Publisher: InterVarsity Press ISBN: 9780830837489
“…practice your way to faith.” Those are some of the closing words to this remarkably simple, yet profound book. I’ve had Giving Church Another Chance in my possession for a while now. I have meant to read it before, but for myriad reasons haven’t gotten around to starting it until recently. I’m almost inclined to say the timing for this read was providential considering that I read three-quarters of the book during a snowstorm that knocked out power and had us locked in to our home for a few days. The accompanying solitude and quiet lent itself to an almost perfect environment to absorb and digest the sweet and nurturing words that Todd Hunter shares on repracticing the disciplines of the Church.
I do not know Todd personally, but I have learned about him through the stories of others and from the information he has shared about his biography. It seems to me that he stands in small company with a group of people who are uniquely qualified and gifted to share the story he tells in this book. Todd has been exposed to a very diverse experience within the Protestant church family, not only as a participating member, but also in the top levels of leadership. His perspective, experience, and wisdom are shared with pastoral gentleness and Christ-like humility. I found my emotions, both physical and spiritual, stirred throughout my reading experience having memories recalled from my own life as well as sensing a longing in my soul to participate in repracticing these ecclesial exercises.
The book is nine chapters not counting the introduction and conclusion, and just short of two-hundred pages. Todd has included a notes and references section at the end of the book and he also includes a group study guide as well. His outline and process through the book is quite clever as he follows the basic liturgical movement of a weekend mass or worship service (check the amazon.com site for an inside look of the TOC for a closer look).
While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I was especially moved by several chapters. Chapter five; “Hearing Sermons” was rather convicting to me. I am a pastor, a leader in the church; I have been involved with the Christian faith in some aspect or another for over forty years. I know intellectually and spiritually that church is about Jesus Christ…or should be and that it is not solely about me or my needs. Knowing this and practicing it is a different story. Too often I find myself taking the role of an ecclesiastical version of Siskel and Ebert acting as a couch critic for all things church and worship service related. I don’t like that I do this, but even if I keep my mouth shut, my subconscious is still measuring and grading all that goes on during a Sunday morning. Opening myself up to the insight Todd Hunter shares might help me to engage in “hearing the sermon” from a less narcissistic perspective and engage in a more corporate attitude.
Chapters six through eight were also very meaningful to me, helping to recenter and align some of the outward expressions of faith through the practices and disciplines of the church. Specifically, Hunter addresses Liturgy as A Lifestyle of the Work of the People, Giving an Offering (tithing) as Simplicity of Life, and Taking Communion (Eucharist) as a Life of Thankfulness. Each of these chapters were nothing new to me, but they were gentle and firm reminders that were helpful in showing area where I might have become lax in my practices.
The conclusion of the book is indeed a summation of the purpose of the entire book; Putting the Spiritual Practices of the Church to Use. A quote out of the book from Henri Nouwen might be a good way to end this review; “The goal of education and formation for the ministry is continually to recognize the Lord’s voice, his face, and his touch in every person we meet.” This then, is what the spiritual practices of the church help us to learn. Giving Church another Chance might be the first step you or someone you know needs to get back on that track of formation. This book is great and easy to read…simple and profound.
Todd shares some thoughts from Chapter Seven, Giving an Offering: Simplicity of Faith in the video below–