Book Review: Kingdom Come: Why we must give up our obsession with fixing the church—and what we should do instead, by Reggie McNeal
Those two words sum up my feelings about Reggie McNeal’s latest offering, Why we must give up our obsession with fixing the church—and what we should do instead. Yes, I agree with his premise. But, I don’t agree with the subtitle of the book. Yes, I agree with his argument. But, he ignores what Scripture says about the church.
The author’s premise is that
… turning people into good church people has largely become the mission of the church. It promotes and perpetuates a church-centered narrative. But just as he did with religious leaders in his own day, Jesus has a beef with church leaders who misrepresent God to the world, who are telling the wrong story.
Rather than promoting a church-centered narrative, we need to shift to a Kingdom-centered narrative.
A Kingdom-centered narrative, on the other hand, focuses on how to be the church in the world, and the issues for Kingdom agents are fundamentally different from those that concern leaders and managers of institutional churches. Missional Jesus-followers are not obsessed with how or where they worship or who is authorized to do what in the church gatherings.
Their spiritual journey is not defined by the form of church they attend. They are found in every tribe. Some attend cathedrals, while others participate in program-heavy evangelical congregations and still others gather in homes. Whether they are stay-at-home moms or executives of multinational corporations, their focus is on creating greater missional intentionality in every part of their lives—where they live, work, go to school, and play.
On the one hand, I agree with his premise and argument. As a pastor, I have taught and emphasized that the purpose of our church is “building a community to change the world.” We don’t want a community for the sake of having a community. We want a community that it making an impact and changing the world.
On the other hand, the author bases his argument on the Old Testament and the Gospels. However, he completely ignores the Book of Acts which is all about the church as well as the New Testament epistles which were written to local churches or church leaders. Jesus Christ left the church in the world to make an impact.
So yes, we need a broader kingdom impact. We need to get people out of the pews and into the community. We need to deemphasize church programs and emphasize community impact. But, the church is at the center of Christ’s strategy to accomplish the goal. We need to balance evangelism and discipleship with community involvement.
I think my biggest objection is that the author frames the topic as an either/or argument. We either focus on the kingdom or we focus on the church. I think he is incorrect. It’s both/and. The church is part of the kingdom. We need community impact and evangelism. We need tutoring programs and worship services. We need service projects and discipleship programs. Yes, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” But he also said, “I will build my church.”
I found chapter 6, “When it works: Kingdom collaboration,” to be the most helpful section of the book. He gives practical advice and principles on what to look for and how to proceed in establishing an effective community service project. You need an influential champion, adequate financing, a sense of urgency, a conversation coach, and a convener or leader. He also lists five essential ingredients for collective impact: a common agenda, shared measurements, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support.
Yes, but. While I liked much about the book, I’m not ready to give up on the church.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.