The Internet Monk. That is the tag by which most people knew Michael Spencer. Spencer authored a blog with tons of traffic and conversation. His book, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, is a distillation of his thoughts about his charge of a disconnect between the modern church and what it means to follow Jesus. This book will stand as Spencer’s call to following Jesus since he went to be with Jesus in April of 2010.
The subtitle of the book offers readers insight into the contents of the pages. Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. This subtitle indicates that his target audience is the people that have wandered away from the church disillusioned by what they were experienced in the modern evangelical church. His call is for these people not to give up on following Jesus. Spencer argues that Jesus and the church as it often exists do not necessarily belong together.
Spencer specifically calls out the close connection of the church with conservative politics and the apple pie in the sky approach to spirituality. Throughout the book he challenges his readers to immerse themselves into the gospel accounts of Jesus and rediscover the Jesus of the gospels.
Readers will be challenged to learn more of Jesus and to diligently heed the Lord’s calls to follow him. He calls for opposing any attempt to distract from this type of spirituality whether it be the call of politics, step by step Christianity, moralism or anything else. If the visible church does not mirror Jesus, then follow Jesus.
Spencer did not walk away from the church. He was often frustrated by the church, but not to the point of giving up on the church.
The book does have a couple of weaknesses. Spencer acknowledges that presenting a theme, Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, is not really consistent with his criticism of other themes and labels. This leads to the second weakness. Spencer, at times, takes individual instances of missteps by the church and presents these as a general traits of the evangelical church.
The final weakness is that Spencer raises a number of issues without always offering a clear solution. In his defense, this is by design. His type of spirituality does not always have a clear solution to some problems.
Even with these three weaknesses, this book needs to be read. Readers should come away from this book with a stronger desire to understand and follow Jesus through whatever course of life God leads us.