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Adventures in Churchland: Book Review

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Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religion, is Dan Kimball’s latest book. Kimball is the author of They Like Jesus But Not the Church, and The Emerging Church, among others.

Adventures in Churchland chronicles Kimball’s journey from an unchurched person to a pastor of a church. He discusses his initial reactions to Churchland, or the organized church, with candor and humor. Kimball describes taking communion for the first time.

The woman next to me handed me the cup and said something about blood and ‘this is for you’ and something about flesh…When I finished, I realized that I was supposed to hand the cup off to Randy. The problem was, I couldn’t make sense of what the lady had said to me when she passed me the cup…So I just handed Randy the cup, shrugged, and didn’t say anything. ..When he was done, he took the cup and held it out to the woman on his left, hesitating for a moment. He knew he was supposed to say something to the woman, but since I hadn’t said anything to him, he was stumped. So he looked the person in the eye and with great confidence handed her the cup, saying, ‘Here is the Cup of Wonder.’ I knew those were the wrong words, and…the tension of the entire experience just overcame me and I burst out laughing.

With these experiences in mind, Kimball explains how the church is often perceived by unchurched people, and what we can do to address these perceptions. For example, he writes that unchurched people are turned off by “organized religion.” Kimball suggests that, over the years, we have institutionalized many aspects of the church, such as the design of church buildings, the way communion is celebrated, sermons, and dress. He gives the admonition, “When carpets or buildings become more important than people, a church begins to reek of organized religion.” Some tradition is good; but, Kimball says, “If tradition gets in the way of mission, it is sin.”

Kimball also warns against becoming “comfortably numb” in our Christianity. This happens when we spend most of our time with other Christians and doing Christian activities. We tend to have fewer unchurched friends the longer we are Christians. Kimball says that, “we should still seek to be in the world—though not of the world—just as Jesus taught us. And we need to guard against becoming so focused on our involvement in Christian community that we don’t spend enough time in the nonchurch community all around us.”

Kimball spends some time evaluating what the church is. He says that we need to watch our language. He says, “when we understand that we are called to be the church, not just go to church, it changes our identity. No longer do we go to a building where religious activities happen and that is ‘church.’ We now are the church all week long.”

Sage words of advice from someone who has journeyed far in life. I would recommend Adventures in Churchland to anyone who wants to be live with, and for, Jesus.

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