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Does your church make you uncomfortable? It's easy to dream about the "perfect" church--a church that sings just the right songs set to just the right music before the pastor preaches just the right sermon to a room filled with just the right mix of people who happen to agree with you on just about everything. Chances are your church doesn't quite look like that. But what if Does your church make you uncomfortable? It's easy to dream about the "perfect" church--a church that sings just the right songs set to just the right music before the pastor preaches just the right sermon to a room filled with just the right mix of people who happen to agree with you on just about everything. Chances are your church doesn't quite look like that. But what if instead of searching for a church that makes us comfortable, we learned to love our church, even when it's challenging? What if some of the discomfort that we often experience is actually good for us? This book is a call to embrace the uncomfortable aspects of Christian community, whether that means believing difficult truths, pursuing difficult holiness, or loving difficult people--all for the sake of the gospel, God's glory, and our joy.


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Does your church make you uncomfortable? It's easy to dream about the "perfect" church--a church that sings just the right songs set to just the right music before the pastor preaches just the right sermon to a room filled with just the right mix of people who happen to agree with you on just about everything. Chances are your church doesn't quite look like that. But what if Does your church make you uncomfortable? It's easy to dream about the "perfect" church--a church that sings just the right songs set to just the right music before the pastor preaches just the right sermon to a room filled with just the right mix of people who happen to agree with you on just about everything. Chances are your church doesn't quite look like that. But what if instead of searching for a church that makes us comfortable, we learned to love our church, even when it's challenging? What if some of the discomfort that we often experience is actually good for us? This book is a call to embrace the uncomfortable aspects of Christian community, whether that means believing difficult truths, pursuing difficult holiness, or loving difficult people--all for the sake of the gospel, God's glory, and our joy.

30 review for Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community

  1. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    First sentence of the introduction: If you could dream up the perfect church, what would it look like? First sentence of chapter one: There was at least a four-year gap between when I prayed to ask Jesus to be my Savior, and when I publicly confessed him as such in my church and asked to be baptized. That’s how much of an introvert I am. Premise/plot: To sum it up simply, the premise of this one is that church is not about you and what you want; it is not about your comfort level. (It's not about First sentence of the introduction: If you could dream up the perfect church, what would it look like? First sentence of chapter one: There was at least a four-year gap between when I prayed to ask Jesus to be my Savior, and when I publicly confessed him as such in my church and asked to be baptized. That’s how much of an introvert I am. Premise/plot: To sum it up simply, the premise of this one is that church is not about you and what you want; it is not about your comfort level. (It's not about any one person's wants.) Church is NOT a product to be consumed--packaged, repackaged. From the introduction, "Church shouldn’t be about being perfectly understood and met in our comfort zone; it should be about understanding God more, and meeting him where he is." McCracken continues in chapter one, "We grow most when we are outside of our comfort zones. We are more effective when we are on the edge of risk. We hold beliefs more dear and pursue goals more passionately when they are accompanied by a cost." The first part is "Uncomfortable Faith." It consists of seven chapters: "Embrace the Discomfort," "The Uncomfortable Cross," "Uncomfortable Holiness," "Uncomfortable Truths," "Uncomfortable Love," "Uncomfortable Comforter," and "Uncomfortable Mission." The second part is "Uncomfortable Church." It consists of seven chapters: "Uncomfortable People," "Uncomfortable Diversity," "Uncomfortable Worship," "Uncomfortable Authority," "Uncomfortable Unity," "Uncomfortable Commitment," and "Countercultural Comfort." My favorite chapters were "Uncomfortable Holiness" and "Uncomfortable Love." My thoughts: I loved this book. I think the book is definitely needed. I think the concept of church is radically misunderstood by believers and unbelievers. I think there have been several generations--at least--that have grown up believing that church was ALL about them: what they wanted, what they liked, what felt right to them. A culture had developed where it's perfectly normal to church hop your entire life and never commit to any one church for any serious length of time. I think the book is thought-provoking and rich in insight. I know those phrases can be so overused that they become meaningless. But I will give you examples to back up my claims. Consider this paragraph from the introduction: Commitment even amidst discomfort, faithfulness even amidst disappointment: this is what being the people of God has always been about. Imagine if God were as fickle and restless as we are. But he isn’t. God’s covenant faithfulness to his people, even when the relationship is difficult and embarrassing, should be instructive to us. A healthy relationship with the local church is like a healthy marriage: it only works when grounded in selfless commitment and a nonconsumerist covenant. I do not want to imagine a fickle God. Do you? God is faithful, good, true, gracious, and merciful. We are not. We are fickle and restless, discontent with everything, unthankful. We take God for granted. And take the church for granted too. The idea that church membership is like a covenant is a foreign concept. Though the Bible tells us in Old Testament and New that the church is God's bride--the imagery of marriage is consistent in both Testaments--we are content ignoring that for the most part. We are content giving God a little of ourselves when God demands the whole heart. We are uncomfortable with that. The gospel McCracken clings to--the gospel he advocates preaching and believing--is an offensive one. He calls out those who would compromise the gospel to make it more palatable, less offensive, more welcoming to anyone and everyone. The church's health--your health, my health, our health--depend on the church believing, preaching, teaching, proclaiming the truth of the gospel, the truth as revealed in the Word of God, resting confidently in the authority of Scripture. There is no spiritual health when the church separates itself from the God of Truth. The whole heart, the whole mind, the whole soul--that is what the body of Christ is called to give God. The Bible can dose out uncomfortable medicine. It is our job to accept that uncomfortable-ness as being for our own good, and exactly what we need in order to become who we're meant to be as God's children. I'll close with this statement from the introduction: "What we think we want from a church is almost never what we need."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    **I received this book for free from the publisher through Netgalley. My review and opinions are my own.** Uncomfortable. Awkward. These are words that can be - and often are - used to describe church and Christians. We want to avoid awkwardness and be where we are comfortable, so we should look for a church that makes us comfortable, right? Brett McCracken says no, being uncomfortable is good for us. In fact, he starts off the book with the idea that we should find the closest non-heretical churc **I received this book for free from the publisher through Netgalley. My review and opinions are my own.** Uncomfortable. Awkward. These are words that can be - and often are - used to describe church and Christians. We want to avoid awkwardness and be where we are comfortable, so we should look for a church that makes us comfortable, right? Brett McCracken says no, being uncomfortable is good for us. In fact, he starts off the book with the idea that we should find the closest non-heretical church that preaches the Bible and commit to that church, regardless of whether or not we "fit" there. As someone who has often felt like the square peg in the round hole at church - for example, I'm a Calvinist who attended a church in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition for many years - I found this book to be extremely helpful. Looking at the discomfort of not quite fitting in as an opportunity for spiritual growth gave me a new sense of how we are all called to be the body of Christ, each with different gifts and weaknesses. The only place where the book falls is the chapter called "Uncomfortable Spirit." I believe the point of the chapter is that the Spirit sometimes manifests himself in ways that are uncomfortable for us, which is true. However, the chapter reads as a defense of charismatic Christianity. I have nothing against charismatics; the chapter simply didn't fit the book. I would highly recommend this book to any Christian, especially anyone who feels like they never fit in at church.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Leah Hickman

    This book is a much-needed wake-up call to Christians who have fallen into a consumerist mindset about church. In effect, McCracken reminds his readers that finding a church isn't like picking out a pair of shoes--it's not about finding the "perfect fit" or the "most comfortable" brand. It's more like a marriage--a relationship that requires commitment through the discomfort. McCracken spends the book outlining the various elements of church that make it both uncomfortable and necessary to each This book is a much-needed wake-up call to Christians who have fallen into a consumerist mindset about church. In effect, McCracken reminds his readers that finding a church isn't like picking out a pair of shoes--it's not about finding the "perfect fit" or the "most comfortable" brand. It's more like a marriage--a relationship that requires commitment through the discomfort. McCracken spends the book outlining the various elements of church that make it both uncomfortable and necessary to each Christian. He does an excellent job of picking out the aspects of church that have historically been reasons for churchgoers to leave a church. He then dissects these elements for the reader in a way that challenges the reader to examine his own motives in his search for a "perfect church." At times, McCracken begins to get a little repetitive in the message he shares, and the ambitious number of topics he covers means that he can give only a cursory look at each element. I also noticed that he was raising a lot of questions without answering them. This left me wanting more depth and detail. However, it seems like this birds-eye view of the issue is the very purpose of the book. It's not meant to answer every question but, instead, to wake people up to their own unhealthy view of the church. It's meant to encourage them to dig deeper into what it really means to be a part of the body of Christ. And, for some readers, maybe it will take a bit of repetition to hammer this crucial message home.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    audio. This book has been on my list for a while, but it was extremely timely for me. I appreciate his story, his candor and his empathy for how hard being a faithful church member is. I didn't agree with certain theological points (and there was a time this would have bothered me more than it does now), but I needed and appreciated his pointed words of truth. I'm struggling in my current church. To the point I wish I could slink out the back door and move on. McCracken reminded me of what I kno audio. This book has been on my list for a while, but it was extremely timely for me. I appreciate his story, his candor and his empathy for how hard being a faithful church member is. I didn't agree with certain theological points (and there was a time this would have bothered me more than it does now), but I needed and appreciated his pointed words of truth. I'm struggling in my current church. To the point I wish I could slink out the back door and move on. McCracken reminded me of what I know but is so, so hard right now. I've made vows and until I have biblical grounds to leave (I don't), I need to endure the "uncomfortable" and serve faithfully. But in my attempt to be a faithful member, I will meet with the session.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Loraena

    This book covers some important concepts. McCracken addresses the consumerist mindset with which modern evangelicals often approach the Church. He proposes a different mentality in which we commit to a particular local church body because we know we need it, not simply because it matches all of our personal preferences and tastes. I agree with him that the consumerist mindset is a problem (13 years ministering in a very small church makes that abundantly clear) but I was not entirely comfortable This book covers some important concepts. McCracken addresses the consumerist mindset with which modern evangelicals often approach the Church. He proposes a different mentality in which we commit to a particular local church body because we know we need it, not simply because it matches all of our personal preferences and tastes. I agree with him that the consumerist mindset is a problem (13 years ministering in a very small church makes that abundantly clear) but I was not entirely comfortable with the tone he takes at times. He fails to recognize that many of us who "grew up Christian" (seemingly his primary audience) have drifted to the sidelines not just because of laziness or snobbishness, but because of deep wounding. We were not equipped with a solid enough theological understanding to withstand the abuses and failures of those in leadership. Our understanding of God’s character is not big enough to see past the fray. I know many people who love God, yet struggle to invest or commit to a local body because they are deeply afraid. They've been manipulated, dismissed, misunderstood, misrepresented, used, abused or in some other way hurt by the very entity that is supposed to shepherd and care for them. The PTSD is real and they do not trust those in leadership over churches and often for good reason. This is a complex and pervasive problem. I wish Brett had acknowledged that we need to learn to distinguish between idealist-consumerism and woundedness and at least pointed out that they must be handled very, very differently, even if that was not the intended audience for this book. We must keep faith that one day Christ will present the Church to himself spotless and flawless because he will, despite our best efforts. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam Godbold

    I needed this book. I pastor a small, quasi-traditional church in a very hip, cutting-edge, affluent community. One might say that we are a bit awkward and quiet insignificant, in the grand scheme of things, but we are doing our very best to worship together, grow together, and serve together in genuine, relational community. Even as I disagreed with various minor sub-points, I found every chapter both challenging and encouraging. What a timely book. It needed to be written.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    McCracken has given us an important call to the uncomfortable things of Christianity and the church. The things that are actually good for is and serve to transform us. While you might disagree on a few areas, I didn't, they is so much valuble insight here for our day. McCracken has given us an important call to the uncomfortable things of Christianity and the church. The things that are actually good for is and serve to transform us. While you might disagree on a few areas, I didn't, they is so much valuble insight here for our day.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Will Clemmons

    Powerful book. Cannot recommend you read this book enough. Many underlines in my copy. Now on to applying what I’ve been taught.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Darryl Eyb

    Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken is a book dealing with the consumer culture within Christianity. In particular, it focuses on the way we all want things that are comfortable. This affects the way we choose our churches, whether it’s based on kids programs, easy-going relationships, comfortable preaching, great lattes or cool worship. Brett McCracken questions whether such an I-centred should be an emphasis in the Christian life. In o Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken is a book dealing with the consumer culture within Christianity. In particular, it focuses on the way we all want things that are comfortable. This affects the way we choose our churches, whether it’s based on kids programs, easy-going relationships, comfortable preaching, great lattes or cool worship. Brett McCracken questions whether such an I-centred should be an emphasis in the Christian life. In other words, it asks to what extent does our culture influence our Christian life and that of the church. This is a great question to ask. The church as a whole has ignored how the culture has shaped its understanding of comfort in a pursuit of relevance and attractiveness. Uncomfortable is a timely re-examination. Uncomfortable isn’t afraid to tackle issues like church shopping. This is refreshing in a culture which is interested in personal preferences and ‘what’s in it for me.’ We need this because it is too easy to leave a church when it no longer feeds or fits us. Pastors need this book because it is tempting to shape our church around the needs and preferences of millennials and seek continued numerical growth. McCracken’s book shows why contemporary services, hip amenities, and Hillsong-esque worship isn’t enough capture a vision of the church as family and its place within society. Uncomfortable is broader than I anticipated. It consists of 2 parts. Part 1 looks at the uncomfortable nature of the Christian faith. One of the author’s guiding principles is ‘When the Christian church is comfortable and cultural, she tends to be weak. When she is uncomfortable and countercultural she tends to be strong.’ McCracken notes we are tempted to make Christianity ‘cool’ instead of embracing the discomfort of the cross and foundational tenants of the faith. He argues that by embracing cool, we blend in and embrace blandness. Part 2 of Uncomfortable was the stronger part of the book, and more what I anticipated. It dealt with the benefits of embracing discomfort within the local church community. He investigates issues of relationships, worship, diversity, and matters of authority and commitment. Throughout the book Brett McCracken offers ideas on how followers of Jesus can embrace discomfort within their contexts. Not everyone will agree with his conclusions, however they do opportunity for reflection and self examination. McCracken also ties his ideas to his church ministry context which adds a refreshing touch of realism to his work, however at times his proposals could be fleshed out further by including examples from other situations. Conclusion Uncomfortable is a book the church needs today. It seeks to frame the ecclesial conversation around theology. Brett McCracken should be commended for this. Too long discussion of church has revolved around business models and that which is practical. Uncomfortable leads us to consider the community of God’s people by directing us to the Bible. Overall, Uncomfortable is a book that will make you think. It will help you consider your rationale behind the church you attend. It will help you think about what is involved for Christian growth to take place. And it will allow you to see a vision of a thriving church community. Uncomfortable is definitely worth checking out. It will make you think about what is important when it comes to church. The book will also challenge your own choices – what are aspects of your faith are based around comfort and consumption? This review originally appeared on darryleyb.com.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David Lasley

    Helpful, challenging and relevant book seeking to unpack the biblical mandate for participation in Christian community. Especially appreciated the way he addressed the specific challenges of this in our current culture. At times he feels a little overly critical of the Church, especially in his lists of small critiques, but I think these are usually done as much to help connect with a wide audience as they are to criticize the church. All in all I highly recommend!

  11. 5 out of 5

    rené lauren

    A challenging book about choosing community (the church) over comfort. This was difficult to read because so many of the points were aimed at people like me who have eschewed church in recent years for the variety of reasons McCracken mentions in his book. However, I didn't perceive it as condemnatory, but as a call for Christians, like myself, to do the hard work of commitment. It was more of a challenge than a scolding. A challenging book about choosing community (the church) over comfort. This was difficult to read because so many of the points were aimed at people like me who have eschewed church in recent years for the variety of reasons McCracken mentions in his book. However, I didn't perceive it as condemnatory, but as a call for Christians, like myself, to do the hard work of commitment. It was more of a challenge than a scolding.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Spencer R

    You can read my full review here: https://wp.me/p3JhRp-16m Brett McCracken, a writer and journalist in South California and author of Hipster Christianity, says we need to destroy our consumeristic approach. “Rather, church should be about collectively spurring one another to ‘be fit’ to the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4–5). And this can happen in almost any sort of church as long as it’s fixed on Jesus, anchored in the gospel, and committed to the authority of Scripture” (25). Divided into two You can read my full review here: https://wp.me/p3JhRp-16m Brett McCracken, a writer and journalist in South California and author of Hipster Christianity, says we need to destroy our consumeristic approach. “Rather, church should be about collectively spurring one another to ‘be fit’ to the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4–5). And this can happen in almost any sort of church as long as it’s fixed on Jesus, anchored in the gospel, and committed to the authority of Scripture” (25). Divided into two sections, McCracken gives us an explanation of the uncomfortable faith and the uncomfortable church. He says, “A healthy relationship with the local church is like a healthy marriage: it only works when grounded in selfless commitment and a nonconsumerist covenant” (26, 178). Summary Christianity is becoming less normal, “and that’s a good thing. Christianity, founded on belief in the supernatural resurrection of a first-century Jewish carpenter, has been and always will be abnormal” (35). This outward discomfort will help us realize how much those in the Church need each other—because we will be all we have. There is growth in discomfort. We are meant to grow in holiness, but many want “authenticity.” Yet it’s in becoming more Christlike that we become more real. Jesus was authentic. Jesus was also holy (Mic 6.7–8). We have weird beliefs as Christians (God being born into this world through the birthing canal of a virgin). Without trying to solve these difficulties, McCracken summarizes why they are uncomfortable (and provides a Further Reading section at the end of the chapter). Love is risky, especially when you don’t know how someone will respond. But we’re called to enter in to love and be patient. A long-suffering love requires the Holy Spirit’s power, although “most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul” (123). But if Jesus is associated with his church, we can’t leave the church and be a disconnected pinky toe. Keeping our covenant promises to the churches we attend (even if you’re not enrolled in an actual “membership”) shapes who we are. Keeping a promise to another “is more important than being true to yourself” (189). In a world of sovereign autonomy from rules, who wants to follow Christ the sovereign Lord? We fit into Scripture, Scripture does not fit into our perceived reality. There is mystery and paradox in the Bible, and we are to embrace it, wrestle with it, but accept it. This requires unity with a sinful people. Just as we grow through training and practice, we grow through discomfort. Instead of growing into a better musician, we grow toward unity, holiness, lives pleasing to God. We are growing as his temple, one rock on top of another, looking forward to the holy city, growing in character together. The Spoiled Milk McCracken has a keen imaginative sense for detail, and it’s quite obvious in his “ideal” comfortable church in the beginning of the book. It is a level of detail you can see, hear, and feel. But his precision cuts the other way. In his chapter titled “Uncomfortable People,” McCracken lists “some of the weird church-people types” he has “had the hardest time with over the years” (125). He doesn’t list five generally odd types of people, but fifteen all-too-specific types of people whom he has met. Some types on this list are indeed frustrating, while other examples are unnecessary. These fifteen types are too accurate, and such detail is dispensable. While some (#6) should think through their questions before they ask an offensive and personal question, some (#2) don’t know whether to hug or shake a hand because they do think through their actions, and they don’t want to be offensive. The rest of the chapter, however, was great and reminds the reader that they are in a covenant community, one of many living stones making up God’s temple and one of many holy priests serving one another in that temple. Recommended? McCracken’s book has given me a greater appreciation, care, and concern for the church in his short book. It is a simple book to read, but in it’s simplicity were deep truths. Bonhoffer has said, “Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation.” Yet it was the excruciating cross that allows us to be uncomfortable which allows us to grow closer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Reese Walling

