Monday, January 21, 2013

Warren Cole Smith's A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church ~ Reviewed

A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church
By: Warren Cole Smith
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 265 
ISBN: 0830856986

"My name is Warren and I'm a recovering evangelical." With these words, Warren Cole Smith begins his book A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church. Since World War II, there has been a flowering of evangelical activity and parachurch organizations. But something troubling has happened in spite of this growth and the political and financial power it has created. Overall church attendance is not growing. America's high divorce rate is just one of many melancholy cultural indicators. Is it possible that the evangelical movement has not been an antidote for this decline but has actually caused this decline in the health and vigor of the true body of Christ? Using solid research and original interviews with some of Americas leading Christian thinkers, journalist and editor Warren Smith examines the condition of the evangelical movement, offering an assessment of what's gone wrong as it has grown in power and size and what must be done if it is to be salt and light in a culture in need of redemption. Smith isn't afraid to name the names of many evangelical leaders but it is because he loves the church that he calls her to repentance. He develops the argument that instead of evangelizing and making obedient disciples of Christ, the church has become part of the cultural decline of the West. A Lover's Quarrel is a penetrating look at the current state of theology and practice in the American evangelical movement and offers a helpful, if difficult, way forward.


The cover is far less compelling than the message in this book. And that is maybe why it sat around on my stack for months, waiting for me to pick it up.

Or maybe the timing was perfect. I did The Truth Project study over the summer and found that to be a serious challenge to what I believed. Our belief systems are so personal and so uniquely twisted. What I believe to be true may offend the socks off the person standing next to me in line. Layers upon layers of simple observations, events, circumstances and words form our beliefs. And those beliefs become part of who we are so it's very threatening to have someone stomp on those beliefs because they have become one with our toes.

That said, Mr. Smith goes after some churchy beliefs that are areas of controversy and powder kegs. The title is pretty appropriate. This isn't a gentle disagreement. A lover's quarrel, by definition, is fueled by passion. Mr. Smith slams his sledgehammer of facts and observation very close to the reader's toes.

His targets:

The way we do church
Politics and religion
Modern soul winning
Christian publishing
Christian music
Christian marketing
Church size
Church hierarchy

Is that enough to make your toes tingle?

The facts, the quotes and Mr. Smith's interpretations of those is definitely food for thought. I found a piece of gristle here and there, some serious toe bruising in a few places I didn't expect to find the sledgehammer. And I came away with the underscored understanding that just because someone says this, or we've done it like this for years and years doesn't make that thing true and right. My own observations and experiences tell me that the American version of Christianity is anemic and struggling in an attempt to change the world. When countries where we've sent missionaries in the near past now sends missionaries to America because we've become a mission field....well...that says something.

Overall, if we do not think for ourselves, we will be deceived. And thinking is hard work, it requires facts and study and digging deep, and if we are not willing to dig and seek the truth we are going to accept the better sounding lies as truth rather than gentle white lies that please our flesh and waste our time.

If you are looking for a meaty, disturbing, worldview changing book, you may want to invest in it. I have a few reservations with some of what the author says based on my experiences, so I can't say I endorse and embrace all that Smith says. But, what he says needs to be considered. When I finished my copy I immediately loaned it to two other friends who are hungry to follow Jesus on His terms, too. Definitely, this would be a nice, spicy small group or Sunday school discussion book.   

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

No comments: