"The following observations are offered to the rest of the church as the commendations and provocations of a loyal church member, not as the flatteries or insults of an outsider. They are offered in love-and exasperation, and longing, and even a bit of pique at times-in the hopes that the church somewhere, somehow, will be the better for them."
—from the preface
This collection of short writings is offered as an invigorating reading experience for everyone, from pastors to lay people, who loves the church in spite of its eccentricities and excesses.
Heavily sprinkled with satire and wit, "Church" offers plenty of food for thought on topics such as worship, preaching, leadership, money, membership, literacy, and even summertime events (or the lack thereof). It is straightforward and practical, written by a concerned observer of the North American church scene. While Stackhouse is shameless about bringing both the good and the ugly to light in his provocative reflections, he is also shamelessly passionate about making the church an even better, more inviting, place to be.
Spending time with someone who has an opinion about everything—and is willing to share it—can be agonizing. But if he hits the mark more often than not, it's bearable. And if he's clever and engaging and asks enough questions so that it appears he's not a know-it-all, but a know-a-lot, it can become downright enjoyable—like reading this book.
A self-admitted "opinion-monger," Stackhouse has collected here dozens of short (two- to six-page) opinion essays on a wide range of church-related subjects, clumped together under broad rubrics: worship, preaching, leadership, fellowship, mission, etc.... He opines, for example, about the scriptural mini-canons most folks use, misunderstandings of church membership and the tiny honoraria churches pay to clergy.
Though he is an academic, this book reflects the other hats he wears as an editor and journalist. The essays use all sorts of tricks to teach and cajole and persuade and entertain. For example, there is a hilarious tongue-in-cheek memo about making decisions to maximize efficiency in the church, and an "Actual Pastoral Job Description."
Although the subtitle suggests that the book is for outsiders, it's insiders—those who know and love the church, and have strong opinions about it—who will most enjoy this book.