    A must read for all Christians. McCracken doesn’t hold back a single punch in his assault on the consumeristic, conforming, compromising trend in Christendom, challenging all believers to hold to our uncomfortable faith and to commit to our uncomfortable church community. The first part of this book (really good but not incredibly original - worth skipping if you’re only going to read some of the book) touches on the uncomfortable aspects of the Christian faith such as the cross, holiness, dogma A must read for all Christians. McCracken doesn’t hold back a single punch in his assault on the consumeristic, conforming, compromising trend in Christendom, challenging all believers to hold to our uncomfortable faith and to commit to our uncomfortable church community. The first part of this book (really good but not incredibly original - worth skipping if you’re only going to read some of the book) touches on the uncomfortable aspects of the Christian faith such as the cross, holiness, dogmas, love, the Spirit, and mission. The chapter on holiness was especially insightful, challenging the claim of “authenticity” as the supreme Christian virtue for the more biblical call to holiness and an abhorrence of sin. He writes, "We've become too comfortable with our sin, to the point that it’s how we identify ourselves and relate to others. But shouldn’t we find connection over Christ, rather than over our depravity? By focusing on brokenness as proof of our “realness," have we made authenticity a higher calling that holiness?" The second part is where this book really shines. McCracken takes the Tender-swiping, à la carte consumerism in Christian “church shopping” and lays the axe at the root. He challenges the Christian to remain in covenant relationship to the Church in the same way he would (or should) a marriage. There is no perfect church, and the church’s mission is not to conform to you, but rather to help conform you to Christ - and that’s usually uncomfortable. Here’s just one of the many great quotes along these lines: “One of the ways Western individualism informs how we think about church is that we conceive of "fit" in terms of how a church fits us. Does its worship style, architecture, preaching, values, and demographic makeup fit well with our personality and preferences? This approach puts the burden on the church to adapt or perform to our liking if it wants to keep us around. But what if we have it backwards? What if the biblical approach is actually that we should fit ourselves into the life and mission of the local church, adapting ourselves to the family and filling gaps where needed, even if that means we are the ones who have to change? We shouldn't look for a church that will change to fit us. We should look for one where we will be changed to better represent Christ.” Great read. Everyone should read it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Marquis

    Winsome, challenging, and convicting. I’ve had more than my share of uncomfortable experiences in church and in Christian community–oh how shall I count the ways?! Finally, in college, I more or less gave up on it all. Why endure the discomfort–bad music, awkward conversation, misunderstandings, sweaty handshakes, theological differences, weird people, unpolished sermons–when you don’t have to? I did the Millennial thing and threw the church baby out with the bath water. I bought into the idea th Winsome, challenging, and convicting. I’ve had more than my share of uncomfortable experiences in church and in Christian community–oh how shall I count the ways?! Finally, in college, I more or less gave up on it all. Why endure the discomfort–bad music, awkward conversation, misunderstandings, sweaty handshakes, theological differences, weird people, unpolished sermons–when you don’t have to? I did the Millennial thing and threw the church baby out with the bath water. I bought into the idea that my Christianity could be MINE–community not necessary, thanks. I spent a lot of time googling support for why this was a superior (or at least acceptable) way to be, and scrolled through Reddit forums critiquing the church. I was missing more than I even knew. For the past few years, I’ve been tiptoeing back to church, but Brett McCracken’s book has convinced me to run–to find the nearest non-heretical, Bible-believing church, and like...join it. What a concept! As soon as I can, I plan to do just that. Thankful for this convicting and honest take on church from someone who really gets it–who himself has wondered if it’s all even worth it. He’s reminded me (with much biblical support) that it is. “There are many ordinary ways to be ambassadors of the extraordinary gospel, but none more important than building up the body of Christ by committing to a local church, no matter how boring it may seem.”

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    "Often the way a church challenges us or makes us uncomfortable is precisely the reason why it is good for us. That has been the argument of this book" (176). The Western church is afflicted by a consumerist laity and a concessionist leadership. The laity is looking for the perfect church with the right style and all the right services. The leadership is bending over backwards to draw people in, and, while motivated nobly to reach the lost, is losing the drawing power of the distinctives and chal "Often the way a church challenges us or makes us uncomfortable is precisely the reason why it is good for us. That has been the argument of this book" (176). The Western church is afflicted by a consumerist laity and a concessionist leadership. The laity is looking for the perfect church with the right style and all the right services. The leadership is bending over backwards to draw people in, and, while motivated nobly to reach the lost, is losing the drawing power of the distinctives and challenges of the gospel. McCracken argues for commitment to a local church despite its prickly aspects, or even because of its prickly aspects, for your own sake and growth. The book is readable and helpfully supplemented with illuminating quotations. I love the outline of the book (see amazon for chapter titles). The author is like a coach who inspires their athletes to greatness precisely by telling them how hard that road is going to be. Almost makes me want to go out and find a new church to commit to (except that, well, I'm employed by my current one).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Taylor

    Uncomfortable is the new comfort. It should be the “norm” for those who are citizens of the Upside-Down kingdom of Christ where countercultural living renders one an anomaly in a society of comfort and conformity. I love how this book first establishes our identity in Christ as those who embrace the uncomfortable, because Jesus was all about it. Brett then moves on to dissecting where our embrace breaks down and provides sobering doses of truth and conviction to build up that resolve once again. Uncomfortable is the new comfort. It should be the “norm” for those who are citizens of the Upside-Down kingdom of Christ where countercultural living renders one an anomaly in a society of comfort and conformity. I love how this book first establishes our identity in Christ as those who embrace the uncomfortable, because Jesus was all about it. Brett then moves on to dissecting where our embrace breaks down and provides sobering doses of truth and conviction to build up that resolve once again. This book is amazing at pulling in diverse perspectives, including Brett’s own raw confessions of “the struggle”, which collectively demonstrate the arduous, but oh so worth it pursuit of uncomfortableness for the sake of the world and the Gospel. A must read for all who desire to unsubscribe from every “me-centric” element that hinders faithfulness to the “for better or for worse” covenant we’ve made with Christ.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I have to admit, I was expecting this book to be more about the reasons why Christian community is necessary and important, and less about the many ways in which it is uncomfortable. However, this book does an excellent job of covering all of the above, and talking about discomfort on a lot of different levels, including but not limited to interpersonal and interdenominational differences. Since we move so frequently, and are thus church hunting on a regular basis, there were a good number of he I have to admit, I was expecting this book to be more about the reasons why Christian community is necessary and important, and less about the many ways in which it is uncomfortable. However, this book does an excellent job of covering all of the above, and talking about discomfort on a lot of different levels, including but not limited to interpersonal and interdenominational differences. Since we move so frequently, and are thus church hunting on a regular basis, there were a good number of helpful takeaways that I will be trying to apply the next time we're looking for a church. There were also various points that were relevant to living as a part of the church community where we are currently, including reinforcement of things I've been convicted about over the past year or so. 4.5 out of 5 stars, rounded down because if I have to debate that much over rounding up, the book probably doesn't quite deserve it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Albert Rios

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading McCracken's Uncomfortable. The message is timely for a community that over time seems to value commitment to a church less and less. He effectively encourages us to rethink and examine not only our corporal holiness but our personal holiness as well. Brett reminds us to give the love and respect that the body of Christ deserves, guiding us with and pointing us back to the Bible and it's sometimes uncomfortable truths. In addition, I really appreciated his humorous, r I thoroughly enjoyed reading McCracken's Uncomfortable. The message is timely for a community that over time seems to value commitment to a church less and less. He effectively encourages us to rethink and examine not only our corporal holiness but our personal holiness as well. Brett reminds us to give the love and respect that the body of Christ deserves, guiding us with and pointing us back to the Bible and it's sometimes uncomfortable truths. In addition, I really appreciated his humorous, relevant and thought-provoking personal stories, which further drove home his points and gave practical examples on how to carry out his recommendations. I plan on giving this book to a handful of people I know that are wondering about their place in the church and also my church leader friends who could use affirmation that their callings to serve are not in vain.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    This book is an excellent and convicting read for all Christians. It inspire the church of today and it’s member to lean into the discomforts of diversity in order that all may grow. It calls the church to be a body that is growing and thriving in a day and age of much materialism, tensions, and distraction. Highly recommend any Christian to read!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Recker

    Great. Great book. Incredibly needed in this time. Challenging. Well-written. Following Jesus isn’t comfortable. I’ll definitely read more by this author.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Much to think about and all so true. Asking to be uncomfortable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lynda Critchfield

    Interesting read. While I don’t agree with some aspects of his ideas, I did feel challenged to think about “being uncomfortable “as a Christian. I appreciated the many footnotes and Scripture references.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michele Morin

