This post was written as part of the discussion of the recent book, Sacrilege: Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus (Shapevine) by Hugh Halter at the Patheos Book Club.
We live in an age when many people are questioning the relevance of the church in today’s society and in their own lives. Sacrilege by Hugh Halter is a book that also questions the relevance of the church and seeks to provide areas in which all Christians could stand to grow. The essential premise of Mr. Halter’s book is that Jesus was counter-cultural therefore Christians should also be counter-cultural, and it is his view that our modern churches have become so mainstream as to be all but indistinguishable from the very culture Jesus spoke out against. To this end he takes numerous cheap shots at today’s churches with such witty prose as, “In my world, when I meet someone new, I rarely say I’m a pastor, I’m always a ‘nonprofit consultant’…even though I lead a church, I’m not a complete dork.”
And it’s here that Mr. Halter lost me. To be sure, our churches could stand to be a little more like Jesus. I’ll even grant that we could stand to be a lot more like Jesus. But Mr. Halter chooses to be deliberately provocative in his comments and in so doing doesn’t make the argument that we should be counter-cultural but that we should be counter-church. Because of the many short comings of our churches Mr. Halter throws the baby out with the bath water and asserts that a new model is required; not coincidentally, his model is available.
However, despite his comments that I suspect will garner audiences that find his comments refreshing and insulting in equal measure, Mr. Halter does suggest areas that are worthy of discussion and introspection. His thoughts are primarily based on a three point model of “Biblical apprenticeship” that includes, “1) becoming like Jesus, 2) doing what Jesus did, and 3) doing the above with the types of people Jesus liked spending time with.”
Mr. Halter spills considerable ink imploring us to to be more open minded and less rigid in our doctrine. He encourages us to open our homes to those whom Jesus came to serve and for our family time and Sabbaths not to be sacrosanct, but as times to be used for the glorification of God. He motivates us to see God in all things and to reconsider the purpose and liturgy of communion, re-crafting it to be an open and accessible part of our Christian walk.
In short, Hugh Walter is suggesting that we need to be transformed by the Gospel of Christ and the love of Jesus. He poignantly states, “Often we think people’s lack of spiritual response is because they just don’t want to find God. More often, I have found, the real problem is that we just don’t live enough like Jesus yet.” I find myself unable to argue this point.
I think Sacrilege is a book that will speak to many people and I believe Hugh Walter is a man who’s heart is in the right place. Consider reading this book with a Christian’s heart, forgiving the book’s shortcomings and focusing on it’s key principals. You just may find some areas of your life that are asking to be transformed.