According to researcher George Barna, the U.S. church has an epidemic on its hands—ecclesia exitus more commonly called “the church drop-out.” It starts with disillusionment, an injustice, a hurt, which is soon followed by anger and bitterness, and then finally, a choice to worship away from the church. Fortunately, treatment is available for the ecclesia exitus, and ReChurch by Stephen Mansfield is a great place to start.
ReChurch is a book about recovering from wounds left by friendly or unfriendly church fire. The goal is for readers to receive personal and spiritual healing in order that they return to the faith community. Mansfield begins by sharing his own his own story of church exodus and then tells of others who have battled with the Church from its inception, including disciples, church fathers, and contemporaries. After Mansfield shows that the church has always been flawed, he then tells readers that Christians are all called to be a part of the Church, the bride of Christ. He also asks readers to examine their own hearts, in a powerfully redemptive and painful process.
The process is one of self-examination, which is more like going in for major surgery, than merely reopening an old wound. In the end, if it is properly cared for, the heart will heal. But the patient better be strong enough to receive surgery, or the procedure could deal a crushing blow. This is Manfield’s “tough love” approach. He states several times that the pastors who restored him were tough on him, so he is going to be tough on readers. While this may work with some readers, I can see other readers just crumbling under Manfield’s statements.
As a recovering church drop-out, I can honestly say that while Mansfield’s instruction is all spot on, it may be a little too much for tender reeds. All in all, for the typical church drop out, ReChurch is a great book, but not recommended for extreme cases. And it is the only book I read that fully addresses the reasons behind why people drop out of church and shares how in which lost sheep can find their ways back home.
Amy’s Grade: B (Yes, I am now grading books!)
*Thanks to Tyndale House for a review copy of this book!*