    Treasuring the Uncomfortable Church One of my reading goals for 2018 is to tackle Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. For a myriad of reasons, I need to absorb his hard won wisdom, but most of all I want to lean into his observations about Christian community in the crucible of “life together” in a secret seminary under the looming threat of Nazi persecution. Somehow, in the most challenging of historical contexts, Bonhoeffer was able to address the disconnect between the “dream of a Christian c Treasuring the Uncomfortable Church One of my reading goals for 2018 is to tackle Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. For a myriad of reasons, I need to absorb his hard won wisdom, but most of all I want to lean into his observations about Christian community in the crucible of “life together” in a secret seminary under the looming threat of Nazi persecution. Somehow, in the most challenging of historical contexts, Bonhoeffer was able to address the disconnect between the “dream of a Christian community” and “the Christian community itself.” Waking up from his own dream church, Bret McCracken confesses that there are a good many facets of his own fellowship — and even about the Christian faith — that rub him the wrong way. In Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community he analyzes, laments, and offers perspective on the struggle, for as the old saw goes, even if you are fortunate enough to find the perfect church, you will surely ruin it when you join. (Did you know this came originally from Spurgeon?) Of course, all this insight doesn’t stop us from fantasizing about the ideal facility, the perfect constellation of ministries, a doctrinal statement and liturgical bent that fit like a glove, and the “perfect” Sunday morning music . . . alongside a good cup of strong coffee. We are immersed in a culture that encourages us to inflate our wants until they take on the dimensions of a need. However, part of the amphibious nature of the Christian experience is that “what we think we want from a church is almost never what we need.” (Loc 302). “Commitment even amidst discomfort, faithfulness even amidst disappointment: this is what being the people of God has always been about.” Why the Church Seems So Uncomfortable Devoting one chapter to each topic, McCracken explores the difficult aspects of following Jesus: The uncomfortable cross that requires an embrace of suffering and sacrifice; The uncomfortable call to be a set-apart people, pursing holiness and a set of values that set us at odds with the world around us; A collection of counter-cultural truths around creation, hell, and sexual ethics that wreck our cool-factor and make for awkward conversational pauses; The call to love outside our comfort zone and to worship beside people who annoy or puzzle us; The controversial differences in worship that arise from different perspectives on God the Holy Spirit, the role of liturgy, music, prayer, and every other imaginable preference; The multiple challenges around authority, unity, diversity, commitment, and even our understanding of what it means to be “comfortable” on a fallen planet. The End of All Our Petty Preferences One source of all this discomfort with the church and her people is a discomfort with God Himself. Author Adam McHugh describes the God we long for who “always agrees with us, . . . who always favors our nation or political agenda, [and] feeds us candy and never vegetables.” The God who sent prophets walking naked and barefoot through the streets of Jerusalem in order to make a point will not hesitate to require a modern day saint to walk a path of growth that puts comfort aside for the sake of something greater. The call of God is a summons to embrace the discomfort of the cross and a counter-cultural call to holiness in spite of the cost to our dreams. The startling truth is that a comfortable Christianity without an instrument of torture at its center and without a message that sits us across the table eye-to-eye with an enemy and requires a loving response is not really Christianity at all. Christ’s call to spiritual neediness, mourning, and meekness found in The Beatitudes captures the difference between comfortable Christianity and “a kingdom where worldly comforts are nothing compared to the power of the Comforter in us; where all manner of uncomfortable things are endured for righteousness’s sake.” As we look outside ourselves and assign greater value to Truth than to comfort, we find that worship is about God and not about us. We begin to value each other’s differences as we look toward the future assembly of people and nations and tongues and tribes that will one day surround us as we worship God — and as we look back on our petty preferences and wonder what all the fuss was about. This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tori Samar

    Reading this book was like swinging on a pendulum. What I liked about this book I really liked. Same thing goes for what I disliked. So let me begin with the positives: -McCracken's repeated calls for the church to be countercultural. To borrow some of McCracken's language, we need churches that are more concerned with being gospel-sensitive than seeker-sensitive. Indeed, true Christianity is not all that comfortable. We worship a Savior who was humiliated on a cross, we are called to holiness th Reading this book was like swinging on a pendulum. What I liked about this book I really liked. Same thing goes for what I disliked. So let me begin with the positives: -McCracken's repeated calls for the church to be countercultural. To borrow some of McCracken's language, we need churches that are more concerned with being gospel-sensitive than seeker-sensitive. Indeed, true Christianity is not all that comfortable. We worship a Savior who was humiliated on a cross, we are called to holiness that makes us stick out in a very wicked world, we are supposed to love others in ways that are demanding and inconvenient, and much more. -McCracken's repeated calls to view the church from the lens of covenant-keeping, not consumerism. Here's an attitude that is missing more than almost any other in contemporary Christianity. For one thing, there are a number of commitment-phobes within the church. There are people who regularly attend but will not take the next step of becoming a member. And on the flip side, there are people who are members of a local church but see no necessity in their regular attendance and involvement. Coupled with this commitment phobia is consumerism, something McCracken quite excellently describes as "chronic dissatisfaction." People flit from one church to another according to what suits their desires and comfort. Either way you look at it, the body of Christ suffers immensely. As for negatives: -McCracken's failure to distinguish good and bad discomfort. This book left me under the impression that pretty much any discomfort we experience within the church is a good thing, something we ought to learn to welcome. However, this view does not sufficiently account for discomfort we may experience on matters of conscience (cf. 1 Cor. 10 and Rom. 14). I see nothing healthy or biblical about plugging oneself into a church whose practices violate the conscience. -McCracken's views on the Holy Spirit, worship, and ecumenism. Sorry, but I just couldn't get on board with him after reading the chapters dealing with these three issues. My disagreement with him extends far beyond mere preference. My presuppositions and Scriptural understanding in these areas vary so much from what he says, that there is no reasonable way to bridge the gap unless one or both of us were to radically shift our thinking.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Elliott

