Wow! I could probably begin and end with that one-word summary. This book says everything I have been thinking and saying conversationally with friends for some time. McManus understands the problems with the modern church. He doesn’t hide from them. Nor does he abandon the baby because of the bath water.
In many ways McManus’ work could be an answer to Barna’s recent book… only this one came almost 5 years earlier. McManus comes to some of the same conclusions about the current state of the church. McManus also feels the heartbeat of the Emergent Conversation that there is a need to go back to the past before we can go forward to the future. He contends that emergents are simply not looking back far enough. The Church God had in mind was the first century church. It was prototypical, yet typical of what God wants us to be still.
McManus calls us to adopt what he calls a theology of change. What a comprehensive perception! In talking about this reality he goes to the very nature and character of God to make his point. Though God is immutable in every sense of the word, He has always delivered His message (and will continue to) through different means at different times.
The term he uses that will stay with me for a long time is the concept of a radical minimum standard. I won’t explain it as well as he does, but the idea is that we see Scriptural principles often as credal mandates – he gives the example of the 10 commandments. McManus argues that they were not to be the high end of moral behavior… they were meant as a minimum standard. And on and on he goes from tithing to church membership. His accusation that hit me hardest is that we have lowered the bar! We have asked less of our people and required more out of our pastoral types and lost the vision of what God had in mind for his church in the process.
I cannot even begin to express the blessing and challenge this book has been to me personally. I’m going to recommend that we read this one as an Elder Board at the church where I serve. It’s rich!