Review: Adventures in Churchland

I had two extremely formative experiences as a college student. My involvement with campus ministry through the InterVarsity chapter at Pacific forever altered the trajectory of my life. That is where Jesus found me and got a hold of my life.

The other experience(s) occurred in the form a monthly (sometimes more frequent) pilgrimage over the hill to Santa Cruz to a place called Graceland. Graceland started off as Santa Cruz Bible Church’s college and young adult ministry, then became a “church within a church,” and then eventually the leadership launched out on their own.

InterVarsity gave me the space to explore Jesus and my first halting attempts at leadership and ministry, and Graceland sparked my imagination for what a church could look like.

In particular, Dan Kimball, the lead pastor, taught interesting sermons, had interesting hair, and new all of the bands that I liked (back when I was a music snob). He is also an introvert and a deep thinker who wears black jeans all the time and his example was extremely helpful to me at that point in my life and journey towards full-time ministry.

For the last ten years I have read his books and blog and followed the Vintage Faith story from a distance. His most recent work is also his most personal: Adventures in Churchland. Dan has written an apologetic for the church, something desperately needed in a time when the church fails to capture the imaginations of so many in our culture.

Dan tells some hilarious stories as he outlines his personal journey from totally secular rocker to lead pastor and church apologist. He also spends a good part of the middle of the book reframing a couple of popular misconceptions about the church. Both are strong aspects of the book.

But where Dan really hits his stride is near the end, where he invites us to fully commit to this messy, beautiful thing called church. He compares the church to a mosh pit, this thing that is supposed to be fun and passionate but all too often leads to cuts and bruises. When this happens to us we almost always bail, in search of something better, more perfect. Instead of searching for perfection we should ask: “What mess will I choose to be in? And even more important, How might God use me to help clean up this mess?”

Finally, Dan describes individuals as God’s poema: a work of art, a work of a master craftsman. This individual work only becomes complete when part of a whole. “Without your contribution, the church is missing something that only you can bring.

Which is exactly right: sometimes we fail to get involved out of fear (this might hurt me), sometimes we refuse to get involved (because of a bad experience), sometimes we hold back (if I get rejected at least I didn’t give my best), and in each case everyone loses.

Everyone wins though when we lay down our agendas and roll up our sleeves and join in with God and others in the work he is doing. Dan’s journey from churchland to graceland is a beautiful story and I hope many people rediscover the good news that comes through being involved in a local church as a result of reading this book.

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