    The Uncomfortable Cross Uncomfortable Holiness Uncomfortable Truths Uncomfortable Love Uncomfortable Comforter Uncomfortable Mission Uncomfortable People Uncomfortable Diversity Uncomfortable Worship Uncomfortable Authority Uncomfortable Unity Uncomfortable Commitment Countercultural Comfort The Introduction-p. 23 The point of this introduction--and the point of this book-is that we must debunk and destroy the toxic consumerist approach. It's bad for our physical health and worse for our spiritual health. p. 2 The Uncomfortable Cross Uncomfortable Holiness Uncomfortable Truths Uncomfortable Love Uncomfortable Comforter Uncomfortable Mission Uncomfortable People Uncomfortable Diversity Uncomfortable Worship Uncomfortable Authority Uncomfortable Unity Uncomfortable Commitment Countercultural Comfort The Introduction-p. 23 The point of this introduction--and the point of this book-is that we must debunk and destroy the toxic consumerist approach. It's bad for our physical health and worse for our spiritual health. p. 25 This book is about the comforting gospel of Jesus Christ that leads us to live uncomfortable lives for him. It's about recovering a willingness to do hard things, to embrace hard truths, to do life with hard people for the sake and glory of the One who did the hardest thing. p. 38 A true gospel community is not about convenience and comfort and chai lattes in the vestibule. It's about pushing each other forward in holiness and striving for the kingdom, joining along in the ongoing work of the Spirit in this world. Those interested only in their comfort and happiness need not apply. Being the church is difficult. pgs. 66-67 The Christian life is not a call to be true to yourself. It's a call to deny yourself, or at least deny those parts of yourself that are incompatible with the human type we should all aspire to imitate: Jesus Christ. As Stott says, "True self-denial (the denial of our false, fallen self) is not the road to self-destruction but the road to self-discovery. p. 93 In 2015-2017,there was much dialogue about whether or not Western countries should admit refugees from the Middle East. Could terrorists disguise themselves as refugees and infiltrate target nations with the "Trojan horse" of the massive flood of refugees? Fears like this led to Donald Trump's infamous call to ban Muslims from entering the United States. But which reflects the character of Christ more: refusing to take in a Syrian refugee because we are concerned at the possibility that we could be harmed by such charity, or taking in a Syrian refugee out of sacrificial love that says, "You are welcome at my table even if it costs me something"? p. 128 One of the ways Western individualism informs how we think about church is that we conceive of "fit" in terms of how a church fits us. Does its worship style, architecture, preaching, values, and demographic makeup fit well with our personality and preferences? This approach puts the burden on the church to adapt or perform to our liking if it wants to keep us around. But what if we have it backwards? What if the biblical approach is actually that we should fit ourselves into the life and mission of the local church, adapting ourselves to the family and filling gaps where needed, even if that means we are the ones who have to change? We shouldn't look for a church that will change to fit us. We should look for the one where we will be changed to better represent Christ. p. 129 So what does it look like i practice to embrace awkward church people as your brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters in Christ? Hellerman proposes four New Testament "family values" that should guide us: (1) we share our stuff with one another; (2) we share our hearts with one another; (3) we stay, embrace the pain, and grow up with one another; and (4) family is more than "me, the wife, and the kids." p. 135 Discipleship is crosscultural. When we meet Jesus around people who are just like us and then continue to follow Jesus with people who are just like us, we stifle our growth in Christ and open ourselves up to a world of division. Christena Cleveland p. 151 Often we approach church worship from a posture of cynicism or apathy. Our heart just isn't in it. And for Millennials, for whom authenticity is a supreme value, nothing is worse than forcing yourself to "go through the motions." But if Christians only ever worshiped when their hearts were "in it" fully, worship would rarely happen. Sometimes "going through the motions" is precisely what we must do. The bodily motions of worship--singing, raising your hands, kneeling, closing your eyes--shape us significantly, even when we don't feel like they are. Committing to showing up and being present and open-hearted in worship is the important thing. It's OK that we don't always have the best attitude about it. By God's grace, the Holy Spirit can work with the weariest, most jaded and passionless souls. p. 168 There are other unique challenges to unity today. The Internet has made it easier for subculture and niche faith communities to further entrench themselves. Whether you're a progressive evangelical, a Pentecostal Mennonite, or a "New Monastic" commune with Catholic, Orthodox, and Anabaptist flourishes, the Internet allows you to connect with like-minded comrades and find support for your views. Meanwhile, social media has a tendency to amplify tribalism and encourage constant bickering and intramural battles both within and between these subcultures. p. 181 Can one "have Jesus but not the church?" Not really. If we are in union with Christ, the head, then we are necessarily also connected to his body, the church. "Christ utterly identifies with his people," says Allberry. "Neglecting the church is neglecting Jesus." Our real choice is this: Do we want to be plugged into the life-blood and energy of the body, or do we want to cut ourselves off from this body, lying inert somewhere as a severed finger or amputated leg? The upside of being a severed finger is, you don't have to bother with cooperating with the other fingers, annoying as they are. The downside is, you can't really do anything, and you have no biological connection to the neuron signals coming from the head. p. 183 If a church is going to thrive in the twenty-first century, she needs to be willing to demand more of her members. She needs to assert the importance of covenants over comfort, even if that is a message that will turn off some. She needs to speak prophetically against the perversions of cultural and consumer Christianity, seeker-unfriendly as that will be. She needs to call Christians away from an individualistic, "just me and Jesus" faith, challenging them to embrace the costliness of the cross and the challenge of life in a covenantal community. pgs. 184-185 Covenants free us from the arbitrary confusion of our fickle hearts. Covenants bind us, in beautiful ways, to the hearts of others and the heart of Christ. And in that binding we discover more clearly the sort of being we were created to be. Covenants teach us that keeping promises to others is more important than being true to yourself. p. 185 And for churchgoing Christians: Will you commit to joining and sticking with a church, not because it is a good fit for you but because it is fitting you to become more like Jesus? Will you commit to looking at church not in terms of what you can get but what you can give, considering how your presence with the body might encourage others and stir them to love and good works? Will you embrace the awkwardness and inconvenience and uncool costliness of the uncomfortable church?

