I received an Advance Readers e-copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Pubdate was 14 June 2022.
The subtitle of this book is “An Honest Dialogue About the Future of the Church”. The dialogue here takes place between mother and daughter, Nancy and Samantha. Nancy was a longtime staff member of Willow Creek, a megachurch based out of Chicago, founded by Bill Hybels. Part of the Baby Boomer generation, Nancy raised her children, including her daughter Samantha, in this church. After growing up in the evangelical church, Nancy was drawn to the creativity and innovation of Willow Creek. Years later though she was part of a group that came forward to speak against some of the abuses of power that occurred there.
Samantha grew up surrounded by and immersed in the creative Christian world of Willow Creek. She thrived in the space created for innovation and the arts. But as an adult she also struggled to come to terms with some of the experiences that occurred at Willow Creek. Living now in Austin, Texas, Samantha has ended up also working in ministry at a church.
These two differing generational perspectives offer a unique picture of the church over the last fifty years or so. As a millennial like Samantha, I could relate to a lot of her experiences, particularly surrounding the growing divide between church and secular culture and the often frustrating ways that the church in North America seems to fall on the wrong side of history. At the same time, I could also relate to some of Nancy’s experiences of seeking out a church culture that supports creativity and innovation.
While the Church has basically suffered from internal conflict since the disciples in Acts first argued over the question of circumcision, there is a particular struggle that seems to be occurring in the evangelical church over the past few years. With the rise of Christian nationalism that Trump’s election seemed to bring to the forefront to the brave men and women who have come forward to speak about abuse experienced within the church, Christians are faced with the question of how they are going to react to these issues. And we are deeply divided. These divisions run deep, even within a single church. This is something I’ve experienced myself within the past couple of years (which is what drew me to request this book in the first place).
As a human being and a Christian myself, I bring my own biases and experience to reading this book. I’ll admit that I have my own opinions about megachurches and bristled a little when I realized that was Nancy’s background. But I appreciated her perspective and particularly how she spoke on the pros and cons of a church as large as Willow Creek.
This is probably a book that will appeal to a reader already interested in the transformation that the church in North America is currently undergoing. Some may call this desconstruction but I prefer to think of it as a chance for reconstruction, a moment of reckoning from which the church can emerge refined and more focused on Christ than ever before. And, ultimately, I believe this is what Nancy and Samantha are striving for too.