I recently finished reading Brett McCracken’s book, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community. Our church made this required reading for our Life Group leaders this year, and we slowly worked our way through it, week by week, chapter by chapter, with group discussions during our Sunday evening coaching times.
Personally, I feel that one of the surest ways to take the joy out of a book is to make it “assigned reading” — and even though I’m a part of the leadership team who was ultimately responsible for the assignment, I went into my reading of the book with a bad attitude. Still, as I dutifully worked my own way through the book, I grew to appreciate it more and more. It felt like a mirror to my own processing of ministry dynamics over the last 25 years, and I found that McCracken lends an articulate voice to a valuable perspective on Christian community.
The fact of the matter is that following Jesus requires us to get past ourselves. We must learn how to get past the discomforts of community in order to experience the fullness of the life of faith. Over the last 50 years, there have been many different attempts to mitigate the awkward and uncomfortable dynamics of church life, but McCracken suggests that the uncomfortable parts of church life are often the most essential parts of our spiritual formation.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes, from the last chapter of the book, as it attempts to tie everything together:
Seeker-friendly Christianity tried to revive the church by infusing it with the logic of the marketplace. Hipster Christianity tried to revive the church by obsessing over newness and relevance. Both of these approaches were efforts to address Christianity’s PR problem, attempting to convince an increasingly secular population that Christianity isn’t weird, stodgy, traditionalistic, legalistic, homophobic, judgmental, anti-intellectual, regressive, and conservative as they thought it was. An admirable goal, to be sure… Yet seeker-friendly and hipster Christianity failed to invigorate contemporary Christianity because they’ve been too embarrassed to lead with the admittedly uncomfortable truth that a Christianity with no teeth, no offensiveness, no cost, and no discomfort is not really Christianity at all.
Personally, I found that the second half of the book (“Uncomfortable Church”) was better than the first half of the book (“Uncomfortable Faith”), but several of the student-leaders in my coaching group felt differently. The chapter on “Uncomfortable Diversity” was probably the most challenging and impactful for me, but there were a lot of things that spoke to me from a lot of different parts of the book.
At the very least, I can say that the book prompted some valuable discussion — and I’m glad that I got the chance to learn from it.