  26. 4 out of 5

    E

    Two and a half stars. McCracken spends the first several pages describing his "dream church," and it's something of a nightmare for someone like me (hey, the book is about being uncomfortable!). Then the first half of the book is about what makes the Christian faith uncomfortable for people; the second half is about what makes church, specifically, uncomfortable. From the title and cover I thought it would be more about the second half than the first half, which was rather basic, in fact. My bigg Two and a half stars. McCracken spends the first several pages describing his "dream church," and it's something of a nightmare for someone like me (hey, the book is about being uncomfortable!). Then the first half of the book is about what makes the Christian faith uncomfortable for people; the second half is about what makes church, specifically, uncomfortable. From the title and cover I thought it would be more about the second half than the first half, which was rather basic, in fact. My biggest beef is that he seems to think denominational differences are unimportant (just go to the nearest evangelical church!, he advises). While I agree in going about considering locality when choosing a church, I don't think anyone should go to a church if we do not think their governance is biblical, we do not like how they withhold sacraments from certain people, we disagree with how they do not limit worship to that what Scripture commands, etc. But McCracken is a senior editor for the Gospel Coalition, which itself tends to paper over a lot of differences, so I am not surprised. But there is an upshot to his stance too, and that is his stress on the value of commitment once you find a church. Once you do, stay! If things get hard or peripheral matters change over time, that is no excuse to start shopping around for another church. You made a membership vow, after all (or at least you should have). That's no better than shopping around for a new wife if you first one gets old and fat. There is a lot more I could quibble about around the edges, but in the end I do think this book is worthwhile. McCracken roots in the very first chapter what he writes in the gospel, and he is unafraid to face some hard facts about our materialistic and self-centered tendencies (and no, those aren't "American" problems; those are "sinful humanity" problems). I will just have to get over the fact that he is not a conservative presbyterian.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    I had mixed feelings about this book all of the way through. I appreciated McCracken's critique of a desire for authenticity, which can at times give way to a desire for complacency. When "just being authentic" means "I'm comfortable in my sin," we've failed the call to holy living. For me, this brief insight was the highlight of the book. Each chapter's emphasis was generally good on its own, and a few were even challenging - but mostly, it was predictable and generic. McCracken's tradition also I had mixed feelings about this book all of the way through. I appreciated McCracken's critique of a desire for authenticity, which can at times give way to a desire for complacency. When "just being authentic" means "I'm comfortable in my sin," we've failed the call to holy living. For me, this brief insight was the highlight of the book. Each chapter's emphasis was generally good on its own, and a few were even challenging - but mostly, it was predictable and generic. McCracken's tradition also shone through the book in a way that was off-putting to readers from other traditions (or at least to me). McCracken takes a fundamentalist approach to scriptural inerrancy and writes from a charismatic perspective (which he describes as something relatively new to him). Perhaps most odd to me was a frequent celebration of alcohol, which was highlighted in nearly every chapter, and seems to be at odds with some of the principles of his own book. There are certainly relevant and important ideas in the book, but when it comes to recommending it to others (especially members of my congregation), this book gets a hard "pass." There are good parts, but to get to them, you have to wade through an abundance of generic observations and far too many quotes from Lifeway celebrity authors and Calvinist church leaders.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Quinlan

    My college church was close to what I consider my “dream church.” It had the right theology, people group, liturgy, music, ministries, and so on. Leaving it was hard. Switching to my current church, which is very different from my college church, was even harder. How could I person ever be comfortable at a church if I genuinely believe I’d be better off somewhere else? Maybe there’s some biblically-based checklist, or church-picking guide that answers that question. Or maybe feeling comfortable My college church was close to what I consider my “dream church.” It had the right theology, people group, liturgy, music, ministries, and so on. Leaving it was hard. Switching to my current church, which is very different from my college church, was even harder. How could I person ever be comfortable at a church if I genuinely believe I’d be better off somewhere else? Maybe there’s some biblically-based checklist, or church-picking guide that answers that question. Or maybe feeling comfortable is not the goal of church, and we are called to something deeper and more beautiful than comfort. Maybe it’s ok, or even better, to be “uncomfortable” at church. This is the argument behind Brett McCracken’s “Uncomfortable.” But beyond the context of church, McCracken reveals how “discomfort” is a theme throughout the whole Bible, and should be expected, even welcomed, by the Christian. Discomfort is central to the Christian life: difficult biblical doctrines, racial relations, relationships with strange people at church, commitment despite disagreement, submission to disagreeable doctrines, etc. But, discomfort makes us holy, McCracken argues. And that should drive us to commit covenantally to whatever ministry, church, people, job, neighborhood, or whatever, to which God has called us, despite the discomfort. While the book notes there are healthy boundaries to this call, it still urges the Christian to err on the side of giving up personal preferences for unifying, covenantal love. I recommend this book to any Christian who is dissatisfied with the consumeristic nature of the American church. I also recommend it to any Christian with strong opinions on matters of theology, church, or anything that has caused even the slightest division in their relations with other Christians.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tobias Elliott

    Brett McCracken has written a fantastic book here! I was challenged by each and every chapter, as he clearly identifies real everyday issues within every church. But the key factor here is that he doesn't necessarily provide answers as to how to fix the issues we have with our church experience, but instead allow those issues to help us grow into what God really wants us to look like as the body of Christ. The book is split into two halves, with the first half focusing on the key points on which Brett McCracken has written a fantastic book here! I was challenged by each and every chapter, as he clearly identifies real everyday issues within every church. But the key factor here is that he doesn't necessarily provide answers as to how to fix the issues we have with our church experience, but instead allow those issues to help us grow into what God really wants us to look like as the body of Christ. The book is split into two halves, with the first half focusing on the key points on which the church differs (or should differ) from cultural opinion, and that though it might make us uncomfortable, we must confront these points head on. He then goes on in the second half to focus on our internal and personal relationship with the church, and how that also makes us uncomfortable! All the while though his point is clear, our discomfort is often a good thing. He wraps up the book with a superb chapter titled 'Countercultural Comfort' in which he challenges us as a church to embrace that discomfort, to be proud of it, and to recognise that it is our difference from the culture, our identity as 'salt and light' which will help us to stand out. The glory of the gospel is that when the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. - Martyn Lloyd-Jones

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brennan McCafferty

    First time reading anything from Brett McCracken, and I admit that I'm quite impressed. I really enjoyed reading this book, and I found it to be thought-provoking and challenging. His commitment to the local church is to greatly applauded in a day when many who profess the name of Jesus Christ opt for a "just me and Jesus" type of Christianity. As McCracken so helpfully points out, to want to have Jesus but refuse the Church is to opt for a decapitated head, and that's just strange. He helpfully First time reading anything from Brett McCracken, and I admit that I'm quite impressed. I really enjoyed reading this book, and I found it to be thought-provoking and challenging. His commitment to the local church is to greatly applauded in a day when many who profess the name of Jesus Christ opt for a "just me and Jesus" type of Christianity. As McCracken so helpfully points out, to want to have Jesus but refuse the Church is to opt for a decapitated head, and that's just strange. He helpfully critiques the wrong headed desire in our day for a "comfortable" Christianity, reminding us all that there are many aspects of Christianity that are uncomfortable and we need to embrace those uncomfortable aspects. Overall, then, this is a book I would highly recommend, and I was thinking of a few people that I think would really benefit from reading this book. As a Presbyterian (PCA) and cessationist, there definitely were a few chapters that I was not fully on board with (particularly chapter 6 as well as parts of chapter 10). Nonetheless, even in those areas with which I disagreed with him, I appreciated McCracken's balance as well as the overall message of the book.

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